When we think of a rejuvenated lake, what picture comes to your mind?
Clean water with slow ripples on its surface, birds wading in the water while some fly and glide over the surface, mounds of earth positioned in the middle of the water body where a huge tree has taken roots with many birds perched upon it calmly, a lake path going around the lake where people are jogging and maybe few children playing in the garden, and embankments which are nothing but properly laid stones contained within thick net on the lake shore.
Now, what if you were told that this picture is not as ideal and nature-friendly as you think it is? By nature-friendly, I am referring to a part of the large nature section, the birds.
Let us look at two critical ways in which we can study the relationship between birds and lake rejuvenation.
Lake paths and birds
Lake paths were not originally built for joggers for their early morning runs. Contrary to the popular imagination, the path that contours the whole lake was built for a different purpose – for security reasons.
To put it more precisely, back in 1996, it was set up by the forest department to fight land encroachment where security personnel could walk around and keep an eye on unwanted activities. Every inch of land costs a bucket and therefore it is all the more necessary to conduct strict vigilance.
But you might be thinking, even so, the joggers’ path is quite harmless. Well, the birds of our Bengaluru lakes have been adapting to changing living circumstances, noise pollution levels and battling other factors. But it cannot be denied that birds require quite and peace. Nevertheless, with regard to the birds, the paths are not half as bad as the embankments built around the lake.
Understanding the lake shore’s slope margin
Often overlooked and mostly unknown to the layman, birds have certain specifications when it comes to foraging for food in the lakes. They require a certain slop margin of the lake shore which makes it easier for them to get into the lakes.
The sloping of the lake shore should be gradual, soft and muddy in order for our avian friends to get into the waters. When we set up steep embankments around the lake shore, the soft muddy area vanishes and there is no ease of access for shallow water birds to the water. In a natural setting, the water gets deeper as you approach more into the lake’s middle region while the sides are shallow and apt for the birds to stand.
Before we had the sluice gates, the land around the water body would be soft and could be understood as wetland where the water from the lakes gradually joined the land, and not immediately as is the current case with the making of embankments. The wetland offers excellent food for the birds in the form of snakes, frogs, fish, insects and what not. With the coming of embankments, the wetlands are no more to be found as the water is contained within stone strictures marking and lining the outline of the water body.
The steep stony embankments are therefore extremely bird unfriendly. It might not seem like an immediate discomfort to the wildlife, but the right slope margin is a covert yet crucial need of the winged ones.
What does this tell us?
Rejuvenating lakes cannot be done in any manner or just for namesake. Sometimes, when things are done in the right way, we do more harm than good. It is important that we also focus on the “how” rather than the “what” always.
Join us on our journey Wake the Lake project where we strive to learn more about our Bengaluru lake ecology and further revive the dying ones.
We gratefully acknowledge the various inputs and insights provided by Dr. MB Krishna towards the formulation of this article. He is an ecologist, ornithologist and a lake conservationist.