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Sanctuary in the lowland plains

SHAILAJA ROBERT GRUBH

On February 2, World Wetlands Day, we take a look at the District of Ponds and all it has to offer.


KANYAKUMARI

Kanya Kumari District is referred to as the "District of Ponds". The lowland plains that form about two thirds of the total area of the district is dotted with freshwater wetlands known as kulam (ponds) and eri (lake). According to the Gazetteer of the Kanyakumari district a total of about 2,058 ponds have been listed in a survey conducted by the PWD in 1989. The major freshwater wetlands of this district include Suchindram, Parakkai, Theroor, Manikaputheri, Thathiar, Vembanoor, Chungankadai, Putheri, Thazhaikudi and Manavalkurchi.

Apart from the socio-economic benefits , these tropical freshwater wetlands support diverse groups of flora and fauna and attain special significance because of their location on the Central Asian Flyway of migratory waterbirds. Situated as it is at the tail end of this flyway, these wetlands are among the southern most wintering grounds for migratory ducks and shorebirds that breed in Northern Asia and migrate thousands of miles in autumn to milder climates in the south.

Suchindram Kulam, one of the major perennial lakes of this region lies between Nagercoil and Kanyakumari on the National Highway No. 47. This pond has a large variety of aquatic vegetation like water lilies, lotus, floating hearts, pistia and other water plants. A few tall trees and other bushes have formed an island at the centre, which gives refuge and is a resting place for number of birds like the white cattle egrets, black cormorants, darters, purple moorhen, and bronze-winged Jacanas. There are also painted stork and huge pelicans. I once saw 47 grey pelicans in the Putheri lake. The lesser pied kingfisher hovers over the water and catches fish, rarely missing. The Brahminy kite is a common sight but marsh harrier is seen only occasionally.

Other prominent water birds include the dabchick, the grey heron, the purple heron, the chestnut bittern, the open bill stork, the cotton teal, the whiskered and the little tern, the black winged stilt, the greenshank, the little ringed plover and the common sandpiper. These wetlands are among the finest tropical freshwater wetlands of the world, but one needs to take sometime off and look into them to see and enjoy nature.

We hope that on "World Wetlands Day" our Government will declare the Kumari district as a wetland and develop Suchindram bird sanctuary and Theroor wetland complex into a waterbird sanctuary.

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