(MENAFN- IANS) By Brij Khandelwal
Agra, Sep 27 (IANS) Green activists in the Taj city on Tuesday hailed the Supreme Court's order to double the area of the Keetham Lake bird sanctuary, now called Sur Sarovar Pakshi Vihar, on the Delhi-Agra National Highway 2.
The area under the sanctuary will now increase from 403 hectares to 799 hectares, after the new order of the apex court which has accepted the recommendation of the Central Empowered Committee, constituted after a local environmentalist, Sharad Gupta, filed a petition objecting to arbitrary reduction in the area by the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department.
Gupta said he had filed rejoinders and objections at every level of discussion and sounded the concerned agencies with the matter relating to the eco-sensitive zone requirements.
'But when there was no positive reaction I had to move the apex court.'
The Keetham Lake forest area is a green buffer zome between the Mathura refinery and Agra.
Home to hundreds of bird species, migratory and local' reptiles, including more than 300 pythons; as well as scores of species of fish, the lake was declared a bird sanctuary in 1991 and renamed as Sur Sarovar, after the bard, Braj Bhasha Sur Das.
Along the Yamuna river bank, on the national highway to Delhi, the site also has a famous sloth bear shelter home and a hospital for elephants run by Wildlife SOS, close by.
In the wake of the court order, environmentalist Devashish Bhattacharya said: 'We have been struggling for long years to protect the eco-sensitive zone around Sur Sarovar, from encroachers. The delayed recognition will definitely help conserve the rich flora and fauna of the area and perhaps promote eco-tourism. The need is to firmly demolish all illegal structures in the vicinity of the sprawling lake.'
The Keetham wetland is rich in natural resources and attracts a large number of migratory birds. Action should be taken to ensure that the lake gets only treated non-polluted water from the Agra Canal. Also, there is a need for desilting the lake to clear the pollutants.
Agra now has four internationally recognised tourist attractions.
'We have three world heritage monuments and now a fourth Ramsar Site which has the potential to develop as a popular tourist site. The Sur Sarovar area, has several mythological sites including Shani Dev temple, Bhagwan Parsu Ram temple, and of course, it is the Sadhna Sthali of the eminent poet of the Bhakti movement Soor Das,' the environmentalist added.
The Sur Sarovar bird sanctuary covers an area of 7.97 sq km, while the lake is spread over 2.25 sq km with a depth ranging from four to eight metres.
The Forest Department has not changed the wilderness of the woods that attracts both birds and reptiles in large numbers.
The biggest Bear Rescue Centre is already a major attraction for animal lovers.
With the new apex court directive, the Department plans to develop the area as a major tourist attraction.
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