Field survey at Dhanauri wetland soon to declare it Ramsar site, says forest dept
Noida: The Gautam Budh Nagar forest department has decided to seek help from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and World Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF India) to expedite the process for conservation of the Dhanauri wetland and declaring it as a sanctuary — a task pending for several years.
Forest officials said that a team of experts from the WWF will conduct a field survey at the wetland soon, so that the Dhanauri wetland can be declared a Ramsar site — a wetland of international importance. Meanwhile, forest officials have written to senior officials for them to seek help from WII to declare Dhanauri as a bird sanctuary.
“We are taking help from the WWF India to declare Dhanauri wetland as a Ramsar site or a wetland of international importance. A team of experts from WWF will be visiting Dhanauri wetland in the first week of July to conduct the ground work and expedite the long-pending task,” divisional forest officer, PK Srivastava.
Stating that “officially notifying Dhanauri as wetland and declaring it a Ramsar site and a bird sanctuary are the three major tasks pending”, Srivastava added that the district forest department has escalated the request to the higher authorities in the department to approach the premier institute WII.
“We have written a letter to the forest conservator, Meerut, urging them to approach the WII, Dehradun, with a proposal for the conservation of Dhanauri wetland. The WII is yet to be approached, though, once roped in, it will help with the official notification of Dhanauri and thereby, a conservation plan,” he said.
On being asked the reason for the delay, as it was in 2018 that the divisional forest department first sent a proposal to declare the waterbody as a wetland under Wetland Rules 2017 and later in 2019 to declare it a Ramsar site, officials said that “such work often takes time”.
“We had been gathering a lot of information regarding Dhanauri, including its actual size, remote sensing images, number of stakeholders involved, number of farmers that own the land in the zone of influence, etc. This is a tedious task. The Covid-19 pandemic slowed the fieldwork further. Now that we are roping in the expert agencies, we hope that this task will be done soon,” added Srivastava.
However, Anand Arya, a Noida-based birder who found the Dhanauri wetland and led a legal battle for its conservation, said that the forest department had been “very lethargic“.
“They had been sitting on it for over seven years, when we first approached them for its conservation. As a result, over time this statuary wetland lost its original glory and continues to degrade. It’s high time that something is done in a timely manner and someone is held accountable before this wetland is completely lost,” said Anand Arya.
The National Green Tribunal, in a March 2015 order in the case, had ordered to initiate the process of conserving the wetland.
Spread over 101 hectares in Greater Noida and once home to over 211 species of birds, the Dhanauri wetland, a major Sarus Crane habitat in Gautam Budh Nagar, has suffered a habitat loss and drop in bird populations over the years.
In April this year, the forest department had to rush to fill the wetland using borewells after it ran dry for the first time.
In January 2021, the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) 2021, held by Wetlands International South Asia and the district forest department, found a drop in bird population over four times as compared to 2020. The AWC 2021 found only 1,344 birds against 6,227 birds in January last year.