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Picnic pain for winged guests

Borjhar, Jan. 1: Hordes of picnickers armed with blaring music systems and plastic cups and plates are making life miserable for the birds at Deepor Beel bird sanctuary — situated about 13km from Guwahati.

Sources said some of the birds couldn’t stand the high-decibel music that is played at the picnics. And, to make matters worse, the picnickers leave behind a trail of waste once their fun is over.

“Apart from the noise created by picnic parties at Deepor Beel, the ambience is unfriendly, particularly for grassland-based birds like the white-winged wood duck, common shelduck and red-crested pochard — thanks to the waste left behind after the celebrations,” a resident of the area told this correspondent.

Local residents fear this is just the beginning. “The disturbance started since the picnic season and from today (New Year’s Day), things might just get worse,” a resident said.

“This year, around 15,000 water-based migratory birds, including 8,000-odd grassland-based birds, have visited the lone Ramsar site of the state. The number of grassland-based birds that flock in the fringe areas of the sanctuary has apparently decreased over the years,” ecologist Laxman Teron said.

Deepor Beel was bestowed with the Ramsar site tag in November 2002. “If disturbance is created at this rate, the birds will stop coming to the waterbody,” he said.

Sources said the absence of the birds was conspicuous in the fringe areas of the wetland. “Different birds stay at different depths (of the wetland). In the fringe areas, no birds were seen because of the disturbance — mainly created by errant picnickers,” ornithologist Prof. Parimal Bhattacharya said.

He said the migratory birds feed in the morning. “So there is a need for regulation to keep the environment undisturbed. Guidelines must be laid to prevent the public from disturbing migratory birds in the area.”

Sources in the Guwahati wildlife division said despite repeated appeals by authorities over the areas, the situation hasn’t improved. “The division has always appealed to picnickers not to make a noise and play high-decibel music. But we are yet to enforce any regulation. However, we will continue to monitor the situation,” an official said.

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