Proposal for bird sanctuary at Coimbatore’s Singanallur tank awaits challenges

Dumping of garbage and spread of water hyacinths remain unaddressed at Singanallur tank in Coimbatore

Dumping of garbage and spread of water hyacinths remain unaddressed at Singanallur tank in Coimbatore | Photo Credit: S. Siva Saravanan

While some of the tanks in Coimbatore are losing their rich biodiversity due to developmental works under the Smart Cities Mission, Singanallur tank is an exception. 

Supriya Sahu, Additional Chief Secretary, the Environment, Climate Change and Forest Department, during her visit to the city in July asked Forest Department officials to send a proposal to convert 288-acre tank abutting Tiruchi Road to a bird sanctuary.

Coimbatore District Collector G.S. Sameeran, who was also present when Ms. Sahu, suggested the proposal, inspected the tank which was declared by the Coimbatore Municipal Corporation as Urban Biodiversity Conservation Zone in 2017.

Though the tank used to attract a large number of birds including resident and migratory species in the past, their activity reduced significantly in the past few years due to various factors including commercial fishing.

“It used to attract birds such as pelicans and painted storks in large congregations. These birds will visit the tank only if fishes are available,” said S. Ramasubramanian, Conservator of Forests, Coimbatore Circle and Field Director of the Anamalai Tiger Reserve. Though commercial fishing was banned in the tank from January 1, 2019, fishing is still being continued according to nature enthusiasts. Fishermen beating the water with sticks after laying line nets to chase fishes also scares waterbirds.

“Lack of sewage treatment facilities is another hurdle. Now sewage is getting mixed in the tank and the natural outflow has been affected due to non-functioning sluices,” points out a nature enthusiast.

The tank gets water through three sources such as a main canal (Raja Vaikal) of River Noyyal, Ganapathy – Uppilipalayam Odai and Sanganoor Pallam and none of them have sewage treatment plants. Of the three sluices the tank has as per records, only two are seen now and they are defunct.

“Channels that carry water from the tank have been encroached upon or have been blocked with debris. With natural draining of water stopped, the tank has remained full for the past three years, flooding critical shorelines for birds,” said the nature enthusiast.

The tank has not been desilted for over 40 years due to which the depth of the tank, around 13 feet as per Public Works Department (PWD) records, is now as low as 2 feet in some areas.

K. Mohanraj of Save Coimbatore Wetlands, a consortium to protect wetlands, said that the move to convert Singanallur tank into a bird sanctuary will be a good one as several other tanks in the Noyyal River System lost their habitats due to developmental works. The nearby Vellalore tank has nesting sites of several birds.

However, according to him, if declaring the tank as a sanctuary involved zoning, as the Supreme Court in June directed that national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the country will have a mandatory eco-sensitive zone of at least one kilometre, there may be opposition from local communities.

“Declaring the tank as community reserve, along with other tanks in the cluster, would be a better option. This will be unique in the country as an urban community reserve for a cluster of waterbodies and may be named something like ‘Noyyal Basin Community Reserve’. The local body will also have a role to play,” he opined. 

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Printable version | Sep 10, 2022 2:18:54 pm |