By Kavita Kishore
“Tamil Nadu asked to declare other half of the lake as bird sanctuary.”
In 2008, the Puducherry government declared the Oussudu Lake as a bird sanctuary. Five years down the line, the conservation efforts taken up by the forest department have all been nullified. Not for lack of effort or initiative but because the Tamil Nadu forest department is yet to declare the other half of the lake as a bird sanctuary.
“Even though half the Oussudu Lake lies in Puducherry, the regions that have the largest scope for biodiversity lie in Tamil Nadu. The surrounding villages of Poothurai, Thondamanatham and Kadapperikuppam are home to much of the flora and fauna around the lake.
“Unfortunately, since there are no sanctuary rules in place, there is no check on poaching and other illegal activities in the area,” said R. Alexander, a research scholar from Pondicherry University, who has been studying the biodiversity in Oussudu and Kaliveli lakes.
Recently, the Puducherry forest department had approached the Tamil Nadu forest department to declare the Tamil Nadu side of the lake as a sanctuary.
“The department felt that it will give fillip to conservation efforts. We are waiting for a reply,” Deputy Conservator of Forests Satyamoorthy said.
In the meanwhile, in order to estimate the number of bird species and their population in Oussudu region, the Forest Department had tied up with the Pondicherry University to conduct a survey. “The survey took place around a week ago, and the results will be released shortly,” said Mr. Satyamoorthy. “This is the first time the Forest Department has undertaken a survey of this kind of the bird species in the area,” he added.
Decline in bird numbers
Members of the Puducherry Bird Watcher’s Association, who visit the lake every year, have noticed a steady decline in bird numbers.
According to S. Murugavel, a member of the club, for the past decade or so, members of the club have been visiting the Oussudu lake and surrounding villages for bird watching.
This year, however, was extremely disappointing, with very few birds being spotted.
Alexander, who is also a native of the Kadapperikuppam village, says to the naked eye, the decline in the number of birds is evident.
What is also evident is the destruction to the habitat of many of the birds.
One of the problems is the boating that takes place near the lake.
Whenever the boat nears the island located in the middle of the lake, migratory bird species like the stork that nest on the island fly away in fright. When they leave their nests, other birds like crows and kites prey on their eggs and nestlings, he said.
Another problem is agriculture. Some birds like the weaver bird live in the sugarcane fields.
They have migrated here once the palm trees were removed in the area. Now during harvest season, many of the birds die, he said.
Poaching and poisoning of birds is also another issue.
The poaching activities in the area used to be in the open, with many of the birds being sold in open market.
“Now, after much pressure from the NGOs and other civil societies, poaching has become more clandestine, but it is still very much in place. Most of the poaching takes place in the regions in Tamil Nadu surrounding the lake,” Ramamoorthy of Sembadugai Nanneeragam said.