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Bhavnagar’s Victoria Park tropical thorn forest faces threat from BJP MLA and Gujarat Forest Department

Written By Gopal Krishna on Friday, February 14, 2014 | 7:33 AM

Bhavnagar’s Victoria Park tropical thorn forest is spread in an area of about 500 acres. It provides good habitat to the water birds. From Ahmedabad it takes about 3.5 hours to reach Bhavnagar. There is protest brewing in Bhavnagar because of adverse land use change being undertaken by Bhavnagar MLA, Smt. Vibhavriben Dave and Gujarat Forest Department because of erection of decorative fencing, enclosures, picnic huts, picnic tables and laying concrete pavement blocks on walkways. Such concretization and chemical paints pose hazards to Victoria Park forest. To make matters worse now a CNG Bus is also proposed to be run through this park.  Conservationists demand preservation of this birdwatcher’s paradise for posterity. 
 
(A Shikra (Accipiter badius), Shikro which was also found in 1982 as well noticed recently. Photo: Amit Rawal)
There is a small lake within the park the Krishnakunj lake, a nursery and Bortalav water reservoir. It is situated on the western coast of the gulf of Khambhat in the peninsula of Saurastra, Gujarat. It faces threat from encroachment. There is an urgent need to conserve and protect this man-made forest located within a city. The park was created in 1888 by Maharaja R.S. Takhtasinhji of the Bhavnagar state. 

Unmindful of the fragile nature of this ecologically sensitive zone, the Gujarat forest department has declared its plans in the local newspapers of starting CNG bus and boating facilities in the park. CNG Bus will disturb ecosystem in multiple ways and boating in the lake will disturb nesting activities of water birds within the lake. A new picnic site has been developed within the core area of the forest with numerous benches and picnic tables, lawn and concrete pavement blocks with encouragement from local MLA. 

There are 422 plant species, 223 bird species, 15 mammalian species and 20 reptile species. The bird species referred here is combined with the species found at Gaurishankar lake due to close vicinity of these two eco systems. The bird fauna is similar except for few species. Krishna Kunj lake which is circular in shape with radius of about 100 meters being within the park plays a significant role in sustaining eco system of the park. Gaurishankar lake is a large lake spread over 381 hectares. It is located in close vicinity of the Victoria park. Water seepage from this lake is main water source for Krishna Kunj lake. A canal network connects Krishna Kunj lake with minor ponds within this forest. Victoria Park has flora of over 1 lakh trees and plants which consist of 422 species. Of which 69 are tree species, 241 herbs species, 67 shrubs species and 45 climbers species. This forest is home to more than 200 breeding peacocks. The mammalian species include Blue Bull (Nil Gaai), Striped Hyaena (Jarakh), Jackal (Shiyaal), Porcupine (Shaahudi), Jungle Cat, Small Indian Civet (Naanu Vaniyar), Common Mongoose (Noliyo), Long eared Hedgehog (Laamba kaan Shelo), Pale and Hedgehog (Shelo) and Hare (saslu). 

It is unfortunate that this sensitive location is being promoted for utilization a Picnic Site and an Amusement Park by the local legislator at whose behest unnecessary construction projects. This concretization and chemical paints pose hazards to forest. Bhavnagar MLA, Smt. Vibhavriben Dave is being seen by residents and conservationists as someone who is harming this biodiversity hotspot. Her association with Excel Crop Care Ltd. to undertake tree plantation program near Victoria Park is noteworthy as well. This company is known for manufacturing chemical pesticides that are accused of poisoning the food chain. 

Conservationists in Bhavnagar underline that this site being a rich biodiversity hotspot must be protected. Gaurishankar Lake and Victoria Park can become an excellent bird sanctuary and an educational site where with guided and monitored bird watching trips can be arranged.  
Wildlife in the middle of the city? All of 2 square kilometers, Bhavnagar’s Victoria Park is a birdwatcher’s paradise and a green lung that shelters foxes and antelopes








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