Mumbai: Waterholes in Sanjay Gandhi National Park are empty, dry

While activists alleged a deer has died of dehydration, park authorities denied this and claimed enough water has been provided for the animals

Sanjay Gandhi National Park has left its animal residents high and dry. The mysterious death of a spotted deer has now put the park’s water woes in the spotlight, with allegations that the animal lost its life to dehydration.

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The spotted deer was found dead in the Krishnagiri range, which bears a parched look like much of the national park
The spotted deer was found dead in the Krishnagiri range, which bears a parched look like much of the national park

Summer is yet to reach its peak, and the park already bears a parched look with natural water sources quickly drying out. Hundreds of animals at SGNP could end up like this spotted deer, since the park officials haven’t even bothered to fill the artificial watering holes for them. Instead, they are showering hundreds of litres of water on the garden.

The 10x10-foot watering hole is about 1.5 foot deep but won’t provide any relief to animals as it is bone-dry
The 10x10-foot watering hole is about 1.5 foot deep but won’t provide any relief to animals as it is bone-dry

Locals have sent mid-day pictures of the deer, as well as photographs of bone-dry watering holes in the park. They are of the opinion that the animal might have died due to severe dehydration. However, the SGNP veterinarian claimed the deer died due to septicaemia.

A local sent mid-day this picture of the spotted deer that died at the park yesterday. While the local alleged the deer died of dehydration, the official claimed it was septicaemia that took the animals’ life
A local sent mid-day this picture of the spotted deer that died at the park yesterday. While the local alleged the deer died of dehydration, the official claimed it was septicaemia that took the animals’ life

Vet speak
Veterinarian Dr Shailesh Pethe said, “A spotted deer was found at SGNP on Thursday afternoon. It was in an unconscious state. We immediately brought the deer to our hospital where it died in the afternoon around 2-3 pm while undergoing treatment. It is difficult to say what is the exact cause of death until the autopsy reports are out. I don’t think that it died because of heat because we have adequate water in the park for the wild animals, but we suspect that it might have died because of septicaemia.”

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Instead of filling the watering holes for the animals at the park, the officials are using hundreds of litres of water to keep the plants and lawn alive at SGNP. Pic/Satej Shinde
Instead of filling the watering holes for the animals at the park, the officials are using hundreds of litres of water to keep the plants and lawn alive at SGNP. Pic/Satej Shinde

But the pictures sent to this paper tell a very different story. The deer seems dead and the body shows no major injuries – apart from a puncture mark on the neck – nor is there any sign that it was even partially eaten. The deer’s body was found in the Krishnagiri range, which is among the greener areas of the park, since it close to the Dahisar river. However, the picture shows how dry and stark the area has become.

In fact, the Krishnagiri range is not the regular haunt for deer since it is within a kilometre of the park entrance. Instead, the deer prefer to stay deeper inside the core area, towards the Kanheri caves. It is because the interior ranges are dry that they have been pushed out to the edges, closer to the river. But even that didn’t save this deer.

Another picture sent to mid-day of an empty watering hole is also situated in the Krishnagiri range. The 10x10-foot watering hole is about 1.5 foot deep, but it will not provide any relief to the animals, since it is completely dry.

“I personally believe that the authorities are least interested in doing their work. The best example is the empty artificial water holes, which don’t have even a drop of water. The artificial water holes are meant to be filled particularly during summer, when the natural water sources dry up. We are in the third week of April; I don’t understand what the officials are waiting for,” a wildlife enthusiast told this reporter.

He added, “A friend of mine told me that he saw another water hole in the Shilonda trail that was completely dry, and a third empty one at a different location. According to FD officials, there are seven artificial water holes in the Krishnagiri Upvan range and 11 water holes in the Tulsi range. Two years ago, the park authorities also constructed some more water holes. The department is supposed to fill these waterholes with fresh drinking water once every fortnight. However, sources from the FD told this paper that the watering holes are mostly filled just before the annual water hole census in May. There are also a few natural sources that have not dried out, but the animals avoid drinking from there since the water is polluted by tribals who wash their clothes there.

Activist voices

Stalin D, Chief of Vanashakti
There are many issues that plague the park that are not attended to, but this disregard for wildlife is unacceptable. Simple things like providing water to wildlife is being ignored.

Krishna Tiwari, Founder-head of Forest and Wildlife Conservation Society
Natural waterholes, Tulsi lake, Vihar lake, Chena river and old abandoned quarries form the main water sources in SGNP. But with the severe drought situation, this year there is water crisis throughout. In such situations the Forest department should fill up the artificial waterholes regularly and also make them safe for animals. Rejuvenation of natural waterholes is a priority and should be carried out from March till the first showers. These water holes should be regularly monitored for any threats to wildlife.

Pawan Sharma, From NGO RAWW
Many people, including the general public, NGO volunteers, individual activists know the importance of the park and share similar concerns regarding the protection and well being of our forests. There are great numbers of nature, wildlife, environment enthusiasts who visit the park on daily basis, they can be approached for assistance in maintainingthe water holes across the park. The park authorities can select official volunteers who will happily ensure that water holes are checked, filled and cleaned from time to time.

The other side
Sanjay Gandhi National Park director and Chief Conservator of Forest Vikas Gupta was unavailable despite repeated attempts. Another SGNP official said, “It is wrong to say that we don’t fill the water holes. We have been doing the work; water is available at some spots. Just because one or two artificial water holes don’t have water that does not mean we don’t fill artificial water holes.”

Promise of water
Assistant Conservator of Forest (ACF) Uday Dhage said, “I will have to check before commenting, but we will see to it that the artificial water holes are filled regularly during the summer season for the wild animals.”

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