Urbanisation affects bird habitats
While many ecologists and bird watchers credit Chennai for being conducive to the winged visitors, rampant urbanisation and resultant pollution is putting severe stress on bird habitats in the city, raising the concerns of nature enthusiasts. Unlike several other metropolitan areas, Chennai has many green lung spaces within its city limits that provide food and shelter for a diverse species of birds. Ornithologists have also studied the city and its birds, according to experts, due to the long British history in Madras presidency.
“The British introduced bird watching as a hobby in the country and have excelled in Ornithology compared to many other countries,” says Ranjith Daniels, an ecologist and expert.
The Adyar estuary, the Pallikaranai marshlands, the Guindy National Park, the IIT-Madras campus and the Pulicat lake bird sanctuary are some of the prime areas made home by the winged visitors.
“The Southern parts of Chennai and Northern Chennai beyond Pulicat are conducive for various species of birds unlike the central regions of Chennai that have been under generations of urbanisation,” says Jayashree Vencatesan, Managing Trustee and Biodiversity Expert at Care Earth.
However, most of the above mentioned bird habitats have continuously been under stress from various factors including pollution, real estate development and other aspects of urbanisation. For instance, the Pallikaranai marshlands, a habitat for close to 120 – 130 species of birds, is under incremental stress.
“The presence of a garbage dump yard in its vicinity and rapid mushrooming of real estate and commercial activities in Velachery and Pallikaranai have dealt a blow to sighting of birds,” says KV Sudhakar of Madras Naturalist Society. “However, with the declaration of certain parts of the marshlands as reserved forest, there is hope of revival,” he added.
MRC Nagar, which once used to be a paradise for bird watchers, has witnessed a decline in numbers due to heavy urbanisation. “But the restoration of Adyar Poonga has had a balancing effect by providing a near natural habitat,” says Sudhakar.
Some other experts opine that urbanisation and changing boundaries of the city will provide new natural habitats for birds on the outskirts, away from urbanisation. “Hence it is not scientifically sound to predict a drop in number of birds due to fluctuating habitats,” says Ranjith Daniels.
According to him, while there has been a huge debate about the disappearance of house sparrows triggered by urbanisation, people have failed to notice the increase in numbers of another bird species.
“The pigeons have been increasingly found, especially in places with high rise buildings, apartments and offices as they are able to live and adapt to these high concrete structures. This is only a displacement of one species by another which is common phenomenon in ecology. The house sparrows have only been displaced to the periphery,” he said.