Friday 12 July 2013

Destroying what they seek to protect

Environmentalists, nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts, including wildlife photographers, are generally a vocal bunch and time and again they have made the Government and authorities sit up and take notice of the continued assault on Nature and the damage to ecology and environment.
These people have done and even now are doing yeomen service to mankind by bringing to light and of course to print the many adverse affects that lopsided and short sighted Government policies and decision have on the flora and fauna of a place.
The recent floods in Uttarakhand in north India and the floods that ravaged several parts of Karnataka a few years ago and the floods of Bangalore in 2005 all go to show how Nature can retaliate when we show scant respect to her.
Nature and wildlife enthusiasts and of course wildlife photographers have been in the forefront of several agitations, movements and legal battles to preserve, protect and nurture the fragile environment of  several places in Karnataka, including the remaining patches of green and wet lands in and around Bangalore.
It is due to the tireless efforts of such people, the judiciary and the media that Bangaloreans were made aware of the steady encroachment of lakes and tanks, the disappearance of wildlife from Bangalore and also the areas where some of the most endangered species still continue to live.
Even as we have to appreciate the efforts of the photographers in giving voice to Nature and taking on the establishment, they seem to be oblivious to the damage they themselves are doing to the flora and fauna they seek to protect.
Two such instances would be enough to suffice and the main culprits here are Nature and wildlife photographers and those who want a closer glimpse of the wildlife.
There has been much hue and cry over the drying up of the vast Hesarghatta lake, a manmade reservoir 18 kms north-west of Bangalore.
The lake was built in 1894 across the Arkavathy to meet the drinking water needs of  Bangalore and it was conceived by then Dewan of Mysore State, Sir K. Seshadri Iyer,  and the then Chief Engineer of  Mysore, M. C. Hutchins.
It was meant to store a three-years' water supply to the city. The reservoir last filled up in 1994 and since then it has steadily degraded into a grassland bereft of water. Since July 2009, the lake has bee completely dry.
However, the vast grasslands of the lake provide a perfect home for several species of birds and smaller wildlife, including reptiles like snakes. The rich wildlife has been attracting more and more Nature lovers and wildlife photographers.
With the lake completely drying up, the BWSSB too withdrew security and now any body and every body can visit the dry lake and walk across it. Unfortunately, the lax security has led to more and more photographers and visitors coming to the lake and driving across it in their vehicles, perusing the birds, chasing them all for a “shot”.
Studies have indicated that over the last five years, an increasing and more persistent breed of bird photographers drive on the lake bed chasing these avian creatures. The vehicle chase not only damages the soil and causes soil erosion, it also destroys the grass and burns out the green, leaving patches of car tracks and paths.
The bird watchers and photographers, in their urge to get closer to the birds, chase them from one place to another tiring them out. The same is the case with smaller wildlife that live around the grassland. The grasslands today no longer are inviting to water birds but still a variety of  birds such as eagles, harriers, falcons, kites, bulbuls.  kestrel, flycatchers, quails, magpie robins, egrets, mynas, pipits, coucals, bush chats, Indian peafowl, Sunbirds, cuckoo, wren warblers and larks can be commonly spotted.
It may sound unbelievable but true that the grassland has documented records of sighting more than 2010 water birds belonging to 29 species.
The now extinct lake has also reported sightings of some winter birds such as  Harriers and Spotted Eagles.
Earlier, it was thought that poaching and bird catching are the main dangers in these grasslands but today it is the photographers who are posing the main threat to the habitat.
Another similar threat has been reported from Ramanagar. Located 50 kms from Bangalore this bustling town is known for its rocks  and it is home to many  birds like long-billed vulture, egyptian vulture, yellow-throated bulbul.
The country’s first vulture sanctuary came up in and around the popularly known Sholay rocks covering 346.14 hectares. The sanctuary is actually located in Ramadevara betta where the shooting of the Hindi film Sholay starring Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra, Jaya Bahaduri, Hemamalini, Amjad Khan, Asrani  took place.
Unfortunately, climbers and trekkers apart from photographers and nature lovers climb the rocks and when they spot these vultures and other birds, they move in for a closer peek and a photo. The vultures, cry in alarm and fly away.
Thus, the very people who have brought wildlife closer to our homes are now disturbing the habitat of the very endangered species that they seek to protect.

While there is no need to ban such activities, there is a crying need to exercise self restraint while indulging in wildlife photography, trekking and nature walks so that the flora and fauns are left undisturbed.  

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