Bird sanctuary & its importance

Rahul Asem *

  Swampy Grassland at Thinungei , Manipur : as seen on 8th August 2018
Swampy Grassland at the Bird Sanctuary Thinungei, Manipur on 8th August 2018 :: Pix - R.K. Birjit Singh

Sanctuary plays an important part in conservation promotion. The projected upcoming Thinungei Bird sanctuary is a positive move and pleasant longing for all nature lovers. Assuring first bird sanctuary for tomorrow requires resources today.

Sanctuary protects the surrounding environment and bestows benefits in different ways. The Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) 1972, defined sanctuary as a protected area conserved for the biological diversity, ecological balance and sustainable development. Rights of the people are given in accordance to the wellbeing of wild animals or birds.

Any person has no rights to destroy, exploit or killed any species from the sanctuary area. Besides, habitats damage, hunting/ poaching (in case of vermin species) or removing of any species from the sanctuary is permissible except under and in accordance with a permit granted by the Chief Wildlife Warden.

In fact, sanctuary preserves the species, local and traveling ones that are endangered of extinction, or else wise very rare. The sanctuary area is mainly declared for the purpose of protecting, propagating and developing its surrounding environment.

The proposed wildlife sanctuary for bird ‘Thinungei bird sanctuary” is the first to be established in the State. The sanctuary is located at Bishnupur district, on the western border of Loktak Lake, the only freshwater lake in the whole North eastern states.

The sanctuary area comprises of swampy, floating biomass (Phumdi) and open water body. Recently, critically endangered bird species, yellow breasted bunting (Emberiza aureola) was discovered from the projected bird sanctuary area. The bird is believed to be last sighted long back during the British colonial rule. With the size of a common sparrow, the bird in local dialect is called Lam-Sendrang by the Meitei community.

Interestingly, the appearance appears to a complex set of factors like fragmentation, climate variability and changes and other natural phenomenon. Therefore, collective conservation actions are the only option to recover bunting populations in the State. Besides, other migratory birds like Nganu thangong (Ruddy shelduck), Lam kanga (Greylag goose), Kangsel (Bar headed goose) etc are seen during the winter months of the year.

In addition, the sanctuary area has significant ecological, floral (Lairenchak, Wainuchara) and great aesthetic value including ecological tourism, bird watching etc. Scientifically, the conservation and preservation of Thinungei bird sanctuary ecosystem will provide provisioning (food, water and fishery), regulating (climate regulation and carbon sequestration) and supporting (nutrient cycles and crop pollination) in the long term.

It also benefits the cultural (recreational benefits, tourism) for local, national and international significance. At present, nature based ecological tourism is one of the important tool for employment generation, poverty alleviation and sustainable human development.

Moreover, there are many reasons for establishing the Thinungei bird sanctuary. The existence of yellow breasted bunting is one good example for declaring the area as a bird sanctuary. Taking corrective action with higher awareness among the general public is the need of time for effective management of bird’s population.

The sanctuary area is good ground for feeding, breeding and nesting for avifaunal biological diversity. As an example, the famous Mt. Abu (Rajasthan) is one of the Important Bird Areas due to the presence of globally threatened bird, Green Munia (Amandava Formosa) found only in this area. In some cases, government creates a sanctuary for the purpose of protecting danger and endangered bird species within a limited territorial range.

Other reason is that when some bird (local or migratory) becomes vulnerable to area specific threat, including illegal hunting, disturbance or development in habitats. Fundamentally, birds are known as biological indicators for studying different variety of environmental issues and problems. They help in controlling population of different insects and pests.

Sometimes, the flying species also play the role of scavengers and pollinating agents. It helps in dispersal of seeds of different vegetations. Besides, birds are of great economic importance to the human society. Local landscapes are mainly defined by knowing the structure of the bird community of that particular region.

Generally, most people have a negative attitude towards the projected sanctuary and its conservation policies because they believed that their livelihoods were in threat because of the sanctuary and its policies. The majority expressed discontent with the restrictions imposed by authorities on access to sanctuary resources.

Meanwhile, people depend on natural resources for meeting their daily subsistence needs. They also survive on fishing and livestock production which are basically dependent on the surrounding environment.

The cultivation of livestock not only affects the forages but also water availability especially during the dry seasons of the year. The truth is, nearby communities share the resources with wild species hence putting immense pressure on the ecosystem services and the natural resources providing them.

In fact, Local communities who live in the close vicinity will face both direct (depletion of ecological system goods) and indirect (climate change and variability) impact of degradation of surrounding resources. The loss of ecosystem services (economic value loss with ecosystem service loss) definitely affects the life of the people. In reality, these are the people who use (and know) the surrounding environment in a more direct way.

Environmental awareness programmes are the right time to establish the Thinungei bird sanctuary at the earliest. The concerned department had served the notice of setting up of bird sanctuary on the ground that western border of Loktak pat is the most important site for migratory bird. The same is falls under the Asian Migratory Flyway of Bird. Besides, the freshwater pat, Loktak is under Ramsar site of International importance.

As long as humans continue to mishandle and exploit the wild species including avifaunal diversity, introduction of sanctuaries is needed. It is also essential to educate those around us about the importance of the plants, animals and birds with which we co-exist. Adequate knowledge about objectives of the biological diversity conservation and protected areas is the only means for protecting the avifaunal populations in the State.

* Rahul Asem wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at benthhook(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on June 25, 2019.

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