CHENNAI: Though the city reeling under severe heat and water crisis, Pallikaranai marshlands and smaller reservoirs are providing much-needed respite for birds. While Poondi, Red Hills, Chembarambakkam and Chozhavaram tanks have run dry, hundreds of flamingoes, black-winged stilts, Eurasian Coots and Cormorants have made Pallikaranai home.
Founder of Nature Trust Organisation TVRK Thiruvaranan said his organisation had spotted 87 species of birds this summer. He further said flamingoes are often a sign of clean water.
“In 2008, I was enthralled when I saw one flamingo. Right now we have nearly 300 birds,” he said, remarking that despite adversity, the marshland has been making significant progress.
This flat, low-lying land is significant due to its numerous inlets of freshwater that spread across 45 hectares. It flushes back stormwater from the southeastern parts of Chennai to the Bay of Bengal.
Even as the birds are relatively plentiful, this year’s population cannot be compared to last year’s, said Thiruvaranan.
“There are multiple factors that govern the water levels at the marshland. The level varies on the high and low tide; it depends on the level of water in the neighbouring tank and it obviously depends on the rainfall,” he said, adding that last year's monsoon failure was not critical.
Forest Ranger A Natarajan said that the Forest department had recorded nearly 190 species of birds in Pallikarnai marshland.
“Pallikarnai has served as a buffer against natural calamities. It has been instrumental in holding water even when there are floods and drought. It is for human’s own benefit that we need to protect this marshland,” he said.
The Forest department is contemplating a takeover of some water tanks around the marshland to better sustain the water network.