ERODE: The Forest Department in Erode has given a major facelift to the Vellode Bird Sanctuary to make it more attractive to all visitors - both winged and otherwise.
With an outlay of Rs 4.9 crore, the project started in 2018 and continued in full swing even during the Covid-induced lockdown. To attract birds, an eco-restoration project was taken up at Periyakulam lake, which was dry from 2016 to 2018. As a result, the lake has been given a new lease of life by dredging and deepening it by one metre and strengthening the bunds.
And it seems to have paid off. An official said that the number of birds visiting the sanctuary had significantly increased since -- around 20,000 birds visited during the seasonal migration period from November 2020 to March 2021, while the number stood around 11,000 in other months. Migratory birds visiting the sanctuary include bar-headed goose, black-tailed godwit, barn swallow, woolly-necked stork, Eurasian spoonbill, greater spotted eagle, blue-tailed bee-eater, little stint, yellow wagtail, among others. The sanctuary is one among the ten critical breeding habitats of wetland birds in the State.
To attract human visitors, an interpretation centre has been set up with models of birds that frequent the sanctuary. “The interpretation centre was created to attract school students and raise awareness about different species of birds," said the official. The walls of sanctuary buildings also bear colourful paintings of birds.
Besides, a short film would soon be screened in the newly set up theatre room. "It is not possible to see all the birds coming here in a single visit. So, we are creating a video to showcase all the important birds that visit here," added the official. In addition, a butterfly park has also been created by planting suitable saplings. The sanctuary meets its power needs from solar units. Visitors can rent binoculars for `50, and eco-guides will charge Rs 200 to accompany visitors for 1.5 hours.
"People are surprised to see how the facility had been renovated during the lockdown. The number of people visiting the sanctuary has improved and we look forward to having more visitors once the lockdown is fully lifted," said the official.
District Forest Officer Vismiju Viswanathan said that meticulous planning and execution of works helped in revamping the site into an exclusive eco-tourism centre, which is a haven for over 150 resident and migratory species of birds. "The new initiatives also provide employment to the local youth from fringe villages as eco-guides. In the rapidly changing world where natural ecosystems are under severe pressure, we aim to sensitise the public on the importance of wetland habitats and seek their whole-hearted participation in ecological conservation."
Rangaswamy, a visitor, said that the sanctuary offers an opportunity to spend quality time outdoors. “The sanctuary looks pleasant with paintings and models of birds visiting the area."