Desert National Park Book by GS Bhardwaj raises concern for wild species, Harsh Vardhan’s review

Desert National Park is a long cherished dream of Dr. GS Bhardwaj who raises his concern for wild species 

Have you heard of a Government officer pulling up Government? Meet this fire brand forest officer of Rajasthan cadre to know why he spares none while defending wild species in India’s lone Desert National Park. It is ironically described as a National Park while, in fact, it is a Sanctuary. Its land is not actually owned by Forest Department.  

Dreams come true after 10 years

It has taken nearly ten years for Dr. G.S. Bhardwaj to accomplish his long cherished desire to do a book on Desert National Park, he served long ago. He is famed for his scientific bent, species specialization, identification, photography and writing, an assignment he executes with impulsive pursuits. He is  Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest in Rajasthan and presently posted as  Secretary at the Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board. 

Meet the co-author Dr Rehmani

Dr. Asad R. Rahmani joined him as co-author to contribute his 35 year long encounters with wild species in this park while he followed Great Indian Bustard conservation for the Bombay Natural History Society, lastly as its Director. 

Officials admit it is a challenge to conserve Great Indian Bustard

The formal launch was performed by Shreya Guha, Principal Secretary for Forest & Environment, Government of Rajasthan.  Smilingly she commended this effort. She admitted that it had been a major challenge to conserve Great Indian Bustard in that habitat, criss-crossed by power lines often causing fatal accidents to these critically endangered  birds. The power companies, at long last, have agreed to put reflectors over live electric transmission lines so that birds can divert their flights and save themselves from this new death-trap. However, laying  power lines underground in Thar region still hangs in balance, she bemoaned. Having heard her on the questionable habitat, one wishes this officer to lead more events to curate conservation as she sounds to be a worthy candidate.  

Ms. Shruti Sharma, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest and HOFF, Rajasthan, congratulated Dr. Bhardwaj for this accomplishment.  Mr. ML Meena, Chief Wildlife Warden and Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Rajasthan, shared his experiences of this Park.

A conservation tapestry

Dr. Bhardwaj showcased stunning photos of wild species he photographed and explained about their status, precarious or encouraging. He caused almost a typhoon of images to weave a conservation tapestry of this habitat hosting some rare species and facing massive demographic pressures.  The 118-page book is sponsored by Hem Chand Mahindra Foundation and printed by The Corbett Foundation. It has  messages from Ashok Mahindra (HCMF) and Dilip K. Khatau (TCF). The Foreword is by Mr. Ravi Singh, CEO of WWF – India.

The start realities of the habitat

The book is a candid portrayal of stark realities of this habitat: a significant centre of endemism,  99% of its area is revenue land dotted by 73 villages with 300 ‘dhanis’ (hut-settlements) blunted by nearly a tenth of a million population, yet housing an amazing species diversity,  the  Imperial Sandgrouse (Black-bellied) not been reported for some years,  Cream-coloured Courser now breeding there, the park getting eroded by habitat destruction and ineffective protection measures, poaching being rampant despite consistent denial of the allegations by the local authorities, etc. Truth aired emotionally.  

A silent hero who speaks with his actions

Photography outwits text or vice versa? Not easy to raise a question mark. It is delight to eyes and solace to mind.  The author has been part of the Wildlife Institute of India led ex situ breeding of Great Indian Bustard. Yet barring single photo (not clear on page 114), he has maintained a Sphinx-like silence over this success, claimed as global accomplishment through Department of Forest, Rajasthan. When it comes to  accolades, he tries to maintain low profile. The book shall remain as an all time record for this arid home for wildlife and people alike, both highlighted with  lusty zeal.

PS: Caption for feature photo on book release (from R to L): Dr. G.S. Bhardwaj, Ms. Shruti Sharma, Ms. Shreya Guha, Mr. M.L. Meena and Dr. Asad R. Rahmani, releasing the book, “Desert National Park” EBNW conveys congratulations to all associated with this unique effort.

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