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| Last Updated:: 13/11/2019

Varanasi to bid adieu to turtle sanctuary







Three decades after it was declared India’s first and so far only protected area dedicated to the conservation of freshwater turtle species, Varanasi’s Turtle Wildlife Sanctuary is being denotified by the UP government in preparation for a possible “relocation” to the Allahabad-Mirzapur stretch of the Ganga. The prod to denotify the sanctuary first came two years ago, when the Union ministry of environment and forests wrote to the state government that the ghats were under threat. Amid opposition to the move from conservationists, it emerged that the Centre’s 1,620km national waterways project was to pass through the turtle habitat.






Sources said the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) had conducted a feasibility study and found the Allahabad-Mirzapur stretch of the river suitable for the relocation of the sanctuary. The proposal was “reviewed and approved in principle” during a recent meeting of the state wildlife board, chaired by CM Yogi Adityanath. The sanctuary, spanning the 7km stretch from Ramnagar Fort to the Malviya railroad bridge, was notified as the country’s first freshwater turtle sanctuary under the Ganga Action Plan in 1989. The idea of a sanctuary was married to the concept of releasing four carnivorous species of turtles for organic cleaning of the Ganga.






Since Kathawa (Aspederites gangeticus), Sundari Kachua (Lissemys punctata), Dhond (Kachuga dhongoka) and Pacheda (Pangshuratecta) are carnivorous turtles, it was expected that they would feed on half-burnt corpses floating in the waters of the Ganga. Turtle eggs were secured from the Chambal river, hatched at the Sarnath breeding centre and released in the river. The state government subsequently banned sand mining in the area to save the nesting turtles, leading to sand accumulation and increased sedimentation that seemed to create a new set of challenges. Flagging this as a threat to the ghats, the environment ministry wrote to the state government in 2017 seeking a remedy. Since a wildlife sanctuary can only be denotified, Turtle Wildlife Sanctuary will have to be reborn as a new habitat as and when it is shifted.






Source: The Times of India, 13 November 2019, Jaipur.