Tamil Nadu

Two important bird areas in T.N. face threat, says survey

Bird habitats currently under threat due to unplanned industrialisation, urbanisation and pollution, says wildlife scientist Asad Rahmani   | Photo Credit: G_KARTHIKEYAN;G_KARTHIKEYAN - G_KARTHIKEYAN

The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has identified 39 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) in Tamil Nadu, out of 144 such sites situated across the country in the second edition of its survey publication. Of the 81 near-threatened species of birds in India identified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN), the survey has found 15 such birds in Tamil Nadu.

Among the 39 sites, Odiyur lagoon (in Cheyyur) and Kodaikanal, face a major threat to conservation. While Cheyyur is the site of a proposed 4000 MW thermal power plant, the Pambar Shola forests that are part of the Kodaikanal Wildlife Sanctuary are threatened by mercury pollution from a Unilever thermometer factory site that has not yet been remediated after the plant was shut down in 2001.

Addressing reporters here on Thursday, lead author of the BNHS volume and noted wildlife scientist Dr. Asad Rahmani said, “Birds are an important indicator of biodiversity. Through this book, we wish to highlight the importance of protecting important bird habitats such as grasslands, wetlands and forests all of which are currently under threat due to unplanned industrialisation, urbanisation and pollution.”

The study carried out in 2014, and released last year, has identified 77 bird species in the Odiyur lagoon in Cheyyur, including winter migrants that had flown in from the Arctic. Eight of the species identified belonged to “vulnerable” or “near threatened” category of birds. These include Oriental Darter, Painted Stork, Black-headed Ibis, Black-tailed Godwit, Spot-billed Pelican, Lesser Flamingo and Eurasian Curlew. However, the government has identified the edges of the lagoon as the site for a coal-fired power plant and its vicinity for a coal ash dump and a captive port, which pose a threat to conservation.

“The statutory Environmental Impact Assessment for the project denies the existence of any ecologically sensitive sites in the project area, and declares that there are no places or routes used by migratory species such as birds,” environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman pointed out. Given that the environmental clearance for the Cheyyur project was granted in 2013, before the BNHS study was released, Mr. Jayaraman said that in the light of this new report the clearance given for the thermal power plant ought to be reconsidered.

Further, the Pambar Shola forests in Kodaikanal find special mention as an important biodiversity and bird area in the BNHS volume. It is a habitat to numerous montane birds such as the white-bellied blue robin, the Nilgiri wood pigeon and Nilgiri Pipit. Hindustan Unilever’s mercury contaminated factory site is located atop the Pambar Shola. However, Unilever’s proposed clean-up has not considered impacts on the ecologically sensitive Pambar Shola or its bird populations.

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 10:41:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/two-important-bird-areas-in-tn-face-threat-says-survey/article22987324.ece

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