PNS New Delhi

Drought is yet another reason for rising man-animal conflicts. Shortage of water and food are driving wild life toward human settlements.

Experts from the drought affected State of Maharashtra have demanded an amendment in Government Resolution (GR) of 1997 by the Irrigation Department, for securing a share for “wildlife” in the water reserved for “drinking” purpose.

They have also called for an action from the Agriculture Department to review the “dead stock” of streams and impose a ban on “stream based irrigation” in forested landscape during the summer peak.

The present drought in some parts of Maharashtra has affected wildlife, with increasing reports of wild animals falling in abandoned wells, irrigation canals and approaching human settlements or activities too closely. Hence, along with humans, it is essential to ensure a drinking water supply to wildlife in Maharashtra to reduce incidents of human-wildlife conflict due to the adverse impact of drought.

With the condition of drought reaching an alarming state, the Satpuda Foundation (SF) has written to the Chief-Minister pointing out that the Government resolution dated July 30, 1997 issued by the Irrigation Department of the Government of Maharashtra was specially issued to address the urgent need of “drinking usage”.

The GR had fixed a percentage of water to be used as drinking water (15% of total reservoir water), Industry was allocated (10%) and irrigation all remaining water. “However, the said GR has a flaw and only considered drinking usage by the human population and did not give any consideration to wildlife populations, resulting in human-wildlife conflict in the state”, the SF pointed out in the letter.

Dr Pramod Patil, a conservationist from Maharashtra further added that construction of reservoirs on rivers and streams particularly those in forested landscapes actually change the hydrology of the area. The water which would be uniformly distributed in the area is accumulated in the reservoir, changing the water distribution in the landscape.

During summer the water table in reservoirs depletes very quickly. Wildlife populations become concentrated around these reservoirs and the prey-predator ratio is affected drastically during this 'pinch period' with many wild animals migrating toward nearby villages due to the frequent movements of carnivores around the reservoir. (Prey animals know that carnivores are reluctant to approach human settlements and hence congregate near villages for safety).

Suggesting measures, experts have called for maintaining the regular flow of the rivers and streams on which the reservoir is constructed, especially from October onwards. The GR should specifically allocate 15% of total reservoir water as drinking water for wildlife and specify its maintainence by the original flows of rivers and streams.

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