The Centre has notified one km area as Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) around Southern India's Melaselvanoor- Keelaselvanoor Bird Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu, the biggest home to various migratory and endangered winged birds, prohibiting activities such as mining and tourism that is hazardous for fragile eco-system of the wetland. At least 16,000 birds belonging to 45 species flock the region every year.
"The move to declare one km 'shock-absorber' aims to ensure scientific conservation around the wetland which witness a variety of migratory bird species arriving from different countries for feeding and nesting purpose particularly during winter season. At least 16,000 birds belonging to 45 species have been listed in the region," said an official from the Union Environment Ministry about the notification.
He said that envisaging successful management measures will attract more breeding species and wintering species to enhance the diversity which in turn will attract more tourists, birdwatchers and students.
Basically, the Melaselvanoor - Keelaselvanoor Bird Sanctuary, located near Sayalkudi in Ramanathapuram district, is an irrigation tank that is used for storing water for agriculture recharged by the northeast monsoons from October till January and the tank remains completely dry from March to August. As the Sanctuary is basically an irrigation tank, there is no natural forest within it.
Following notification, all activities in the ESZ shall henceforth be governed by the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and carefully regulated.
The sanctuary is one of the preferred nesting sites for heronry species and colonial birds migrating to South India. The feathered visitors flock the sanctuary from October to February. The wetland is irregular in depth and retains water for 3 to 5 months, if rain is normal.
Winged birds like pelican, painted stork, eurasian spoon bill, white ibis, darter, flamingo and water birds viz, common coot, pin tail, garganey, egrets, cormorants, black winged stilt, kingfisher, common myna, brahminy kite, spotted owlet important bird species found in the Sanctuary includes, white ibis, black ibis, open-billed stork, egrets, mynas, teals, ducks, darters, herons, pelicans, etc are regular visitor to the region.
Spread over 593 hactres, the Sanctuary is home to faunal species also which include Indian grey mongoose, Indian palm squirrel, jackal, Indian flying fox, black-naped hare and bandicoot rat, etc while rare species are great cormorant, purple heron, yellow bittern, chestnut bittrem, black bittern, comb duck, northern shoveller, common teal and pied crested cuckoo among others.
The sanctuary is surrounded by three villages having a total population of about 6000 people.
Following the notification, the State Government has been asked to prepare zonal master plan within a period of two years, in consultation with the local people. It shall regulate development in Eco-sensitive Zone and adhere to prohibited, regulated activities listed in table and also ensure and promote eco-friendly development for livelihood security of local communities, said the official.