Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN

NAGPUR: After news of regular tiger sightings and the success of Pitezari tents, Nagzira wildlife sanctuary has come up with another innovative move. It has powered artificial waterholes with solar energy.

Nagzira, 125km from Nagpur in Gondia district, has become the first sanctuary in the state to make use of renewable energy sources. These waterholes are in Borewell Camp, Murpaar, Hattigodhra and Sivwar areas of the sanctuary.

Though ambient temperatures are a scorching 44 deg Celsius, the wild animals of Nagzira get uninterrupted water in the artificial waterholes with solar energy driven pumps spewing water all day. "We went ahead with the idea initially suggested by high court judge Ambadas Joshi. Being the nodal agency, the project was implemented by Maharashtra Energy Development Agency (MEDA), Pune," said M S Reddy, conservator of forest (CF), Gondia wildlife division.

Reddy said the advantage of the new system, installed a month ago, was that animals could drink water without disturbance. "Manual filling of waterholes consumes time and disturbs wildlife. Besides, it may result in tragedies like at Bor where a forest labourer was mauled by a tiger as he went to operate the hand pump at a waterhole last month," he adds.

Reddy explained the operation of the new system during a recent visit to the park. He said a solar energy based one horsepower submersible pump has been fitted to a bore-well and it pumps out 7,000 litres of water everyday.

It requires no battery and hence there is no recurring cost. The pump is on during the hours of sunshine and idle during the night. Groundwater recharges in the off period. It does not disturb the wildlife as there is no sound. The system has cut down the cost of filling artificial waterholes as no manpower or tanker is needed to fill up the waterholes. It keeps supplying water consistently all through the day.

"Once the saucer shape waterhole is filled up, some excess water spills over and creates a marshy area for herbivores to wallow in. The grass growing due to the irrigation also attracts chitals and sambars," Reddy said.

Due to the cooling effect, sightings of insect fauna and birds have improved in the area. The management is now collecting data on the number of wild animal sightings at the waterholes. "We have installed the system at waterholes near the protection camps for safety of solar panels. After studying the impact, we may decide to increase their number," Reddy stated.

Solar waterholes
* System costs Rs 2,51,650 each and is on a rate contract of Maharashtra Energy Development Agency
* If it is fitted to a borewell situated at some height, an underground pipeline system can supply water to five saucer-shaped waterholes up to 3km away
* The experiment is being conducted in New Nagzira sanctuary

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