KOCHI: It seems the flow of migratory birds to Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary, the 2.74-hectare green patch in the city, is declining every year. The number of bird species, according to official data, fell from 108 in 2004 to just 78 in 2016.
A majority of wetland birds are now not seen in Mangalavanam due to the lack of prey in the lake, a result of the excessive silt deposits. In January, the civic body had approved a desilting project of the Mangalavanam lake at an estimated cost of R25 lakhs. However, the works ended abruptly due to disputes over the methods used. “The contractor wanted to use large machinery like JCBs to remove the silt deposits. This may be profitable for the contractor, but it puts the natural habitat of the place at risk” said Manu M S, beat forest officer at Mangalavanam.
“With all the high-rise buildings around the area, migratory birds are not able to navigate their way through to the mangrove areas which was their much-needed shelter. A petition has been filed to make the areas surrounding Mangalavanam an eco-sensitive zone,” he said. Although the brochure says Mangalavanam was declared a bird sanctuary in 2004, Manu recalls it being only an initial notice and not a functional bird sanctuary.
“The decline of species heightened during the construction of the Tata Tritvam real estate project from 2012-16. Moreover, the reflection from the glass windows of the High Court building also has an impact on the creatures at Mangalavanam,” said Harish Vasudevan, environmental law expert. “Mangalavanam is the green lungs of Kochi, it should be preserved not for the birds alone, but for all the biodiversity one can find there.
Areas surrounding Mangalavanam have become mere waste dumping grounds for residents.“The lack of surface winds cause mosquitoes to stagnate here. The Kochi Corporation offered to spray mosquito repellents, but that would endanger the other species,” said Manu. With increasing walking areas being the only developmental plan, the future of Mangalavanam remains a question.
Inputs by Kartik Jayan