Apredator with a permanent perch bang in the middle of the Bird Valley Park at Shahunagar in Chinchwad, and rampant commercialisation are shooing away the winged natives as well as keeping migratory birds away from this habitat.
This valley used to be home to black and white storks, grey herons, egrets, water hens, flamingos, painted storks and kingfishers — each species flocking here in thousands till three years ago.
Also spotted here were crows, sparrows, parrots, pigeons, cuckoos and kites. Today, you can barely see 10 crows here in a day and the migratory birds that used to flock here between October and January were missing in the last season, noted environmentalists.
They blame this irregular phenomenon on the concrete 30-feet-wide wingspan model of an eagle erected right in the middle of the rocky outcrop. The Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) spent Rs 2.30 crore in 2009 to create the park driven by commerce. Far from resembling a natural habitat for birds, it has now become a bustling tourist spot. And at a price.
The garden department of PCMC constructed jogging tracks, bird watching facilities, propped up models of parrots and an owl on the bamboo gates, and created an artificial beach spread out over 3,500 square metres. The eagle was the last straw.
Vikas Patil, environmental activist and a member of the State Government’s Paryavaran Sanvardhan Samiti, who has been studying the natural habitat of birds around the city said, “This is an example of how a project should not be and how unaware we are about preserving the environment despite spending crores of rupees.
The eagle is used as a ‘bird scarer’ device in agricultural lands abroad to save the crops from birds. It is ironical that we must have the same for decorative purposes in a place designated for conservation of birds.”
“Once it was decided that this was to be a bird valley, there was no need to turn it into a place for entertainment,” he said, calling attention to the skating rink, an amphitheatre and high-voltage lights around the lake which affect the bird habitat.
“Due to the blazing 24-hour lighting, the birds cannot build their nests around the lake. As boating is encouraged in the lake, the birds do not get natural foods like fish and frogs,” said Patil.
Wildlife researcher Deepak Sawant, who also works with Patil said, “There are 35 species of birds that flock to this valley. Four years ago, when I started my research here I saw 16 painted storks perched on the rock that now has the eagle on it.
Also, the entire lake was full of cormorant. I even spotted some grey herons here. In total, I spotted at least a thousand birds in the area. The bushes surrounding the lake also housed the birds’ eggs and nests.
Sagar Charan, a local bird watcher, said, “Three years ago the place was full of migratory birds. But since the renovation, everything has vanished. There are no indigenous trees around the lake either. One would be lucky to spot a few crows on an odd day.”
When questioned about this phenomenon, Dattatrey Gaikwad, PCMC’s garden superintendent, said, “We are not aware why the eagle was erected. It was the decision of the environment committee.
We only followed what we were told to do.” Sanjay Kulkarni, executive engineer, who heads PCMC’s environment cell, said, “These are just rumours. I do not care what activists and other people have to say. I have sometimes seen a bird wandering around the model of the eagle. The high voltage lights are important for security and lack of space has prevented us from planting trees.”
► There was no need to turn it into a place for entertainment. Due to the blazing 24-hour lighting, the birds cannot build their nests around the lake
- Vikas Patil, Environmental Activist