Noida: Marked improvement in Okhla Bird Sanctuary habitat due to lockdown, say experts
Noida: Out of bounds for visitors and low on pollution since March, combined with favourable weather conditions have resulted in an improvement in habitat at the Okhla Bird Sanctuary, ecologists and officials of the forest department claim.
According to the forest department, a pair of Common Cuckoo (Cocculus Conorus) birds called papiha was spotted at the sanctuary after a gap of two years.
“A pair of Coculus Conorus was spotted on Sunday. It was after two years that the bird spotted in the sanctuary. This is the breeding season of terrestrial birds. Due to favourable weather, the sanctuary has seen good green cover. We take this spotting as a sign of improvement in habitat as well,” said Pramod Kumar Srivastava, divisional forest officer, Gautam Budh Nagar.
According to an ecologist from Wetland International who recently visited the sanctuary, the habitat has improved, with cleaner water in wetlands because of absence of industrial effluents in the river Yamuna during the lockdown, imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) disease.
They also held negligible human disturbance as a bonus towards the improvement in the habitat, especially for the breeding season of terrestrial birds, allowing a better and freer environment to the birds to move about.
“There is a clear visible improvement in the sanctuary. The chirping is loud and clear even from the entry gates, and the movement of birds, which were earlier often seen at good height or in the core part of the sanctuary is now visible uniformly. More and more species diversity was much evident in one swipe view,” said TK Roy, ecologist and Delhi state coordinator of Asia Waterbird Census, Wetland International.
He further pointed out that favourable climatic conditions such as lesser heat, and occasional rains recently, also helped the sanctuary retain its greenery in the month of May when summer is at its peak usually, which is something he feels is favourable for the ongoing breeding season of the terrestrial birds.
Stating that as the lockdown led to industries halting operations, the water quality of the wetland – that comprises a large part of the sanctuary – has shown visible improvement.
“The foul odour of the water which was there before has almost gone. Earlier, the water here was almost blackish but this has improved as well,” Roy added.
Earlier in February, the forest department had the water samples tested, which had revealed high oil and grease content, low oxygen levels and several faecal pollutants, leading to odour and darker colour in appearance.
According to the forest department, while there are no sources of pollution within the bird sanctuary itself, it holds around 19 untreated drains in Delhi, discharging industrial and domestic effluents in the river, responsible for the polluted wetland.
“We are yet to get water samples tested so as to understand how much the water quality has improved. However, there is a clear, visible improvement in the odour and the colour of the water. This has led to an overall habitat improvement of the sanctuary. Also, while migratory birds often leave by the end of March, there are still plenty of them staying back,” said Srivastava.
Meanwhile, a total 70 species of birds, including summer migrants, were seen on Saturday itself at the sanctuary by experts.
These species include summer migratory birds such as Common Hawk, Common Cuckoo, the Indian Golden Oriole, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Streaked Weaver and resident terrestrial birds including the Indian Grey Hornbill, Brown-headed Barbet, Coppersmith Barbet, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Black Drongo, Green Bee-eater, Spotted Owlet, Grey Francolin, Yellow-bellied Prinia and Striated Grassbird.