The early clean-up of Santragachhi Jheel paid rich dividends with a count on Sunday registering the highest number of birds in the past five years.
Ecstatic about the results, conservationists and members of the birder community said Santragachhi Jheel has become a perfect example of how concerted efforts could reverse urban degradation and revive a habitat. The official census will be carried out on January 17.
Even before the count began on Sunday morning, it was clear that the figure would be higher than what had been recorded in the recent past. When the figures were collated, the optimism turned to jubilation.
The count was 5,694 water birds spread across 16 species. What makes Sunday’s count remarkable is that so many birds arrived, despite the cyclone Bulbul and the death of 20,000 migratory birds in October-November 2019.
“With so many birds flocking Santragachhi since early December, we had anticipated more numbers but the figure that finally emerged was beyond expectation. This will not only encourage conservationists like us but also be a huge fillip to stakeholders like South Eastern Railway (SER), Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC), Howrah Police, bird lovers and nature activists,” said Arjan Basu Roy of Nature Mates, who had coordinated the clean-up of the jheel.
West Bengal Biodiversity Board funded the clean-up that saw around 1,500 man-hours being spent between October 28 and November 20 to remove the hyacinth, which had covered 90% of the 13.5 acre jheel. Around 30% of hyacinth cover was retained to enable birds to perch and rest.
An unsupervised clean-up drive by the HMC had removed all the hyacinth, leaving no place for the birds to rest in 2017 when only 800 birds had arrived at the jheel, down from 2,920 the previous year.
Nature Mates had stepped in last year and the sensitive clean-up, assisted by crowd-funding, saw the count rise to 2,889.
Along with the early clean-up of the lake, this year’s cold spell also contributed to the sharp rise in the number of migratory birds. Birds usually arrive when the minimum temperature is around 15-16°C and maximum temperature is under 30°C.
“The return of birds shows that the efforts towards restoring Santragachhi Jheel are moving in the right direction. What is needed next is a comprehensive management plan,” said Kushal Mukherjee of Prakriti Sansad.
A committee comprising representatives of SER, West Bengal Biodiversity Board, HMC, bird lovers and aviation experts has been set up to prepare a five-year management plan for Santragachhi Jheel. The blueprint will chalk out a mid-term and long-term management strategy for the lake that draws thousands of migratory birds every winter.
Source: Times of India