CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu government on Monday has declared 5,151.60 hectares of swamp/wetlands in Villupuram district as Kazhuveli Wetland Birds Sanctuary effectively putting brakes on some of the controversial infra projects proposed in the ecologically sensitive region.
The declaration was made in exercise of the power conferred in subsection (1) of section 18 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Kazhuveli or Kaliveli wetland system is one of the largest waterfowl congregation sites in Tamil Nadu, and a well-known raptor roosting site for species like the Eastern Imperial Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle, Red-necked Falcon and several harriers. The Grey-tailed Tattler, a rare migratory wader, has been recorded only here and in Pulicat across the country.
Environment Secretary Supriya Sahu, who passed the government order, termed the declaration of the Kazhuveli as a bird sanctuary a landmark decision in the conservation history of India and Tamil Nadu. "Kazhuveli is unique as it falls in the Central Asian migratory path of birds and is home to the second-largest brackish water lake in South India. We have planned to set up a conservation centre at the site to promote public awareness about the importance of birds."
Kazhuveli Bird Sanctuary will be the 16th Bird Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu and will help to preserve the biological diversity of the region and conserve the future of threatened bird species in their natural environments.
Chief Wildlife Warden Shekhar Kumar Niraj told The New Indian Express: Now that Kazhuveli has been declared as a bird sanctuary, 10 km from its boundary by default will be the Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) which can further be extended depending on the necessity.
The forest officials said the department was exploring the possibility of extending the ESZ up to the Yedayanthittu estuary toward the north-eastern side, which can then stop the fishing harbour project proposed in the estuary.
TNIE in August this year has published a detailed article on how the previous AIADMK government planned to build a modern greenfield fishing harbour with 12,000 tonnes per annum capacity inside the Kaliveli backwaters.
As per the proposal, a navigation channel will be developed in Kaliveli backwaters by clearing the sandar between the waterbody and the sea threatening to displace around 65,000 people, mostly from marginalised communities.
M Yuvan, an active member of the Madras Naturalists Society, told TNIE that Kazhiveli is ecologically contiguous with the Edaiyanthittu bar mouth where it meets the sea. "The commercial harbour proposed here can block the Uppukali creek, destroy the seagrass meadows, oyster reefs and salt marshes here and trigger erosion. This is bound to have a great impact on wetland health and birds. It's important to protect the entire coastal wetland - the barmouth, creek and lake area."