Can a nuclear power plant be a bird sanctuary ?

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Can a nuclear power plant be a bird sanctuary ? Our little efforts to preserve our nature……

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Powering the future with environment programme Under the ESP, a nature club at each NPCIL site has been setup and named after a threatened bird of that area. Members of these clubs actively organize and participate in various activities from nature watch to public awareness campaigns, butterfly surveys to bird marathons, habitat improvement to nature conservation

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The entire study was conducted in three phases, from the year 2008 to 2010, almost same season every year (January 28 in 2008, and January 21 in 2009 and 2010) to collect representative and reliable data. Study of wetlands and other habitats Areas as per the laid-down procedure Census of birds as per the norms

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Introduction NPCIL has launched its Environment Stewardship Programme (ESP) in 2006, a voluntary initiative, with a mission to preserve the environment, particularly the environs of its nuclear plant sites. The programme, which is beyond the regulatory and statutory fulfillments, focuses on the scientific studies on bio-diversity, improvement of habitat and conservation of nature within and around the exclusion zones of Indian Nuclear Power Plants.

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A report on capacity building workshop on scientific methods for bird monitoring and habitat management

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The workshop A capacity building workshop on scientific methods for bird monitoring and habitat management for the members of Neithal Nature Club and trainees of MAPS has been organised during August 29 to 30, 2013 at Environment Survey Laboratory (ESL) in Kalpakkam. This two-days programme was organised in association with Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) as a part of NPCIL's Environment Stewardship Prgoramme (ESP) with an idea to train the members of nature club and NPCIL trainees in bird monitoring and habitat management.

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NPCIL is really very active in environment conservation. The studies carried out under ESP are very useful in nature conservation. Particularly the study results of wetlands and waterbirds in and around MAPS and KKNPP helped to know the status of wetlands and the waterbirds. For instance, the study of wetlands near KKNPP revealed that the Common Coot (a waterbird), which once found only in northern India, was distributed widely, almost at all waterbodies, in the southern part of the country. Another good example for the efforts made by NPCIL for environment is KKNPP site. Kudankulam once considered a rain shadow region is now a place which has lush environment. NPCIL in association with professional agencies developed the greenbelt which is home to several species. This workshop will be very useful for conservation and to develop more volunteers. Because, we need more and more volunteers who can help conserve the environment. - Dr. Balachandran, Dy. Director, Bombay Natural History Society

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Kaiga Generating Station (KGS) has been organizing Kaiga Bird Marathon, an annual birding event since 2011 under the aegis of the environmental stewardship program of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited with the aim of identifying bird species around Kaiga Generating Stations and Kaiga Township. Kaiga Bird Marathon – 2014 Kaiga – Mallapur 14th January 2014

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This year “Kaiga Bird Marathon-2014” was organized on 12th January 2014. Bird watchers and birding enthusiasts, one hundred and twelve in number, from Hubli, Bangalore, Udupi, Manipal, Hospet, Sirsi, Calicut and Mumbai participated in the event. Professional birders from North Karnataka Birders Network (NKBN), Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Coastal Karnataka Birders Network (CKBN) and students from College of Forestry, Sirsi also took part in the event apart from nature enthusiasts working in NPCIL head quarters and Stations (Kaiga Generating station, Koodankulam Atomic Power station, Tarapur Atomic Power Station, Kakrapar Atomic power stations and Kalpakkam Atomic Power Station).

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The area in and around Kaiga was divided into eight transects. Each team had to travel through their allotted transect of 6-7 Km and record all aquatic, wetland, grassland, raptors and passerine birds sighted by them. All the data collected by these teams has been compiled and analyzed by the organizers. The total number of bird species identified in this region has increased to 227 species with the identification of 14 more species this year. This year’s bird marathon alone has identified 180 species of birds as compared to 162 species identified last year. This year during Kaiga Bird Marathon, the 14 new species which have been identified include Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus), Eurasian collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto), Common rose finch (Carpodacus erythrinus), Rufous tailed lark (Ammomanes phoenicura), Black napped monarch (Hypothymis azurea)

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Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), under its Environment Stewardship Programme (ESP), has been carrying out several environment conservation activities in collaboration with Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and other NGOs. Monitoring of wetlands, forests, and other habitats and its development are part of the programme. Several scientific studies on biodiversity, particularly avifauna, are being done regularly under this unique initiative by NPCIL. Survey of Important Bird Areas and Census of Birds

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Head count method of counting for birds was adopted when the number of birds was small. Other methods like simple count method, call count, territory mapping, visual observation and sampling techniques were used to estimate when the birds were in greater numbers. In general, the census of wetland birds was carried out as per the AWC norms. A list of potential threats to wetlands was prepared in advance and each threat was assessed. Threats other than the listed ones were also considered and evaluated. Besides, GPS data was collected for each site the team visited, including routing to get accurate co-ordinates of the sites and tracks. A high-quality digital photography camera, with telephoto and wide-angle lenses, was used to carry out photography.

