Many bird watchers flocking to Delhi’s forests this winter are returning home disappointed after failing to spot their favourite species.
An annual bird census at one of Delhi’s newest forests — Garhi Mandu — found only 79 species this year as compared to the 90 species recorded in the 2013 census.
The drastic fall has put a spotlight on the degrading habitat of Garhi Mandu and other forest in Delhi due to climate change, human interference and pollution.
Spread over 894.73 acres along the left bank of the Yamuna river in northeast Delhi, Garhi Mandu has been a good habitat for birds because of adjacent wetlands.
“But there’re several factors such as burning and dumping of garbage, using water for cleaning vehicles, fishing and playgrounds that are scaring the birds away,” said TK Roy, one of the team members who took part in the Asian Waterbird Census-2014.
In fact, the pollution and human interference has been so bad that many of Delhi’s resident birds such as Gray Hornbill, Crimson-breasted Barbet, Purple Sunbird and Pied Kingfisher were not spotted at all.
“The forest is protected but wetlands are not. This may have led to deterioration of habitats,” admitted a senior forest official.
But there is some good news. “One bright spot is that the number of migratory species (like the Painted Stork) has gone up from 26 to 31,” said Roy, Delhi coordinator of the census.
A count was also taken at Delhi’s Okhla Sanctuary, which recorded more birds but fewer species, particularly migratory. The number of species went down from 63 in 2013 to 58.
The number of migratory bird species also came down from 38 in 2013 to 28.
The 400-hectare sanctuary on the Delhi-Noida border has a large lake, created by a barrage over the Yamuna river.
“The UP irrigation department has been releasing excess water from the barrage, drying up the habitat, affecting arrival and survival of ducks and waders,” complained a sanctuary official.