Hindustan Times (Jalandhar)

Raj readies Sambhar lake plan over bird deaths

- Rakesh Goswami letters@hindustant­imes.com

JAIPUR: The Rajasthan government finalised the Sambhar Lake Management Plan on Thursday, 17 days before it appears before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in a case related to mass deaths of birds at the lake last year.

According to the plan, the district administra­tions of Jaipur, Ajmer and Nagaur, will ensure surveillan­ce and patrolling in the lake area throughout the year, give assistance to agencies for removal of encroachme­nts, assist forest and animal husbandry department­s in rescue of birds in case of injury or disease and demarcate lake boundary.

The plan said that the state industry department will check disposal of sludge and other industrial waste in the lake bed; the forest department will establish a temporary rescue centre for injured and diseased birds from October to March (the migratory season); and the panchayati raj department will set up control room in the lake area for waste management and constitute rescue team with volunteers and equipment.

The management plan was given the green light at the second meeting of the standing committee for management of Sambhar Lake held on Thursday. The first meeting was held on February 11.

The Sambhar lake is India’s largest inland salt water lake that occupies an area of around 200 sq km -- this decreases during the dry months and increases during the wet ones.

Carcasses of close to 22,000 migratory birds were found at the lake in November of last year, much to the concern of environmen­talists and ornitholog­ists. The birds died due to animal botulism, a neuromuscu­lar illness.

NGT is hearing the original applicatio­n filed on the basis of a news item published in Hindustan Times, titled Sambhar’s ecology among worst: Report’, on November 20, 2019, and petitions filed by Jaipur-based Wild Creatures Organisati­on and Delhibased the Ecology, Rural Developmen­t and Sustainabi­lity (ERDS ) Foundation, both nonprofits.

On the last hearing – on March 17 – NGT ordered the state government to prepare a comprehens­ive management plan.

Principal secretary of the state environmen­t department, Sreya Guha, said: The environmen­t department has prepared a draft plan after taking inputs of relevant department­s which has now been approved by the standing committee on management of Sambhar Lake. We will now circulate the plan and also submit it to NGT.”

She said there is a realisatio­n in the government that a comprehens­ive management plan is required because there are about 14 department­s involved in different aspects of management of the lake.

NGT also ordered the state government to close 500 illegal bore wells in Sambhar and prevent discharge of sewage into the lake, calling it a criminal offence.

According to data from the standing committee, during 20192020, 29.44 hectare of encroachme­nt were removed from the lake, 137 illegal bore wells destroyed and 10 submersibl­e pumps seized. In 2020-21 (until July 31), 254 illegal bore wells were destroyed.

The Rajasthan high court registered a suo motto public interest litigation on the death of birds at Sambhar Lake.


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