Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary: Shrinking sanctuary needs breathing space - Hindustan Times
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Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary: Shrinking sanctuary needs breathing space

By, Lucknow
Dec 25, 2023 06:32 AM IST

Lack of immediate attention will drive away migratory birds which have been coming from far-off climes to their winter home at Shaheed Chandra Shekhar Azad Pakshi Vihar, popularly known as the Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary, warn experts. Surrounded by roads and construction, peace has to be brought back at the sanctuary with a raft of measures.

Keeping water bodies clean is key to the health of the Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary where the loss of habitat needs to be stemmed to check the decline in bird count and nesting sites at the 224-hectare wetland, the one closest to the state capital and a Ramsar Site since 2019, experts say.

Team HT visited the 224.6-hectare wetland and found that flocks of birds are spotted only after a 700-metre walk; (below) a highway runs parallel to the Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary, located west of Lucknow. (Deepak Gupta/HT Photo)
Team HT visited the 224.6-hectare wetland and found that flocks of birds are spotted only after a 700-metre walk; (below) a highway runs parallel to the Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary, located west of Lucknow. (Deepak Gupta/HT Photo)

“We can start with clearing weeds on the lakes and this has to be done immediately. Slow progress is being made in this direction, which is causing disturbance in the resting of migratory birds, something they love to do at this time of the year under sunlight,” said Kaushlendra Singh, former member of the wildlife board, Uttarakhand.

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“There was a time when we could see a few migratory birds even when we stopped the car beside the boundary while driving on the highway. At present, birds have reduced in number and it takes time to see some species even inside the sanctuary. At times, we miss some species that were regular here,” Singh, a wildlife enthusiast and frequent visitor to the bird sanctuary, recalled from his recent visit to Nawabganj.

A wetland where migratory birds come and make a temporary home should have shallow water but Nawabganj, most of the season, welcomes birds with either excess or very little water, said Prof Amita Kanaujia of the department of zoology at University of Lucknow.

“The water is fed manually as natural sources aren’t effective now. This either leaves excess water or somewhat dried up ground – both unwelcoming to the birds coming from far-off,” she said.

The wetland is an important winter spot for several migratory bird species from the Central Asian flyway, notably northern pintail, northern shoveler, common teal, garganey teal, gadwall, Eurasian wigeon, red-crested pochard, ferrugenous duck and greylag goose. The site comes under the category A4iii of the IBA Criteria which states that “Site known or thought to hold, on a regular basis >= 20,000 water birds or >= 10,000 pairs of seabirds of one or more species.”

Prof Kanaujia, member of the state biodiversity board Uttar Pradesh, said natural nesting sites upon trees have also reduced. This is because of the erratic water supply to the wetland.

“We see efforts to maintain water level in the lakes of the sanctuary. But they aren’t actually correctly working in Nawabganj,” she said.

“Maintaining the correct water level is the most important task now to keep birds attracted,” she said.

Apart from other issues, the sanctuary has simian trouble too. A large number of monkey families have made this place their home. They wander on the ground, and jump from one tree to another. The place where monkeys play is avoided by birds.

“Monkeys cause disturbance for birds who would like to sit on the ground to feed upon insects or just walk along the grass, taking a break from flying,” said Manan Singh Mahadev, who hails from Lucknow and is a conservation biologist currently working at Bombay Natural History Society.

The forest department marks Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary, a ‘virtual heaven’ for bird-watchers and nature lovers. The sanctuary play host to many international and national migratory birds.

“Flow of natural water is blocked after highways came up around Nawabganj Bird sanctuary,” said Venkatesh Dutta, environmentalist and professor at School of Earth & Environmental Sciences (SEES), BBAU.

Also, artesian wells are blocked in Nawabganj. An artesian well brings groundwater to the surface without pumping. Invasive species that grow fast and mask native species have come here. This happens when the wetland is under stress.

The loss of habitat reduces the bird count, experts said, adding the highway could have been diverted for the overall well-being of the sanctuary.

“Give this bird sanctuary a committee of experts, who shall decide on activities inside it and outside in close vicinity also,” said Kaushlendra Singh.

Experts said the increasing prevalence of roads is a potential contributor to the worldwide decline of birds. The direct effect of roads on birds include habitat loss and fragmentation. These effects also include noise, artificial light, barriers to (birds’) movement. Birds need a take-off and landing space around the sanctuary just as an airplane needs one. But if you surround a sanctuary with high level roads or bridges they get obstructed, the experts added.

Experts also suggested putting up a roadside sound barrier on the road stretch that goes pass the sanctuary boundary to ensure that noise from vehicle engines or horns does not reach the sanctuary.

WHY TICKET FOR CAMERAS?

LUCKNOW: Experts said that levying a (separate) ticket on cameras being taken inside sanctuary isn’t a good idea. “Why charge people who take pictures inside sanctuary and distribute the same? In a way, they popularise the sanctuary and we are imposing charges. A simple entry ticket is enough,” said wildlife enthusiasts. They said if someone is making a film for commercial use they can be charged. But taking pictures to circulate on social media will only motivate more people to visit the sanctuary.

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