Okhla Bird Sanctuary, suffering at the hands of human activities
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Okhla Bird Sanctuary, suffering at the hands of human activities

The management of Okhla has failed in saving the natural habitat and conserving the water body

Okhla Bird Sanctuary, suffering at the hands of human activities

Noida: Okhla Bird Sanctuary, one of the 466 IBAs (Important Bird Areas) in India, was notified as a Bird sanctuary in 1990 by the  Uttar Pradesh government under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. While one may expect to witness beautiful bird species amidst the lap of nature, a visit to the sanctuary showed that things are far from perfect here.

High Voltage electric towers, no visible sign of wildlife, cattle grazing, modifications meant for entertainment, building tourist huts and canteen inside a natural zone are a common sight in this sanctuary which was once made with a motif of conserving wildlife. The habitat of this bird sanctuary is in threat for the last few years due to the loss of its flora and fauna. Bird activities are minimized and the destruction of the ecosensitive zone is happening for some major reasons.

Mr Anand Arya, a birder who has been instrumental in saving Okhla Bird Sanctuary once, says, "To my mind, Okhla Bird Sanctuary is a dead sanctuary, neither the government nor any other administration is willing to take any measures to save it. The damage and destruction to this beautiful place is huge and the water-air quality is degrading. Because of that, a lot of species are not being seen in that large number that we have seen once."

K B Singh, a senior birder from Delhi says, "It's an important sanctuary so it should be definitely preserved, both by the U.P. and Delhi Government. Whatever problems there are should be taken care of. I believe that what needs immediate attention right now is the quality of water. It should be bettered as soon as possible. Government should focus on removing encroachment and my suggestion would be to extend the sanctuary both upstream and downstream of the Okhla Barrage as it will increase the habitat for birds."

According to Anand Arya, the management of Okhla has failed in two parts- in saving the natural habitat and conversing the water body in the sanctuary. He also tells us that the water body there acts as a significant wetland especially during monsoons. Thus, it is important that the place is looked after carefully.

On top of it, Arya alleges that the management is treating it as a tourist spot rather than as a sanctuary. According to him, few more factors have irreversibly destroyed the habitat which includes the Mayawati park and the increasing noise pollution. He says that birds will find some other habitat as they also need natural peace. DND flyover on one side and Baragge Road on the other side and illegal colonies on the West side contribute to a lot of noise and light pollution.

Recently, a few white huts for the tourists were made inside the natural area, which is totally against the directions of the supreme court and the Ministry of Environment. If these huts attract tourists, as is hoped by the authorities, it will be another reason that will disturb this protected bird habitat.

Well, it should not come as a surprise that along the left afflux bund (left side), there is high tension power line which should  have gone underground and due to low light in the evening, birds can be in danger too.

Anand Arya also informs that the supreme court directed that 5% of the project cost of Mayawati park, which is about 54 crores, is to be given for the welfare, management and the upkeep of Okhla. However, even after 12 years, that money has not been released which could have been used for putting noise barriers on the three sides or putting the high tension wires underground.

All pictures credit: CitySpidey

In the sanctuary, feral cattle can be seen grazing which means they are allowed to enter the habitat zone. Cow herders can be seen with their animals in the area. Along the bund's right side, there is a water body (dam) which hosts few bird species. However, it dries up several times annually leading to a fall in the number of birds and bird activities.

While we may visit the place for a respite from the regular metro life, where is any respite for these birds is the question.