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The sanctuary is located about 86 km south of Chennai city and 10 km south of Karikili Bird Sanctaury in Madurantakam Taluk. It is an Important Bird Area (IBA) along with its sister site Vedanthangal. It comprises two rain-fed non-perennial irrigation tanks owned by the State Government’s Public Works Department. M O N I T O R I N G A N D C O N S E R VAT I O N Karikili Bird Sanctuary Co-ordinates: 12?36’04” N 79? 50’ 50” E Survey Count Year 2008 2009 2010 Total Count 6250 200 150

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Karikili Bird Sanctuary is a protected wetland of 61.21 hectares (about 151.26 acres). Being a protected site, there is hardly any visible threat to the site but we suspect the possibility of some grazing, especially during the dry period when the tank is either dry or has very low water levels. The tanks have growth of Barringtonia hortenisis and Acacia nilotica. We observed some construction work being carried out to reinforce the western-side bund with stonework when we visited the site in January 2008. The work was completed when we visited the sanctuary again in 2009.

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Several species of birds, particularly Spot-billed Pelican, Large Cormorant, Median Egret, Cattle Egret, Pond Heron, Night Heron, Painted Stork, Asian Openbill etc., have been reported to be nesting at this site (Subramanya S. 2005). It has been possible due to the protected nature of the wetland and availability of adequate food. In the year 2008, the rains in the month of March provided enough water level in Karikili and Vedanthangal bird sanctuaries, leading to a second cycle of breeding of some species, viz., Large Cormorant and Oriental Darter (P. Oppili, 2008). Karikili Bird Sanctuaries

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In the year 2008, we observed about 6000 to 6500 birds belonging to over 40 species. We observed 80 individuals of Spot-billed Pelicans at the sanctuary. It was reported by Mr. Murugan, stationed at the sanctuary, that the population of Black-crowned Night-heron has been increasing steadily. But, when we visited the site a year after, i.e., in 2009 winter, we were quite a bit shaken to observe that only about 200 birds of 12 species were seen. Even in the next winter (2010) we witnessed only about 150 birds. One of the major reasons for the discarding of the site could be the low water level in the tank due to less rainfall. Karikili and Vedanthangal bird sanctuaries, leading to a second cycle of breeding of some species

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Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary in Madurantagam Taluk of Kancheepuram District is about 82 km southwest of Chennai and can be reached by the National Highway No. 45. It is about 48 km inland from the Bay of Bengal. It is a rain-fed seasonal wetland that also receives water from the overflow of the nearest lakes. Vedanthangal bird sanctuary is a small, but one of the oldest sanctuaries in the country. Like many other places, the success story of the Vedanthangal bird sanctuary began with the local villagers protecting the sanctuary for centuries. In fact, the villagers proposed to the authorities to provide protection to the area in the year Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary Co-ordinates: 12?32’80” N 79? 51’ 17” E Survey Count Year 2008 2009 2010 Survey Count 25000 27000 25300

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List of threatened species: Painted Stork – NT Spot-billed Pelican– NT Oriental Darter – NT Area-wise, Vedanthangal is a very small sanctuary – just about 30 hectares or about 72 acres, but a large number of birds are attracted towards it, making it one of the thickly-populated sanctuaries. Being a protected wetland, it does not face many of the threats that other unprotected wetlands face in the area, like hunting, encroachment, dumping of garbage, etc. Two sides of the wetland are protected by a bund, but the other two sides are open and make the sanctuary vulnerable to unauthorised entry of humans and the cattle grazing. A large amount of bird droppings, rich in phosphorous, in the small area of tank make its water turbid and convert it into liquid guano.

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The author is thankful to the management of NPCIL for conceptualizing, launching and supporting the ESP programme, and to late Shri. A.I. Siddiqui who initiated the ESP activities and took great personal interest in it. He also partly participated in the study. The author is deeply thankful to the nature club members of MAPS, to the field experts of BNHS and to the members of the sanctuaries for their untiring support. Acknowledgements

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Thank you Can a nuclear power plant be a bird sanctuary? Yes!!