Dhanauri wetland runs dry, forest department rushes to fill its core

Noida: Dhanauri wetland, a major sarus crane habitat in Gautam Budh Nagar, has run dry
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Published on Apr 13, 2021 11:51 PM IST
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ByKushagra Dixit

Noida: Dhanauri wetland, a major sarus crane habitat in Gautam Budh Nagar, has run dry. Officials of the district forest department on Tuesday said that they have rushed to fill the wetland, spread across 101 hectares, using borewells.

Located at Dankaur in Greater Noida, about 33 hectares of the wetland was under water, as per a remote sensing exercise in 2015. It is home to about 211 species of waterbirds and is also one of the biggest habitats of sarus crane in the region. In 2019, the forest department had spotted over 80 sarus at Dhanauri out of 140 in the entire district.

The wetland, which has been proposed by the state forest department to be declared as a Ramsar site (a wetland of international importance) and a sarus crane sanctuary, has never dried completely earlier, said the officials and birders. While the forest officials say that they are trying to ascertain the reasons, experts point out mismanagement and exploitation apart from dry weather for the wetland to have run dry.

“We have started filling water in the core area of main wetland using a bore well, taking water from nearby villages. For now, we are using only one pumping set, and if required we may use more. This is for the first time that the entire wetland has dried up and we have to use an external source to fill it up. There are a number of birds and after evening a number of sarus cranes roost here, so it was important for us to take this step,” said PK Srivastava, divisional forest department (DFO), GB Nagar.

Anand Arya, a Noida-based birder who was among the birders to have found the wetland in 2014 and initiated the legal battle for its recognition, said that the wetland needs immediate conservation. “It has been six years that the National Green Tribunal had ordered to recognise Dhanauri wetland under wetland rules, but no major steps were taken. Drying up of Dhanauri could also be attributed to construction around the wetland, and the forest department is up to a large extend responsible for not taking enough steps to declare it a Ramsar site,” said Arya.

Though completely dry now, the ecologists had raised alarm in January this year when the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) 2021, held by Wetlands International South Asia and the district forest department, found over four times drop in bird population as compared to 2020. The AWC 2021 found only 1,344 birds against 6,227 birds in January last year.

“The climate change is causing drastic effects on the wetlands, besides Dhanauri has no external water sources and depends on rainwater. Also, the human interventions like agriculture activities at Dhanauri were increasing while the wetland suffered lack of conservational steps,” said TK Roy, a conservationist at Wetlands International South Asia.

Meanwhile, the crane experts state that the mismanagement could lead to migration of the birds. “Drying up of such a habitat shows possibility of higher number of borewells in the area or water overdrawing, apart from the mismanagement. Now, sarus cranes, which have over 230 million years of evolution, are getting used to such phenomenon and they often move to better areas. The bird roosts in water at night as a protection against predators,” said KS Gopi Sundar, a scientist at the Nature Conservation Foundation.

Sundar is also the global co-chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Stork, Ibis and Spoonbill Specialist Group (SIS-SG).

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Friday, January 21, 2022