To Promote Tourism At Statue Of Unity, Almost 500 Endangered Crocodiles Risk Losing Habitat
Crocodiles are being evacuated by the Gujarat Forest Department from two ponds on Narmada’s Sardar Sarovar Dam premises in Gujarat to allow seaplane service that has been planned for the promotion of tourism at the Statue of Unity.
On the premises of the dam are two ponds located adjacent to each other, and there are around 500 crocodiles in both the ponds. Until a few days back, 15 crocodiles had been moved. Schedule 1 of the Wildlife ProtectionAct covers the most endangered species, and the mugger crocodiles (Crocodylus palustris) in the Narmada falls under it, reported The Indian Express.
Crocodiles being evacuated
There was a third pond which had already been cleared of crocodiles by a multi-level committee comprising officials of the Civil Aviation Department and Gujarat government. This pond, called ‘Magar talav (crocodile pond)’ had been cleared to make way for the seaplane terminal meant to connect Gujarat cities to the site of the Sardar Patel statue.
The crocodiles, the largest of them about 10 feet long, are being captured by the Forest Department by luring them with fish as bait into cages, and as of now, they do not have a deadline to finish the operation.
According to Dr K Sasi Kumar, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Narmada, that the crocodiles are being rescued from ponds three and four, which are very close to the site, and for the operation, as many as 10 teams of officials have been put to work. The crocodiles had been in the custody of the Forest Department for about a week. It was then decided that they will be let out into the reservoir of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Dam.
“For many years now, the Forest Department has been releasing crocodiles into the reservoir of the dam, apart from the main canal, the Ajwa reservoir and other canals. This particular exercise involves hundreds of crocodiles. It may not be possible to release all into the reservoir in one go. They will have to be distributed in other places as well. It is most likely that a lot of these crocodiles could end up going back closer to the human habitats from where they were once rescued and brought to the Narmada.” a top official of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) told the daily.
As a practice, crocodiles are captured from human settlements and released into the Narmada dam ponds and closer to Vadodara, Ajwa reservoir is home to hundreds of them.
“Against the principles of the Wildlife Protection Act”
However, according to Dr Jitendra Gavali, Director, Community Science Centre, Vadodara, said that the transfer of these reptiles is “against the principles of the Wildlife Protection Act”. He pointed out that the officials cannot possibly be sure of the exact number of crocodiles in the pond, and said that they might as well be harmed.
He further said that if the crocodiles are released into the dam reservoir, it is possible that the female crocodiles will not be able to nest if the slope of the dam is more than 40 degrees. Crocodiles need space to come out of the water during winters and they also need space to rest on land. He said that it is more important for the government to create artificial ponds for landing the seaplanes if they can spends large amounts to create the Statue of Unity, but they must not disturb the natural habitat of the animals.
The Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Department of Civil Aviation had prepared a feasibility report on the seaplane service in the run-up to the Statue of Unity being inaugurated. This service had been promised by the Centre in the state, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Dharoi Dam in Ambaji from Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad in December 2017 in a seaplane. This would mark the end of his campaign to for the Gujarat Assembly Polls.
Finally, Pond 3, which is officially called Panchmuli lake, was considered ideal for the seaplanes. For a seaplane, a water body of minimum 900-metres width and 6-feet depth is required to land.
Pond 3 is the largest of the four ponds and was once open to boating. But in 2013, it ended due to an incident where a boat of 60 people was stranded in the water, surrounded by crocodiles. A couple of hours were needed to rescue the tourists. Palitana and Dharoi Dam are other sites that are shortlisted in Gujarat for development of water aerodromes. According to officials, it is being contemplated by the Civil Aviation Ministry to classify the operations under the Udan initiative for regional connectivity. An official of the Gujarat Tourism Department said that tourism in the Narmada has received a big boost because of the Statue of Unity, and now aerodrome services will add to the advantage.
The Logical Indian take
It is harrowing to see that for a government project, these reptiles are being removed from their natural habitat. Crocodiles, like any other animal, adapt to the environment they have lived in for a long time, and removing them from their natural home and disturbing the ecological system might as well result in their death.
As it is, certain species of these crocodiles are endangered, and it is the duty of the officials to ensure their safety. Instead, this step is taking them a step ahead towards death.
With all the power that human beings have, they can easily find an alternative to removing the crocodiles from their habitat for a government project and to boost tourism. The Logical Indian condemns insensitiveness towards any living being.