Birds are returning Keoladeo National Park

Life seems to be returning to the world famous Keoladeo National Park known as Ghana Bird Sanctuary in Bharatpur, a UNESCO world heritage site, after long years of dry spell, following initiatives by state government and good rains. The recent heavy rains have also filled the Panchana Dam leaving the park with sufficient water for the winged visitors. The authorities are expecting a busy breeding season after a long time as the resident and migratory birds are flocking to the park for the upcoming winter season. The site was once the favourite breeding ground for the Siberian cranes. However, Siberian cranes were last sighted in 2001-02.

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Shortage of water

Keoladeo National ParkShortage of water was one of the prime reasons for the decline in the number of migratory birds visiting the park. The main source of water to the park is Ajan Dam, a temporary reservoir that gets water from Gambhir River. The water problem in the Park began after four consecutive years of drought that began in 2000. The construction of Panchana Dam across Gambhir River during 2003-04 compounded the problem.

Initially, the water storing capacity of Panchana Dam was 610 million cubic feet. However, raising the storage capacity to 2,100 million cubic feet reduced the flow of water to downstream of the dam. The park's location in the Gangetic Plain makes it an unrivalled breeding site for herons, storks and cormorants and an important winter ground for large number of migrant ducks.

The most common waterfowl are gadwall, shoveler, teals, and tufted duck, painted stork, white spoonbill, darter warblers, babblers and bee-eaters. Several other endangered avifauna species are also found, including dalmatian pelican, spot-billed pelican, lesser and greater adjutants, baer's pochard, cinereous vulture. The park gradually began to lose its sheen with the growth of wild bushes and the birds started to skip the site. The UNESCO also put the site in the endangered list.

Ghana Bird Sanctuary
Birds Ghana Bird Sanctuary

Slew of measures

However, the threat of UNESCO to withdraw the heritage status woke up the state government. It took a slew of measures to revive the site and declared it as a National Park in 1985. As a revival plan, last year, the government diverted some water from Chambal River to the park.

Following state government's initiatives UNESCO has recently removed the tag of 'endangered' from the site. Last year, water from Panchana Dam could not be released due to the resistance put up by the farmers in the region. However, with heavy rains lashing the catchment areas this year, water problem for agriculture purpose has eased.

Field director Khyati Mathur said, "The park has received 150 million cubic feet of water from the Panchana Dam and a similar quantity of water from Chambal River project this season till now. Presently, we have about 350 million cubic feet of water which is quite sufficient for the season though the requirement of water in the park is estimated to be 450 million cubic feet".

She said, the Govardhan drain, a 16 km concrete pipeline project to bring the storm water from Yamuna, is nearing completion. This will solve the water problems at the park. She said the resident birds like the painted storks have already started nesting while the migratory birds are expected to reach the park by the end of September.

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