Move to declare Kaliveli wetlands a sanctuary: first declaration issued

The decision is seen as a big win for the Forest Department and conservationists, and their efforts to protect the wetland that is a haven for diverse flora and fauna

February 03, 2021 02:28 pm | Updated November 28, 2021 02:29 pm IST - VILLUPURAM

In a major push to declare Kaliveli wetlands, the second-largest brackish water lake in South India after Pulicat lake, a bird sanctuary, the Villupuram district administration has issued the first declaration under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

The decision is seen as a big win for Forest Department officials and conservationists, and their efforts to protect this wetland that remains a safe haven for diverse flora and fauna.

According to Abhishek Tomar, District Forest Officer, Villupuram, “The first declaration was issued by the District Administration recently under Section 18 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.” The Kaliveli wetlands is ecologically important and the decision is expected to enhance the conservation activities in the biodiversity hotspot, he said. “The proposal has been sent to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF). Once it is cleared, the settlement process including the declaration of rights will be set in motion and the final notification would be issued by the government,” he said.

Officials are hopeful of getting the necessary approval from the government, and a formal announcement on notifying the wetlands as a sanctuary is expected soon.

Located close to Marakkanam on the East Coast Road, the Kaliveli Lake, spread over an expanse of 670 of catchment area, is said to be one of the major wetlands on the Coromandel Coast after the Pulicat Lake.

The lake is connected to the Bay of Bengal by the Uppukalli Creek and the Edayanthittu sanctuary and is visited for nesting by migratory birds on the Central Asian flyway. The southern part of the wetland has been reserved land since 2001.

According to a 2004 assessment of the Indian Bird Conservation Network and Bird Life International, Kaliveli supports more than 20,000 birds every year. The lake has a feeding ground for long-distance migrants from the cold subarctic regions of Central Asia and Siberia including Black-tailed Godwits, Eurasian Curlew, White Stork, Ruff and Dublin.

According to Raphael Mathevet, Head of the Department of Ecology at the French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP) and a wetland scientist working on the Kalivelli wetland, “The move for declaring this important area for water birds as a sanctuary is a step in the right direction. The Forest Department will have to develop a management plan that integrates the surrounding landscape and human activities.”

Challenges ahead

The first challenge will be to minimise the negative impacts of the creation of a checkdam downstream that may impact water levels and salinity but also of the plan of creating a fishing harbour in the estuary of the lagoon system downstream from the bird sanctuary, Mr. Mathevet said. “The surface area of the bird sanctuary is around 5,000 hectares while the wetlands are much larger than that. The Forest Department must work with the local communities to improve the management of the wetlands,” he added.

Conservationists have welcomed the process to notify Kaliveli wetlands as a bird sanctuary and said that this was a step in the right direction.

According to S. Vimalraj, a naturalist, “The declaration of a notification will ensure that no construction activity takes place in the surroundings.” It will also help in maintaining the natural biosphere and biodiversity of the area intact and bring jobs to local residents through eco-tourism.

The Kaliveli wetlands span a large area and helps in recharging the ground water table.

Mr. Vimalraj and K. Raman, founder of Puducherry-based Indigenous Biodiversity Foundation (IBF) have recorded sightings of rare migratory birds including the Booted Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle, Pallid Harrier, Western Mash Harrier, Temminck’s Stint, Ruddy Turnerstone, Pied Avocet, Terek Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Eurasian Wigeon and and Garganey in the wetlands.

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