The National Chambal Sanctuary

The National Chambal Sanctuary

-Chaitanya Krishna

The 960 km long Chambal River originates in the northern slopes of the Vindhyan escarpment and joins the Yamuna River near Bareh, after traversing through the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. The Kali Sindh, Parbati, Banas and Kuno are its chief tributaries. About 600 kms of the Chambal River was established as the National Chambal Sanctuary (NCS), between 1978 and 1983, to form the first and only tri-state protected area in India.

The NCS is among the most important and significant habitats where several globally threatened fauna still survive. It contains the most viable breeding populations of the critically endangered gharial and Red-crowned Roofed Turtle. The sanctuary is an important stronghold for endangered species like the Deccan Mahaseer, Putitor Mahaseer, Narrow-headed Soft-shell Turtle and the Three-striped Roofed Turtle. India’s national aquatic animal, the endangered Gangetic River Dolphin also occurs in the sanctuary. Due to rich and diverse birdlife, the sanctuary has been declared as an Important Bird Area (Site Code’s IN-UP-11 and IN-RJ-11). Birds that are found here include the Indian Skimmer, Black-bellied Tern, Sarus Crane, Pallas’s Fish-Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle and the critically endangered Oriental White-backed Vulture and Long-billed Vulture. The sanctuary is also among the best over-wintering sites for migratory birds.

The NCS functions as a vital source and nursery for fish fry and fingerlings, contributing significantly to downstream fisheries in the Gangetic river system. In addition, this river sanctuary also forms a vital corridor and link for the movement and dispersal of tigers from the source population of the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve to the Protected Areas of Kuno-Palpur, Madhav National Park and Darrah-Mukundra. Despite its conservation significance, the Chambal River faces severe extractive and intrusive pressures for resources, especially from dams and water abstraction structures, sand-mining; bank-side cultivation; fishing; poaching and livestock grazing. 

Although a considerable body of literature exists on gharials and the Chambal River, this information is widely scattered and not readily available. This inaccessibility to existing information and knowledge is an impediment to effectively understand the conservation needs of the gharial and Chambal River. Several recent developments in the form of the increasing number of proposals for hydrological modifications and misleading Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports have clearly exposed poor accessibility to available information. There was no single archive for this body of knowledge, and this initiative aims to fill that void. 

The Gharial Information Database (http://www.gharial-info.com/) and the Chambal Information Database (http://www.chambal-info.com/) are open-access repositories of published literature on gharial and Chambal River respectively. Both databases are now online and provide an alphabetical and chronological bibliography pertaining to the gharial and Chambal River. Most importantly, users can access any article in the library and information on how to do so is listed on the website.

A lot of information has been compiled, but these databases are not exhaustive yet. Relevant material will be continuously sourced and the websites will be updated regularly. Users are encouraged to submit relevant literature that is not available in the databases. The database compilers believe and also hope that open access to such information will trigger participatory biodiversity monitoring initiatives, and in the process, spur public support and participation in conservation of the gharial and Chambal River.

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