This beautiful pair of birds, male ( white) and female (orange) the Asian Paradise Flycatchers are disconsolate since yesterday morning. Very painstakingly, they had built a nest made out of twigs bound together with spider webs on the edge of a tree bent over a canal coming from the Ambazari lake. They were in a hurry since the breeding season lasts from May to July and it is already past mid May. Being socially monogamous both male and female take part in nest-building, incubation, brooding and feeding of the young.
This beautiful female had just laid 4 eggs in a neat cup nest. Chicks hatch in about 21 to 23 days so they would have been proud parents sometime in the next 15 to 20 days.
Their dream came crashing down when a JCB being driven by a migrant youth from M.P. cut down the very branch on which their nest lay in the name of ‘cleaning out and broadening the said canal’. The simple youth, who has no clue about birds and their nesting patterns or ways of the forest and wild life, said he was told to “cut out low lying branches of all trees that hang over the water canal and clean it up!” I was briefed, he says ” to cut branches and not cut down entire trees and also clean the overgrowth at the bottom”.
This would have ensured that the trees themselves would have come crashing down – if not sometime soon, as soon as the rains began and remaining roots came lose by the canal edge, say Bird watchers who throng the area almost every morning, specially in May and June. Calling themselves ‘ Birds of Vidarbha’ on their facebook page they are a group of dedicated ‘birders’ who armed with professional cameras and bottles of drinking water they are to be found at the Ambazari backwaters most mornings.
Yesterday, just as they were leaving, one of them, Anirudha Bhagat, heard a noise and the tell tale signs of a big tree branch come crashing down. He at once alerted the others and they turned back only to find a huge JCB machine systematically aiming to cut down the very branches on which they had seen the elusive Paradise flycatcher’s nests just a few days ago. Unfortunately, they were too late to save this couple’s nest from coming down. For the next 2-3 hours that they spent there trying to understand what was happening they saw the grief stricken pair flying desperately overhead and crying out as they tried to locate their destroyed nest and eggs.
They were horrified to learn that the Forest Department itself had commissioned this work and they got a hint that it was part of the ambitious ‘Biodiversity park’ that is a pet project of the Nagpur C.M. Devendra Fadnavis.
“These are the nooks and corners of a forest where birds – migratory birds who have come here as ‘guests’ from as far as China to Sri Lanka, lay their nests. The location protects their eggs from predators and the undergrowth near the water offers up a lot of insects which become food for the ravenously hungry chicks after they are hatched. Everything is very well orchestrated by nature – the time the eggs hatch is the very time that light rains begin; there is plenty of ‘food’ in the air then and climate is clement for young ones.” Say the bird lovers we meet today. They stayed late yesterday to call up RFO Patil who then spoke with the Chief Conservator of Forest T.S.K. Reddy who immediately had the felling stopped.
It was during this interaction that they learnt that the area could very well come under the proposed park project which envisages many walk ways, artificially laid gardens and ornamental small water bodies to be built in the area. A park with walk ways? You immediately imagine a crowd of ‘tourists’ with their plastic bags of chips and snacks, plastic bottles of cold drink and water, loudly ringing mobile phones and lots of chatter. It is anyone’s guess that shy birds will start avoiding this natural ‘habitat’ of theirs as soon as the scenario changes and the secluded area begins seeing a lot of human traffic.
Anyone with any sense of preserving wild life and natural terrains will know this is a recipe for disaster.
The Ambazari backwaters that stretch all the way from behind Amraoti road till Hinga road, MIDC and the north-west Ambazari lake border has amazing biodiversity of flora and fauna. It is not densely forested, but has a good mix of shrubs and trees of various breeds that attracts over 150 species of birds, as counted and documented by Nagpur Bird watchers’ groups. It is also home to deer, peacocks, wild boar etc.
According to one bird watcher Vishal Chinchane,” it is a Home for all Resident Birds and Ambajhari backwaters is a place where all Migratary Birds take halt, rest while travel in migration period.like we have seen there, 1) The blue throated blue flycatcher, 2) Forest wagtail, 3) Paradise Flycatcher, 4) Common Teal, 5) Indian Pitta, 6) Ultramarine Flycatcher, 7) Red breasted flycatcher, 8) Indian Blackbird, 9) Blue capped rock thrush, 10) Grey Bushchat, Verditer flycatcher, OHB, CSE, oriental white eye, fantail, canary flycatcher, woodpeckers and Many more….”
