Management plan to be prepared for Kazhuveli bird sanctuary

The plan will focus on the conserving and protecting of existing flora and fauna, as well as anti-poaching measures and curtailment of the illegal trade in animal and plant species, an official said

With the Kazhuveli wetlands on Tamil Nadu’s east coast notified as the 16th bird sanctuary in Tamil Nadu, the Forest Department has now set in motion the process of preparing a management plan, with the thrust on conservation of biodiversity and natural resources within the sanctuary.

The government, in an order on December 6, had declared the Kazhuveli wetlands as a bird sanctuary, a long-pending demand of conservationists. This is the second bird sanctuary in Villupuram district after the Oussudu sanctuary, which is jointly managed by both Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

Located close to Marakkanam on the East Coast Road, the Kazhuveli wetlands, spread over an expanse of 670 sq.km of catchment area, are 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 estuary 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.

Speaking to The Hindu, District Forest Officer Sumesh Soman, said that work on preparing the management plan has started. “The plan will give direction to conservation of biodiversity and natural resources within the sanctuary. The Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) has already done a study on the flora and fauna in the wetlands and the management plan will have goals to conserve and protect the existing flora and fauna, for them to flourish.”

“Kazhuveli has varied habitat including sloping wetlands preferred by shore birds, darters and waders, birds on floating vegetation, water fowls and open grasslands preferred by different species of birds and fauna, and we will try to preserve the existing nature of the wetlands. The plan will also provide strategy for species management, anti-poaching, patrolling and curtailing the illegal trade in wild animals and plant species,” he said.

The Department will be holding consultations with various stakeholders including fishermen and farmers to sensitise them about the importance of Kazhuveli, provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act and the importance of an eco-sensitive zone in the surrounding areas, he said.

The wetland’s boundaries have already been demarcated, and about 455 boundary stones have been erected. Work on cattle-proof trenches has also been completed while further protective measures will also be taken up. The declaration of rights will be set in motion and an eco-sensitive zone will also be notified, the DFO said.

According to S. Vimalraj, a naturalist of the Indigenous Biodiversity Foundation (IBF), “The notification of the sanctuary is of immense significance not only from the conservation point of view, but also for strengthening the varied habitats that Kazhuveli supports. The wetland’s area is very vast and most the birds prefer shallow water for their food. During summer, Kazhuveli also acts as a grassland for other fauna.”

For the past 15 years, members from Indigenous Biodiversity Foundation, a non-profit organisation, led by founder K. Raman, Prabhu N. Ponmudi, Ratheesh Narayanan and Atma have documented the arrival of rare birds including Short Eared Owl, White Stork, Booted Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle, Pallid Harrier, Western Marsh Harrier, Temminck’s Stint, Ruff, Ruddy Turnerstone, Pied Avocet, Terek Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Eurasian Wigeon, Grey headed Lapwing and Garganey.

“Creating protected areas remains crucial to preserving biodiversity both worldwide and in India. Kazhuveli is a very important coastal wetland for breeding waterfowl such as pelicans and herons but also for migrating and wintering waders and ducks. The status of a bird sanctuary will allow the authorities to implement a management plan in order to foster conditions for the preservation and development of the fauna and flora,” said Raphael Mathevet, wetland specialist at CNRS France and former head of the Ecology Department of the French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP).

“Issues related to the hydrological flow, quantity and quality of water will have to be addressed in the coming years because they are critical for the proper functioning of the site as well as the integration of the needs of local populations,” he said.

IFP also supports the authorities so that the creation of this protected area is not done at the expense of the most deprived. “This new protection is a real opportunity to develop an effective collaboration with the inhabitants and users of the neighbouring settlements, naturalists, NGOs and the scientists,” Mr. Mathevet added.

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