Kalivelli wetland comes under threat

At a distance of 18 km from the north of Puducherry, you can spot threatened species and even rare migrant birds from Central Asia and Siberia building their nests and breeding.

A haven for hundreds of species of flora and fauna, Kalivelli wetland nurtures several species of birds, fish, reptiles and mammals. However, this rich ecosystem has now come under threat due to land encroachments and increasing shrimp farms. Because of this, researchers believe that there is an urgent need for the government to act and protect this wetland to ensure that the lake remains a safe haven for its diverse flora and fauna.

Srinivas V., Senior Research Fellow of Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning, who published ‘Kaliveli Wetlands’ report in 2004 said: “As a first step, the wetland should be notified as a bird sanctuary under the Wildlife Protection Act. Second, a scientific approach to delineate an eco-sensitivity zone around the sanctuary should be undertaken. And more importantly, Kalivelli cannot be looked in isolation, understanding the hydrology of the landscape is required, and ensuring minimum ecological flows of fresh water, including into the sea is an absolute must.”

Spread over 670 sq km of catchment area, the Kalivelli Lake in Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu is said to be the second largest brackish water lake in South India after Pulicat Lake. Surrounded by 22 villages, nearly 16 of the 22 villages share their revenue boundaries along the lake. The name Kalivelli is the anglicized variant of Kazhuvelli, which in Tamil means an open space not under cultivation.

The lake opens to the Bay of Bengal at the Yedayanthittu estuary in the north. This provides a unique characteristic of an estuarine part at its mouth. While the southern end gets fresh water during the North East monsoon.

This eclectic ecosystem including agricultural fields, reed beds, marshes, and thorny acacia trees, village ponds, degraded patches of tropical dry evergreen forests and the last surviving patches of mangrove vegetation on the fringes attract birds having their own specific habitat requirements.

“These may include mud probers, worm eaters, fish eaters, wood peckers, mollusc eaters, dabblers, insect eaters, divers, lotus walkers, moor dwellers, stealth hunters, woodland birds, grassland birds, runners, birds of prey, salt lovers etc,” says Lekshmy R., research scholar, Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Pondicherry Central University.

The migrant birds flock this place beginning from October – November till March.

Photographer Gopinath S., who worked with Srinivas V. of FERAL on the ‘Kaliveli Wetlands’ report, said: “The saline and fresh water supports a variety of rich flora and fauna. The mangroves form the breeding ground for variety of fish, crabs and molluscs. A predominant form of vegetation here is reed, making it a birding hotspot.”

According to 2004 assessment of IBCN and Bird Life International, Kalivelli supports more than 20,000 birds every year. The lake has been a feeding ground for the longest distance migrants from the cold subarctic regions of the Central Asia and Siberia including Black-tailed Godwits, Eurasian Curlew, White Stork, Ruff, Dunlin visit Kalivelli.

The reed marshes left untouched supports hundreds of migrating ducks, mainly Garganey and Eurasian Wigeon. The birds red-listed, for their fast decline on a global scale, by the International Union of Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources are also found here. These include Painted Storks, Spot-billed Pelicans, Oriental Darer and Wolly-necked Stork.

“However, it is sad that this wetland has neither gained popularity with the public nor has it received any attention from the conservationists,” says Raja Manikkam, Project Coordinator, Seeds of Change, Pondicherry Citizens’ Action Network, who works with children and youth to help create awareness on environment and civic consciousness.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 12:07:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/Kalivelli-wetland-comes-under-threat/article14415821.ece

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