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Bihar wasted wetlands ring alarm bells for birds

Once a haven for migratory birds, Bihar’s vast tracts of wetlands, like Kanwar lake in Begusarai, Kusheshwar Asthan in Darbhanga, Baraila in Hajipur and Gogabil in Katihar, are rapidly shrinking due to the impact of climate change and unbridled human activities.

patna Updated: Jun 05, 2019 14:50 IST
Arun Kumar
Arun Kumar
Hindustan Times, Patna
bihar wetlands,wetlands in bihar,Zoological Survey of India (Bihar & Jharkhand)
Migratory birds, the Great Adjutant Stork, fly over a Gangetic wetland in Bihar. Officials say delay in monsoon could affect arrival of birds.(Santosh Kumar / HT Photo )

Bihar’s growing water crisis and vanishing and polluted water bodies are getting manifested in more ways than one. And it is impacting not just humans.

Once a haven for migratory birds, Bihar’s vast tracts of wetlands, like Kanwar lake in Begusarai, Kusheshwar Asthan in Darbhanga, Baraila in Hajipur and Gogabil in Katihar, are rapidly shrinking due to the impact of climate change and unbridled human activities.

These were the spots where a large variety of local birds, as also some species from abroad, flocked. But with water not reaching those places, birds have turned away.

Gopal Sharma, regional head of the Zoological Survey of India (Bihar & Jharkhand), said most of the wetlands were in a bad shape and shrinking both due to lack of water and human greed, which leads to encroachment.

“All the wetlands are connected with big rivers. During rain, they got water due to flooding, which brought plenty of nutrients to attract birds. Now, the rivers are not getting adequate water and feeding wetlands is not possible. This has affected bird population,” he said.

Sharma said that despite dwindling wetlands, migratory birds were still frequenting, albeit in reduced numbers, at Baraila lake, Kanwar Lake and Saraia Man Lake near Bettiah.

“Birds follow a pattern, but if water continues to remain scarce and their habitat shrinks, they move to other destinations gradually. Saras crane was easily visible till 200-07 in Valmikinagar, but has now disappeared from there,” he said.

The Bihar government has plans to revive and rejuvenate Kanwar lake, Baraila and Kushshwar Asthan bird sanctuaries and various other water bodies, but time is running out fast. Sharma said Bihar had 412 listed species of birds, out of which four had become critically endangered.

“Besides, three species are in endangered category, while 10 species are vulnerable and 18 others near threatened. This is happening due to a variety of reasons, viz. climate change, shrinking habitat, inadequate food availability and very high temperature over a long period of time. Some birds have also fallen to poaching, like Alexander Parakeet, pet birds like parrot,” he said.

Those which are not in the four categories are also not very well off. Even the homely sparrow, which not long ago made nests in virtually every household, has vanished, though the good thing is that it is not extinct or endangered. It is one bird most middleaged people would instantly identify with, and the decline in its population is too conspicuous to be ignored.

However, there is also some good news for bird lovers. The experts have now discovered eight new species of birds found in Bihar, which were hitherto not known and did not figure in the list. “The names of the new species will be made public after completing all documentation about them,” Sharma said.

The ZSI official said that delay in monsoon and extended spell of heat wave could also affect reproductive activities of birds. “Premonsoon rain rejuvenates birds, but that has not happened this year. It usually happens before June 5.

First Published: Jun 05, 2019 14:50 IST