The Keoladeo National Park is a very dynamic yet fragile ecosystem. Being a man-modified system, it requires carefully planned intervention including continuous flow of water, habitat management, weed control and people management.
Inaccessibility to water
The water holding capacity of the wetland extending over 12 km2 area is around 500 million cubic feet. In early 2002-03, with the increase in height of the Panchna Dam, on the Gambhiri River 130 km upstream of the Park, requisite amounts of water were not released to the Park for over five years. This river was the only sustained source of water to the Park, and since then has been running dry. The survival of the Park will continue to be at stake if recent drought conditions prevail. However, since 2013, the park has been receiving enough water from the three identified sources. This needs to be monitored and assessed periodically.
Invasive plant species
The paucity of water is compounded by the infestation of invasive weeds in the wetland. Prosopis juliflora has propagated and taken over most of the wetland. Managing it is one of the greatest challenges so far as the conservation of this wetland is concerned. However, if the park’s water requirements are met adequately, this threat can be managed.
The lack of support from the surrounding villages including the villages on the Gambhiri basin has been the biggest threats to the park from the outside. While the internal threats can largely be addressed, a perceptible change and clear incentives at the local level remains a big challenge. This challenge can only be addressed by an effective education and outreach programme.
Inadequate state support on policy
Institutional and policy support for such a man-made wetland is crucial for its survival, especially when the bigger threats are external rather than internal. The fact that the Park does not get its share of requisite water from the river is primarily because of there is little recognition of the biodiversity requirements as against people’s requirements and an inadequate political will at the state-level. The ongoing policy dialogue that has already been initiated by concerned civil society groups needs to continue along with periodic monitoring of the water supply to the park.