Winter Avian Aggregation at Santragachi Jheel: An Urban Wetland in West Bengal, India
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India has an estimated 58.2 million hectares of wetlands that are important repositories of aquatic biodiversity. The variety of wetlands in India perfectly matches the diverse eco-climatic regimes of the country. This includes wetland systems ranging from high altitude cold desert wetlands to hot and humid wetlands in coastal zones with its characteristically diverse flora and fauna. Around 15 km away from the center of Kolkata city, West Bengal, lies a 12.77 ha (mean depth 1.5 m) freshwater lake, known as the Santragachi Jheel, in the district of Howrah of West Bengal, India (Lat. 22o 34' 60N Long. 88° 17' 60E; Altitude 8m msl) which has recently attracted the attention of avian migrant watchers India-wide. The Jheel plays an important role as the host of thousands (4000-5000) of migratory water birds as well as many resident species during the colder months of the year (October – March). More than twenty-five bird species colonize this lake during the winter months including the most abundant Lesser Whistling Duck and comparably infrequent Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveller, Gargany, Gadwall, Cotton Pigmy Goose, Common Teal and Baikal Teal. But this urban wetland most recently has been subjected to a wide variety of turbulences that includes incessant anthropogenic activities, improper development and management structures and lack of awareness about the vital role played by this ecosystem. So it was felt important to identify the status of Santragachi Jheel with reference to urbanization and various anthropogenic interventions to formulate suitable conservation, restoration and management strategies for this unique wetland with its magnificent avian repository.
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