With drastic drop in bird population, waterbird census paints a grim picture of Dhanauri wetland
The Asian Waterbird Census -2021, which was held on Sunday, painted a grim picture of Dhanauri wetland — only seven Sarus cranes were spotted suggesting a drastic drop in the overall bird population.
Ironically, the wetland – yet to be recognised by the government as a wetland and awaiting protection for the several years – had been proposed to be declared as a Sarus crane sanctuary and a Ramsar site or a wetland of international importancein 2017 by the district forest department.
Located at Dankaur in Greater Noida, the wetland sprawls over 101.21 hectares, of which about 33 hectares was under water, as per a remote sensing exercise in 2015. However, as per this year’s survey, the wetland has witnessed a more than four times drop in its overall bird population since last year, prompting ecologists to raise concerns.
On January 17, the waterbird census was conducted in the Okhla Bird Sanctuary, while Surajpur wetland saw the census on January 2.
According to the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC), 2021, held by Wetlands International South Asia and the Gautam Budh Nagar district forest department on Sunday, only 48 species of water and water-dependent birds were spotted. A total of 1,344 birds —which included 20 resident species and 28 migratory species — were spotted during the day’s census. Last year in January 2020, the first ever AWC was held at Dhanauri and had found a total of 6,227 waterbirds belonging to 59 species, of which 21 were resident species and 38 were migratory species.
The AWC-2021 recorded only four species listed on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as threatened, against 11 of last year. The census also pointed out that the waterbody has shrunk and human intervention has led to heavy habitat loss.
“The situation of Dhanuari is very critical and immediate remedial actions are required to save the habitat. Against spotting of 31 Sarus cranes last year, we spotted only seven this time. Sarus cranes are what Dhanauri is primarily famous for. Apart from this, the lake has virtually disappeared and only a small marshland or pond remains. Rest of the wetland area had been converted for agricultural use. Whatever water is left has also been largely covered by water hyacinth. The wetlands are fast shrinking with larger dried area turning into grassland. There is an open cattle grazing and human disturbance. It’s time that the wetland is protected before it’s too late,” said TK Roy, ecologist and conservationist, AWC.
He said that the waterbirds are one of the key indicators of a wetland’s health with a good number indicating that the wetland has adequate feeding, resting, roosting and foraging spots.
Asserting that they are aware and concerned about the deteriorating condition of Dhanauri wetland, the forest department officials stated that the prime reason for the current conditions was that the area was out of their jurisdiction. “We have initiated a process of recognising it. But that is a tedious task as it requires several surveys followed by land acquisition. Meanwhile, we have written to officials concerned in the authority to manage the area and also speed up the process to acquire land so we can declare it as a protected wetland,” said PK Srivastava, divisional forest officer, GB Nagar.
According to the AWC-2021, the major winter migratory species that flock from central, north Asia included Common Teal ( migrates from north Asia), Northern Shoveler ( migrates from north Asia), Northern Pintail (migrates from north Asia), Greylag Goose (migrates from Central Asia), Bar-headed Goose (migrates from Central Asia), Gadwall (migrates from north Asia), Mallard (migrates from Central Asia), Pied Avocet (migrates from temperate Central Asia).
The IUCN Red-listed threatened species recorded in the wetland included Black-tailed Godwit, Painted Stork, Sarus Crane and Black-headed Ibis.