The world famous bird haven Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district may finally overcome its nagging water woes with preparations to harvest flood waters this monsoon season reaching the final stages. The park, a World Heritage site, has been under severe strain during the past few years after curtailment of its share from the Panchna dam and lack of rain in the east Rajasthan region.
The Govardhan Drain Project, work on which started in March 2011, is nearing completion and by the time the monsoon clouds hit Rajasthan some time in the last week of June, the 17.10 km-long pipeline would be ready to flush water into the marshes of the 29 sq km park.
The park, abandoned of late by a variety of breeding birds and migrants due to paucity of water and feed, had started receiving a share of the Chambal waters – brought to Bharatpur town for drinking purposes last year.
The Govardhan drain, which originates in Haryana, enters Rajasthan and then winds its way to Uttar Pradesh to return to the State near Santrook village. During the monsoon season an estimated 570 MCFT (million cubic feet) water passes through the canal to drain out to Uttar Pradesh. This is when the Keoladeo Park, which is the breeding ground for a variety of birds in monsoon, would be in excellent shape if it gets 550 MCFT water annually.
Bharatpur Collector Gaurav Goyal, giving an update on the Rs.43.31 crore project, said so far work on laying of the pipeline had been completed over a stretch of 14.74 km. A length of 13.32 km is to be covered by GRP (glass-reinforced plastic) pipes while another 3.78 km would be of MS (mild steel) pipes. The State Public Health Engineering Department has undertaken the project while the execution is being done by a Hyderabad-based company, Megha Engineering & Infrastructure Limited.
“The project envisages supply of 10 MCFT water for 35 days into the park during the monsoon. This will ensure 350 MCFT to the park,” noted Mr. Goyal. To speed up the work, the labour available under MGNREGS too was deployed for the repair of the drain, he pointed out. A control gate with a regulator, a pump house and a water tank — with a capacity of 7,000 kilolitres of water — are being constructed at a distance of 24 km from the park.
“After many lean seasons, water sources are seemingly opening up for the wetland,” said Anoop K.R, the outgoing Field Director of Keoladeo National Park. “We had very difficult times with both birds and tourists deserting the park for lack of water,” he said.
“For the first five years the company which has undertaken the project work has to provide 350 MCFT water to the park during monsoon. The park is already getting 62.5 MCFT water from the Chambal. It can also expect to get a share of the Panchana dam waters through the Ajan Bund though this had been the most unpredictable source of late,” said Mr. Anoop, who served in the park for the past 40 months and is now posted as DFO, Bharatpur, to The Hindu .
It may end the long drought for Keoladeo Park, once the only wintering abode for the now supposedly extinct eastern flock of Siberian cranes. And the park is in for more luck. “There is a proposal to establish a sewerage treatment plant in Bharatpur town with a commitment to make the treated water available to the park,” Mr. Anoop points out. Bharatpur town’s daily output is 800 lakh litres of sewerage water and on a yearly basis this could mean a minimum of 128 MCFT additional water to the park in future!