December 30, 2010
The Indian Union Minister for Environment and Forests, Mr. Jairam Ramesh visited the Madras Crocodile Bank on 27.12.2010 and spent an hour with Rom Whitaker and the staff of this crocodilian gene bank on the east coast of South India. A considerable body of the press and electronic media showed up and Mr. Ramesh briefed them on the Ministry’s new initiative for gharial conservation.
He described the gharial as India’s most endangered species, with only 200 breeders left in the wild, more endangered than the tiger, elephant or leopard and the need to take immediate and bold steps to make sure the gharial doesn’t go the way of the Indian cheetah.
In view of the fact that the Chambal River, most of which lies within the National Chambal Sanctuary, is the largest repository of the Critically Endangered gharial, Mr. Ramesh announced the formation of a National Tri-State Chambal Sanctuary Management and Coordination Committee for gharial conservation. The Committee will consist of representatives of relevant Ministries, such as Water Resources, State Departments of Irrigation and Power, Wildlife Institute of India, Madras Crocodile Bank Trust/Gharial Conservation Alliance, Development Alternatives, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Worldwide Fund for Nature and the Divisional Forest officers of the three States.
The Committee will chalk out strategies for both gharial and habitat protection; this will involve further research on the species and its ecology and socio-economic evaluation of dependent riparian communities. Support for this new, dynamic initiative will be mobilized as a sub-scheme of the ‘Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats’ to the tune of Rs.50 million to 80 million (USD 1 million to 1.7 million) each year for five years. Mr. Ramesh said that his Ministry has ruled out the construction of any further dams on the Chambal River and made a general plea to stop polluting and misusing rivers in India for the sake of the gharial, river dolphin and ultimately the people dependent on river water for their survival.