SAFE Green

Wetlands, Nature walk & Birdhouse making


Wetlands:

Gr. Noida is blessed by nature with some beautiful wetlands like Surajpur (a 60 acre-large oasis across Dadri Road dotted by date palm trees and nilgais), Dhanauri (25 acres of lush water, rice fields and sarus crane in Thasrana village) and Hasanpur (at 90 acres, NCR’s largest wetland at Hapur). Unfortunately, these are also falling to anthropological pressures which SAFE has been trying to counter for almost a decade now.

SAFE’s most impressive work has been at the Surajpur Wetland which, till few years back, contained perennial standing water but has now become seasonal. Thanks to a real-estate boom around it, high-rise residential towers now stand on its catchment area, and the patch goes dry in summers. Every May-June, Vikrant and his associates make frequent trips to the Surajpur Wetland and immediately inform the UP Irrigation and Flood Control Dept. to open the Tilpata Canal, when the water level is running low. Standing water is essential to keep the fishes alive. SAFE has also planted over 1,000 saplings of native tree species like banyan, peepal, pilkhan, jamun and sehtusharound Surajpur Wetland. Importantly, SAFE was instrumental in the UP Forest Dept. putting up five boards, that read ‘Nilgaiprone area, drive slow,’ on the adjoining Noida-Gr. Noida Link Expressway in 2018. This was after Vikrant noticed that at least two nilgais (blue bulls) were coming under cars and dying every month while trying to cross over to farmlands from the wetland, and wrote to the Forest Dept.

Another wetland where SAFE has done considerable work is Dhanauri. Being a water-rich area, farmers here prefer to do rice farming, using a lot of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The run-off from this ends up in the wetland. SAFE members have held several meetings with farmers here counseling against this. A major concern here was poaching as Dhanauri annually hosts several domestic and winter migratory birds like the Northern Shoveler, Purple Swamphen, Greylag Geese and Sarus Crane. Often, shootings would take place for bird meat. SAFE wrote to the District Forest Officer (DFO) of the area asking for a guard to be deployed here and the same was granted. SAFE also wrote to the Hapur DFO and got the boating and fishing business at Hasanpur Wetland stopped, for which men would deliberately scare away birds with fireworks. SAFE is also trying to get Hasanpur officially notified under the Wetland Rules (2017).

Nature walk & birdhouse making:

Conservation of nature requires enthusiastic public participation. Scientists, the government or activists alone cannot fix ecological problems without the people realizing its value. Sadly, of late, with forests, lakes and wildlife disappearing from cities, people have totally forgotten what it feels like to be in their presence.

SAFE has started working on this issue with ‘Nature Walks and Birdhouse Making’ sessions. So far, teams of SAFE led by Vikrant Tongad, have conducted 50 nature walks for members of the public at Okhla Bird Sanctuary (Noida), Sultanpur Lake (Gurgaon), Hasanpur Wetland (Hapur) and the three major wetlands of Gr. Noida — Surajpur, Dhanauri and Dadri. Mostly, schools and colleges request for their students to be taken on such tours (examples here being the Grads Int’l School of Gr. Noida and GR Global Academy in Dadri), but often govt. agencies and corporate houses also ask SAFE to hold such trips for their employees.

Besides taking participants around these wetlands and introducing them to the beautiful migratory birds that come to roost here, SAFE makes them do some interesting activities as well. One of these is birdhouse making. Everyone knows how drastically the population of sparrows, also called “gauraiya” in Hindi, has fallen in Delhi-NCR. Once abundant in this region due to the availability of grains (their favourite food), they are hardly to be found anywhere now. The aggressive rock pigeons and glass/metal buildings have also taken away their habitat.

So SAFE has found an artisan, Satish Kumar, who makes perfectly elegant and functional “sparrow boxes” with just straws, jute or coconut fibre, and teaches the same to our nature walk participants. Entire groups sit down to make them at our walks and take away the nests to plant around their house or nearby parks. (Pls see this link: https://youtu.be/hnwKPya1mX8)

They often report seeing sparrows come and live in them within a week of being installed. Participants also report very satisfactory experiences of the walks. Some say they were only aware of the existence of malls and cinema theatres in their cities, but they have opened their eyes to these vast swathes of water with colourful birds and prancing nilgais today.