Winters may have gone, however, the long distance winter migratory birds are still with us. Where? At the Najafgarh jheel, one of the largest wetlands of Delhi NCR. Though the number of these migratory birds is not much, still they are present at the jheel in small flocks.
TK Roy, an ecologist and conservationist who has been monitoring the Najafgarh jheel these days says, “Fifteen species of long distant winter migratory water birds are still feeding on the extensive part of Najafgarh Jheel. However, they are present in smaller flocks. This is a wonderful sight and a great sign as far as ecology is concerned. On the out parts of the jheel, the migratory birds which largely consist of wader species include- Great Cormorant, Pied Avocet, Kentish Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Temminck’s Stint, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff, Eurasian Coot, Northern Shoveler, Common Teal, Great White Pelican, Ruddy Shelduck, Gadwal, Black-headed Gull, etc.”
Roy further shares, “Some resident species are also available on the outer parts of the Jheel. These include Painted Stork, Black-headed Ibis, Indian Cormorant, Greater Flamingo, Large Egret, Little Egret, Indian Pond Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Indian Spot-billed Duck and Greater Painted Snipe among others. The jheel is full of life and the birds are giving a relief to people like us.”
According to some data shared by TK Roy, as per the Wetlands International’s largest Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) 2021, record of 81 water bird species diversity includes IUCN Red-listed threatened species, migratory species from far central Asia, north Asia, Russian and Siberian part and scheduled species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 with total population of 27,673. However, as per AWC 2022, there is a sharp decrease in water bird diversity with total population 10,592 which reflects the status of degrading & disturbed wetland habitat.
According to the bird watcher community of Delhi and environment activists, summers affects the wetlands in negative way and there is a need for the government to look into this. “Extreme human intervention for unsustainable concrete development, misuse or overuse of natural resources of the wetland, regular illegal fishing, water pollution, encroachment of the drying parts of the wetland for agricultural purposes is destroying ecology & functioning ecosystem of the jheel. It is also degrading the aquatic biodiversity habitat which usually turns dry in summers.
He further says, “Surprisingly, this summer, water level of the jheel is higher and has submerged its peripheries. But thickly chocked by water hyacinth, lack of space for congregation & feeding of the waders and illegal net-fishing on the floating tubes across the jheel creates heavy disturbance. Hardly any resident species is available now. Whereas on the extensive private part of the jheel, still 15 species of winter migratory water birds are residing in smaller flocks in 43 degree celsius temperature these days,” says Roy.
He further emphasised on the role of National Green Tribunal(NGT) on Najafgarh Jheel. “NGT’s valuable order in February, 2022 in respect to INTACH’s PIL for notification of the Najafgarh Jheel by the government as per the Wetland (Conservation & Management) Rules, 2017 for restoration and protection in all respect of the wetland has given a great hope to the citizens for its sustainability but no conservation actions by the government has been noticed yet,” expresses Roy.
While talking about the current situation of Najafgarh jheel, Roy says, “Najafgarh Jheel, the second largest wetland in NCR-Delhi locates partly in Haryana and partly in Delhi and claims total area of 5.84 sq km in Delhi and 4.46 sq km in Haryana. However, rest extensive area is now under private ownership. Monsoon rainfall still supports the ecosystem and rich biodiversity of the jheel includes large variety of water & water dependent birds. Water birds are one of the most important components of biodiversity and are also a key indicator of wetland’s health. They are also crucial to humans & environment.”