Ganga turtle sanctuary snippets
A 7 km stretch in Ganga from Rajghat to Ramnagar Fort near Varanasi has now been given a permanent status of a tortoise sanctuary as per the provisions of the Wild Life Protection Act 1972. Capturing, killing or selling freshwater turtle is punishable under the Act. It is one of the innovative ideas of the Ganga Action Plan to revive the use of turtles to keep the river clean. Traditionally, turtles and crocodiles act as scavengers consuming the corpses and other debris in the water. The once-plentiful the number of soft-shelled turtles in the river has greatly reduced and the steep drop in their number had resulted in filth accumulating in the river. This scheme plans to restore the river’s turtle population. After being incubated in breeding centres at Varanasi and Kukrail, near Lucknow, the hatchlings are reared for a year or so and then released in the river. Nearly 2,000 tortoises are released annually in the river. The sanctuary created in 1989 as a part of the clean Ganga plan only had a temporary status, the forest officials said “The existence of tortoise sanctuary has its own importance to clean the river,” the officials added. Meanwhile because of the new notification issued last month about the sanctuary the ambitious plan for river cruise over Ganga between two holy cities- Varanasi and Allahabad by the Uttar Pradesh tourism directorate appears to be in jeopardy. The directorate would now need permission of the Centre to clear the hurdle. The tourism department, in collaboration with a private player, earlier had plans to begin a cruise service in Varanasi with an innovative concept of water tourism. A luxury vessel was to be arranged for ferrying tourists but it had to be dropped because of the objection of the forest department due to the presence of tortoise sanctuary in the route. The changed situation makes it more difficult. Any decision regarding a relaxation can be taken by the Central government only, officials said.