An open letter to the Uttar Pradesh CM3 min read . Updated: 29 Jan 2016, 12:59 AM IST
Bahar Dutt writes to Akhilesh Yadav about flats for sale on habitat of Sarus cranes in Gautam Buddha Nagar
Subject: Flats for sale on habitat of Sarus cranes in Gautam Buddha Nagar
Dear Akhilesh Yadav,
First of all I must congratulate you on your efforts to showcase the biodiversity of Uttar Pradesh by organizing the recently concluded Chambal Bird Festival. I am told that you were personally present at the event hosted by your government and it was indeed a grand success. Such efforts not only help boost tourism, but also inculcate pride in species found locally, motivating communities to participate in conservation. Thanks to you, Chambal, which was once famous for its dacoits, will now be renowned for this unique bird festival that showcases the rich avian fauna of the state.
Uttar Pradesh has more than 500 species of birds—almost half of the total species in the country. It also boasts a mosaic of wetlands spread throughout the state that constitute one of the best habitats for the world’s tallest bird—the Sarus crane. I am also aware of the fact that your ancestral village in Saifai is home to one of the largest congregations of the Sarus, so you will appreciate the matter better. Yadavji, there are two wetlands close to Greater Noida that urgently need your attention.
These two wetlands are spread over Dhanauri Khurd, Amipur Bangar and Thasrana villages in the Dankaur area of Gautam Buddha Nagar district in Uttar Pradesh. The area is under water and has remained so through many years, as can be seen on Google Earth and in maps by the Indian Space Research Organisation. Avid bird watcher Anand Arya, who first stumbled upon this place by accident, says he was astounded by the sheer number of Sarus cranes found in the area, besides other species. Subsequently as many as 102 Sarus cranes were recorded in these two wetlands by a group of bird watchers in November 2014. The wetlands are also home to over 2,000 waterfowl—ducks, geese, herons, egrets, cormorants and waders—besides over 130 species of birds of prey, passerine and non-passerine bird species. The sheer diversity of bird life here is unparalleled, and must be preserved and celebrated. It was in fact Arya who took the matter to the National Green Tribunal; in March 2015 the court ordered that the state of Uttar Pradesh must declare its wetlands within a span of three months so that such areas are preserved for posterity.
The reason I am writing this letter to you is that the Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority has earmarked this site for residential purposes under its Master Plan 2031 and its earth-moving machines are already in the vicinity. The whole area of these two wetlands (where Sarus cranes feed, roost and breed, and which is home to thousands of water fowl and other birds) is now up for grabs.
Yadavji, after the recent flooding in Chennai, you will appreciate that wetlands are a vital part of the hydrological cycle, are highly productive, and provide a wide range of ecosystem services such as waste assimilation, water purification, flood mitigation, erosion control, groundwater recharge, microclimate regulation and aesthetic enhancement of the landscape.
Already thanks to rampant construction, the Dadri wetland in Greater Noida, which hosted over one million migratory birds, does not have a single bird; even the Okhla Bird Sanctuary gets fewer birds. These two new wetlands, which are a haven for birdlife and other wildlife, should not meet the same fate. Think of what a tragedy it will be not just for the birds, but for all the people who may live in flats built on the wetlands, making them vulnerable to floods.
So here’s hoping you will step in, in your capacity as chief minister, and as one of the few politicians who has a background in environmental sciences and understands why conserving wetlands is important, to avert this tragedy. Apartments can be built anywhere, but wetlands cannot be recreated. If your government takes the initiative and declares it as a wetland, the area has immense tourism potential; it will also recharge groundwater. Yadavji, the state bird of Uttar Pradesh needs your help, and you alone can set an example by conserving this unique bird and its home.
Bahar Dutt is a conservation biologist and author of Green wars: Dispatches from a Vanishing world.