Waterbirds

 
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Wetland area symbol © Sumit Sen
Waterbird Habitats of India
 

Introduction

Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world and their functions include flood control, aquifer recharge, nutrient absorption, and erosion control. A great variety of species depend on wetlands. Most of these wetlands are essentially natural ecosystems stabilized over the years, and have retained their natural characteristics. However, years of uncontrolled encroachment have degraded many wetlands. It is calculated that since 1990 nearly half of the world’s wetlands have been destroyed. In India, it is estimated that only 58 million ha of wetlands remain and many have been degraded requiring restoration. In an ideal situation, it would be most appropriate to maintain natural process to restore degraded wetlands, however, that may often not be allowed to happen due to continuing pressures on the resources. In such case, planned restoration is an useful tool to protect, improve, increase wetlands and return them to their natural state thus ensuring continuing environmental health.

The predominant wetland types in India include flood plains of major rivers, estuaries, saline expanses, freshwater lakes, backwaters, mangroves, tanks, marshes, swamps, jheels, beels, terai, and man-made water bodies like reservoirs. These wetlands are under threat due to encroachment, silting, weed infestation, pollution, and indiscriminate development of aquaculture. The combined threat of these factors has given rise to problems such as decrease in biological diversity, deterioration of water quality, sedimentation and shrinkage in area. It has also led to decrease in migratory bird populations, fish and other faunal productivity and prolific growth of invasive aquatic weeds.

Of the 1230 bird species found in India, around 23% are totally wetland dependent. Fulfilling the food and habitat requirements of these waterbirds is one of the most important functions performed by wetlands as it helps to maintain biodiversity globally. Protection and conservation of major wetlands, critically important to waterfowl on their traditional migratory flyways, is an urgent need. Unfortunately, many important wetlands are threatened, and waterbirds are under pressure from increasing human population, socio-economic activities, and man-induced adverse natural phenomena. In the circumstances, it is important to see that the wetland habitats of various waterbirds are properly conserved through scientific management. Sound management of such habitats is only possible by using available information on existing habitat components.

Waterbodies

Eastern India
 
Santragachi, Howrah, WB
  Purbasthali, Burdwan, WB
  Chittaranjan, Burdwan, WB
  Salt Lake, Kolkata
  Sunderbans, 24 Parganas, WB
  West Bengal Coast
  Ahiron Lake, Murshidabad, WB
  Bhagirathi River, Burdwan/Nadia, WB
  Mangalajodi,
Chilka, Orissa

Northern India
 
Bharatpur ~ Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Rajasthan
 
Sultanpur ~ Sultanpur Lake National Park, Haryana
  Chambal ~ National Chambal Sanctuary, Uttar Pradesh
  Harike ~ Harike Lake, Punjab
  Bhindawas ~ Bhindawas Bird Sanctuary, Haryana

Western India
 
Sewri Bay, Mumbai

Sumit K Sen
Kolkata, India

   
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