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Conservation of Migratory Birds for Wetland and Forest

Apart from the success story Rasikbeel Wetland, we can observe the assured positive externality in the livelihood of locals with the winter migration of Red Crested Pochards at Gajoldoba Wetland of West Bengal.

By Jayveer ValaPublished 2 months ago 4 min read
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Conservation of Migratory Birds for Wetland and Forest

Negative externalities impact migratory birds adversely. Light pollution, for example, affects their winter migration from breeding ground to wintering ground and vice-versa during their return migration.

Light pollution causes disorientation for them when they fly at night, leading to collisions with buildings, interfering with their internal clocks, or with their ability to undertake long-distance migrations. As per the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) and Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Water-birds (AEWA) of the UNEP, artificial light is increasing globally by at least 2 per cent per year and it is known to adversely affect many bird species. The solution is compassionate conservation with the principle of co-existence by dimming the building lights during migration phases in spring and autumn. This will assure sustainable energy consumption and management of natural resource. Light Pollution #WMBD2022 is the theme of UN-backed global World Migratory Bird Day Campaign, for 14 May 2022 to address the impacts of light pollution on migratory birds with the official slogan of "Dim the Lights for Birds at Night".

Rasikbeel Wetland

With the unique representation of sub-Himalayan geography, Rasikbeel Wetland complex of Coochbehar, the largest inland wetland in West Bengal, is an important wintering ground for more than 50 species of migratory birds between November and February every year. Profuse natural regeneration of Water Hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes), the exotic aquatic weed, has been acting as a limiting factor to provide refuge and food for the migratory water birds for last few years. Field research has shown that production of paddy seedlings by the fringe population around the edges of the shallow water depth of the Rasikbeel Wetland is adding run-off chemical pesticide to the wetland and helping in natural regeneration of this harmful weed and other exotic aquatic weeds. With prohibiting the unsustainable practice of paddy seedbed preparation by locals and then cleaning the wetland of the exotic obnoxious Water Hyacinths by involving them have helped in regaining the health of the water body. The Water Hyacinth has been used as a raw material for producing vermicompost. The free water surface is now providing wild paddy, grasses, reeds, water lilies, phytoplanktons etc. for the migratory ducks.

It also increased fish production. Guts of migratory birds carrying fish-seeds may be another reason for the increased fish production. The positive externality goes to the local farmers and fishermen as earning from the wages and selling of fish in the local markets. Bird migration therefore has assured hidden positive externalities for the wetland and forest conservation benefitting our Mother Earth and the humankind

Apart from the success story Rasikbeel Wetland, we can observe the assured positive externality in the livelihood of locals with the winter migration of Red Crested Pochards at Gajoldoba Wetland of West Bengal.

For last few years the Gajoldoba Wetland in the Jalpaiguri District of West Bengal has become a common and regular wintering habitat of many migratory birds. Red-crested Pochards are one of the main attractions for the visitors who flock the region every year for bird watching. The scientific name of this bird is Netta rufina. "Netta' is a Greek word, meaning Duck and 'Rufind is a Latin word, meaning Rufous, Ruddy or Golden-red'. They belong to the order 'Anseriformes' and family 'Anatidae', i.e., the duck family. The male birds have the unmistakable rusty orange broad round head, prominent red bill, black breast, and white wings. Female birds however have their distinctive

'dirty buff plumage with white cheek. By reviewing available literature, we have found an interesting and unique breeding behaviour specific to the Red-crested Pochard. The female birds lay eggs on their own nest but give warmth to the eggs of other nests. The breeding ground of this bird is lowland marshes andlakes ofthesouthern Europe and Central Asian countries.

After completing their breeding cycle they come in their wintering grounds of Indian subcontinent through the migratory route of Central Asian Flyway

(CAF) via staging sites for temporary halt. In the Indian subcontinent they mostly prefer aquatic habitats of the inland wetlands, primarily for refuge and food. They feed on different submerged hydrophytes of the wetland ecosystem by diving and upending. Their presence also indicates a healthy ecosystem for the wetland. Their presence also helps in recognizing a wetland important from the 'Ornithological' perspective.

Gajoldoba wetland of West Bengal with the potential habitat of migratory birds is being converted to an ecotourism hotspot. This also helps in revenue generation and supporting livelihood for the locals and for their income generation. The place got its official name, 'Pakhi Bitan' primarily after the winter migration of Red-crested Pochard and other migratory birds. The wetland can also be developed as a model for sustainable management.

However, immediate actions must be taken to stop unauthorised trespassing of over-enthusiast visitors who have been seen chasing the birds on hired boats for taking photographs. They hire the boats of the local fishermen and intrude into the natural habitat of the birds, violating the ethics of photography of wild birds and animals. This kind of unethical and unregulated practices will compel the migratory birds in shifting their wintering ground. Local people and boatmen should also be sensitised in this aspect so that they refuse and restrict the actions of the tourists and protect the wetland as their responsibility. We should not forget that India is the signatory and flag bearer of the Convention of the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) among the countries of the Central Asian Flyway (CAF). It is our duty to restore and rejuvenate all the wetlands of local and national importance with the objective of protection, conservation, and sustainable management of the habitats of the migratory birds.

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Jayveer Vala

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