Yesterday morning I felt like meeting some waders and ducks, and headed out for a brief birding trip. Only the day before, BULBs had been on a wonderful birding trip to Manchinabele, and so everyone else was taking a break on Sunday. Sangeetha was supposed to join us but had to drop out, so it was just Gayathri and me, and we decided to have a quick birding session at Kommaghatta lake. The lake was famous for its resident skulker, yellow bittern, and a colony of streaked weavers which nested in the reed beds by the lake.
I had been there only twice before – once in June when Sangeetha introduced us to the lake, and soon after in July when Sumit Sen of Kolkatabirds was in town. We had been lucky to spot and photograph the yellow bittern on the first trip. Besides the bittern and weavers (streaked and baya), the reed beds were also host to flocks of black-headed munias and red avadavats. Sangeetha had put together a bird list of this lake consisting of over a 100 species. I had never visited the lake in winter, and was hoping it would be alive with migrant waders at this time of the year.
Imagine our shock at reaching the area only to find the entire lake bed has been drained and dredged up, and the reed beds at the periphery which were buzzing with munias and streaked weavers only a few months back have been completely cleared. Trees around the periphery have been chopped and a few forlorn looking stumps were lying around. I had never dreamt that I would be walking on the lake bed instead of along it. Some of the locals were hanging around, and when asked, the unanimous opinion (we asked several people) was that the lake is being converted into a park and that the work had started at least a month ago. One kid explained that somebody had drowned in the lake and therefore they had to drain it.
The scene was gut-wrenching, especially since I knew what a treasure that lake was. Did not have the heart to walk to the end of the lake, took some pictures of the area, and came back home depressed. Later, friends put me in touch with a reporter from Indian Express who promised to cover the story. This morning, he did, and reported BDA as saying there is “no need to panic” because they are “rejuvenating this lake as part of the lake development programme.” Looks like their definition of rejuvenation means obliterating an entire eco-system in order to create walking paths for people. They want to create “lung space”, but what the people in that area need is toilet space. Even yesterday I saw numerous people relieving themselves on the dry lake bed.
If this wasn’t enough, there are plans to repeat this misguided exercise on 12 + 21 other lakes around the city. And so we have lost yet another vibrant eco-system thanks to our administrators, and stand to lose many more. I wonder who do we have to blame for this state of affairs – those who make these decisions for us, or ourselves for letting this happen to our city, for not being vigilant and demanding that our lakes and green spaces be preserved, for washing our hands off all responsibility by saying we are birders and not conservationists, and lets leave that to the “experts”.
Never been sadder to belong to species homo sapiens.
Images from Kommaghatta lake June ’09:
Vodpod videos no longer available.
And images from 22 Nov ’09: