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| Last Updated:: 18/04/2015

Enriching an ecosystem


The southernmost wintering ground of the migratory birds in the country comprising a host of wetlands in Suchindrum, Theroor and Manakudi estuary in Kanyakumari district has been declared as a conservation reserve for the purpose of protecting landscapes, flora and fauna and their habitat.


After consulting the local communities, primarily panchayats in Agastheeswaram taluk in Kanyakumari district, the State Forest Department has notified the wetlands, the habitat of over 90 species of birds and a variety of fish.


The southern tip of the peninsula where the Western Ghats terminates is a spectacular geography of undulating highlands and lowland plains studded with small and large tropical wetlands and an estuary system, all interconnected within a 50-km radius.


Originally, the Forest Department was looking to declare it as a sanctuary, but has now declared it as a conservation reserve as there are people all around the wetlands. The objective is to involve the community in improving ecology and the biodiversity, say forest officials. A profitable offshoot could be tourism potential, they add.


Management plan

While Forest officials at the headquarters in Chennai say that the Kanyakumari Collector has been asked to prepare a management plan for the reserve, ornithologist Robert B Grubh, a former principal scientist of Bombay Natural History Society, has already submitted a plan to the Kanyakumari District Forest Officer (DFO).


Like other eco-systems that are turning fragile by the minute, this conservation reserve has its own set of unique challenges. “The encroachments keep happening on the upper side of the wetlands during dry seasons. During rainy season, this area is topped with soil. The main pond in Suchindrum is heavily encroached,” says Mr. Grubh.


When Rajendra Ratnoo was the Collector, he held a meeting with the farmers associations, which demanded that the wetlands be declared a sanctuary like in Kunthakulam in neighbouring Tirunelveli district, but no headway was made, say officials.


Another trouble in the wetland is lotus cultivation. “While there is a ban on lotus cultivation by courts, the locals are into its cultivation big time,” says the ornithologist.


As the locals are operating with the knowledge of PWD officials, the entire ponds are covered with lotuses. Consequently, the birds and the fish are deprived of their space in the eco-system, he says. To add to the woes, crackers are being used to chase away the birds.


The declaration of the wetlands as conservation reserve and bringing it under the Wildlife Protection Act (1972) will give forest officials an opportunity to protect this unique ecosystem.