Is Point Cal­imere Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary safe for mi­gra­tory birds?

The pH and salin­ity of the waters ex­ceeded per­mis­si­ble lim­its for eco­log­i­cally sen­si­tive zones

The Hindu - - SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY - Aswathi Pacha

wa­ter qual­ity at the Point Cal­imere Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary might be un­safe for avi­fauna to feed and breed, notes a study that ex­am­ined dif­fer­ent pol­lu­tion in­di­ca­tors in wa­ter. Re­searchers from Bharathi­dasan Univer­sity, Tiruchi­rap­palli com­pared their re­sults with the Cen­tral Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board (CPCB) and the United States En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (USEPA) stan­dards to reach this con­clu­sion.

The wildlife sanc­tu­ary lo­cated in Na­ga­p­at­ti­nam dis­trict of Tamil Nadu spreads across an area of 30 sq.km and com­prises sandy coastal, saline swamps and thorn scrub forests around the back­wa­ter. Though it is a pro­tected area and a Ram­sar site, chem­i­cal com­pa­nies and small-scale shrimp farms around the wet­land have started to pose a threat to the bio­di­ver­sity and ecosys­tem of the sanc­tu­ary.

A to­tal of five sam­pling sites in the sanc­tu­ary were cho­sen for the study. Tem­per­a­ture of the at­mos­phere and wa­ter, and wa­ter qual­ity anal­y­sis were car­ried out dur­ing the peak bird breed­ing sea­son.

At­mo­spheric tem­per­a­ture at a few sta­tions ex­ceeded 36The 40 de­grees Cel­sius. “This can af­fect the egg al­bu­men dur­ing the pre-in­cu­ba­tion pe­riod, thereby pro­vid­ing bet­ter growth con­di­tions for harm­ful micro­organ­isms in the eggs,” says the re­port pub­lished in

Bul­letin. Ma­rine Pol­lu­tion

The pH and salin­ity of the waters also ex­ceeded the per­mis­si­ble lim­its for eco­log­i­cally sen­si­tive zones. Pre­vi­ous stud­ies have shown that high acidic or high al­ka­line wa­ter can af­fect the metabolic and de­vel­op­men­tal ac­tiv­i­ties of wild an­i­mals and birds.

“There are many salt pans near the sanc­tu­ary. This could be in­creas­ing the salin­ity. The chem­i­cal com­pa­nies are also let­ting out un­treated ef­flu­ents into the waters. All this can have a de­te­ri­o­rat­ing ef­fect on the ecol­ogy,” ex­plains Ra­jen­dran Viji, re­search scholar at the univer­sity and first au­thor of the pa­per. “Pre­vi­ously we used to see thou­sands of mi­gra­tory birds, now the num­bers have gone down to a few hun­dreds. The birds are start­ing to avoid the sanc­tu­ary.”

Mi­cro­bial in­di­ca­tors such as co­l­iform bac­te­ria were also found to be very high at all the five sites. The fae­cal waste of the birds con­tains a high level of mi­cro­bial load be­sides ni­tro­gen, and this can sig­nif­i­cantly al­ter the nu­tri­ents in the wa­ter. Pre­vi­ous stud­ies have shown that drink­ing the con­tam­i­nated wa­ter can lead to de­for­mi­ties in birds. Co­l­iform in­fec­tions in the birds have also been re­ported to cause a change in their nat­u­ral be­hav­iour and even af­fect their long dis­tance mi­gra­tion.

“There are also high chances for the preva­lence of antibiotic re­sis­tance among the co­l­iform bac­te­ria and we are plan­ning to do more in­ves­ti­ga­tion on this,” says Lt. Dr. Shrinithivi­hahshini N.D, from the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment at Bharathi­dasan Univer­sity and coau­thor of the pa­per. “Strict en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions should be im­posed and salt pan and other aqua­cul­ture prac­tices around the sanc­tu­ary should be pro­hib­ited. Eco-tourism is also caus­ing dis­tur­bances in this area.”

M. MOOR­THY ■

Warm­ing up: At­mo­spheric tem­per­a­ture at a few sta­tions ex­ceeded 36-40 de­grees Cel­sius. This can af­fect the egg al­bu­men dur­ing the pre-in­cu­ba­tion pe­riod.

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