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Sound threat to Kulik birds

Raiganj, Jan. 1: Loudspeakers blared as hundreds of picnickers danced to Bollywood tunes in Kulik Bird Sanctuary on the first day of the new year in violation of rules that prohibit the use of sound amplifiers.

The sanctuary, which is the habitat of several migratory birds, is a popular spot for tourists and birdwatchers.

“For the past few years, the number of migratory birds that visit the sanctuary has been dwindling. We conducted a survey and also sought the opinion of experts who affirmed that breaching of silence in the area is making the birds insecure, which is why, several of them are avoiding the sanctuary. One of the reasons is the loud music visitors play,” Diparna Dutta, the divisional forest officer of Raiganj, said today.

To ensure that the noise levels are low in the sanctuary, this year, the forest department developed a picnic spot at Abdulghata, a kilometre away from the sanctuary.

“The spot was developed so that picnickers can play music and enjoy themselves without disturbing the avian population. But hundreds of people turned up in the sanctuary today. It seems that there is no other alternative but to impose a complete ban on picnics from the next season. We are seriously thinking about it,” the DFO added.

Migratory birds like night heron, cormorant and open-bill stork start coming to the sanctuary from May. They roost here and start leaving with their hatchlings from December.

Dutta said few years back, the number of migratory birds in Kulik had reduced.

“This prompted us to take help from Gopinathan Maheshwaran, an ornithologist, to find out the reason. It was found that because of sound pollution, the birds were finding the habitat to be insecure. We immediately imposed restrictions on picnics and declared the area, including the stretch of NH34, which passes near the sanctuary, a silence zone,” he said.

“We tried our best to maintain silence in the area and that had led to an increase in the number of birds in past couple of years. Even the new picnic spot was developed as part of the initiative. But whatever happened today has left us worried. There are chances that the birds, which were disturbed by the noise today, would turn up in lesser numbers next year.”

The sanctuary is spread over 373 acres and covers Abdulghata, Bhattadighi and Sohoroi mouzas. Entry to the park is free.

When Metro visited Kulik Bird Sanctuary today, over 100 groups of people, with equal number of sound boxes, were found enjoying the first day of 2014.

“We are here to enjoy and it is not possible to obey every rule always. There are only a few birds in the sanctuary. It is a matter of a few hours only,” Dibakar Bhowmik, one of the picnickers, said.

Foresters said some policemen had been deployed at the sanctuary.

“We cannot stop picnickers from playing loud music with the help of a police force. The policemen were posted to maintain law and order and we were depending on the discretion of the picnickers. Unfortunately, the response was very poor from their end,” said the DFO.