In the land of the Bandit Queen Saving the crocodiles with Rajeev Tomar

National Chambal Sanctuary

National Chambal Sanctuary protects a 400km long aquatic eco-system of one of the finest and least-polluted stretch of waterways in North India.

It is a haven for the key aquatic animals of North India – the Gharial(fish-eating crocodile), Mugger(fresh water crocodile) and the critically endangered Gangetic Dolphin. Soft and hard shell turtles are common. There is also a rich variety of birdlife specially in winter. Sarus Crane, Common Crane, Whistling Teal, Egyptian Vulture can be easily seen.

A deeper understanding of the land, the people, its folklore and its history is essential to appreciate the place.

Conservation threats

  • Illegal sand mining destroys basking and nesting sites for crocodiles and turtles.
  • Water from Chambal is diverted to the famous Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary 100km away and also supplied to several towns and 100+ villages
  • More than 250+ upcoming industrial projects including a thermal power station are planned around the Chambal River
  • Although human activity is banned for 1.5km around the river, cultivation and grazing continues right to the edge of the river. When it rains, the toxic agricultural runoff from the fields kills a lot of fishes
  • Some of the bird species lay their eggs on the ground and just rely on camouflage to protect the eggs. The grazing livestock destroy these bird nests while grazing

The success story

A visit to the Chambal sanctuary shows one the fragile success story it is.

All the native species found here are still here.

Hatcheries run by the govt and led by Dr Rishikesh Sharma have reduced Gharial and Turtle mortality to 50% from 99% in the wild.

Even today, there is no large scale polluting unit along the river.

Well developed eco-tourism infrastructure keeps the sanctuary in the public eye with members of the public visiting it regularly to enjoy the wonders of the sanctuary.

There are strict laws and an active network of conservationists such as the Honourary Wildlife Warden Rajeev Tomar who campaign and lobby at every level for the crocodiles, turtles, birds and the fish.

The sketch shows day to day life in Chambal