High decibel fireworks, heavy vehicles, loud music and thousands of Chhath devotees offering prayers to the Sun God on the banks of the Yamuna in the Okhla bird sanctuary have scared migratory birds away.
The Uttar Pradesh forest department had deployed four additional forest guards to ensure that Chhath devotees left their vehicles outside the sanctuary and walked to the banks to offer prayers.
“We did not let vehicles inside the sanctuary till 4pm as vehicular movement has been banned in the sanctuary. I also made sure nobody burst crackers or played loud music as it scares away the migratory birds. But around 5pm, thousands of devotees started breaking through the two gates. We were only a group of 20 and the chief conservator of the Meerut range asked us to open the gates,” said Ishwar Singh, range officer, UP forest department, Noida.
“We had demanded adequate force from the police but they said the priority is to maintain law and order. Top police officers said they lack the manpower to deploy personnel to the Ohkla sanctuary. They have deployed the entire force to maintain law and order in other areas and were unable to provide us constables,” a senior UP forest official said.
District forest officer of Gautam Budh Nagar KK Singh on Sunday said vehicles carrying music systems will be prevented from entering the sanctuary and fireworks will be strictly prohibited. The district magistrate had directed the police to cooperate with the forest officials to contain the nuisance inside the sanctuary.
“Currently, 12 Siberian birds, including the gray lag goose, painted stork and shoveller, have been spotted in the sanctuary. Birds hide in the bushes and in the river when crackers are burst and loud music is played. Many of them die of shock. Chhath celebrations will trouble them for several days as devotees dump leftovers of their offerings in the area,” said Anand Arya, a bird watcher and resident of Sector 15A.
The UP forest department said devotees are not aware about the harm they are causing to ecology by bursting crackers. Hundreds of devotees are staying in the sanctuary to offer prayers to the Sun God early morning on Wednesday.
“People living far from the sanctuary will have to stay the whole night on the banks of the Yamuna. We will cook food, play music and celebrate because the festival means a lot to us. Water in the sanctuary is slightly better than in other areas, so we came here,” said Narayan Sinha, who is from Patna and works at a private firm in Noida.