Maha proposes Mayani Lake cluster as Conservation Reserve

Hindustan Times, Mumbai | By
Aug 21, 2020 11:37 AM IST

Area is home to a wide variety of migratory and resident birds with a checklist of 57 species, including the greater flamingo and lesser flamingo, endangered Steppe eagle

The Maharashtra forest department has proposed to designate the Mayani Lake cluster of four water bodies and forest patches spread across 996.16 hectares (ha) in Satara district as a conservation reserve. Conservation reserves are protected areas, which act as buffer zones or migration corridors between established national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, reserved and protected forests.

CRs are protected areas that act as buffer zones or migration corridors between established national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, reserved and protected forests of India(Sudhir Sukale)
CRs are protected areas that act as buffer zones or migration corridors between established national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, reserved and protected forests of India(Sudhir Sukale)

What is a conservation reserve

According to the Union environment ministry, conservation reserves are protected areas that act as buffer zones or connectors and migration corridors between established national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserved and protected forests of India

These protected area categories were first introduced in the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 2002. These categories were added because of reduced protection in and around existing or proposed protected areas due to private ownership of land and land use

There are 92 conservation reserves in India across 12 states. Jammu and Kashmir has the maximum reserves (34), followed by Karnataka (15) and Rajasthan (11)
(Source: National Wildlife Database, Wildlife Institute of India)

Officials said the proposal was mooted after residents of four villages around the proposed reserve gave their consent for it on Wednesday. “The informally known Mayani Bird Sanctuary was never declared [so] on paper by the forest department,” said chief conservator of forest (Kolhapur) V Clement Ben.

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Also read: Lesser human interference leads to more nestings in Surajpur wetland

Ben said they will submit the proposal to the state’s principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) for the declaration of this area as a conservation reserve following the completion of the provisional public consultation under Section 36 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. He added they received a positive feedback from the residents.

List of birds at Mayani wetland cluster

The CR proposal has 57 resident and migratory species

Some of the major migratory birds include: Greater and lesser flamingos, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Little-ringed plover, Black stork, Whiskered tern, Northern shoveller, Eurasian marsh harrier, Eurasian wigeon, Northern pintail, common teal, cormorant, and the endangered Steppe eagle

Major local migrants include: Wooly-necked stork (vulnerable), River tern

Native birds include: White-breasted waterhen, common coot, Black-headed ibis, Purple heron, yellow-eyed babbler, pied kingfisher, oriental honey buzzard, little grebe and comb duck (Source: Proposal for the Conservation Reserve)

The area proposed as the conservation reserve includes Mayani dam (227.11 ha), and Yeralwadi dam (709 ha) and is interspersed by 74 ha of forest area.

It is located 100 km from Sahyadri Tiger Reserve and 65 km from Satara city, and is home to a wide variety of migratory and resident birds of 57 species. The species include the greater flamingo (taller, pink bill with black tip) and lesser flamingo (shorter, dark crimson bill), endangered steppe eagle, black-tailed godwit, bar-tailed godwit, the vulnerable woolly-necked stork, Eurasian marsh harrier, osprey among others.

Satara’s honorary wildlife warden, Sunil Bhoite, who has prepared the proposal, said the flagship species for the reserve will be flamingos, and protection of this habitat for native 35-40 bird species is the focus . “Flamingos have a lot of roosting and nesting areas along the west coast. However, near-threatened local species such as painted stork, black-headed Ibis among others have nowhere to go if this habitat is lost.”

Maharashtra’s 7 Conservation Reserves

180.72 sq km Kolamarka Conservation Reserve (Gadchiroli) - declared in 2013

122.74 sq km Muktai Bhawani Conservation Reserve (Jalgaon) - declared in 2014

93.42 sq km Tornamal Conservation Reserve (near Nandurbar) - declared in 2016

54.46sq km Mamdapur Conservation Reserve (near Nashik) - declared in 2014

5.69 sq km Anjaneri Conservation Reserve (near Nashik) - declared in 2017

3.49 sq km Borgad Conservation Reserve (eastern Nashik) - declared in 2008

29.53 sq km Tillari Conservation Reserve (Sindhudurg) - declared in 2020

Bhoite said apart from not having any protected status, the threat to this habitat was from illegal soil or silt excavation. “The silt is used for making bricks and other construction activity. This eventually leads to uneven depth of the water bodies and lake peripheral areas.”

The proposal entails conservation of the strategically located wetland cluster acting as a stopover for water birds. Being one of the driest regions in the state, conserving the area would help recharge ground water, protect endangered species such as the Indian wolf, and the overall lake habitat as a major water source for birds and local residents.

“A committee for this CR [conservation reserve] will help provide a restoration plan for the lakes, identify and avoid threats, and build it as an eco-tourism destination involving the local community,” said Bhoite.

Bombay Natural History Society interim director Deepak Apte said the clusters are crucial. “If some ecosystems are under threat, water birds can take refuge in such areas. This is a good quality wetland cluster and such decisions are the need of the hour.”

Once approved, the proposal for the reserve will be presented before the State Board of Wildlife and the Maharashtra government. This will be the second such reserve along the Konkan coast and the eighth in Maharashtra. On June 23, the state granted the status to the 2,953 ha Tillari Conservation Reserve.

Conservation reserves many be protected areas, but they do not have surrounding eco-sensitive zones (protected buffers) like sanctuaries or national parks. Also, any developmental or agricultural activity proposed within a reserve needs approval from the state and Central Wildlife Board.

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    Badri Chatterjee is an environment correspondent at Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He writes about environment issues - air, water and noise pollution, climate change - weather, wildlife - forests, marine and mangrove conservation

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