Dumping of non-biodegradable waste, burning of plastic and rampant fishing along the Garhi Mandu city forest, a natural biodiversity habitat on the left bank of the Yamuna, seem to have taken a toll on the population of water birds at the wetland in North-East Delhi.

Home to over 52 species of resident and migratory water birds last winter, the forest is now facing a steep decline in the number of birds. Eighteen species, including Greylag Goose, Northern Pintail, Red-crested Pochard, Grey Heron, Painted Stork, Red-wattled Lapwing and Black-headed Gull, which were seen last winter are no longer found in and around the forest.

The threat to the natural wetland has set alarm bells ringing for conservationists.

Noted environmentalist T. K. Roy is contemplating approaching Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal because he wants the new dispensation to recognise this natural habitat and protect the forest’s fragile ecosystem.

“The newly installed Delhi Government has a number of pressing problems before it. But I would be approaching it since it is important that those running the administration in Delhi instruct senior forest officials to work in the area and have surveillance there. Unscrupulous fishermen are resorting to excessive fishing. This needs to be immediately stopped,” Mr. Roy told The Hindu .

This year, he said, out of 31 species of winter migratory birds, only six have been spotted. Mr. Roy pointed out that the Forest and Wildlife Department had notified the Garhi Mandu forest under Section 29 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927.

He said, unfortunately, the boundary of the forest where the wetland exist has not been notified. “The government needs to recognise this, notify the wetland and take care of it. Extending its forest coverage for a sustainable, healthy environment for human beings is the need of the hour.”

He said the forest is surrounded by a huge natural wetland accidentally formed by the Yamuna floods of 2008. The flood was a blessing in disguise and it resulted in supporting the forest ecosystem, he said and added: “The natural wetland is the breeding ground for more than 52 species of water birds, both resident and migratory, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature red-list categories threatened species..”

Mr. Roy, who is the Delhi coordinator of Wetlands International South Asia’s Asian Waterbird Census, alleged dumping of a huge amount of polythene and plastic by the East Delhi Municipal Corporation as well as locals along the banks and in the wetland.

“Regular dumping of debris and filling the wetland by the East Delhi Municipal Corporation is just not right for our environment. As a result, the wetland are getting dried up and covered up for agricultural use.”

He said regular burning of dumped non-biodegradable garbage is causing air pollution and the left-over waste creates water pollution in the wetland. “Another cause of worry is regular fishing by the local fishermen and open thoroughfare and playground around the wetland.”