Perungulam Reservoir, a place migratory birds call home- The New Indian Express
Express news service
THOOTHUKUDI: With the advancement of humans crowding out countless animals and birds from their habitats every year, the scenes from Perungulam Reservoir in Thoothukudi are always a welcome anomaly. Having water year round, the reservoir is a key feeding site for migrating birds and is home to a huge population of birds and animals. With full knowledge of how “development” tickles the human imagination, wildlife enthusiasts and local residents have urged the government to take action to secure the Biodiversity Heritage Site (BHS) beacon for the Perungulam Reservoir.
This tank is the last of a chain of 16 tanks in the East Thamirabarani Canal. It is crossed by the Ucham Parambu mound, which is home to various native trees and thorny bushes. The reservoir, spread over 900 acres of land, is bordered by the panchayat of Perungulam town to the east and Sivagalai to the west. Although it is fed by the historic Thamirabarani River, the Perungulam Reservoir receives rains during the southwest and northeast monsoons. Bird watchers and those helping to prepare for the bird census say more than 5,000 birds visit the reservoir each year.
“Unlike other reservoirs, Perungulam welcomes winged visitors throughout the year. Most birds arrive when the reservoir’s water is shallow during the summer and the pre-monsoon seasons for feeding and roosting. Other reservoirs usually dry up during these seasons, ”says Thomas Mathibalan, president of Pearlcity Nature Trust and an ornithologist who counts birds during every wetland bird census.
Additionally, the reservoir has the Sivaite Thiruvazhutheeswarar Temple at its northeast corner and the adjacent Vaishnavite Maya Koothar Perumal Temple, both over 1,000 years old. However, the intersection of high-voltage towers docking with power lines crossing the reservoir worries residents and bird watchers alike.
Manickam, a history professor from Sivagalai told TNIE that the towers were installed on the Ucham Parambu, which sits at the edge of the current archaeological site, during the Covid-19-induced lockdown despite strong opposition. “Authorities should provide adequate resting places for migratory birds to ensure that they do not collide with power lines and other man-made structures,” he added.
Noting that migratory birds have flown to Perungulam Reservoir from various parts of the world for many centuries, Sivagalai Farmers Association President Keela Kaspa, Arunachalam, urged governments to protect the site.
Senior research associate at Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Mathivanan said that among wetland bird species regularly seen in the reservoir, at least 56% reside and breed in the district. “Previous bird census data strongly suggests that the Perungulam Reservoir has a high degree of avifauna diversity. The reservoir also has rich aquatic flora that attracts wild birds, marsh birds and odonata. Biodiversity heritage should be sought for the Perungulam Reservoir as it qualifies in three of the nine criteria for identifying “Wetlands of International Importance” in accordance with the Ramsar Convention, ”he said.
The number speaks
54 wetland bird species from 42 genera and 19 families are found in Perungulam Reservoir, according to a Tamirabarani Waterbirds Count (TWC) analysis conducted by Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment between 2011 and 2019.
Six bird species classified as “Near Threatened” in the IUCN Red List category – spotted pelican, darter, painted stork, oriental white ibis, black-tailed godwit and river tern – regularly visit the reservoir. and make up about 11 percent of the bird population here. The biodiversity of the reservoir is also home to protected species such as the black ibis, which is a restricted biome species (BRS), and the Eurasian spoonbill which is mentioned in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.