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Popularity turns a bane for Kukkarahalli lake

R. Krishna Kumar

Human-induced disturbance affects birds


  • Spread over 58 hectares, the lake harboured nearly 200 species of birds
  • At least 10,000 to 15,000 used to be found during winter, the number has come down to 2,000
  • 31 species of birds used to breed in the lake but they have not been found
  • Construction of bund has disturbed ecosystem



    WHERE HAVE THE BIRDS GONE? The picturesque Kukkarahalli lake in Mysore has witnessed a decline in the number of birds . — PHOTO: M.A. Sriram

    MYSORE: The growing popularity of Kukkarahalli lake among morning walkers and the increase in human-induced disturbance has affected the bird population of the lake whose numbers has seen a steep decline in recent times.

    Reckoned to be a jewel in the crown of Mysore, the picturesque lake, which inspired poet laureate Kuvempu to pen many of his works, provides the much-needed lung-space to the city.

    The lake was on the verge of eutrophication, but pressure from environmentalists goaded the University of Mysore to take up conservation work. The work was taken up two years ago with funding from the Asian Development Bank.

    The lake is spread over 58 hectares with a shoreline of roughly five kilometres and harboured nearly 200 species of birds. It was common to find at least 10,000 to 15,000 of them at any given point of time during winter when a large number of migratory birds used to come and roost in the lake. But it is no longer the case and it is difficult to count even 2,000 birds at any given point of time, according to naturalists.

    What has disturbed the ecosystem is the construction of a bund that hugs the shoreline like a ribbon and cuts across from the western bank to the eastern portion to facilitate the public to take a walk, said D. Rajkumar, a naturalist from the city.

    Mr. Rajkumar pointed out that the geophysical composition of the lakeshore was badly damaged and the depth of the lakebed was altered. As a result, there are no more wading birds, which prefer shallow depth and these birds have migrated to other water bodies, he added.

    A survey carried out by him points to a steady drop in the bird population and it is unlikely that the birds will return as the fragile habitat that supports such species has been disturbed during conservation work. In the meantime, the number of people who visit the Kukkarahalli Lake has increased.

    Mr. Rajkumar pointed out that 31 species of birds used to breed in the lake but they have not been found since the lake became popular among the public. "The only birds which are breeding are those in the bird islands which are relatively isolated and free from human presence. This year only 80 pairs of spotbilled pelicans were seen in the lake, which is a perfect breeding ground for species such as cormorant, painted storks, pelicans, open billed storks, spoon bills and night herons and darters, that used to breed in succession. But the breeding pattern has been disturbed and many of these birds have not been observed during the recent census, he added.

    Of the nearly 180 birds recorded during a survey conducted in 2001, it is reckoned that there are only 103 species in the lake today but their number is declining.

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