The Sarnath Turtle Breeding Centre in Sarnath is facing a severe cash crunch, mainly due to a technical glitch.
The centre had come into existence in 1987 to meet the requirement of the Tortoise Sanctuary that was declared a wildlife protected zone in a seven-km stretch of the river Ganga from Rajghat to Ramnagar in 1989 under the Wildlife (Conservation) Act-1972.
Officials said that they are banking on borrowed resources to feed these aquatic creatures, which are instrumental in Ganga cleaning.
In 2019, the government decided to relocate the Tortoise Sanctuary from Varanasi to Mirzapur district. The order to shift the sanctuary to the Mirzapur-Prayagraj stretch of the river was issued in June 2020 for its relocation to a 30-km area which was found to be a fit habitat for the turtles.
After the relocation, the turtle breeding centre, a part of the Kashi Wildlife Division, is yet to receive funds from the government to feed the turtles.
According to the forest officials, such a situation occurred due to confusion after the government ordered the relocation of the tortoise sanctuary from Varanasi, as it was not clear at that time whether the turtle breeding centre would also be relocated with the sanctuary.
However, the forest officials claim that the confusion has been cleared now and hope that the turtle breeding centre would get the funds soon.
"We sent a proposal last year, which was sanctioned. The release of funds was delayed due to some reasons like the Assembly elections. We are quite hopeful that the fund meant for the turtle breeding centre will be released in this month," said divisional forest officer (DFO) of Kashi Wildlife Division, Dinesh Kumar Singh.
He admitted that there was a confusion whether, along with the sanctuary, the turtle breeding centre will also be shifted or will remain at its original place in Sarnath situated at the outskirts of the Varanasi city.
He said that it has been made clear that the turtle breeding centre will remain at Sarnath, and the mature turtles will be released in the relocated sanctuary.
"Currently, there are 887 turtles out of which about 250 are adults, ready to be released into the sanctuary area of the Ganga," he said.
The turtle eggs were procured from the Chambal river for hatching at the Sarnath breeding centre before releasing in the sanctuary area in the Ganga after attaining adulthood.
According to records of the Kashi WildLife Division, so far over 42,000 turtles were reared at the Sarnath breeding centre in Sarnath and released into the Ganga.
Till 1993, when the first phase of Ganga Action Plan (GAP) had been completed, 28,920 tortoises were dropped into the Ganga. With the end of GAP-I, the tortoise breeding project was also stopped in 1993. Later, the forest department revived the programme in 2005.