Najafgarh drain bird sanctuary

Najafgarh drain bird sanctuary

Najafgarh drain bird sanctuary (proposed) and wetland ecosystem is composed of the wetland ecosystem and wildlife habitat existing on several kilometers of the Najafgarh drain or nallah which passes through rural southwest Delhi in India's capital territory including the portion draining the depression or basin area that formed the once famous but now completely drained and disappeared Najafgarh lake or Najafgarh jheel. It becomes a refuge to thousands of migratory waterbirds every winer and winter months are the best time to visit it to see many flocks of wintering waterbirds along its length and breadth. It is currently classified as and features in Protected Forests and RECORDED FORESTS (NOTIFIED FOREST AREAS IN DELHI) as "M. P. Green area Najafgarh Drain (Tagore garden)" and "Afforestation M.P.Green Area Najafgarh Drain (DDA)".[1][2][3]

The wetland ecosystem and wildlife habitat on several kilometers of less polluted Najafgarh drain in rural Delhi before entering the main city including the former Najafgarh lake or Najafgarh jheel area is very important habitat to migratory waterbirds as well as local wildlife and has been earmarked to be declared a Bird sanctuary for Delhi. The area came to be recognized as an important wildlife habitat after a local naturalist studying the area during 1986-87 to 1988-89 called attention to it recommending it to be conserved as a bird sanctuary after which the Delhi wildlife department posted 16 guards in the area to control illegal bird hunters including diplomats from various international embassies located in Delhi, India's capital. Delhi Administration officials were tasked with declaring about 25 km stretch of the drain in rural delhi, including where it passes through the core area of the now drained Najafgarh Lake or jheel, "protected" under the "Wildlife Act" after Lt.-Governor of Delhi Mr. H.L. Kapur was invited to the area for touring the site where he also heard accounts of local villagers about the rampant illegal hunting of waterbirds that went on here every year. The existing staff of the Flood Control and Irrigation Department numbering about 40 were also given the additional responsibility of protecting the wildlife on and around the drain.[4][5][6]

The Najafgarh drain has been much widened over the years to drain all the water which in earlier decades use to collect in the Nagafgarh lake or Jheel basin, this was supposedly done to remove the threat of flooding in Delhi[7][8] and now the drain itself acts as an elongated water body or lake with trees planted on both its embankments with an inspection road running on one embankment. During the winter months it attracts wast quantities of migratory birds and also supports local wildlife yearlong. Due to the rich wildlife observed in and around the less polluted stretch of the drain outside of congested populated areas it has been proposed as a Bird Sanctuary for Delhi.[9][10][11]

The Delhi Tourism and Transport Development Corporation (DTTDC) has proposed the development of a bird sanctuary on the Najafgarh Drain, the sanctuary will cover an area of several kilometers along the Najafgarh drain and has advised to plant a large number of trees [12] on both its embankments to form a thick forest belt. The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH)[13] had been appointed as a consultant for the project.[14] INTACH has been doing macro water harvesting since 1995-1996 and has helped in creating a bird sanctuary on a 11-km stretch of water body that formed the Najafgarh Nallah (Drain). The 51 km-long Najafgarh drain starts at Dhansa and joins the Yamuna river near Wazirabad. 30 kilometers of the drain is in rural Delhi. With the help of the Irrigation and Flood Control Department of the Delhi Government, the drain was de-silted to increase its storage capacity and then using regulators at Kakraula and Dhansa to retain the water. Presently the brackish water is improving with dilution. By retaining the water in the drain, the aquifers and groundwater table have been recharged and there is more water now for irrigation enabling farmers 6 kilometers away from the drain to growing crops. Tube wells in the area have been discharging water copiously and in 2 years the water table is up by a meter.[15][16][17]

A July 2003, Central Pollution Control Board, Ministry of Environment and Forests of India report pointed out:



