The Pench Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra has been designated as India’s first Dark Sky Park and the fifth in Asia, protecting the night sky and preventing light pollution.
Pench Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra has achieved the distinction of becoming India’s inaugural Dark Sky Park (DSP). Recognized by the International Dark-Sky Association, this accolade makes Pench the country’s premier International Dark Sky Park situated within a tiger reserve. The Dark Sky certification from IUCN underscores the intrinsic value of the night sky as a natural, cultural, and historical resource.
Emphasizing the importance of preserving natural darkness for nature conservation and the well-being of communities, Prabhu Nath Shukla, Deputy Director of PTR Maharashtra, stated that the global threat of light pollution poses a substantial risk to this invaluable resource.
The Dark and Quiet Skies for Science and Society Working Group, led by the International Astronomical Union, recommends the establishment of ‘Dark Sky Oases’ by national and local governments. Shukla highlighted that the Dark Sky Place certification focuses on lighting policy, dark sky-friendly retrofits, outreach and education, and monitoring the night sky.
To facilitate stargazing, Pench Tiger Reserve has inaugurated a night observatory near Bagholi with the support of the district planning committee fund. As part of their conservation efforts, over 100 street and community lights in Wagholi, Sillari, Pipariya, and Khapa villages of the Paoni UC Range buffer area have been replaced with lights directed towards the ground to mitigate light pollution.
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About Pench National Park
Pench National Park is located on the southern edge of Madhya Pradesh, sharing borders with Maharashtra in the Seoni and Chhindwara districts. This is the authentic backdrop that inspired Rudyard Kipling’s renowned literary masterpiece, The Jungle Book. The park is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including prominent species such as the tiger, leopard, sloth bear, wild dog, porcupine, jungle cat, fox, striped hyena, gaur, and barking deer. The undulating terrain of the park encompasses a varied vegetation landscape, ranging from moist, sheltered valleys to open dry deciduous forests. With over 1200 recorded plant species, including rare botanical gems, Pench National Park boasts a rich biodiversity.
What is a Dark Sky Park?
A dark-sky preserve defines an area, often encompassing a park or observatory, where artificial light pollution is regulated. The overarching objective of the dark-sky movement is primarily to advance astronomy.
India’s inaugural dark-sky preserve is the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO), an elevated astronomy station nestled in Hanle and managed by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics.
Positioned in the Western Himalayas at an impressive altitude of 4,500 meters (14,764 ft), the IAO stands as one of the world’s highest sites for optical, infrared, and gamma-ray telescopes.
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