GUWAHATI: Assam’s Kaziranga National Park has found a way to solve the problem of water scarcity for its rhinos and other animals during winter.
The World Heritage Site is developing the wetlands and harvesting rainwater. The dearth of water in winter often leads to human-animal conflicts on the park’s fringe areas, among others. The development of wetlands vis-à-vis conservation of water has reduced the conflicts significantly.
The wetlands offer water not just to park animals but migratory birds as well. When there is a shortage of water, some animals go to the Brahmaputra on the park’s northern side. Some move towards the south where there are villages, leading to conflicts. By developing the wetlands, the park authorities are trying to make sure the animals’ requirements get fulfilled within.
“The Kaziranga landscape has a good number of animals. However, despite this, the human-animal conflicts are minimal as the availability of resources for the animals within the park is quite high. However, the conflicts are very high during winter,” Kaziranga Field Director P Sivakumar told The New Indian Express.
During winter, some animals will go from the hilly Kanchanjuri to areas in Jakhalabandha to have water. There are villages and as such, conflict-prone. This is one reason behind the park’s special interventions.
Sivakumar said climate change had led to a change in the rainfall pattern.
“Water conservation is now an important subject. There is plenty of water in Assam but the existence of dams in different parts is causing fluctuation in the level of Brahmaputra water during winter. Hence, the park wetlands are of paramount importance,” he said.
The Brahmaputra flows through the park which has around 190 plus wetlands. The park also has three major tributaries of the mighty river.
“By developing the wetlands, we are basically ensuring the availability of water for the animals and birds all throughout the year. Our tourism is in and around the wetland areas,” Sivakumar said.
After the last monsoon season, the park authorities had plugged the exit points of wetlands at Bagori, Agoratoli and Kohora ranges to harvest rainwater. Where plugging is not viable, they are building permanent structures.
“In the case of some places under the Burapahar range, which is a foothill area, and other locations, we are going for permanent construction of road-cum-check dams. We did it at the Chirakhowa-Panijuri camp area last year. We use the road for communication. This year, we are doing two major projects, including one in the Potahi Beel area,” Sivakumar said.
The park authorities have plans to build similar structures in Bandordubi and Haldibari areas. In some places, earthen check dams were constructed. However, as they get washed away during monsoon, efforts are being made to replace them with permanent structures.
In the wetlands, there are micro plants and micro organism-related activities. If they have the issue of siltation, there is also the issue of sandy land which reduces the capacity of water retention. So, the pits may be full of water during monsoon but once it is over, the water gets sucked in.
“We don’t put in a lot of effort on how to do de-siltation. De-siltation is a good as well as dangerous measure. If you don’t have a fair idea, you never know that the top layer, which is the humus layer, will get lost during de-siltation. The restoration takes 30-40 years,” the park director explained.
He said they were focused on conserving water, whether one or one lakh litre. The water begins to go down from February but gets partially restored in April when there is pre-monsoon rainfall.