By S. Karthick, Dominique Bosco
CHENNAI/VILLUPURAM: The Tamil Nadu government on Monday declared Ousteri Lake and the bio-diversity rich forest areas of Tirunelveli as bird and wildlife sanctuaries, fulfilling the long-pending demands of various sections of people, including ecologists. Chief minister J Jayalalithaa made the announcement on the floor of the assembly on Monday. Ousteri is the 15th bird sanctuary declared by the government. The forest areas falling outside the Kalakkad Mundanthurai wildlife sanctuary will now be declared a sanctuary as well. Tamil Nadu has 14 wildlife sanctuaries, five national parks, 14 bird sanctuaries, four tiger reserves and four elephant reserves.
The 390-hectare Ousteri Lake, which attracts more than 20,000 migratory birds of 40 rare species from all parts of the world every year, is spread across the Union territory of Puducherry and Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu. Puducherry declared Ousteri Lake as wildlife sanctuary in December 2008 and resolved to promote the lake on the line of Vedanthangal water bird sanctuary in Tamil Nadu. The efforts taken by the Puducherry government to promote the lake since 2008, though minimal, did not yield the desired results as a part of it was located in Tamil Nadu, which did not declare it as a sanctuary. Poaching was rampant and the number of winged visitors came down drastically.
With Tamil Nadu too declaring it a bird sanctuary, ecologists and birdwatchers have urged the Puducherry and Tamil Nadu governments to work in unison to promote the lake. The Bombay Natural History Society had declared Ousteri as an important bird area of India while the Asian Wetland Bureau declared the lake as one of the 93 significant wetlands in Asia. The Bureau said many birds that are categorized under the 'red list' of threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) frequented the water body for breeding.
The Puducherry government declared the region as litter-free, no-horn and plastic-free zone. It proposed to establish a three-floor interpretation centre and install two telescope for watching birds, a small park and a walking path around the lake for the avid birdwatchers and ecologists. It decided to regulate the movement of public and private vehicles around the lake to make the region more friendly to the winged visitors. It also proposed to erect sign boards with complete details of birds and plant more trees near the water body.
Jayalalithaa said the basic training centres in Anaimali Tiger Sanctuary and Mudumalai Tiger Sanctuary would be converted into 'Upgraded Wildlife Management Training Centres'. She said the government would fill up 650 vacant posts of forests, forest rangers and forest warden through direct recruitment. She said the government has been taking steps to bring bio-diversity rich areas under Protected Area Management in an effort to create more wildlife sanctuaries in the state. She said the government would spend Rs 110.07 crore this year to increase the green cover in the state. She announced Rs 35.62 crore worth projects to protect and maintain the forest cover in the state.