By Smitha R
A birding ground of international importance and home to several migratory birds, Nalsarovar should ideally have had a pride of place. The truth, however, is adverse. Recent arrest of poachers has laid bare Nal's open secret and brought to light the apathy with which the site is treated. Smitha R reports.
Spread over 120 square km, the marshes of Nal can be difficult to patrol. But patrolling is made all the more difficult by the fact that the forest department that takes care of the sanctuary lacks manpower to effectively man the area. In fact, the sanctuary has just 35% of the sanctioned staff strength.
At present there are just three guards and three foresters to look after the entire site. “Of this, two are quite old and we can’t expect them to run around. So effectively we are making do with just four of them. And it is humanly impossible to keep an eye on every part of the sanctuary with just four people,” said Sasi Kumar, DCF Nal Sarovar.
Ideally, for every 10 sq km there should be one person, said Kumar, adding that patrolling can be made more effective even if Nal gets just its sanctioned strength — of eight guards — six foresters and two rangers.
It should, however, be noted that these posts haven’t been filled for long. And, that is not all. The forest officials even lack adequate equipment to go after the poachers. “There are some watchtowers but what use are they when the guards don’t have binoculars. Till sometime ago the guards wouldn’t even get their salaries on time,” said a bird expert who has closely worked in Nalsarovar and with the forest department as well.
A forest guard whom DNA talked to said that the poachers are locals who also happen to be expert rowers. “First we lack adequate boats. Suppose we manage to get on to one, we can’t chase them because they are experts while we aren’t good at it. Neither do we have people who can row for us,” said the guard matter of fact.
Lack of funds to carry out effective strategies that may dissuade the poachers is another problem. Investigation into the recent poaching incident — in which, 60 live coots were recovered from two traders — took the forest department officials into the marshes and the tall grass that grow there. There they found several bird carcasses pointing to the fact that poaching had been going on for long. More....