Keoladeo Ghana Must Live

Posted by: Bittu Sahgal on

Keoladeo Ghana is being assassinated. Prerna Bindra wrote to me suggesting that Sanctuary runs a campaign to save it. This was my response to her and I would like very much for members of the Sanctuary fraternity to pitch in with ideas of their own.

Dear Prerna: Yes we should do a campaign to protect the Keoladeo Ghana National Park. But lets make this a real one. If this is not done this year, the park could lose much of its plant biodiversity forever and this would mean losing its insect and therefore its bird diversity too. The soil is fast compacting and this year is expected to see warmer summer temperatures than have been seen for decades.

Here are some imperatives/priorities as I see them.

1. We need villagers around Bharatpur to ask for the Sanctuary to be protected.

2. We need an economic analysis of poor and rich farmers and establish who benefits from diversion of water from Ajan Bund to farms.

3. We need international and national pressure to make a really effective campaign work. This Sanctuary can easily launch within one month because a very, very large number of NGOs truly want to do something and are just waiting for leadership.

4. We need at least two or three high profile businessmen and politicians to push the campaign as though it were their own.

5. We need the MoEF to WANT to protect Bharatpur. Right now I see no evidence of this happening.

6. We need organisations such as the BNHS to wake from their slumber and use past data in their records to show how Bharatpur is helping to protect biodiversity, which helps to sequester and store carbon, thus helps farmers. Right now I see no evidence of this happening.

7. We need individual birders who know Keoladeo from the inside out -- including Rishad Naoroji, Bikram Grewal and Nik Devasar and so many others who are based in Rajasthan to feel personally responsible for the fate of Bharatpur because these are the individuals who will best be able to work with people like Bholu Abrar Khan (Forester at Keoladeo) to pick up the early warning signs of both the death and revival of the swamps.

8. Without doubt, we need to see the best Forest Officers and ornithologists from Rajasthan, past and present, consulted and supported on the actions needed to be taken in the next three months and then on a longer term basis. 9. And we need high profile press and TV coverage NOW so that the water can be diverted to the swamps in June, when farmers do not even need the water (they need it later in August/September). Its a long battle. But its not going to be won by just an article or an email campaign. Hopefully the large Sanctuary fraternity will pick up the gauntlet and work to protect this miraculous Rajasthani wetland.

Bittu