WATER SCARCITY HITS LION HABITAT
A grave water crisis in Brihad Gir threatens to bring the terrifying roar of the lions once heard within the confines of Gir sanctuary and adjacent areas closer to human settlements, as lions drift to newer places in search of drinking water. Drying water bodies and depleting water sources in lion territory has heightened the water scarcity in Brihad Gir, the extended peripheral areas where lions have made newer homes following increase in population and forest authorities have started excavating trenches for artificial water holes to provide water through tankers to lions in newer areas. What has fuelled the crisis are the malfunctioning windmills within the area.
Local residents say that aggressive lion behaviour, enlargement of movement area and sighting of lions in village areas that are indications of depleting water resources in the lion habitat are becoming more evident. The recent incident where two male lions killed a male lion at Liliya in Amreli district is said to be a case in point.
Water scarcity in the region has affected lions in Liliya Krankach area that has some 80 lions according to the 14th lion estimation conducted in 2015. There are 20 artificial water holes and several windmills in Liliya.
Liliya resident and environmental activist Manoj Joshi said, "Of the several windmills, five are not working and of the remaining three have bitter or salty water that is unsuitable for animals. Many artificial water holes are not filled regularly. Besides, this being a revenue area, lions share the water with cow and buffalo herds. This gap between demand and supply affects the lions. The forest department is struggling to fill up water points with the limited vehicles that they have."
"The Gagadiya and Shentrunji rivers that usually had shallow water levels have gone completely dry. Besides, villages around the area also facing water problems. There are eight lion cubs in the area this season and water needs to be replenished for them at the earliest," Joshi said.
Joshi said, several villages in Saurashtra have started spotting lions wandering into farms areas for water. Lions drift towards Shetrunji River in Palitana due to water scarcity. Besides, increase in population has also led to lions searching for newer homes.
Chief Conservator of Forests, Junagadh, A P Singh, said, "We have already serviced equipment like solar panels and windmills and readied water tankers. We have increased some water holes as per requirement and our staff is on standby to identify locations for new water holes. Villages outside Gir have been told to inform us of lion movements to enable us to make arrangements."
Depleting water levels
Amreli resident and environment activist Govind Pandya said, "Water levels are depleting and some areas are facing water scarcity. This has led to an increase in movement of lions who enter fields in search of water."
T Karuppasamy, Deputy Conservator of Forest, Gir East said, "We have already put several extra water points. Our team is keeping a constant watch on lion movement in the entire range to help us set up extra water points where required. As of now there is sufficient water for lions even outside sanctuary area."
Dr Sakkira Begum R, Deputy Conservator of Forest, Amreli, told Mirror, "I will not share the exact number of water points for safety of animals but there are a few windmills under maintenance. We have deputed staff to check water quality at windmills that are working. We do not fill up a few water points deliberately as these locations are potential spots for illegal lion shows. We have made separate arrangement for water in those areas. We have not felt the need to increase number of waterholes in the area so far, but we have two water tankers that fill them up regularly."