Sunday, October 30, 2011

As the Yamuna ebbs away, water-birds give Delhi a miss (The Hindi 21 October 2011)

Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar
The Hindu Spot billed ducks seen at the Okhla Bird Sanctury in Delhi. While the fish are dying, chances are many migratory water-birds may not make it to the Okhla Bird Sanctuary this year
The depleting water levels of the Yamuna, brought about by the twin impact of less water flow into Delhi and a mechanical fault with the Okhla barrage, have had a tragic effect on the fish in the river and on the arrival of migratory birds at the Okhla Bird Sanctuary.
According to avid bird-watchers, this year could prove to be particularly bad for the arrival of migratory birds at the sanctuary since the river has almost dried up at the point where it leaves Delhi. Also the fish, which are now confined to the small pools, are quickly dying.
“The water levels at Okhla Bird Sanctuary have never been this low. The reason is that very little water is entering Delhi. Also, due to the repairs being carried out at the barrage the gates remained open and the water which should have been retained in the sanctuary flowed out,” says Asian Waterbird Census coordinator Tarun K. Roy who has been following the situation closely.
He adds that while some local migratory water-birds like brahminy ducks, northern shovelers, pied avocets, whiskered terns, green sandpipers, wood sandpipers and ruffs had been spotted at the sanctuary in the first week of October, they are quickly vanishing from there due to the sharp fall in availability of water.
The sanctuary on the Delhi side of the Yamuna is almost non-existent now due to rampant encroachment by illegal colonies. It is on the other side of the Yamuna that the sanctuary supports some bird life. Incidentally, this area is located barely a couple of kilometres from the Dalit Prerna Sthal, which was inaugurated recently by U. P. Chief Minister Mayawati.
“On this side too, the small fish are almost dead and only a few large ones remain in the small pools that now exist. The birds are fast exiting the area,” says Mr. Roy.
Having carried out the bird census on behalf of Wetlands International's South Asia Division for many years, he is concerned that the arrival of the migratory birds from abroad this winter may be affected by the water crisis.
“Already about a dozen resident water-bird species like the Indian moorhen, purple swamphen, little greeb and march harrier, have given Delhi a go-by. And it now seems that birds like the Eurasian wigeon, tufted pochard, comb duck, bar-headed geese and grey leg geese which come in from abroad may also give the Okhla sanctuary in Delhi a pass on not finding water here,” Mr. Roy warns, demanding a minimum water level in the sanctuary that could support fish and bird life.

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