Pune’s Pashan lake loses its charm of attracting migratory birds from Siberia
Pashan lake is losing its visitors. Once a haven for migratory birds, Pashan lake now witnesses only 150 of the 300 species of birds which flocked to the area every year. One particular ‘guest’ whose numbers have drastically reduced is the Siberian Northern pintail bar-headed goose which used to migrate every year. Other migratory species whose count has gone down includes common sandpiper, green sandpiper, grey wagtail, common pochard, and common teal, painted stork.
This was confirmed by ornithologist and wildlife researcher Dharmaraj Patil, who led an enthusiastic group of 30-odd nature lovers and bird watchers on a walk around Pashan lake.
Although a solitary Kingfisher preened his feathers, a grey heron raised his head and few local birds chirped around, missing in action was the flock of migratory aquatic birds like citrine wagtail, ferruginous duck, forest wagtail, Eurasian wigeon and marsh sandpiper. Some of them still visit the lake but not regularly.
“Pashan lake was once a haven for many migratory birds but the PMC in their eagerness to beautify the lake has sadly messed up the habitat for the birds. Before there were 300 species of birds one could see, now only half of the species can be seen here. The number of migratory birds has come down and we are heading towards a collapse of this lake,” said Dharmaraj.
The beautiful lake is now covered with green algae, hyacinth and floating plastic garbage near the banks. The local birds have also gone down in numbers including bronze-winged Jacana, purple heron, little ringed plover and white-breasted waterhen.
“The aquatic plant life along the banks of the lake consists of foreign species which only look good but are detrimental to the ecosystem. There is large scale pollution. For a healthy lake, the oxygen level should be around 8 but here it is around 4 or less which leads to the death of fish in the lake,” he said.
PMC started the project of beautification of Pashan lake in 2008 and completed the project in 2013, wherein ₹20 crore was spent. “We call it the most detrimental project till date. They created islands and rock pitching, which has destroyed the habitat of many species. We have recently submitted our report which calls for changes and only then would we get the birds to come back here,” Dharmaraj said.
“In the wetland ecosystem, plantation has to be reduced. They have planted exotic trees like Nilgiri which is completely wrong. The tall trees have become a deterrent for migratory birds. They require open land and grasslands,” he added.
According to environmentalist Shaileja Deshpande, part of Jeevitnadi, “We saw only a handful of local migratory birds but in reality we came to see the migratory birds who used to flock to this lake in large numbers across the country. We didn’t see aquatic birds and in fact saw indicators of water pollution in the lake.”
According to Uma Khare, a participant of the bird walk, “Pashan lake was a wonderful experience and an absolute eye-opener. It showed us that humans need to take care of the delicate biodiversity. It is also sad to see how humans are affecting the environment badly.”
“The stark reality of the lake’s ecosystem was horrifying and it was sad to see only a few aquatic birds,” said Anuja Patil, student of Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce.