A report appeared in the end of November last in a vernacular newspaper about migratory birds avoiding the Upper Lake. One did not take much note of it as the report came a little too early. It was thought that, may be, birds would start arriving as the season advanced. Apparently, that did not happen as another report has since appeared, this time, in the Times of India. On 22nd January last the paper reported that the yearly winged visitors were giving the city a miss. Several species which used to congregate in and around the Upper Lake in large numbers, apparently, find the conditions not conducive for their comfort. The report quoted two reasons cited by two noted bird-watchers for the absence of the birds: one human disturbance and pollution in the Lake waters.
While pollution of the Lake waters cannot be disputed as year after year the Pollution Control Board has been releasing reports (to no avail) after the immersions of images post-festival seasons about the pollution levels indicating presence of metal and heavy metals in the water. Besides the chemical farming in the bordering farms continue unchecked just as the drains keep emptying their load of pollutants in the Lake.
Nevertheless, with a view to ascertaining the actual situation some of us of the Lake Conservation sub-group led by the Convener of the Forum went and met the Director Van Vihar. It was quite a disappointing meeting as the Director, it seems, has nothing to do with the birds. His jurisdiction is confined to the limits of the Van Vihar National Park between its two gates. The waters hosting the resident and domestic and other migratory birds are not under his control.
This threw up a vital question and that is who, in fact, is responsible for ensuring proper conservation of the bird habitat. Obviously, as Bhoj Wetland is where the birds congregate the authority controlling the Wetland, viz the Bhopal Municipal Corporation, ought to be responsible for nurturing the habitat for the birds.
We all know the capabilities of the Municipal Corporation. It has a small cell manned by a man or two to look after the two lakes but surely no one who is knowledgeable about birds and their habitat. No wonder, the Sair Sapata amusement complex with its ever-expanding activities was established so close to the bird habitat and, I dare say, within the catchments where construction is prohibited. Quite clearly, the government itself has acted in breach of the rules it has formulated and has also acted against the basic environmental norms. One wonders how no department and not even the Department of Housing & Environment opposed the proposal of the Tourism Corporation, presumably backed by the Department of Urban Administration.
Sustaining the habitat for the birds – domestic and migratory – is important for us in Bhopal as health of a water body is indicated by the presence of birds in and around it. As the Wetland used to annually get more than 20000 birds from far and near it was designated as a Ramsar Site and later was also declared an Important Bird Area by Bird Life International. The city’s wetland is the only one in the state out of five in the country that is a Ramsar Site and also an Important Bird Area.
Bhoj Wetland with its two lakes add so much to the prestige of Bhopal and yet the local authorities are so negligent about its proper maintenance.
Photos: from the Internet