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Blame on humans for dip in winged guests

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 17.05.11
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Imphal, May 16: Bird watchers and environmentalists have sounded an alarm over the “fast declining” number of migratory birds coming to Manipur’s sprawling Loktak lake.

“The number of migratory birds in Loktak has come down gradually every year. This is a cause for worry because it indicates degradation of the lake,” R.K. Ranjan, state coordinator of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage and Indian Bird Conservation Network, said.

The alarm came after the wildlife wing of the state forest department carried out the first waterfowl census in Loktak, spread across three valley districts of Imphal West, Bishnupur and Thoubal.

The survey, held on February 20 under the supervision of officials of the Bombay Natural History Society and the Indian Bird Conservation Network, was carried out at 27 spots where migratory birds were found.

Though the government is yet to publish the findings, sources told The Telegraph that the survey found only 44 species of migratory birds and the population was below 20,000.

According to the norms of the Australia-based Wetland International, if the waterfowl population in a large wetland is below 20,000, the waterbody is categorised ecologically degraded.

The Manipur Association for Science and Society, an Imphal-based NGO, first carried out waterfowl census in 2006. It recorded about 18,000 waterfowl population.

“The survey did not cover all the lake areas. We covered only two locations where waterfowls and migratory birds haunt,” Ranjan, who actively participated in the survey,” said.

Bird watchers like R.K. Birjit, who is from Ningthoukhong of Bishnupur, on the fringes of the lake, said Loktak was home to more than 147 waterfowl species.

The 256 square km lake was included in the list of Ramsar sites in 1990 because of “ecological problems”.

The Keibul Lamjao National Park, the last remaining natural habitat of the sangai, the world’s most threatened deer species, is inside Loktak.

The bird watchers attributed human interference for fishing, cultivation, degradation of the lake ecology to the construction of a dam for power generation, keeping the lake water level perennially high and unchecked poaching to the declining population of migratory birds.

“Birds take flight for more than 4,000km from places like Siberia, Mongolia and Unan Province and others to find their habitat during winter. The condition of the lake is disappointing and the main reason is poaching,” Birjit, who is also the president of Ningthoukhong-based environment group, Generation De New Image, said.

Officials at the wildlife wing said it did not have enough staff to prevent poaching.

Once in a while forest officials catch poachers red-handed. However, it failed to put an end to hunting inside the lake.