What makes the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary unique?

A mosaic of lakes and islands of mangroves, evergreen scrub and thorn forest, the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary is spread over 30 hectares. Located 75 km away from Tamil Nadu’s capital Chennai, it is considered the oldest water bird sanctuary in the country. In addition to the fish in the lakes, paddy fields nearby too feed some of the bird species.

Every year, between November and June, several migratory birds, including some from as far as Europe, visit the sanctuary. Each season, at least 20,000 birds visit the sanctuary, only to usually leave in far greater numbers, accompanied by their offspring at the end of the season. However, monsoon failure in the region does affect the number of avian visitors. For instance, in 2013 and 2014, their numbers dwindled to just a few thousands after a disappointing monsoon. But, following a good monsoon in 2015, the number of birds increased drastically to several thousands.

The sanctuary hosts resident and migratory birds such as painted stork, Asian open bill, Eurasian spoonbill, glossy ibis, black-crowned night heron, Indian pond heron, grey heron, spot-billed pelican, little cormorant, great cormorant, oriental darter, black-winged stilt, red-wattled lapwing, pied kingsher, oriental white ibis, spot-billed duck, purple moorhen, coot, garganey, among others.

A considerate village

The sanctuary is named after the village it is located in. in 2018, a news report suggested that the villagers of Vedanthangla, by and large, had not burst firecrackers for close to five decades during Deepavali. And the reason is deeply linked to the birds. This festival of lights invariably falls during the time the birds begin arriving at the sanctuary, say during October or November. The villagers – across age groups – embraced this practice in deference to the birds’ safety. However, 2018 was a year when the lake had almost dried up, and the number of birds at the sanctuary had fallen to just a few hundred as against the usual several thousands. And that year, a few kids did burst firecrackers for Deepvali! Apparently, some of the adults still could not being themselves to, and many prayed for monsoon rains to save the lake and help the birds.

Meanwhile, the threat…

A study from July 2020 discovered the both ground and surface water downstream of a pharmaceuticals factory inside the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary “are polluted with industrial solvents, which can cause adverse health diseases for both humans and birds”. As many as four common industrial solvents used in pharmaceuticals manufacturing were detected in the water samples studied. The findings of the study point to a ground reality that differs from what the State’s pollution control board and the factory have been claiming – that it “is a zero liquid discharge facility”. The study came about around the time the Forest Department had proposed to “denotify the outer 2 km of the core zone of the bird sanctuary”. That proposal, allegedly aimed at helping the offending pharma company, caused collective outrage among people from several walks of life, including environmentalists.


Picture Credit : Google