Junagadh district has received only 10 per cent of the rain it normally gets, forcing the forest department to put in place its contingency plan to ensure that lions’ thirst is quenched.
The forest department has to keep replenishing more than 500 artificial waterholes in the Gir National Park and its periphery. However, the department is worried because there are no such arrangements for lion zones in Amreli, Bhavnagar and coastal areas.
Foresters said that due to deficient rainfall this year, water levels in rivers, ponds, and wells are plunging. The Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as Sasan Gir, is the only abode of the Asiatic lions- their current population is 411. Other animals in the sanctuary include Leopards, Spotted Deer, Nilgais, Wild Boars, and thousands of bird species and various reptiles.
In the normal course, forest authorities stop filling the artificial waterholes in and around Gir by June 15 every year- unless it is required in summer. But nearly after a decade, the authorities are being forced to fill these ponds in August. The water holes are filled twice a day.
Chief Conservator of forests R.L. Meena said that the main worry is that the waterholes filled using wind and solar power will be rendered useless because the water level is falling drastically. The department may have to provide supply to these waterholes too. “A water tanker of the forest department is making eight to ten trips a day,” he said.
Senior officials said that with natural water getting exhausted, the forest department will have to get water from distant places. The department may have to call in more tankers to meet the demand.
The water situation deteriorated when seven rivers – Hiran, Saraswati, Machhundri, Ghodavdi, and Raval- passing through the sanctuary started drying up.