At one time 216 species of birds were seen at the ‘Biodiversity Heritage Site’

Less than four years after it was notified as a ‘Biodiversity Heritage Site’, the Ameenpur lake faces a renewed threat from revellers and encroachers. The end of COVID-19 lockdown has seen noisy party animals, groups of drunks, aspiring cricketers turn up on the lake banks to have a good time. The result has been a disaster for the lake with littering and has impacted the bird population in the lake. “It has been turned into an open bar”, “it is now a garbage bin”, “I could not spot any birds except cormorants”, are some of the comments by bird watchers over the past few days.

“It was crowded as well. Not with photographers though but with the neighbourhood boys who were playing cricket. They were making a lot of noise which was keeping the birds away. I did see a lot of plastic on the corners and it was horrible,” says Mohammed Habib, an avid bird photographer after a recent visit to the lake.

The biggest disappointment is for bird watchers and bird photographers who had turned the lake into a regular haunt as the sightings improved after the lake was taken under the wing by now retired IPS officer Tejdeep Kaur Menon. In 2016 the species spotted in and around the lake totalled 211, by 2019, the count went up to 261. The curbing of encroachments too helped as the water level rose in the lake increasing the spread. Now, things are changing rapidly as littering and partying has gone up.

“If you approach the lake from the Aurobindo road. After reaching the lake take a look at it on the place where there are pipes from where the lake water goes to the other side of the road. It is full of plastic. Besides that, lots of alcohol bottles and used masks are scattered everywhere,” says Mr. Habib.

“People are coming in SUVs. They play loud music on their systems and start passing glasses around. We have removed even glass shards from the lake bed before 2015. It is sad that it is being destroyed in a callous way,” says Rajeev Khandelwal, who has documented the faunal diversity of the lake over the past few years.

The crowding in the lake is not limited to weekends or a few hours in the morning or evening but is happening through the day. “We went on a week day at 4.30 p.m. Instead of birds I saw cars and people. Loud music and noisy people,” says Sanjay who reached the lake to photograph clouds. “If the lake has to be protected, cars should not be allowed near it. People should be made to walk to retain its beauty,” suggests Mr. Sanjay.

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