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Paradise for feathered visitors in Red hotbed

Birds have apparently found a place for safe winter stay in the state thanks to Maoists.

Amid the sylvan surrounding with picturesque deep forests and hilly terrains, Nagi and Nakti sanctuaries have become perfect stopover for thousands of migratory birds in the past few years.

Located within 3km of each other in the Maoist-affected Jhajha block in Jamui district, the sanctuaries were once popular birding and picnic spots but the tourists have stopped visiting the places in the past few years.

Nagi and Nakti dams earlier constructed in the early ’60s by the state minor irrigation department for farmers in Jhajha blocks.

Different species of birds, especially the migratory ones, since then started visiting the areas mainly because of the forest covers surrounding the two water bodies along with abundant fish available.

Spreading across over 332 hectares, the Nakti dam was declared as a bird sanctuary in 1985 following Nagi (791 hectares) in 1987.

According to Ravi Chakarovarty, a railway employee at Jhajha, even after the notification of bird sanctuaries, fishing and poaching were very common at the two places. “In winter, many villagers in the surrounding areas used to earn a lot by selling the birds. But such practices came to stop sometimes round 2000-01 after Maoists had established their supremacy in the locality,” he said.

Anandi Das of Chapa, a village adjacent to the dams, said: “The Maoists strictly prohibited poaching in the dams.”

Echoing Das, Arvind Mishra, state coordinator of Indian Bird Conservation Network (IBCN), said in comparison to other sanctuaries in the state, Nagi and Nakti are still safe place for the winged guests as no one dares to venture into the areas for poaching. “Nagi and Nakti bird sanctuaries still have its wide potentialities to boost tourism because the dams are considered as the best place for birdwatchers,” said Mishra, who in February last year visited the twin sanctuaries and counted over more than 15,000 birds with various species, including migratory ones.

Lallan Prasad Singh, divisional forest officer, Jamui, also admitted the potentiality of the twin bird sanctuaries. “Since the last three years, we have been requesting the state and Union governments for funds to develop the areas,” he added.

According to him, unless the wildlife management plan, a central government scheme, is not implemented for the two sanctuaries, the Centre would not release any funds for its development. He said for implementing the plan, 500m radius of the two sanctuaries would have to be converted into eco-sensitive zone. “We have already applied before the central government for eco-sensitive zone around the two sanctuaries,” he said, adding that beautification drive, facilities for tourists along with many other basic amenities for developing the two bird sanctuaries are in the pipeline and it could be expected soon after implementation of the wildlife management plan for Nagi and Nakti bird sanctuaries.

For the people who used to live in the area are still nostalgic with the dams. Gilbert E. Freitas, an Australian, had written a nice memoir of his time on a website. “I came to Jhajha in the late 1940s as a boy because my late father was a railway official and was posted there. This was just after India got Independence from the British. Those were the days of great fun and frolic for we children and teenagers spent a lot of time during the school holidays picnicking, shooting and fishing. Sometimes we kids used to group up and go to the lake where all the beautiful birds assembled. We sat by the Nakti river, played games, cooked our lunch and sang songs. At that time there was no dam. In the mid ’50s the Bihar government constructed a dam and the volume of water increased. During the winter, the ducks came and so did the geese. Occasionally we saw deer and neel gai. Sometimes we heard the roar of the tiger in the evenings or the cry of a panther. I will never forget the beautiful birds, animals and most of all the beautiful hills. Just breathtaking,” Freitas wrote.