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Wild ghariyals threatened by illegal sand mining

LUCKNOW: Illegal sand mining is posing the biggest threat to the last of the wild and breeding ghariyals left. Found in maximum strength inNational Chambal Sanctuary running across three states- UP, MP and Rajasthan, ghariyals are losing out to human interference.

"Mining of sand banks is destructive for 
ghariyalpopulation as sand banks are essential for nesting and basking," says wildlife activist Upamanyu Raju who has filed a complaint with the National Green Tribunal, seeking its intervention in the matter.

Ghariyals lay their eggs under sand beds, but illegal sand mining destroys their nests, he says. The complaint submitted to NGT reads, "Sand is extracted for construction works. Local inhabitants are cultivating river banks immediately adjacent to the river and this is causing considerable disturbance to the natural habitat of ghariyals. Villagers residing along the river are flattening ravines present in the sanctuary for farming."

The 425 km stretch of the Chambal river was declared a protected area in 1979. The river originates from Kota in Rajasthan, runs through sandy ravines and ends at Bhare in Etawah, where it merges with the Yamuna. UP has 150 km of the river sanctuary running along Bah (Agra) and Etawah.

Ghariyals are the major wildlife attractions of the sanctuary.

Illegal fishing is another threat to ghariyals as they get entangled in fishing nets and drown. Many a time, ghariyals injured by fishing hooks starve to death as they can neither hunt nor eat.

While the complaint was filed in September last year, sources in UP forest department said NGT is yet to pass any directive, though it has sought responses from the three state governments. The next hearing is scheduled on March 10.

"The fact is that UP is the only state which has done anything for ghariyal conservation. Nests are protected by way of wire mesh and long iron staves against attacks from jackals, dogs and other animals who dig up the nests to eat the eggs," said sources.

According to the 2012-13 census, UP stretch of the sanctuary had 785 ghariyals which is a remarkable increase. There were 307 ghariyals in 2008-09 and the number rose to 674 in 2011-12.


* Ghariyals were found historically in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar

* Apart from small population in Nepal, maximum wild population exists in three Indian rivers - Son, Geruwa and Chambal

* Chambal sanctuary is a tri-state protected area running along MP, UP and Rajasthan

* UP stretch of the sanctuary has 785 ghariyals as per 2012-13 census

The Times of India (10-03-2014)