Botanists and experts who have studied species of trees in and around Nagpur report that it is home to many trees and shrubs with medicinal properties. To quote from a study commissioned by the Department of Botany Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University conducted by Researchers Rupesh Maurya and Nitin Dongarwar –
‘In the present study, medicinal uses of some tree species used by local people of Nagpur District and most of the medicinal uses recorded of each tree species. The preference is given to drug prepared from fresh plants collected from forest, most preparations are used internally or applied externally in the form of infusion, decoction, paste or powder. Information on 64 tree species belonging to 57 genera, represented by 32 families were collected (Table 1). Family-wise analysis revealed that Fabaceae is dominant family with 5 species followed by Caesalpiniaceae, Mimosaceae, Moraceae, with 4 species each. Ancardiaceae, Apocynaceae, Combretaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Meliaceae, Rubiaceae, with 3 species each and Annonaceae, Bombacaceae, Bignoniaceae, Myrtaceae, Rutaceae, Sterculiaceae, with 2 species each. Burseraceae, Cochlospermaceae, Ebenaceae, Flindersiaceae, Lecythidaceae, Malvaceae, Moringaceae, Nyctanthaceae, Punicaceae, Rhamnaceae, Santalaceae, Simaroubaceae, Sapindaceae, Verbenceae with single species each. ‘
It may surprise many Doctors also to learn that these species are known as cures for ailments like -The various diseases treated include asthma, wound, Stomachic, small-pox, sore-throat, heart diseases, cough, vomiting, fever, diarrhoea, snakebite, jaundice, headache, diabetes, malaria,piles, ulcer, blood-disease, leucoderma and inflammation etc.
Not many common Nagpurians may know about this, but there are many nature lovers who visit this place, often bringing their foreign guests who have heard about this Bird paradise and are enthusiastic about seeing it. Some families come here on holidays with their children for picnic and for creating awareness about bird-watching and appreciating unspoiled wooded areas. Earlier, such areas could be found inside Nagpur – like the VNIT campus, or PKV farms or even a small wooded area behind the Vidhan Sabha bhawan in Civil Lines but in the name of urbanization and development they have disappeared quickly.
The Gorewada area along Katol road is already seeing ‘development’ and tourist traffic in the name of the Night Safari.
“Leave at least this area, untouched and pristine please” say Wild life and Nature enthusiasts of Nagpur.
Birds from all over Asia have chosen this area to migrate to and breed. Please do not destroy their habitat!
As it is, the CM did not make a very happy beginning for the preservation of this area by repealing RRZ policies and allowing MIDC industries to continue expanding and disposing their waste in the Ambazari backwaters/ Nag Nadi canals.
Even this morning, the said canal that had trees on its borders being pruned had water flowing in it that had a toxic smell and was frothing. We saw cows, buffaloes and other milch animals wading in it and drinking water from it.
Bird lovers also fear that the area may become the ‘target’ for planting of external varieties of trees, chosen for their hardy nature and fast growth by agencies like Nagpur Metro who will uproot many trees along their metro line and will have to plant thousands of trees as ‘compensation’. They will plant them in this area, thus disturbing the natural selection process of nature and disturbing the present eco system.
There are signs of many trees having been planted here already, most of which do not seem to have survived.
This author tried her best but could not get Mr. Reddy on phone to comment on these developments.
Mr. Patil, RFO was more forthcoming and agreed that orders had been given to prune trees for the sake of “biodiversity” and the canal also had to be cleaned up.
Nagpur Today also learnt that the said park, an ambitious project of the CM is to be built with the active co operation of Art of Living and Shri Ravishankar.
After defying the National Green Tribunal’s orders on paying penalty for damaging the Yamuna river side catchment area recently in Delhi, is this foundation being ‘gifted’ away this unspoiled forest of Nagpur?
Will this move really lead to Art of Living or Art of Dying for our Avian friends and guests?
By Sunita Mudliar
Pic By Aniruddha Bhagat