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Manipal Birds Relocated After Felling of Trees

Manipal is surrounded by various habitats such as coastal, marshland, laterite, and scrub which provide a home for several species of birds. However, construction and development have imposed a direct threat to the wildlife in this region. The parts of National Highway 169 that pass through Manipal, have been undergoing construction to widen the roads. On the evening of 5th November, the trees near Tiger Circle were cut down for this purpose, and the birds residing in them were dislocated.

Forest officials were quick to rescue the displaced birds and shifted them near Manipal Lake. Members of the Manipal Birders’ Club were informed of this and took up the task of tending to them. One of the forest officials worked with the Birders’ Club to carry out the rescue efforts. Approximately fifty birds were saved from the tree that was cut down. Few of the birds that were shifted to the new facility near Manipal Lake already had flight feathers. Thus, these birds were left to their own means. The other twenty, who were small and required ministrations, had to be cared for and were fed fish three to four times a day. The Birders’ Club had also arranged cages to protect the birds from predators. Daily updates on the fledgelings were carried out by active members of the club.

The rescued birds, known as the Indian Cormorant, are resident birds that don’t undertake migrations. They are mostly found along the inland waters of the country. In Manipal, they change their location depending on the availability of food and nesting sites. During the day they dive into the lake and water channels for food, and during the night they roost in their colonies.

Birds relocated near Manipal Lake

The forest department had informed The National Highway Authorities of India (NHAI) about the rehabilitation measures that would be required for the younglings. However, the NHAI officials did not notify the forest officials before cutting down the Banayan trees.  The forest officials have requested the NHAI officials to thoroughly check the trees before cutting them down for any further construction work. “Those who reside in the Udupi-Manipal region should work for the well-being of this small urban wildlife before it becomes a thing of past. We can all try to create awareness of the wildlife residing near us, their existence, and make others aware of native plants and trees which these birds and animals call home,” commented Muhammad Nihal, a member of the Birders’ Club.

This incident in Manipal is not a stand-alone situation. Construction and road development have had a detrimental effect on flora and fauna all over the country. According to a report by DownToEarth, 161 wild animals were killed in road and rail accidents in 2018. The construction of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Railway (MAHSR) could potentially affect 177 species of resident and migratory birds in the region. A hydropower project in Arunachal Pradesh, which if the proposal is passed, would adversely affect about 680 species of birds many of whom are threatened, endemic, or endangered.

The government has requested the NHAI to avoid building highways through ecologically sensitive areas such as wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, unless absolutely unavoidable. The  Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has declared in a circular to the NHAI, National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL), and the Border Roads Organisation that all necessary clearances should be obtained before constructing highways through such areas. Although there is still damage being done to the environment, active efforts are being made to protect wildlife, and a balance is being struck between development and environmental preservation.

Image Credits: Abhishek Mayya

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