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Dudhwa National Park, Terai Wetlands, northern India
Credit & Copyright: Dr. Bruce G.
Explanation: This eerie scene in a dawn mist is part of a vast, seasonally-flooded wetland in northern India. Called terai, such wetlands once ran along the entire length of the southern base of the Himalayan Mountains. But in recent decades, much of these wetlands have been drained and converted to sugar cane or rice paddies or villages, endangering an entire ecosystem as well as sources of clean water for local inhabitants.
Terai wetlands are critical habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals, some of which are highly threatened and found virtually nowhere else ... such as swamp partridge, pygmy hog, swamp deer, great Indian one-horned rhinoceros, and many others. Terai is also key habitat for Bengal tiger, Asian elephant, and a very wide diversity of deer and other ungulates. How can this amazing ecosystem be saved?
Enter the Terai Arc Landscape Project (TAL), instituted in cooperation among national governments of India and Nepal and non-government organizations such as World Wildlife Fund. TAL seeks to link some 11 protected areas having wetland habitat along the base of the Himalayas, that together form an arc of wetland and grassland environments.
TAL is helping not just to conserve this endangered ecosystem, but also find ways to help the multitudes of rural poor develop sustainable livelihoods and improve their living conditions.
Among activities under TAL are planting trees, introducing homemade alternative fuels, protecting crop fields from animals, and educating children, as well as conservation of wetland environments.
With the dedication shown by the governments of India and Nepal, and the researchers, scientists, managers, and villagers associated with TAL, there is hope yet.
Next week's picture: A Tale of Two Rainbows
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