Notorious Chambal ravines to host India’s biggest bird festival


Lucknow: The image of the Chambal ravines in Uttar Pradesh, so far portrayed the world over as the backyard of horse-mounted and gun-wielding dacoits, is set to turn a new leaf this December as the the rat-a-tat of bullets, as seen in many Bollywood flicks is set to be replaced by the soothing chirps of birds of various hues.

This, as the ravines are set to be host to over 75 domestic and international wildlife experts, photographers and eminent bird watchers between December 4-6 at the country’s first Bird Festival. Sources told IANS that the event of this magnitude has never been held in India before and has been conceived on the lines of the British Bird Fair held in England every year in the third week of August.

Organizers say that from now on, this event would be an annual affair and after the inaugural edition at the Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary, would next year be hosted in the Terai region, which is rich in bio-diversity with Katrania Ghat, Dudhwa National Park and other wetlands and water bodies that are home to hundreds of bird species.

Ram Pratap Singh, a member of the Uttar Pradesh tourism and wildlife boards, said that the state was home to more than 500 species of birds – almost half the country’s total – and hence was ideal for hosting such an event.

“The idea behind the event is two pronged – first is to sensitize people of the rich bio-diversity in the state and second to popularize bird watching tourism which has picked up in a big way across the globe,” Ram Pratap Singh told IANS.

Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has confirmed his participation in the high-profile event, which he will inaugurate and release a book, “Birds of UP”, principal secretary (Information) Navneet Sehgal told IANS, adding that the chief minister had also asked his department, along with the forest department, to extensively publicize the do so that people are bonded to wildlife.

Other than the experts, around 100 schoolchildren from nearby institutions in Agra, Etawah, Firozabad, Mainpuri and Shikohabad would attend the event every day and take part in debates, art competitions and other event-related activities.

“The idea is to expose young minds to wildlife conservation and inculcate love and passion for bird watching,” an organizer informed.

The experts, among them Tim Inskipp, Carol Inskipp, Pamela Rasmussen, Tim Appleton, Per Alstrom, Bano Haralu, Paul Donald, Gopi Sundar, Jackie Garner and Pete Marshall, would stay at the National Chambal Sanctuary in specially pitched tents for three days.

“This is a large enterprise and has received an overwhelming response from wildlife enthusiasts,” Nikhil Devasar, an advisor to the event, told IANS, adding that air tickets for experts from across the globe have been booked.

There will be talks by prominent ornithologist from around the globe. Workshops by professional photographers and art shows by renowned artists, as also a bird ringing station.

Early mornings would be for birdwatching in the nearby forest or boat safaris on the Chambal river followed by talks and workshops during the day.

It has also been proposed that as the event kick-starts, district magistrates and district forest officers (DFOs) across the state hold bird-watching camps at which footffalls of 15,000 to 20,000 are expected.

“The idea is to spread the goodwill and interest for bird watching,” Ram Pratap Singh mused.

Happy bird watching!

(Mohit Dubey, IANS)