The Pench Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra has achieved the distinction of becoming India's inaugural Dark Sky Park and the fifth in Asia. This designation aims to safeguard the night sky, combat light pollution, and create an optimal environment for astronomy enthusiasts. This unique location, blending the realm of tigers with celestial wonders, offers a compelling setting for stargazers eager to explore and comprehend the mysteries of the Universe.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) stresses the importance of acknowledging the inherent value of the night sky as a natural, cultural, and historical asset. Prabhu Nath Shukla, Deputy Director of PTR, Maharashtra, notes that the IUCN underscores the significance of preserving natural darkness for nature conservation, maintaining ecological integrity in protected areas, and promoting the well-being of communities in healthy cities.
The increasing global menace of light pollution represents a significant hazard to this priceless resource, as mentioned in an official statement. The Dark and Quiet Skies for Science and Society Working Group, spearheaded by the International Astronomical Union, proposes the creation of 'Dark Sky Park’ by both national and local governments. The certification process for Dark Sky Places prioritizes aspects such as lighting policy, dark sky-friendly retrofits, outreach and education, along with monitoring the night sky.
Utilising funds from the distinct planning committee, the reserve has introduced a night observatory, with a designated stargazing area near Bagholi, according to the official. As part of these initiatives, over 100 street and community lights in Wagholi, Sillari, Pipariya, and Khapa villages within the Paoni UC Range buffer area have been replaced with downward-facing lights to alleviate light pollution.
What is a Dark Sky Park?
A dark-sky park is a designated area, typically encompassing a park or observatory, aimed at restricting artificial light pollution. The primary objective of the dark-sky movement is generally to advance astronomy. India's inaugural dark-sky preserve is the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO), a high-altitude astronomy station situated in Hanle and operated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics. Positioned in the Western Himalayas at an elevation of 4,500 metres (14,764 ft), the IAO stands as one of the world's highest sites for optical, infrared, and gamma-ray telescopes.
A short note on Pench Tiger Reserve
Pench Tiger Reserve, also known as Pench National Park, holds a prominent position among India's tiger reserves and holds the distinction of spanning two states - Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The renowned literary works of Rudyard Kipling, namely The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book, are set in this region. Despite not personally visiting the area, Kipling drew inspiration from other locations in India to craft his vivid descriptions.