Guwahati’s garbage dumps now have the largest concentration of Greater Adjutant Storks in the world, thanks to the ongoing destruction of the surrounding wetlands.

The Greater Adjutant Stork is a species found in the plains of the Brahmaputra valley in Assam. Of the global population of about 1500, around 900 are in Assam and their numbers are declining.

Earlier, these big birds were largely found in wetlands. Seasonally dependent on the wetlands for foraging and tall trees for roosting and nesting, the species suffers from the ongoing destruction of wetlands by way of unplanned drainage, encroachment, over fishing, siltation and removal of nesting and roosting trees. In Guwahati, the majority of the roosting trees are located in private land and most of them have been cut down.

Now, the wetlands are used by the storks between October and February (the breeding season) when fish and other live prey are available in plenty. During the non-breeding season these birds concentrate in urban disposal sites which lie adjacent to the wetlands. Groups of non-breeding adjutants remain in these dumps throughout the year.

Guwahati now has the largest concentration of these birds in the world, with the majority of them seen in the city’s only garbage dumping site near the Deepor Beel Wildlife Sanctuary.

Though legally protected, lack of awareness about these birds is a cause for concern. In many areas, the storks are not welcome because of their strong smell and the noise they make. The government can help by declaring the nesting sites community-protected areas and by planting tall trees like Simul, Kadam, Moz, Satian, Bot etc. in the areas they frequent. A lot needs to be done to conserve the existing wetlands in and around Guwahati and regulate the use of synthetic pesticides in areas adjacent to the Deepor Beel Wildlife Sanctuary.