The Times of India:Sunday, January 29, 2012.
AHMEDABAD: The shocking incident where five wild asses died on Friday after falling in the Narmada branch canal has raised serious issues over the safety of wild asses outside the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK) sanctuary area. Alarmed, the forest department has decided to fence the canal in areas which have large population of wild asses. A study of the corridor movement of the wild asses will also be undertaken, officials said.
About 20 per cent of the 4,000-odd wild ass population are outside the sanctuary and have made these areas their permanent home. Forest department officials said that the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) has taken all precautions as suggested by the forest department. However, the department had failed to suggest measures that should be taken outside the protected boundaries of the sanctuaries.
A study of the corridor movement of animals and even the area where the population of wild ass is more is being carried out by the forest department. "Putting up fencing all along the canal was not possible as it involves huge funding. So we will study the pockets where fencing needs to be installed," said principal secretary of forest and environment S K Nanda. He said all safety precautions will be taken to protect wildlife in the area.
A senior official refusing to be quoted said several studies have shown that in the late 1990s, over 300 wild asses were found upto Bhal and Nalsarovar area in Ahmedabad, but once the construction of the Narmada canal began, the population got isolated.
The officials said since the department has taken care to have adequate passages for the animals to cross over along with proper fencing, the movement inside the LRK sanctuary would not be restricted.
Another senior officer said, "Adequate fencing and safe passages have to be given in the area where the wild asses are present in large number."
He said that at present one can find the wild asses right up to India-Pakistan border and some even cross over to Rajasthan. Officials said in Dhangadhara alone around 8-10 per cent of the wild asses have made the villages in the taluka their permanent home.
Wild ass conservationist Devji Dhamecha said, "The incident has to be taken up seriously. Had there been water, all the 17 wild asses would have drowned." He too said that there was an urgent need to fence the branch canal or else several such incidents will take place in future