Water Park at Entrance to Pench Tiger Reserve: Seriously? | Responsible Tourism

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The central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh is doing some commendable work in tourism, but a lot of good work comes undone at times. Like allowing a water park to come up at the entrance of a national park. At a location where wild animals are often seeing crossing too. If this is not irresponsible and callous, what is?

Pench: Reputed to be a party place for Nagpur citizens

The Pench National Park is located just over an hour away from the bustling city of Nagpur. I have been to the reserve thrice and have always come back marvelled at its beauty and saddened by the state of affairs. Being so close to the city, it is often seen as a quick getaway for the entertainment of its residents.

Being close to nature and appreciating the wild is not on everyone’s agenda. Hotels have seemingly come up to serve as party places for these visitors; I have heard loud music emanating from some hotels late into the night. I have been told the situation gets particularly extreme on New Year’s Eve and other special occasions. This alone is a clear no-no in a forest setting – such pollution can be harmful to animals and birds.

Of all the places, why would anyone allow a water park at a wild reserve?

Why would the authorities allow a water park so close to the core area of a national park? It could have come up anywhere – why here? More so since signs have been put up to watch out for animals crossing the area. Tigers and their cubs have been seen close to where the water park is coming up – as are many other species. Animals do not know boundaries of a park – they venture out.

How will the park harm wildlife?

For the uninitiated, here are just some of the harmful effects of such a venture:

* Crowds: This is a natural reserve where human presence has to be minimised. Imagine a scenario when hundreds or even thousands flock at the same time to the water park? And their (honking and smoking) vehicles jostling for space on the narrow stretch of road leading to the water park.
* Animals in line of danger: When animals wander into this area – which they do currently – they will exposed to the risk of man-animal conflict. A wild cat can set off alarm bells; there have been ample reports of mobs attacking and killing them in India. Vehicles could – and have – run over the larger mammals and even the tiny bird and insect life not always visible at once. Especially when it’s dark.
* Food pollution: Food is served aplenty at such places. And Indians have a dubious reputation of its disposal. Animal health will be at risk when they consume any lying around. And visitors will also tend to serve animals and birds when they spot any. These species are not supposed to consume anything that goes against the natural food chain. And if they get used to such food, many animals and birds will congregate here further and further disturb the order of things in the jungle.
* Water wastage: The flora and fauna of the jungle anyway suffer from shortage of water – it does not require one to be very intelligent to see how much water such an undertaking will consume. Where will it come from? Ground water no doubt – lowering the water table even further.
* Water and ground pollution: It is unlikely that all the water will be recycled or treated. A lot of the ‘dirty’ water will flow back into the ground, causing further pollution.
* Noise: Entertainment zones like these suffer from noise pollution in the form of loud music, announcements over loudspeakers, human chatter and vehicular honking. The wild can do without it!

Who allowed it? Someone is answerable. Timely action is needed.

The water park is still work-in-progress. Who allowed it to come up in the first place? Someone is answerable for this. It has to be stopped. The local authorities, Madhya Pradesh tourism, NGOs, the central Ministry of Tourism, TOFT, travel trade bodies and even the Pench Jungle Lodge Federation need to take a stand and have it dismantled. They will be failing themselves and the cause of wildlife at large if this venture is allowed to go through.

It may not be a surprise if some political or business big-wig is the investor – but they need to be exposed and not allowed to get away with what would clearly be murder of wildlife.

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