At the beginning of winter, migratory birds usually flock to Jahangirnagar University (JU) after travelling thousands of miles from Russia, Siberia, Northern Mongolia, a part of Tibet and various parts of China every year. 20 to 25 species of migratory birds spend the winter in six-seven lakes out of 24 lakes on the university campus.
Fewer migratory birds have been seen this year in the lake behind the Transport Area in JU. Photo- Auritro Sattar
Although the severity of winter has increased this year, the number of birds has decreased significantly. No birds were seen anywhere except the lake behind the transport premises and the protected lake inside the Wildlife Rescue Centre (WRC).
Within a few days, the lake behind the transport was also devoid of birds. In other words, there are no birds in any of the university's lakes except the protected silent lake of WRC.
Nature activists and ornithologists say that development activities have reduced the birds' permanent habitats, and the unrestricted use of fireworks-sound systems have made migratory birds feel scared and unsafe, resulting in repulsion to other areas.
Auritro Sattar, a nature activist and wildlife photographer, brought up on campus as his parents are university teachers, opines to the Financial Express with sincere regret, "Migratory birds have been coming here for decades. However this year, drastic low activities of birds were seen inside the campus. Migratory birds such as Common Teal, Garganey and Fulvous Whistling Duck were present from December till the first Week of January in a short number."
Migratory birds in JU. Photo-Auritro Sattar
Acute Noise pollution, night fishing, fireworks and disturbance around the bird habitats are the main reasons he claimed migratory birds fled outside the University.
Kamrul Hasan, Professor of the Zoology Department and prominent Ornithologist of the country, said, "In addition to this campus, Migratory birds usually sit in the lakes of Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute (BLRI), in large water bodies of Manikganj. Birds stay where they feel safe. Except for our wildlife rescue centre, the rest of the lakes are highly disturbed. This is the main reason for the decline of birds on campus."
Professor Hasan observed the movement of birds throughout the season.
"Firstly, the birds were sitting behind the Transport Area. As the passage behind the shop is open, people smoke cigarettes, drink tea and chat there all day long. Being right next to the lake, the birds do not feel safe to sit there. We have expressed concern from the department of Zoology. I have written to the registrar and the estate office to block the passages and to take necessary measures. But any measures were not taken."
On the other hand, regarding Jaypara Lake in front of the Wildlife Rescue Center, Professor Hasan said, "That big lake is completely filled with Water Hyacinth. There is no open water there."
He added, "I have already come to know that there are many birds in the ponds inside the Livestock Research Institute (BLRI) centre. In fact, wherever there is a better alternative, the birds will go there."
About the role of the administration, Professor Hasan said, "The administration is not able to control the visitors in any way. The traffic of the visitors should be strictly controlled after the office hours. It is necessary to put some restrictions in this regard. If any event is to be held, it should be done with proper permission, and where it can be decided."
The lake behind Transport Area used to be visited by migratory birds, but they reverted due to disturbance.
Regarding the unrestricted use of Fanoos (Air Balloon) and fireworks at various events, he said, "Recently, a bad practice of fireworks has developed with the loud sound system playing in various campus programs. Migratory birds usually do not stay in the lakes here at night. But the native birds that we have stay in the trees and bushes at night. It is normal for the birds to get scared and fly away when there is a loud noise in the darkness. The fireworks are to be done in an open place. It is important to define the place of these celebrations."
About the development activities, he said, "The main purpose of the university is academic and research. The infrastructure needed for this purpose must be made. But it needs to have a check and balance. Development activities should be conducted in such a way that least trees are cut. To keep the resident birds, bushes must be protected."
Acute Noise pollution from a huge number of Electric Try-cycle made the birds feel unsafe
Responding to the question of whether the ongoing infrastructure development activities could have any relation with rarefying migratory birds, Professor Hasan said, "Development activities are actually not that much of a problem for the migratory birds. As the lake birds leave the lake earlier in the evening in search of food and for safety and come back in the early morning."
"So the noise and light of the development activities are not disturbing the birds even though they work all night. However, if a place is occupied, if not directly, it definitely has an effect."
High-rise building of BPATC in front of the lakes of WRC, JU
Ornithologist Prof Hasan further said, "JU Zoology Department is trying to monitor the bird's migration area through satellite tagging in the near future."
Renowned wildlife photographer and the chairman of the Department of Zoology, Prof. Dr M. Monirul H. Khan, said, "Migratory birds visited our lakes though the number was not satisfactory. But in the middle of winter, because of the use of fireworks and loud sound system in several programs, the birds may have got scared. Since there are still birds in the protected lake of the Wildlife Rescue Center, it can be said that it is due to disturbance."
Regarding development activities, Mr Khan said, "Habitat reduction has an adverse effect. But development activities cannot be related to the arrival and departure of birds. Disturbance at night seems to be the key to me."
Dr Kamrul Hasan and Dr M. Monirul H. Khan, Professors of the Department of Zoology, JU
In response to the question of why the lake was not cleaned, Abdur Rahman, Deputy Registrar (estate), said, "We could not clean all the lakes due to lack of adequate allocation and manpower. However, we cleaned the lake behind the transport area before the birds arrived. We gave warning banners at important points."
Rahima Kaneez, the contractual registrar of the university, told the media earlier that once the migratory birds leave at the end of this winter, measures will be taken to restore the lakes.
Statistics say that in 1994, more than eight lakh guest birds came to the country. But in 2014, its number decreased to two lakh. In other words, the number of guest birds in the country has decreased by more than six lahks in the last 20 years.