Chennai: One might ask that when people are running around looking for that pot of water to survive, who has the time to think of animals in forests that are also affected due to lack of rain? Even if the common man does not, the State Forest Department, headed by Minister Dindigul C Sreenivasan, cares about what happens to the flora and fauna of the forests.
The lack of availability of water in the forest regions not only affects the animals, but at times also leads to human-animal conflicts. There is also the problem of forest fires which has a huge impact on wildlife. Such incidents could result in long-term damage to forests, wildlife and humans.
Speaking to News Today, Dindigul Sreenivasan said though lack of rain has led to water shortage in the forest areas, the situation is not alarming as adequate measures have been taken to tackle the situation.
“All necessary steps have been taken to ensure that water is made available to the animals,” he said.
He said natural water sources in wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, tiger reserves and reserve forests are generally located in the valleys and they suffer from acute scarcity of water during summers.
“Keeping this in mind, water is supplied in cement troughs, placed at strategic locations, through pipes and by drawing water using borewells. In remote places where there is no electricity, solar power is utilised to draw water. Apart from this, water is also supplied through tankers,” said the Minister.
He further said the design, shape and size of the water troughs are based on the requirements of the animals dwelling in the particular area.
“Animals have different levels of necessity for water based on their biology. Most of these troughs are located inside the forest areas to prevent human-animal conflict. If these are placed on the forest borders, there are high chances that the animals might stray into residential areas,” he explained.
He elaborated that the requirement for water remains the same (mostly) in forests unlike the demand of water for humans which increases every year.
“Animals are able to tackle such conditions and move to different zones where there is water. They have the capability to adapt to these conditions naturally. Large animals like elephants that need a lot of water have a range of up to 600 sq km and know where to get water during such conditions. Smaller animals, including tigers, which have a comparatively smaller range, will survive with the small patches of water in river streams. Since all the animals do not come to drink water at the same time, these pockets get refilled naturally. These areas also serve as hunting grounds,” he pointed out.
When asked if lack of rain has affected the availability of food for the animals, he said it will have an impact on the movement of the animals.
“It is not that animals will eat only one variety of plants. For example, though elephants prefer eating leaves, they also consume tree barks in such conditions, if their favourite species has dried up,” he added.
During year 2017-2018, the government sanctioned Rs 3 crore for creation of 60 forest ponds in wildlife and protected areas. Earlier, the government sanctioned Rs 1.08 crore for nine overhead tanks during 2015-2016. Apart from this, 30 borewells fitted with solar power energised motor (4 units with overhead tank and 26 without overhead tank) were set up in the vulnerable forest areas. An amount of Rs 2.81 crore was sanctioned in 2013 for the purpose, said an official of the Forest Department.
IN TIMES OF CRISIS
There will be rapid response to crisis/conflict situation and immediate follow-up action to contain and sort out in case of a crisis, the official website of the Forest Department stated. The standard operating protocol as advised by the National Tiger Conservation Authority for dealing with human-wildlife conflict involving carnivores in and around tiger reserve areas mandates a provision to establish such rapid response teams. Such rapid response teams have been established with headquarters at Coimbatore, Krishnagiri and Tirunelveli. The toll-free number for forest fire alert is 1800 425 4409.