As a part of the Madras Day celebrations, a nature walk was held at the Pallikaranai marsh by Madras Naturalists’ Society. We were asked to assemble at the Pallikaranai Forest range office by 6:30 AM in the morning. So, after a long time I got to see the sunrise
Pallikaranai marshland is a wetland and a water body that is located in South Chennai. It is one of the few wetlands that still exists in the city and currently it covers 1500 acres of land. Pallikaranai marsh is one of the prioritized wetlands in India and a part of it is a protected reserve forest. It’s hard to believe that the number of bird species here is more than the neighboring Vedanthangal bird sanctuary! Certain areas of this Pallikaranai Marsh have been marked as Bird Watching areas (Google maps link).
There are more than hundred species of birds that can be spotted here. They include the resident birds as well as migratory birds (from other parts of India and the world). Some bird species commonly found here include Koots, Duck, Kingfisher, Lapwing, Pelican, Heron/Egret, Stork, Moorhen, Grebe, etc. Some birdwatching enthusiasts came along with us and they brought their spotting scopes and binoculars with them. Spotting scopes are like small telescopes/large binoculars which can zoom-in to a particular area for clear viewing. In addition to birds, there are (40+) species of fishes, (10+) species of amphibians and (29+) species of grass.
Pallikaranai marshland or wetland has been at the receiving end due to the development of the city. What used to be 80 square KM of pristine water body is not even one-eighth of that size now! The residential colonies and commercial spaces of OMR (Rajiv Gandhi Salai) – IT Highway (and elsewhere) occupied the marsh very quickly. The Chennai Corporation is using a part of the marshland to dump all its waste and the problem has become more complex due to the lack of source segregation. Burning the dumped waste materials has chocked many birds and humans. A few industries and businesses have been releasing toxic waste and sewage directly into the marsh.
- It minimizes the damages due to floods by draining excess flood water from other water bodies
- It acts as a natural water storage reservoir
- It replenishes and increases the ground water table of the entire region
- It prevents coastal erosion
- It minimizes the damage caused by cyclones and tidal waves
- It is host to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including many endangered species
- It contributes to the socio-economic activities of the region
After years of damage caused due to increased human activity (not just Government activity), the Government has finally done something good by handing over a part of the marshland to the forest department and making it a reserve forest. Earlier, the waste dump used to touch the Pallavaram-OMR road (I have seen it) but now there is a wall and the dump has gone back a bit. It’s really difficult to see migratory birds near a waste dump. It seems they have designated certain bird watching areas and are planning to construct a pathway (with a spotting scope) to see birds more clearly and an information center for public to learn more about the birds. Let us hope these things will happen fast and the marshland is no more home to waste dumps and new IT parks.
Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pallikaranai_wetland ;