| June 24, 2019
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Vanishing lakes in Shuklaphanta threat to wildlife

MAHENDRANAGAR, April 26: Prolonged drought has caused many water sources within Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve to dry up. The water crisis has deeply affected the wildlife in the reserve, which is also a habitat to the endangered swamp deer.

Almost all of the around one-and-a-half dozen ponds and streams inside Shuklaphanta have already dried up, according to the reserve's officials. The office overseeing the reserve body has been pumping water drawn from tube-wells into artificial ponds to deal with the crisis.

“Water sources inside the reserve have been gradually drying up. The situation is indeed troubling. Only Rani Lake inside the reserve still has some water,” said Bed Kumar Dhakal, chief of Shuklaphanta Reserve. “So we have been building artificial ponds to ensure water for the wildlife,” he said.

“We have built three ponds inside the reserve, so that there wouldn't be shortage of water for the wildlife. Artificial ponds have also made it easy for the tourists to observe wildlife that gather around the pond,” said Assistant Conservation Officer Gopal Bahadur Ghimire, who is also spokesperson of Shuklaphanta Reserve.

Apart from the perennial drought, lack of regular maintenance of lakes are also said to be the reason for the disappearance of the lakes.

“It is a big respite that water still flows in the Bahunne River. The problem of drought has not only hit Tarai region, but also regions in the hills and the Himalayas,” said Ghimire, adding that budget shortfall has hindered efforts aimed at water conservation and management.

Stakeholders said disappearance of lakes poses serious threat to various species of fishes, birds, and alligators inside Shuklaphanta. They warned that in lack of timely attention, the lakes and pond may vanish entirely.

Likewise, it has also ruined the natural beauty and wildlife in lowlands. Apart from swamp deer, the reserve risks losing other animals like tiger, rhinos, elephants, among others.