Shyam Ranganathan

The number has gone down by nearly 75%

NAGAPATTINAM: Though birds have started arriving at Kodiakkarai for the winter, naturalists are worried that the population has fallen by more than 75 per cent in the last 25 years.

K. Balachandran, senior scientist with the Bombay Natural History Society, says: “No scientific study has been undertaken, but bird populations in sanctuaries all over India are falling. In Kodiakkarai too, the number of birds arriving has gone down by nearly 75 per cent in the past 25 years or so.”

Main causes

A video footage of the birds in the sanctuary taken a few years ago by naturalists with the help of Forest Department officials suggested that industrial salt manufacturing units in the area and the proliferation of the thorn-tree Prosopis julifera were the main causes, explains S. Manikavasagam, president of the Kodiakkarai Nature Protection Society.

He says the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has not been making regular studies on the effects of the industrial salt-making process. “The groundwater supply has become scarce, and birds are facing the effect of the industrial unit, which has provided funds for building the BNHS field station.”

Dr. Balachandran responds that though the company has, indeed, provided Rs. 10 lakh of the Rs. 30 lakh needed for the field station, his work is independent of the company’s needs.

The station is scheduled to open around the end of this month and will be used by the BNHS staff to study the ornithological diversity in the area.

“The problem with that particular industrial unit is that it drains its reservoirs of rainwater causing problems for the birds. I have highlighted this in various representations to the company and to the government. This funding, on the other hand, is to create a field station to study the immense wealth of bird diversity in the area scientifically,” he argues.