Tuesday, June 15

Santragachhi Jheel cleaned up on time, ready to host winged guests

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Santragachhi Jheel, a favourite resting and nesting place for migratory birds, is ready to host the winged guests. A year after an emergency clean-up had to be carried out after the onset of the migration season to get rid of hyacinth, the West Bengal Biodiversity Board has pitched in to ensure the clean-up operation is done on time.

“We undertook the Santragachhi Jheel clean-up nearly a month earlier than last year so that the arrival of migratory birds is not disturbed by the operation. Around 1,500 man-hours were spent between October 28 and November 20 to remove hyacinth that had covered 90% of the 13.5-acre jheel. After the clean-up, 30% of the lake water has hyacinth cover,” said Arjan Basu Roy of Nature Mates that oversaw the clean-up.

The hyacinth that was removed has been woven to form more than 13 islands for the birds to rest and roost. In 2017, an unsupervised clean-up drive by the Howrah Municipal Corporation had removed all the hyacinth, leaving no place for the birds to rest. That year, only 800 birds had arrived at the jheel, down from 2,920 the previous year. Nature Mates had stepped in last year, and assisted by crowd-funding from students and individual contributions from nature lovers, the clean-up was carried out more sensitively between November 20 and December 12. By then, the birds had flocked back and the count on January 20 had pegged the number at 2,889.

This season, 50 lesser whistling ducks, a pair each of gray heron and gadwall, two pairs of common moor hen and three purple herons have been sighted till date.

Basu Roy believes the count would have been a lot higher this year but for cyclone Bulbul that arrived just when the migration season was setting in. Over 20,000 migratory birds have died in Rajasthan this year. One of the possible and widely accepted reasons is avian botulism, a neuromuscular illness of waterfowl caused by a bacterial infection.

“The temperature has also not dipped, leading to a delay in the migratory season. Birds usually arrive when the minimum temperature is around 15°C-16°C and maximum is under 30°C,” he explained.

While the state biodiversity board has funded Rs 3.3 lakh of the Rs 3.6 lakh required for the clean-up operation, HMC pitched in with manpower to conduct the clean-up. Various stakeholders, including South Eastern Railway, have committed to take up activities that lead to the improvement of the jheel.

Nature Mates plans to release freshwater clams into the lake after the migratory season to reduce the nutrient load of the lake that is currently too high. SE Railway has also agreed to improve the water balance by linking all the five water bodies in the vicinity. HMC, on its part, will clean the drainage system.

 

Source: Times of India

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