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Ranthambhore News:Construction work stopped at Ranthambhore

Construction activities have been temporarily stopped at Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan following intervention by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC).

For several months now, the whine of excavators and pneumatic drills and the rumble of explosives had drowned out the roar of tigers at the reserve. With construction on the boom even in the core area, the chaos was a major source of stress for the wild cat.

The State Irrigation Department recently approved the construction of 20 large dams, each costing in the range of Rs 35 lakh to Rs 75 lakh. Nearly 100 small anicuts and 20 talais (ponds) were constructed in the reserve in the past.

However, after the CEC’s directive to the State Chief Secretary, work has been stopped at the site. On being approached by the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) for intervention, the CEC pointed out that such non-forestry activities within protected areas violated a Supreme Court order.

According to sources, the Chief Secretary is to set up an expert committee to decide on the issue. Till then, work in the protected area would stay stalled.

Ranthambore field director Anand Mohan, however, contended that this construction was part of a long-term water management plan and its ecological impact had been assessed by an expert panel. It is being carried out by the irrigation and forest departments, with MNREGA and Nabard funding.

A work order of Rs 40 crore has been earmarked jointly for Sariska and Ranthambore, Mohan said, of which Rs 2 crore has already been sanctioned by the irrigation department. “The very objective of this project is to improve the availability of water within the park for wild animals,” he emphasised.

However, tiger expert and WPSI executive director Belinda Wright pointed to the gravity of the situation, saying the eco-system of Ranthambore was very fragile and any manipulation could cause irreversible damage. She felt there were many perennial natural waterholes in critical areas and that artificial cemented anicuts and uncalled-for human intervention could be destructive.

The proposed anicut, for instance, is at Adi Dagar, beyond Lakardah, on a nullah that runs from Lakardah to Bakola. The area has waterholes that are full during the critical summer months too. This was where Tigress T-16 spent the summer of 2010, making kills around a waterhole.

It is feared that the proposed anicut may flood this natural waterhole, submerging the surrounding rock walls, which are home to a host of wildlife, including monitor lizards, mongooses and owls.

The construction of cement anicuts and earth dams around Galai Sagar, on the other hand, can affect the water-holding of this lake in an area where there are several resident big cats, including a tigress with cubs.

Many such rampant constructions close to natural water points will eventually lead to silting, which could choke water flow. Sooner or later, the natural water bodies would be finished, feel experts.


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