Delhi Tourism Department, Govt. of India, had identified this site for Chhawla Water World and Ecopark development.[18][19] However, recently the site has been protected for development of Bird Sanctuary. A number of birds have been observed at the upstream location of Najafgarh drain from Chhawla up to Dhansa regulator. The water level is maintained by the Irrigation and Flood Control, Dept. of Delhi Government. Chhawla is located on Bijwasan-Najafgarh Road at about 10 kilometer from Gurgaon NH-8 on Rajokri crossing. Najafgarh drain receives waste water from Mundella Drain joining upstream of Chhawla at Kanganheri. Najafgarh drain originates as Dhansa outfall channel from Dhansa regulator located in Dhansa village in South-West of NCT-Delhi near Gurgaon border. Due to storage of water at Dhansa, the water body is stagnant at off take point. The catchment area of Dhansa Regulator/Bund obtains fresh water from drain coming from Jahazgarh Jheel, Sahibi Nadi and Catchment area lying in Lohat and Mundakhera in Gurgaon. Dhansa outfall channel terminates into Najafgarh Jheel. The catchment area of Najafgarh Jheel spreads in Delhi-Gurgaon border located 1-2 km distance from Jhatikra. Najafgarh Jheel is the largest surface water body in Delhi, spread over in an area of 6 km. This natural depression obtains fresh water from west of ridge, north of Karnal and from the catchment area lying in Gurgaon. Najafgarh channel was dug out from the Najafgarh Jheel during the year 1938 joining to the River Yamuna at downstream of Wazirabad barrage. The water quality of Najafgarh drain up to Chhawla supports wide range of aquatic fauna and flora including birds, fishes etc. The water is used for irrigation by direct pumping into adjacent cultivated lands of wheat, vegetables etc. MCD tube well adjacent to Najafgarh drain is used for drinking purpose by BSF colonies. Up to Kakraula regulator, Najafgarh drain receives several outfalls from sewage treatment plant.

Najafgarh Drain is canalized after Bharat Nagar up to confluence to River Yamuna at Downstream Wazirabad Barrage.

—BIO-MONITORING OF WETLANDS IN WILD LIFE HABITATS OF BIRDS SANCTUARIES IN INDIA - CASE STUDIESANDS, Part-1 Bird sanctuaries, `PARIVESH', July 2003, Central Pollution Control Board, Ministry of Environment and Forests of India[20]


Poachers, Bird-watchers and Bird-counts

During to a large influx of various species of migratory waterfowl and waterbirds every winter the drain has been a popular location for decades for illegal poachers including diplomats from various embassies of different countries in Delhi who come to shoot birds annually with shotguns.

Bird watchers also visit the area now and conduct annual bird-counts.[21]

Najafgarh drain or nallah

The Najafgarh drain or Najafgarh nallah (nallah in Hindi means drain) flowing through Delhi gets its name from the once famous and huge Najafgarh Jheel (lake) near the town of Najafgarh in southwest Delhi and within urbanized Delhi it is the Indian Capital’s most polluted water body due to direct inflow of untreated sewage from surrounding populated areas. A January 2005 report by the Central Pollution Control Board clubs this drain with 13 other highly polluted wetlands under category ‘‘D ’’ for assessing the water quality of wetlands in wildlife habitats.[22][23][24][25][26]

Najafgarh lake, marsh or jheel

Najafgarh lake, Najafgarh marsh or Najafgarh jheel (Jheel in Hindi means a lake) use to be a vast lake in the south west of Delhi in India near the town of Najafgarh from which it takes its name, it was connected to the river Yamuna by a natural shallow nullah or drain called the Najafgarh nullah. However after the 1960s the Flood Control Department of Delhi kept widening the Najafgarh drain in the pretext of saving Delhi from floods and eventually quickly drained the once huge and ecologically rich Najafgarh lake completely. Rainwater accumulating in the Najafgarh lake or jheel basin had been recorded to have occupied more than 300 square kilometers in many years before its unfortunate draining.

However with recent advances in ecological understanding it has become clear that draining of this vast lake affected the entire climate of this important region that is India's capital territory and its neighborhood. The draining of the lake completely also caused the watertable in the entire area to go down and the area becoming arid. There have been some plans since to at least resurrect a much smaller lake in the area. Most of the Najafgarh jheel basin lands have increased many folds in their value owing to them coming within Delhi, India's capital territory and are under ownership of farmers who may want to make a fast buck selling them to developers who want to convert the former lake basin into housing complexes as has already been happening with major housing colonies coming up in the region. If Najafgarh drain, which was built to drain the original Najafgarh lake or jheel, ever breaches its wide embankments it will flood these developed lands owing to them spread all over the former low lying jheel or lake basin.

Pre-draining history: A Vast lake

Before the unfortunate complete draining of this lake in the 1960s by widening of the Najafgarh drain by the Flood control and irrigation department of Delhi the lake in many years filled up a depression more than 300 square kilometers in rural delhi, It had an extremely rich wetland ecosystem forming a refuge for vast quantities of waterbirds and local wildlife. The lake was one of the last habitats of the famed and endangered Siberian Crane which has all but vanished from the Indian subcontinent now. Till before independence many British colonial Officers and dignitaries came in large parties for waterfowl hunting every season.[27][28][29]

Forested embankments

The Najafgarh drain has been much widened over the past decades and now has thick mud embankments on both its sides to channel the waters and protect Delhi from floods, these embankments have been planted with thick forest cover which serve as a much needed habitat for remnant local wildlife occurring in nearby and surrounding farmlands including common foxes, jackals, hares, wild cats, nilgai, porcupines and various reptiles and snakes including the dreaded cobras. Many local birds including waterbirds roost and nest in these trees.

