Devoid of habitat, birds say bye to Okhla sanctuary

Devoid of habitat, birds say bye to Okhla sanctuary

For a city which has been crying hoarse over depleting green cover and almost vanishing birdlife, this comes as nothing less than an environmental disaster. Noida’s Okhla Bird Sanctuary has been completely drained of water, at exactly the time when migratory birds start flocking to it, thanks to the UP irrigation department’s decision to clean it right now. Environmentalists are afraid that this will either drive away the winged visitors or result in their death.  

The sanctuary, spread over 4.5 square km area on the Yamuna bank near Kalindi Kunj barrage, is home to over 30 species of migratory birds that start thronging this place from mid-October to mid-November each season. As a result of the drainage, both local as well as migratory birds have started leaving the park turning it into a barren land for past few days.

The sanctuary is cleaned every year in the monsoon but this time, officials say that due to a delay in the same, it is being done now. TK Roy of Wetland International South Asia, argues, “I don’t understand why this delay took place first, and then, what’s the hurry to clean it now? If you postpone it for two more months, at least the migratory birds will not be left homeless.”

The migratory birds usually spotted here include the Graylag Goose, Northern Shoveler, Black-tailed Godwit, Pallas’s Gull, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Temmincks’ Stint, Ruff, Ruddy Shelduck, Pied Avocet, Eurasian Spoonbill, Brown-headed Gull, Black-headed Gull and Comb Duck.

Members of all these species were spotted in the sanctuary till a few days back but now experts say that only “Pied Avocet, Brown-headed Gull, Black-headed Gull and resident species such as Spotbill Duck, Black-winged Stilt, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Intermediate Egret, Little Cormorant and Painted Stork have remained here for survival.”

Birdwatchers are in fact suspecting that officials could be working in connivance with realtors to kill this sanctuary so that buildings can be easily constructed around it. “Okhla Bird Sanctuary was one of the few oasis for birds in the area but in this scenario, I am afraid they will move to the Surajpur bird sanctuary in Greater Noida or other sanctuaries. Obviously, someone is benefitting,” says Nikhil Devasar.  

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