Shri Dipak Sarmah, IFS
PCCF & Chief Wildlife Warden
Karnataka Forest Department
2nd Floor, Aranya Bhavan
Malleswaram, Bangalore – 560 003
Sub: Request to reject the proposal to artificially replenish water holes
It is with great concern that we are observing the developments with regard to the proposal to artificially fill up water holes by transporting water in tankers. While we do welcome your decision to constitute an expert committee which is currently carrying out field inspections, we wish to place our serious concerns and opinion against the proposal based on our long term involvement with conservation issues and our experience of having served on various expert committees including the National Board for Wildlife.
We wish to present the following points in support of our contention:
- The National Wildlife Action Plan 2002-2016 highlights that the central goal and priority is to conserve wildlife and its habitats by minimizing the adverse impact on natural processes by human actions. Essentially this means that we need to manage our National Parks, Sanctuaries and Tiger Reserves as natural habitats and not like zoos or safari parks. As all of us are aware that wildlife populations have evolved over thousands of years and have survived natural cycles of harsh, dry conditions. The water crisis this year is therefore not something new or alarming. This therefore predicates that management interventions (other than protection) that have intensified over an extremely small time frame of four to five decades must be kept to the barest minimum to allow ecological processes to play out.
- During the last decade or so, there has been a rather disproportionately heavy investment in many Reserves on creating artificial water sources which is not in line with established wildlife management practices. This by itself is a human intervention which has been scientifically critiqued as it artificially tinkers with natural habitats well beyond what is reasonably necessary and justified. It appears that this is primarily driving the idea that such water holes, constructed using public funds, must be filled up artificially.
- With culling of wildlife not an option that we can presently consider, wildlife populations must be regulated and maintained by allowing natural processes to play out. Mortalities of weaker animals and lesser recruitment of young animals are an integral part of population dynamics which brooks no interference. Artificially filling up water holes forecloses all options of allowing such natural regulation of wildlife populations that may have increased in certain areas due to other un-scientific habitat manipulations like clearing and maintenance of extremely wide view lines, increasing number of salt licks, many at in-appropriate locations and soils apart from effective control of illegal hunting.
- One of the reasons cited in support of artificially filling up water holes is the potential for increasing human-wildlife conflict. This appears to be a tenuous argument since conflict in many instances is due to in-appropriate creation of water holes close to boundaries of PAs. This sets up conflicts due to attraction of wild animals for water and more palatable cultivated crops leading to opportunistic depredation.
- The increasing investment and growth of high-end resorts including the government owned behemoth with a blinkered view of wildlife conservation and with the ulterior objective of catering to the hedonistic demands of economically empowered tourists is, in our considered view, also driving this demand to artificially fill water holes. Scientific management of wildlife habitats cannot be allowed to get hijacked by such commercial interests.
- It must be recognized that water sources like the Kabini Dam are very recent developments of the 70s and the drying up/receding of the backwaters cannot be a justification to accept the proposal. Surely elephants and other wildlife have been thriving without the Kabini dam which itself was an un-mitigated disaster that severely fragmented the Nagarahole-Bandipur landscape.
- The proposal which envisages transportation of water in tankers from sources intensively used by domesticated animals and other human uses is fraught with the potential threat of diseases spreading amongst wildlife populations which will be directly attributable to such ill-conceived management interventions.
- Finally, this issue must be seen clearly from a wildlife conservation perspective and not from an animal rights angle since the goal of conservation is to save free ranging wildlife in its natural habitats over the long term with the least amount of human interference, even if this means that some individual animals may possibly be affected for a short period.
In view of the above facts and justification we request you to kindly ensure that:
- The proposal to artificially replenish water holes in National Parks, Sanctuaries and Tiger Reserves is not approved and the plans drawn up are withdrawn;
- An appropriate statement on the scientific rationale of the decision to disallow artificial replenishing of water holes is shared with the elected representatives and public at large in order to sensitize them on possible natural mortalities and to dispel wrong notions that they may harbor; and
- The situation is appropriately monitored along with collection of data on actual mortalities and increased conflict, if any for a more detailed analysis to aid management decisions in the future.
Thank you for your kind consideration.
K.M. Chinnappa / Praveen Bhargav