Will the new “Bird Sanctuary” status help the Kazhuveli wetland in Tamil Nadu?

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A cuckoo, one of the many birds of the Kazhuveli wetland. Photo: Elavarasan M./iNaturalist, CC BY-NC


  • Tamil Nadu has declared the Kazhuveli wetland, the second largest brackish water wetland in southern India, to be a bird sanctuary.
  • However, whether the legal protection offered by this new statute will protect the wetland from the many existing threats, it remains uncertain.
  • As with many other wetlands across India, “development” has eaten away at the Kazhuveli wetland – as has untreated effluent from local shrimp farms.

Cochin: On December 1, Tamil Nadu recognized about 5,100 hectares of the Kazhuveli wetland in Villupuram district as a bird sanctuary, India time reported.

Environmentalists have would have welcomed the decision to notify the Kazhuveli wetlands as a bird sanctuary as this could “ensure better protection of the wetlands”.

However, whether the legal protection afforded by this new status will protect the wetland from many existing threats, such as encroachment, poaching and unregulated shrimp farming, remains unclear.

The wetland

The Kazhuveli wetland, aka Kalivali, is located about 18 km north of Pondicherry on the coast of Tamil Nadu, and is the second largest brackish water wetland in southern India after Lake Pulicat.

EBird, a global online database of bird species sightings provided by citizen scientists, lists 226 species of birds in Lake Kazhuveli – which is almost half of all bird species that Tamil Nadu is home to, according to the same database. According to Birdlife International, the region is also an important wintering area for migratory birds: it shelters more than 30,000 wild ducks in winter; and 20,000 to 40,000 shorebirds and 20,000 to 50,000 terns during the migration period.

The wetland retains rainwater and helps fight flooding and also serves as a crucial source of drinking water for neighboring villages, said Sumesh Soman, the divisional forestry officer for Villupuram. The science of yarn.

It is therefore not surprising that the decision to declare the wetland as a bird sanctuary has been under consideration for some time. a amicus curiae report to the Madras District Court in 2019 had would have noted that the Kazhuveli wetlands be listed as a protected site under the Ramsar Convention and as a bird sanctuary. In February of this year, the Villupuram district administration Posted a “first declaration” under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 to list Kazhuveli as a bird sanctuary.

The principal government secretary authorized the request on December 6, noting that 5,151.6 hectares – of the approximately 7,000 hectares that the wetlands encompass – of the wetland would now be the Kazhuveli Bird Sanctuary.

However, environmentalists called for more protection for the wetland – given the biodiversity and ecosystem functions it supports as well as several threats that threaten it over the years.

Threats abound

As with many other wetlands in India, “development” has eaten away at the Kazhuveli wetland. Considered “unproductive and smelly” – in the words of researchers from Chennai and Chidambaram in 2017 – the wetland has been “replaced by human settlements, infrastructure development, aquaculture, agriculture, salt marshes and other industrial activities, and tourism development”.

In 2018, India time reported that villagers around the Kazhuveli wetland alleged that shrimp farms were dumping untreated chemical effluent directly into the lake – the lake that provides both drinking and agricultural water to the area . Experts have also repeatedly reported the use of unscientific cultivation methods by the region’s shrimp farmers, including the use of banned feeders and antibiotics to protect the shrimp from disease, as a threat.

Poaching is of particular concern in many wetland habitats in Tamil Nadu. A study carried out in 2017 identified 27 agricultural wetlands in the district of Kanchipuram. He concluded that the hunt precipitated a sharp drop in the density of large waterbirds. However, Mongabay-India reported, this was not a subsistence hunt: the birds are poached for the money they bring.

The study also found that the demand for waterbirds has increased dramatically, with more than 21,000 birds offered for sale in markets and restaurants over a two-month period. The Tamil Nadu State Wetlands Authority itself admits of its website that poaching is a “potential threat”.

It is “more common” to see people selling birds in local markets near Kazhuveli, researchers from Chennai and Chidambaram wrote in their 2017 article, which also examined anthropogenic threats to the wetland. “There are a number of restaurants in the nearest towns and villages which have birds [as] items in their menus to attract customers, ”they added.

After inspecting the Kazhuveli wetland, as amicus curiae on a public interest dispute over the Pallikaranai Swamp in 2019, senior counsel PS Raman wrote in his report to Madras High Court that “steps should be taken to monitor and ensure that no poaching activity occurs. ‘takes place in the Kazhuveli wetland’, according to the New Indian Express.

Strengthening protection

That said, many of those threats have diminished in size after a 2016 National Green Court order demanded that encroachments be removed from the Kazhuveli wetland, said Soman, the divisional forest officer. In 2019, the Madras District Court also would have directed the chairman of the Tamil Nadu State Wetlands Authority to ensure that all encroachments are removed from wetlands, including Kazhuveli.

He also said poaching has also declined in Kazhuveli, although it may still exist in wetlands, including reservoirs outside the bird sanctuary on revenue land. “We now have nine rangers patrolling the area and we will be stepping up our patrols. “

The new legal notification of the wetland as a bird sanctuary means that more stringent measures will certainly be in place to deal with threats if they increase, Soman agreed. His team will soon be mapping environmentally sensitive areas in the region and preparing a management plan.

“We will also organize stakeholder meetings with local communities, who are mostly fishermen and farmers, to involve them as well,” he said.

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