For many birds around the world, Gujarat’s Nalsarovar lake is home away from home, where they spend the cold winter months. Designated as a wetland of international importance, the lake however is turning into a living hell. Reason being the nets, sprawling across the wide lake, and cast to bring the carefree flights of the bird to an abrupt end.
Forest department officials say the number of nets seized by them in the past few months has reached an all time high. Shockingly almost 600 nets a month are left here to capture birds like the flamingo visiting the lake.
Over the past four months, forest department officials have recovered no fewer than 2,400 nets around Nalsarovar, which are used for poaching birds.Officials say that since October, they have been nabbing almost 20 nets every day and the numbers have almost doubled from last year.
Nalsarovar and the wetlands around it were declared a bird sanctuary in 1969. Spread over 120 sq.kms, the lake and the extensive reed beds and marshes are an ideal habitat for aquatic plants and animals. The lake attracts a large variety of birds like plovers, sandpipers and stints all around the year. But the best time to visit this site is during the winter months between September and February when birds flying from Siberia and Central Europe flock the water body. Greater flamingoes are undoubtedly the most attractive of these winter visitors.
Sadly, the birds that fly thousands of miles to get respite from the chilly winter of their home country face untimely and a brutal death on arrival to this sanctuary.
Fishing nets that seem harmless stuck on two bamboo poles erected on the water body, are actually the death traps for the flying avian. Birds swooping on the lake floor, accidently get caught in them. Once the birds are caught, they are either killed or their wings and legs broken. The officials say they have sometimes caught local villagers in the process of tying the nets, but most of them get away saying the nets are for fishing purposes only. The birds are most commonly caught for food.
Illustrations via Times of India
According to Himanshu Kaushik, reporting for TOI, every night villagers staying near the lake, venture into the bird sanctuary, armed with small wooden clubs, otherwise used to wash clothes. A swift blow to the head of a bird tangled in the net does the job effectively.
Admitting that there is staff crisis, a senior forest department official said Nal Sarovar is so large, it is spread over two districts of Gujarat — Ahmedabad and Surendranagar. There is nothing the forest guards can do against the villagers who poach with impunity.
Deputy conservator of forest Sasi Kumar however says, “Over the past 15-odd days, the number of nets recovered has gone down drastically because of intensified patrolling.”
Time and again, environmental problems are neglected and avoided stating lack of infrascturcture, facilities, dedicated work force etc. What we believe is, that a problem, minor and easily resolvable at one point, only aggravates and becomes a big challenge, when it is not dealt with at the budding stage. It is high time that forest administration and deputation of work is done in a way that it actually puts an end to troubles and punishes the trouble makers. If, Nalsarovar, a site of national and international importance turns into a mortuary instead of a haven for the birds, who will be answerable for the devastation?
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