Thanks to migratory waterbirds taking refuge here, the Najafgarh drain, the longest sewage drain in the Capital, has now been transformed into a wetland habitat.

Asian Waterbird Census (AWC), an international census for wetland and water birds monitoring, recorded more diversity of birds at the Najafgarh drain this year.

Dearth of a sustainable wetland in the city has forced migratory waterbirds to make the drain their habitat. The total species of resident and migratory birds at the drain site “numbers 3,341” with bar-headed goose, graylag goose, greater flamingo and black-winged stilt, cattle egret (resident species) and various threatened species (black-headed ibis, oriental darter) being the most prevalent. However, the population of waterbirds is more at the marshland downstream.

“Compared to previous years, a total of 50 species have been sighted this year. This sewage wetland attracted 30 species of winter migratory waterbirds such as bar-headed goose, graylag goose, Eurasian spoonbill, coot and Northern shoveler in large numbers. These birds, residents of South Asia, are seen during the breeding season in Central and North Asia. These birds include four International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red-listed category of threatened species – black-headed ibis, oriental darter, painted stork and black stork,” said environmentalist T. K. Roy.

Mr. Roy feels it is high time that policy-makers need to take a look at this ecological development. “Governmental intervention to protect the environment and sustainable conservation in Delhi is badly required. If this wetland habitat has to be preserved for the residents of Delhi, particularly avid bird lovers, then government or environmental organisations need to step in,” Mr. Roy told The Hindu.

Explaining the reason for the sudden increase in waterbird population, Mr. Roy said extreme habitat disturbance at the Okhla Bird Sanctuary during the migratory winter period compelled many species including the flock of greater flamingo to abandon the sanctuary and make Najafgarh drain their home.

The census data of the migratory waterbirds at the drain site was collated and analysed by Wetlands International – South Asia. The census was carried out as per the standardised monitoring methodology and field protocol for counting waterbirds of the Wetlands International. The census data is fed into an international programme to maintain an overview of the population size, status and trends of water birds and the wetland habitats.

AWC 2014 was conducted with active participation of thousands of volunteer birders under coordination of the state coordinators and a national coordinator.

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