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Maharashtra's Pench Tiger Reserve creates history as India's first 'Dark Sky Park'; paves way for stargazing

In Maharashtra's Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR), tourists now have the opportunity to witness celestial wonders unfolding in the starry night sky. PTR has accomplished the remarkable feat of being designated as India's inaugural Dark Sky Park (DSP) – a designated area surrounding a park or observatory with restrictions on artificial light pollution.

Maharashtra Pench Tiger Reserve creates history as India's first 'Dark Sky Park'; paves way for stargazing snt
First Published Jan 12, 2024, 5:20 PM IST

Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR) in Maharashtra has recently made history by becoming India's first Dark Sky Park (DSP) and the fifth in Asia. This achievement not only positions Pench on the global stage but also emphasizes the growing need to protect natural darkness for ecological integrity, nature conservation, and the well-being of communities. The Dark Sky Park certification focuses on various aspects, including lighting policy, dark sky-friendly retrofits, outreach, education, and night sky monitoring.

“The land of tigers will now inspire stargazers who seek to study and imbibe a deeper understanding of the universe. Pench has bagged the prestigious title of the first ‘Dark Sky Park’ in India and fifth in Asia,” Prabhu Nath Shukla, deputy director of PTR, told TOI.

The initiative, inspired by the dark sky movement, aims to combat light pollution and promote astronomy. Recognizing the intrinsic value of the night sky as a natural, cultural, and historical resource, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has stressed the importance of preserving natural darkness.

“Responding to the escalating global threat of light pollution to this invaluable resource, Dark and Quiet Skies for Science and Society Working Group led by International Astronomical Union recommended establishment of the ‘Dark Sky Oasis’ concept through national and local governments to protect the right to view a star-filled sky,” Shukla added.

Pench Tiger Reserve successfully obtained the DSP certification by implementing measures such as lighting policy adjustments, dark sky-friendly retrofits, community outreach, educational programs, and night sky monitoring. “This certification not only grants national recognition to Pench, but also catapults it on the international stage. Seizing this opportunity, we have inaugurated a night observatory with district planning development committee funds,” said Shukla.

In response to achieving the Dark Sky Park status, Pench has inaugurated a night observatory funded by the district planning development committee. Additionally, a telescope has been installed on a protection tower in Wagholi, 3km off the buffer in Sillari, where an observatory already exists. These facilities promise to provide unique educational opportunities for astronomy enthusiasts nationwide.

Pench Tiger Reserve has taken proactive measures to mitigate light pollution, replacing over 100 street and community lights in Wagholi, Sillari, Pipariya, and Khapa villages in the park's Paoni buffer area. The new lights are designed to face the ground, reducing their impact on the night sky and enhancing the overall stargazing experience.

The Dark Sky Park certification opens up exciting educational opportunities for enthusiasts, offering a platform for celestial observation. Pench has collaborated with the adjoining eco-development committee (EDC) to ensure the provision of staying facilities and hospitality services, as activities are typically organized during the night. This initiative not only encourages a deeper understanding of the universe but also promises an extraordinary opportunity for stargazers and nature lovers to experience the jungle at night.

Pench Tiger Reserve's recognition as India's first Dark Sky Park marks a significant milestone in the global effort to combat light pollution and preserve the natural beauty of the night sky. This initiative not only contributes to the conservation of ecological integrity but also offers a unique and educational experience for enthusiasts and nature lovers. As Pench takes center stage on the international platform, it sets an inspiring example for other protected areas worldwide to safeguard their dark sites for the benefit of present and future generations.

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