DRDO’s missile test range plays a perfect host to avian guests from far and wide

Even as the area has not been declared as a bird sanctuary, every year local forest officials carry out a census of migratory birds.

Published: 01st November 2021 07:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st November 2021 07:38 AM   |  A+A-

Migratory birds at ITR’s ‘Nisarg’| Express

Express News Service

DRBHUBANESWAR: Come winter, the periphery of one of India’s most prohibited zones - the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur-on-sea comes alive with the cacophony of migratory birds. The wetlands inside the test range of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) where trials of sophisticated weapon systems of the country are conducted regularly become the second home for the avian guests for around four months. Even as the entire  range remains out of bound for outsiders, both domestic and migratory birds find it a safe haven. The frequent testing of arms and ammunition notwithstanding. Thanks to the sustained efforts of a group of defence scientists, who despite their busy schedule devote time for the conservation of the wetlands that have developed into a bird sanctuary over the years. 

A provision for fresh water supply has been made for the birds at the facility. During summer, the water is drained out and the pond beds cleaned. Scientists, technical officers and other officials regularly visit the site to inspect and ensure proper upkeep of the water bodies. During winter when the migratory birds arrive in huge numbers, vehicular movement is restricted in order to provide a peaceful environment for the avian guests. 

Located along the beach front of Bay of Bengal, the bird sanctuary spread over 1,200 hectare offers conducive conditions for the migratory birds. The species include flamingo, stork, northern pin-tail, shoveler, greylag geese, purple moorhen, herons, spot-billed duck and tufted duck. Most of the birds come from Siberia, Central, Southeast Asia, Caspian Sea, Ladakh and Himalayas.

ITR Director Harekrishna Ratha said several marshy areas on the campus were developed and thousands of trees planted around the water bodies to host thousands of migratory birds arriving from far off places during winter. “The sanctuary called ‘Nisarg’, meaning nature, is born out of the love of former President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam for nature. When he was the Director of ITR that came into existence in 1982, he had emphasised on establishing the test facility while protecting and preserving the environmental assets. A team of scientists and other employees take care of the wetland and birds. Proper provisions have been made so that no outsider can enter and disturb them,” he said.

Urging people to remain sensitive towards wildlife and environment, Secretary of Department of Defence R&D and DRDO Chairman Dr G Satheesh Reddy said the sighting of various breeds of birds always has a soothing effect on one’s mind and soul. “We not only make missiles, many of our scientists have a special interest for conserving environment. We plant trees, protect water bodies and animals in the areas of our facilities. The bird sanctuary is a testimony to it. We have planted huge number of plants and maintained good arboriculture at various facilities winning many awards,” he said.

Even as the area has not been declared as a bird sanctuary, every year local forest officials carry out a census of migratory birds. Retired forest official Sukumar Das said the sanctuary is visited by around 6,000 to 8,000 migratory birds and also has a wide variety of aquatic fauna. The Ministry of Defence establishment also has a deer park populated by over 100 deer, Das, who served as the Chandipur forest ranger added.


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