Keoladeo Ghana National Park (Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary) is a Ramsar site under the Ramsar Convention, and also a World Heritage site. It has been the only wintering ground for the central population of the endangered Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus ). The park is unique in being bound by a stone-masonry wall and agricultural fields and villages in immediate surroundings, thus lacking a buffer zone. Located in Rajasthan in Northern India, Bharatpur bird sanctuary is a unique reserve for avifauna and Indian Wildlife.
The name 'Keoladeo' is derived from the name of an ancient Hindu temple devoted to Lord Shiva located in the sanctuary's central zone. Old records show that the area supported thick forest which in local parlance is called 'Ghana'. Hence the name Keoladeo Ghana National Park.
The park is an artificially created and maintained wetland site with water fed into the marshes twice a year from inundations of the Gambira river, which are collected in an artificial dam called Ajan Bund and then released through sluices, canals and dykes, thus creating a uique reseve for Indian wildlife providing such as resident and migratoy birds. The first inundation is made in mid-July, soon after the onset of the monsoon. The second takes place in late September / October when Anjan Bund is drained so that crops can be cultivated on its arable land in winter.
During the monsoon period (July - September) the area is flooded to an average depth of 1-2 m. From October to January the water level gradually falls, and from February onwards the land begins to dry out. By June very little water remains. As the water levels recede, new land features with new food sources surface, attracting different birds. This slow transition is one of the factors for the diversity of birds being so high, making it a unique resource of Indian Wildlife.
There are not many wetlands left in northern India, because wetlands in the past have been perceived by local populations as dangerous places as they were the breeding grounds of malarial mosquitoes, poisonous snakes and dangerous animals like elephants, rhinoceroses and tigers. Also, wetlands are prone to catastrophes like flooding which made life difficult for the local population. As wetlands make very productive agricultural land if they are drained, a lot of wetlands surrounding the Ganges and its many tributaries were brought under western style development, which lead to their being drained for cultivation purposes. The conversion of wetlands to agricultural land accelerated after India gained its independence and embarked upon a national push for agricultural self-sufficiency. The millions of people who live in north India are fed by the crops, which are grown on these former wetlands. This dwindling of wetlands led to Bharatpur becoming an increasingly protected and stable habitat for waterfowl. The result has been higher concentration of birds at Bharatpur, which in turn has been attracting increasing numbers of ornithologists, who arrive here in the hibernal season.
Keoladeo Ghana National Park (Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary) besides the wetland, contains various other habitats from woodland, scrub and pasture to denuded saline patches. Wetlands comprise half the area, while the others occupy the rest. The wetland is a part of the Indogangetic Great Plains, and for most of the year the effective area is only 10 sq kms. The rest of the area remains dry. The soil is predominantly alluvial, with some of it clay due to the regular inundations. The unique ecosystem of Keoladeo Ghana makes its preservation an essential aspect of the preservation of Indian Wildlife.
Best Time to Visit
Bharatpur Wildlife Sanctuary is open throughout the year, still the ideal visiting months are from August-November for resident breeding birds and October- February for migrant birds.
How to Get there
Air : The nearest airport is situated at Agra, which is 56-kms from Bharatpur.
Rail : Regular rail services connect Bharatpur with all the major cities of India such as Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur and Agra. The Bharatpur railway station is 6-kms from the park
Road : An excellent network of roadway services connects Bharatpur to all the major cities of the Rajasthan and its neighbouring states like Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana. Bharatpur is well connected by road from Agra (56-kms, 5 hours), Delhi (176-kms, 5 hours) and Jaipur (176-kms, 6 hours), all of which have airport facilities too.