Updated: January 7, 2022 9:17:48 am
The Asian Waterbird Census (AWC), an annual count of waterbirds which is under way in parts of Delhi-NCR, has found lower waterbird species diversity at East Delhi’s Sanjay Lake when compared to the count from the past three years.
The census that was conducted at the lake on Thursday recorded only 13 species, down from 17 species recorded from 2019 to 2021. Of these, 11 are resident water birds, while only two are winter migratory species.
The number of birds has increased from 90 in 2021 to 132 this year. It, however, is smaller than the 190 birds counted in 2019, and the higher figure of 347 birds in 2020. The census also found that only the number of Indian Cormorants has increased from 11 last year to 62 this year.
The lower species diversity is a sign of degradation of the lake, since waterbirds are an indicator of its health, according to T K Roy, birder and AWC Delhi coordinator, Wetlands International, an NGO working towards the conservation of wetlands and waterbirds.
Sanjay Lake, which spans 17 hectares, is maintained by the Delhi Development Authority. It is among the water bodies that the Wetland Authority of Delhi had recently identified for notification as a wetland.
The two migratory species recorded on Thursday were the Great Cormorant, which migrates from Southeast Asia, and the Eurasian Coot, which migrates from Temperate Asia. The resident species found at the lake include the Common Moorhen, the Indian Cormorant, the White-throated Kingfisher, the White-breasted Waterhen, the Little Grebe, and the Red-wattled Lapwing. While the Indian Spot-billed Duck is usually common in such wetlands, only one pair was found on Thursday, Roy said.
According to Roy, Sanjay Lake used to be a good habitat for waterbirds, including migratory birds. But even migratory ducks, which have been recorded here in the past, were not seen this time, he said. Sewage that finds its way into the lake, and human disturbance caused by activities like boating, have ruined the habitat, and only a few resident and migratory species are found here now, Roy added.
A senior DDA official said there are a few sources through which water from sewers ends up in the lake, and that there have been several unsuccessful attempts to plug it: “The lake also has the issue of water availability, since there is no sustained supply of good quality water. The Delhi Jal Board has agreed to take this up.” The DDA will also try to do in-situ treatment of the water, he said.
The AWC is conducted in January each year and is coordinated by the Wetlands International South Asia and the Bombay Natural History Society. It is part of the International Waterbird Census.
The census, which began on January 2 and will conclude on January 16, is being carried out across seven wetlands in the NCR — Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary; Dhanauri and Surajpur wetlands in Greater Noida; Delhi Zoo and Sanjay Lake; Okhla Bird Sanctuary; Najafgarh Jheel; and the Yamuna River. Data from the census is expected to help with identifying and protecting areas that are important for waterbirds.
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