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Draining Okhla barrage to rob sanctuary of chirpings.

THE Okhla Bird Sanctuary is likely to be hit by another hurdle as the Okhla barrage is set to be drained by mid- March.

The barrage, which has turned rusty and needs a facelift, holds Yamuna water in the 3.5 sq km area of the sanctuary.

The work, which will take at least oneand- a- half month to be completed, will almost desertify the area leading to loss of habitat for hundreds of migratory and resident birds. Birdwatchers said authorities must ensure that unlike the previous two years, when even repair work of the gates led to a literal disappearance of the sanctuary, some water is maintained this time.

Many winter migratory birds stay on in Okhla till March, and April onwards, many resident birds start breeding here. Some local migratory birds, like the Lesser Whistling Duck and Streaked Weaver Bird, also come to the sanctuary at this time.

District Forest Officer K. K. Singh, who has recently been transferred to Agra, said, "This work was actually due in October but was postponed. However, it has to be done and we will try to maintain a minimum flow by regulating water through the old barrage near the NCC Delhi Boat Club, which used to be the original Agra Canal." However, bird enthusiasts are not convinced.

Ecologist T. K. Roy said, "In the past two years, we have seen the sanctuary being turned into arid land in the name of annual barrage repair. Nothing but a thin nulla remains with cattle grazing and unrestricted human interference. With the whole barrage being removed and a new one being installed, that will take no less than one- and- a- half month, the notified protected area for birds will vanish totally." Resident birds which come to breed here in March include spot- billed duck, Indian moorhen, black- winged stilt, purple heron, egrets, white- breasted waterhen, Oriental darter and blackcrowned night heron among others.

Birdwatcher Anand Arya says, "There are several ways to hold the reservoir even while replacing the barrage... It is a protected area and should be maintained as such." Birdwatchers fear the move will lead to the loss of habitat for hundreds of migratory and resident birds of the Okhla Bird Sanctuary.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Feb 23, 2015
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