By Vibhor Mohan
CHANDIGARH: There is finally some hope of concrete steps being taken to bring back migratory birds that are believed to have left the national wetland of Ropar lake in the wake of growing human activity in the area, for destinations like Nangal wetland. The first ever Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) will be conducted in Ropar this week to help device a conservation policy and action plan for water birds and their wetland habitats.
T K Roy, ecologist from Delhi who will oversee the survey, told TOI that the Ropar lake attracts several species of migratory birds such as Barheaded geese, Northern shoveler, pintail and mallard.
'Ropar lake' is the second largest Ramsar site in Punjab. It covers 13.65 sq km area and is among 466 IBA Sites (International Bird Areas - a global birdlife conservation initiative of the Birdlife International, USA) in India. It was designated as Ramser site on January 22, 2002, said Roy, who is AWC Delhi State Coordinator, Wetlands International South Asia.
During the past few years, local bird watchers have been claiming that winged visitors have been changing their destination from the Ropar wetland to Nangal wetland. So, the while number of migratory birds at Ropar wetland area came down to around 2,000 about three years back, it swelled to over 20,000 at Nangal. However, Ropar lake did host a large number of migratory birds in 2013.
"There has been a concern over hectic human activity, pollution and heavy siltation at Ropar wetland over the years and there is a need to spread awareness among the local residents and government agencies that should be acting as custodians of the area," said Amarinder, a bird watcher from Chandigarh.
AWC data and report will come handy for local, regional, state and national level forest and wildlife department agencies for conservation policy and action plan for water birds and their wetland habitats, he said.
The exercise follows a proposal submitted by the AWC Delhi State Coordinator, Wetlands International South Asia, to the Punjab Wildlife Department for the needs to carry out AWC at the major wetlands, to maintain the status of this wetland habitat and waterbirds (population, species diversity and migration) on record as well for creating conservation awareness and sustainable protection and conservation of this important wetland.
The census report will be sent to national coordinator and after collation the data is forwarded to the Wetlands International South Asia office for compilation to make international report and census data feeds into an international programme to maintain an overview of the population size, status and trends of water birds and the wetland habitats that also helps Ramsar Convention of Wetlands in designating Ramsar Site and other international organizations (Convention of Biological Diversity, Convention of Migratory Species, Birdlife International, IUCN) for conservation policy and planning for water birds and wetland habitats.