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Posted on Oct 26, 08:44AM | IANS
Authorities have allowed boating in Rajasthan's Keoladeo National Park at Bharatpur after a four year gap so that visitors can watch resident and migratory birds up close.
Thanks to the water diverted from the Yamuna river that ended the draught in the marshes, a huge turnout of migratory birds is expected at the sanctuary this winter.
Also known as Keoladeo Ghana Sanctuary, the Bharatpur bird park is located about 170 km from Jaipur.
"Boating has been allowed in the sanctuary after four years. We tried to start the service last year but it didn't work out due to lack of water," a senior forest department official said.
The sanctuary received water in the first week of October from the Goverdhan drain, fed by surplus water from the Yamuna, through a 17.4-km pipeline built at a cost of around Rs.5.5 billion.
Birds started arriving in the sanctuary within a week of the release of water.
The park, formerly known as Bharatpur bird sanctuary, is home to about 300 species of birds including openbills, spoonbills, egrets, cormorants, white ibis, harriers, fishing eagles, kingfishers and local and Siberian cranes.
However, their numbers started dwindling due to acute shortage of water. The sanctuary attracted only 50-60 species in recent years.
"Spoonbills, cormorants, storks, Indian darters, egrets and cranes have already arrived," a forest official said.
He added that three boats were pressed into service Wednesday to ferry tourists in the L block of the sanctuary.
"It is the biggest block in the sanctuary," he said. "The initial response was encouraging."
The forest department has eight boats. The number would be increased if there is demand.
The sanctuary is spread over 28.72 sq km with lakes and wetland. It was created by the Maharaja of Bharatpur in the 19th century.