Udaipur: A village in southern Rajasthan has scripted a heart warming conservation story by refusing to allow fishing or any other activity in two ponds, leaving them exclusively for birds, including migratory ones.
Manar village, located on Chittorgarh road about 40 km from here, is one of the emerging places for bird watching in the desert state, where many communities have been carrying forward the legacy of protecting environment at any cost.
Villagers, who are affectionate to birds, have unanimously decided not to allow leasing of ponds for fishing as it will disturb the habitat of their winged friends.
"The entire village has always been against any activity having potential to disturb the ecology of the two ponds in the village. The area is a habitat of birds and migratory birds come here in large numbers in winter season, making the pond like a paradise," Onkar Manaria, Sarpanch (headman) of the village told.
"Due to our (villagers') objection, Zila Parishad and fisheries department never awarded fishing contract for the ponds as the birds would not get adequate food.
"Another reason for objecting to fishing contract is that we are fundamentally against killing of fishby humans," he said.
Having a population of 6,000, Manar has emerged as a favorite site for many bird lovers because of efforts by villagers who have also planted many trees on the banks of the ponds so that birds in large numbers can come and make it their habitat.
"We do not use water of the ponds either for drinking or for irrigation and do not allow anyone to pollute the water. There is no question of fishing," another villager said.
Sarpanch Manaria said that many trees have been planted around the ponds and some trees would also be planted in the middle of the ponds when the water level decreases in summer so that more birds can find place to make their nests.
He said that the villagers were also against any development activity near the area which can affect nature.
These two ponds are among nearly 80 water bodies in Udaipur division comprising the city of lakes Udaipur, Banswara, Dungarpur and nearby areas where exotic winged guests are seen during the winter season.
During the last few years, birding activities in these sites have increased because there is enough food in the form of aquatic vegetation, micro-organism and fishes as well as favourable natural condition for the birds that are undisturbed and well conserved and protected by the locals.
"People in Manar have set an example by conserving the water bodies in the interests of birds. They planted trees, did not use the water and objected to fishing that ultimately made it an ideal site for birds. Diverse species of birds can be found here during winters," Suhel Majboor, Deputy Conservator of Forest, Udaipur said.
District Fisheries Officer Layak Ali said that there are 122 ponds around Udaipur and 47 including two of Manar were without fishing tenders.
"People in Manar want the fishes to be left for the birds. Locals object to fishing contracts because they are against the killing of fishes," Ali said.
Bird lover Harsh Vardhan, Secretary of Tourism and Wildlife Society of India, said that residents and migratory birds are diverted to the natural sites in Udaipur and nearby region mainly from Keoladeo National Park- a UNESCO world heritage site spread over 29 sq km area in Bharatpur district which is facing crisis due to lack of water.
"Birds in the world famous bird sanctuary- Keoladeo park- have been rapidly disappearing because of lack of water and most of them are diverting towards the wet lands in Dungarpur, Banswara and Udaipur because they are safe and free from human
intervention," he said.
Another bird lover Kamlesh Sharma said that nearly 250 species of birds including 90 migratory can be seen in the wetlands and islands in these districts.
"We have seen black neck storks, open bill storks, albino ducks and some other endangered species of birds in those areas," Sharma added.
Fish eagle, marsh harrier, black winged kites, steppe eagle, imperial eagle, white eyed buzzard are among other many birds which are seen in Manar.
While people are taking care of winged creatures in southern parts, animals like deer and blackbuck are protected by locals in western parts of the state particularly Bishnoi community, whose members, it is claimed, sacrificed their lives for protection of Khejri trees in 1730 AD.