Foreign investment may be scarce but foreign tourists of the feathered kind are flocking to Mamata Banerjee’s Bengal.
Santragachhi Jheel, a 33-acre example of government apathy and a lesson in how private initiative can achieve what the state fails to do, looks a darned sight better than at this time last year. What’s more, a flock of migrant waterfowl has already landed along with a variety of other common wintering birds that bring out the birders and their binoculars.
At least six different types of migratory birds have already been sighted in the waters of the lake and its vicinity, located behind Santragachhi railway station on the city’s western outskirts. The list includes the Gadwall, Brown Shrike, Taiga Flycatcher, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail and the Barn Swallow.
The population of the Lesser Whistling Duck, a local migratory species that spends the summer months in the rural hinterland, already numbers more than 500.
Environmentalists say the birds would have been missing this year had a group of nature lovers not risen to the challenge of cleaning the railways-owned lake without any government assistance last year. In October 2011, Santragachhi Jheel was a sea of water hyacinth and the forest department a study in slumber.
“You couldn’t see the water in much of the lake, only the hyacinth. We were disheartened to see birds hovering over the lake but not finding a place to roost. Then came the movement,” recalled birdwatcher Shubhankar Patra.