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Dhanauri a step closer to getting Ramsar wetland tag as forest dept writes to Centre

By Kushagra Dixit, Noida
PUBLISHED ON DEC 25, 2019 11:50 PM IST

Getting a step closer to declaring Dhanauri wetland in Greater Noida as ‘Shri Ram’ Sarus Sanctuary and ‘Balmiki’ Ramsar Wetland, the state forest department has nominated a nodal officer to initiate the legal process.

Five years after Noida-based birder Anand Arya initiated legal battle seeking protection for Dhanauri and a year after district forest department first sent its proposal to declare the water body as a wetland under Wetland Rules-2017, the government has initiated the process of declaring it a Ramsar site.

India is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention held in Iran, 1971, that seeks to recognise and protect the important wetlands of the world. India has a total of 27 Ramsar sites, of which only one, Narora, is in Uttar Pradesh.

According to a letter by the UP forest department to the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEFCC), divisional forest officer Gautam Budh Nagar is the nodal officer who will complete the survey and upload documents on Ramsar site for clearance.

“To declare the said wetland as a Ramsar site, divisional forest officer Gautam Budh Nagar PK Srivastava is being nominated as the nodal officer. He will initiate the process of filing up the Ramsar Information Sheet (RIS), GIS maps, integrated management plan and upload the latest photos,” said a letter from principal chief forest conservator’s office, Lucknow, to the joint secretary, MoEFCC.

However, according to the forest officials, they were yet to start a survey of the area.

“We are yet to survey the entire area of influence of Dhanauri water bodies, spread over 101 hectares. It may take a few weeks or about a month. Once declared a Ramsar site, the are will be declared a wetland by default,” Srivastava said.

According to Arya, who had also proposed Dhahanuri’s name for wetland tag and a Sarus sanctuary, the step is late, but welcome. “Better late than never; hope the work starts soon. Also, the notification and protection of wetlands should also be made part of the ‘Atal Bhujal Yojana’ for underground water management. Thousands of birds live here and it needs immediate legal protection,” Arya said, adding that such a large concentration of Sarus cranes—the state bird of UP—at its roosting point is unique and unparalleled globally.

He added that names were proposed, as also stated in the state government’s letters, in a bid to speed up the process and legends associated with the Sarus crane.

“Sarus crane is in the ‘vulnerable category’ and needs state protection. The Epic of Ramayana was written when Rishi Balmiki could not bear the sorrowful cries of a Sarus crane after its mate was killed. So, in my requests, I have suggested the names as Balmiki Ramsar site and Shri Ram Sarus sanctuary. Also, the proposal was sent so the ruling government may speed the process,” he added.

Dhanauri is home to over 50,000 birds belonging to 211 species and is also one of the biggest habitats of Sarus crane. “The Greater Noida authority had a plan to construct a road through the centre of the wetland. A lot of the wetland has already been destroyed,” Arya said.

In January 2015, the birder had approached the National Green Tribunal, seeking protection for Dhanauri and in March 2015, a bench headed by then justice Swatanter Kumar ordered the state government to recognise all wetlands in the state.

The wetland houses nearly 80 Sarus of the total recorded population of 140 in the district, and spreads over an area of 101.21 hectares, as per a remote sensing exercise in 2015.

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