Stop destruction of Bird habitat sign now

As nature enthusiasts and concerned civil society members, we are anguished by the news of trees being felled in Vaagaikulam tank near Alwarkurichi, Tirunelveli district (The Hindu, national news, dated 2-10-11). As reported in the news article, the tank supports over hundred species of birds including the near threatened Spot Billed Pelican and Glossy Ibis. Many other migrant water birds like the Gull Billed Tern, Osprey, Western Marsh harrier, Common and Spotted sandpipers, etc are also found here during the winter months. The water from this tank is also used extensively for irrigation in the adjacent paddy fields.

The Acacia nilotica trees planted under the Social Forestry scheme of the forest department inside the tank provide critical nesting and roosting sites for the local non migrant birds such as Night Heron, Little, Cattle and Median egrets, Little and Large cormorants, Indian shag, Darter and several other species. The number of roosting birds goes into thousands in the evenings when they fly from large distance to roost in the trees. This roosting and nesting site has been supporting the birds for about 10 years. In 2008, this tank was identified to have potential for being protected as a bird conservation reserve by researchers and local farmers after a survey of over 175 tanks. A proposal was made to the Forest Department by Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), a Bangalore based NGO, actively working in environmental issues in the landscape of Tirunelveli and Tuticorin district. This proposal was endorsed by the locals and discussions were tabled for converting it to a conservation reserve with the trees in the tank left intact. When the tank was identified, the contractor had already felled 70 percent of the trees. Now, the remaining 30 percent of trees numbering just over 200 trees are in danger of facing the axe. The contractor has been seeking permission for removal repeatedly and the Forest Department, after denying permission has conceded to his request recently. It appears that there is local political pressure to cut the trees.

Armed with the permission from the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests himself, the contractor began cutting trees in this tank on 1 Oct 2011 and chopped off seven trees before locals intervened. The Tahsildhar, Revenue officer, Village Administrative officer arrived at the spot and with pressure from the villagers, asked to stop felling of trees until the upcoming Panchayat Elections were over. In spite of this, the contractor and his men set fire to the area to burn the undergrowth which burnt over five live trees, snakes, bird nests with eggs and possibly other creatures.

We sincerely condemn this move of permitting tree felling by the forest department as it is a myopic and misguided decision. Water birds and water bodies are to be protected and can be done so under the provisions Ramsar Convention 1971 and Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. We vehemently urge you to revoke the permission granted to cut the trees in Vaagaikulam tank and instead of facilitating the destruction of habitats by actionswhich are bereft of any conscious validation, we urge you to concentrate your forces in protecting such tanks as Bird conservation reserves on similar lines of Tiruppadaimarathur.



Encls,
News reports on Vaagaikulam Tank
http://www.hindu.com/2009/01/14/stories/2009011451110200.htm
http://www.governancenow.com/gov-next/green-gov/forest-dept-refuses-permission-corpn-cut-down-trees
http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-tamilnadu/article1022318.ece
http://www.dinamalar.com/district_main.asp?id=293#297757
http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/article2510816.ece
Information on Tiruppadaimarathur Conservation Reserve
http://www.forests.tn.nic.in/WildBiodiversity/cr_tcr.html

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Allie BergBy:
Nature and EnvironmentIn:
Petition target:
Hon'ble CM of Tamil Nadu, Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (General and Wildlife) of Tamil Nadu, Conservator of Forests of Tirunelveli, District Collectorate of Tirunelveli

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