Yenkathala grasslands in Vikarabad may get Biodiversity Heritage Site tag

Like other open habitats, this avian haven also faces the threat of being converted for agriculture, solar power generation, or other projects that are more valued.
An Indian eagle-owl spotted in Yenkathala grasslands | BY ARRANGEMENT
An Indian eagle-owl spotted in Yenkathala grasslands | BY ARRANGEMENT

HYDERABAD : The Yenkathala grasslands in Vikarabad district — home to a variety of bird species and an important destination for migratory birds — are in contention for the Biodiversity Heritage Site (BHS) tag.

According to Shilpi Sharma, director of the Telangana Biodiversity Board (TBB), if the BHS tag is awarded to the grasslands, it would mean that the site will be protected by Biodiversity Management Committees (BMCs), as per Section 41(1) of the Biological Diversity Act of 2002. “It is like declaring forests as reserved forests,” she added. As per the Act, unique and ecologically fragile ecosystems that have rich biodiversity of wild and domesticated species and high endemism can be considered for the tag. Sharma stressed that the site must have clear boundaries to be taken into consideration.

The Ameenpur lake in Sangareddy district, declared as a BHS in 2016, is the first water body in the country to get the tag and the first site to be approved in an urban area.

In Yenkathala, one can spot native species such as the Indian Spotted Eagle, and Woolly-necked Stork. Mammals like the four-horned antelope, Indian Fox and Golden Jackal have also been seen here.

Sriram Reddy, a member of Hyderabad Birding Pals, said that 35-40 migratory species visit Yenkathala in winter for roosting. Birds like the Pallid Harrier, Western Marsh Harrier, and a satellite-tracked Montagu’s Harrier have all been spotted in these grasslands for their winter sojourn.

A State of India’s Birds (SoIB) report, published in 2023, said that populations of these harriers have witnessed significant declines in their Eurasian breeding range.

Similarly, in India, the Pallid Harrier has seen over 70% decline, the report added.

Like other open habitats, this avian haven also faces the threat of being converted for agriculture, solar power generation, or other projects that are more valued.

Sriram Reddy said, “Most of these birds are now extinct from the Telangana region. One or two birds were reported in Rollapadu grasslands in Kurnool.” He stressed that Yenkathala is one of the few remaining grasslands, saying: “Destruction of their habitat could lead to migratory birds opting for new locations or not returning to the region at all.”

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