New Delhi: This season, Okhla Bird Sanctuary in Delhi has seen a crazy drop in the density of birds. The sanctuary situated in Delhi is one of the most important bird sanctuaries in India. This incident has brought the grim picture of species health into notice.
According to the annual Asian Waterbird Census, 2022 carried out by Wetlands International, against 73 last year only 47 species of migratory and resident birds were sighted. This is the least count of the species of density seen in the past five years.
Against 8,068 last season, birds at Okhla turned out to be 9,243 this birding season. Although the experts during the census on Friday noted that this is not a “point to cheer” about because just one migratory species — northern shoveler — had arrived in flocks just a few days ago to make it even.
Okhla Bird Sanctuary is considered one of the 467 “Important Bird Areas” of India. The sanctuary usually attracts a diversity of migratory species every season. But this year the scenario has been different. For birders, it’s not new news, they have been complaining about habitat degradation for the past few months.
It was revealed by T K Roy, ecologist and AWC Delhi coordinator, Wetlands International that, “During the census, we noted a drastic drop in the species density even if there was a slight rise in the number of birds compared to last year.’ He also mentioned, “However, this is not a matter of joy. The situation until December-end was quite dismal until flocks of the northern shoveler arrived and added to the overall number of birds.”
Roy added that the major reason behind this habitat degradation is climate change and its challenges like a delayed winter. This year, there was slower migration and fewer migratory water birds arriving from far central Asia and North Asia including Russia and the Siberian region.
Moreover, this issue is bigger than it looks. The low species density is not limited to Okhla Bird Sanctuary. AWC 2022 has noted a similar setback in some other wetlands too. At Sanjay Lake in east Delhi too, there were only 13 species against 17 last year. At Dhanauri wetland in GB Nagar — proposed as a Ramsar site and the first Sarus crane sanctuary of India by the UP forest department — the density was lower with just 30 species recorded this season against 48 last year.