The drastic decline in bird population at the Okhla Bird Sanctuary here due to high water level, cattle grazing and habitat disturbance is a cause of worry for policymakers, bird lovers and ornithologists.

Noted conservationist T.K. Roy, who has been making frequent visits to the sanctuary to monitor resident and migratory species to update environmentalists, wants policymakers to do something concrete. He hopes that the next dispensation at the Centre takes note of the shrinking bird population.

“With a sharp decline in the bird population, birdwatchers are understandably unhappy with the state of affairs at this all-important sanctuary. With so much information available about the sanctuary on the Internet, there is lot of awareness among the young generation. Thankfully, bird lovers these days are extremely knowledgeable and communicate with each other about developments taking place in the sanctuary,” he told The Hindu.

Mr. Roy feels that political intervention will have to wait as the country is in the middle of a general election.

Elaborating on the reasons for the decline in the population of resident and migratory species at the sanctuary, notified under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Mr. Roy said the wetland habitat faced continuous threats.

“Excess water released by the Uttar Pradesh Irrigation Department is detrimental to the ecology of this wetland. As this is a notified sanctuary, they need to be cautious while releasing water. At times, the water level is very high, while at others the sanctuary faces drought-like conditions. As a result, conditions have been made unfavourable for waterbirds.”

Pointing out that there needs to be more coordination between the U.P. Wildlife Department in Noida and the Irrigation Department, Mr. Roy said this lack of consultation between the two agencies has forced the majority of winter migratory waterbirds and resident birds to abandon the sanctuary and seek refuge elsewhere.

“This year, we have recorded less bird diversity, manifesting a sharp decline in bird population. Normal release of water by the Irrigation Department is the need of the hour. Whenever the water level at the sanctuary is normal, the habitat is favourable for winged visitors. Such conditions attract major species of migratory water birds, including threatened species and uncommon species like the great white pelican, greater flamingo, pied avocet and black-tailed godwit, to the sanctuary.”