Jairam steps in to save Bharatpur bird sanctuary

Jairam Ramesh has stepped in to save Rajasthan`s Keoladevi national park from turning into a dryland.

New Delhi: Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has stepped in to save Rajasthan`s Keoladevi national park, popularly known as Bharatpur bird sanctuary from turning into a dryland due to severe water crisis.

Fearing that the wetland may lose heritage tag much to the country`s embarrasment, Ramesh has shot off a letter to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Ghelot to take urgent steps to augment water supply before the park dries up completely.

"...Availability of water (Source, quantum and timing) has remained a serious issue for effective management of the park...", he said in the letter while referring to a number of solutions that were considered to address the water management issues and funds have been provided by the PlanningCommission.

"But the situation on ground continues to remain grim," he noted.

Citing concerns expressed by the World Heritage Committee on several occasion, he warned that, in case the prevailing situation persists, there is a possibility that the
park may be listed as "World Heritage Site in Danger" which could be embarrassing to India."

The bird sanctuary was bestowed by UNESCO as WorldHeritage site in 1985, recognising it as the most importantbreeding and feed grounds for the astounding variety of birdsin the world.

However, now it is facing a severe water crisisprompting the migratory birds to look for alternate sites.

The Minister has called for a pragmatic solution to the water management issues at the site as it still dependent on the vagaries of monsoon and uncertainties associated with the
release of water to the Ajan Bund in the state.

V Mathur, an expert from Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) who has been associated with the park development said that a Unesco team has already made it clear
that if water arrangements are not made in the bird sanctuary by January 2011, it would lose the Unesco recognition.

I`ts not only how much the water needs to be released to the park but timing of the water availability is also important to retain its wetland character as well attract the
birds, Mathur said.

"The park needs water during July, August and September when the birds nest and lay eggs. But this time, in fact for the last two years at least 15 species of birds have either
not come or breed due to water crisis," he said adding that it was just a matter of days when the park will be out of the Unesco`s world heritage list.