Telangana Forest Department steps up construction of solar-powered borewells along forests in Nizamabad to provide sources of water to wildlife in the summer months

Published : March 30, 2021 17:35 IST

The team from the Forest Department inspecting a prospective site for a borewell. Photo: Telangana Forest Department

One of the borewells constructed by the Forest Department. Photo: Telangana Forest Department

Population explosion has resulted in the rapid shrinking of wildlife habitats as they make way for yet more agricultural land. A study has shown that mammals, birds, and amphibians have seen their natural habitat range shrink by almost 20 per cent since 1700.

As habitats shrink and vanish, the serious collateral damage of wild animals straying into human settlements and towns in the periphery of forests has caused consternation and fear among residents. The summer months, when most streams in the forests run dry, accentuates the problem, leading to numerous animal-human conflicts. There is also the increased risk of wild animals, as they set out in search of water, getting hit by vehicles plying on highways that run close to or through a forest.

In a bid to minimise this and improve the drinking water storage in forests, the Nizamabad Division of the Telangana Forest Department has decided to step up the construction of solar-powered drinking water sources on either side of National Highway 44, between Kamareddy and Indalwai in Nizamabad district during the 2021-22 financial year.

Most of these areas are close to the Pocharam Wildlife Sanctuary, located 15 km from Medak and 115 km from Hyderabad and close to the urban agglomeration of Nizamabad, the third largest city in Telangana. The 130 sq km Pocharam Wildlife Sanctuary, which was declared a wildlife sanctuary by the Nizam of Hyderabad in the beginning of the 20th century, traverses the districts of Nizamabad and Medak.

Citing the incident of a leopard being run over by a train near Sirnapally, Dr Sunil S Hiremath, District Forest Officer (DFO), Nizamabad, disclosed that the ideal situation would be to have at least one water source for every nine square km of forest. Elaborating on the solar-powered drinking water sources, the DFO said that the borewells were first dug usually in the vicinity of natural, but not perennial, streams and then connected to a series of solar panels. The solar power from the panels is used to run the borewells. Water from the borewells is drawn and fed into man-made mini-percolation tanks that have been constructed by the Forest Department across natural streams, streams that are frequented by wildlife.

Said an elated Hiremath: “Camera traps at the site of these tanks constructed by the Forest Department have shown plenty of wildlife approaching these water bodies. Four days ago, a sloth bear family was captured by the camera traps at one of the water bodies.” Hiremath also disclosed that the Forest Department had also constructed several saucer pits of about three metre radius and periodically pumped in water to help provide drinking water to wildlife.

According to the DFO, the Forest Department staff had earlier constructed more than 300 sources of water in the 1.65 hectares of forest area along National Highway 44 stretch between Kamareddy and Indalwai. He also disclosed that the construction of such water sources at Mamidimally beside National Highway 63 in Nizamabad district had already been completed. Said Hiremath: “These measures have helped increase the population of wild animals in the forest.” The area is also home to leopards and antelope.

Hiremath is also presently trying to streamline the entry of wildlife enthusiasts as they make a beeline to the sleepy hamlet of Nandipet village in Nizamabad district. As the summer months scorch the plains of the Nizamabad Forest Division and the forests are bereft of water, literally hundreds of graceful blackbuck and numerous water birds like the flamingo and pelican have begun to descend on the area by the receding waters of the Godavari near the Sriram Sagar Project. The sighting of the majestic antelope, which is native to India and Nepal, and its daily battle with a herd of stray dogs is a view to behold.

Said the DFO: “The backwaters of the Sriram Sagar Project, also known as the Pochampadu Project, recede during the summer, providing us the rarity of sighting blackbucks in Telangana. We have involved the local villagers to ensure that the place remains clean and devoid of any waste. We have definite plans of making it a tourism centre.” Bird-watchers point to the presence of many species like the crested hawk-eagle, the yellow-footed green pigeon, the Indian pitta, the paradise flycatcher, the painted sandgrouse, the chestnut-bellied sandgrouse and crested serpent eagle here during the summer months.

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