Accessibility: Drivable road on embankment

There is a well kept drivable inspection road maintained by Irrigation and Flood Control Department of Delhi on one of the drains embankment throughout its entire length of several kilometers running through rural Delhi from Dhansa regulators at the southwest border of Delhi with the state of Haryana to where the drain crosses under the outer ring road at Keshopur bust depot near the Najafgarh road between the housing colonies of Vikaspuri and Tilak Nagar in New Delhi.

Wildlife and waterbirds can be easily viewed from vehicles by driving on this road and stopping intermittently and going down to the waters edge. As the width of the drain is limited the flocks of waterfowl and other waterbirds in the drain can be easily observed from the drain's edges and this same fact makes the birds much more vulnerable to hunting as they remain in easy reach of the poacher's shotguns and the nets and traps set for them by local villagers and professional trappers.

Clogging of water surface with floating overgrowth of water hyacinth

The Water hyacinth, an introduced invasive species of fast growing floating plants completely clogs the open water surface of the drain in many areas annually and lot of funds and labour is employed by the flood control department to clear it some what to keep the water flow uninterrupted. The removing of the water hyacinth by laborers also open ups the water surface for birds and migratory waterfowl which take refuge here every winter.


The relatively cleaner portion of the drain in rural southwest Delhi before it enters densely populated and badly polluted area at Vikaspuri also attracts some small scale local village fishermen, occasionally one can be seen casting his line or net in the waters or floating on a black inflated truck tire tube spreading his fishing net across the breadth of the drain. A fishing license is needed to catch fish legally in Delhi waters.

Bird strikes: Delhi Airport's civil aviation concerns

Many flocks of Migratory waterbirds during winter months have been using the Najafgarh drain and before that the once famous but now completely drained Najafgarh lake and also the other village and temporary ponds in the area after the rainy season as a winter refuge since times immemorial. In recent decades Delhi Airport (Indira Gandhi International Airport including the Delhi domestic airport) was built and expanded on the border of these lands and wildlife habitat. There have been concerns that one of the reasons for increasing Bird strikes on the landing and taking off commercial jets at the Delhi domestic as well as the international Airport could be the birds being attracted by Najafgarh Drain, sources interviewed by Times News Network in 2009 said: The airport is facing so many problems only because they have taken up a huge area for development and displaced the animals and birds from there. The nearby Najafgarh drain could also be a factor why birds come into this area.[30][31] Due to this reason there may also be some resistance to grant it the final approval with a Bird Sanctuary status.

In similar cases it has been suggested that carcasses and feathers of birds striking aircraft should be routinely collected and listed and made available to wildlife officials to ascertain which species are mainly responsible for bird strikes and if they are waterbirds at all to help find solution to this problem. Trained meat-eating hunting raptor birds of prey such as falcons, hawks and eagles are routinely kept on airport premises and flown throughout the day by keepers to scare bird flocks away from airports, bird activity in the nights could be controlled through other well researched methods employed by other airports.

However the waterbirds wintering on the Najafgarh drain may not be the ones responsible for air strikes at all as in 2008, the airfield environment management committee found that several illegal slaughterhouses near the airport area were attracting birds that were leading to problems for the aircraft. It was decided that these slaughterhouses should be shut down with immediate effect and the civic agencies responsible would take appropriate action. Officials highlighted six critical areas of Dwarka, Indira Market in RK Puram, Sadar Bazar, Mehram Nagar, Dabri More and Gazipur, where the illegal slaughterhouses were operating. Delhi International Airport (P) Ltd (DIAL) also adopted several other measures to deal with this problem. It used noise emitting guns to scare away birds and employed around 120 bird chasers, it also pigeon proofed all buildings and hangers to prevent the birds from nesting on the premises. Regular garbage removal and rodent control measures were put into place to discourage the birds.[32][33][34][35][36]

"At IGIA (Indira Gandhi International Airport), several steps have been taken to control the bird menace, which include positioning of 25 zone guns along the runway, deployment of 50 bird chasers, installation of reflective tapes, bursting of crackers, scare crow devices on jeeps, regular grass cutting and pesticide spraying," the Indira Gandhi International Airport management stated. An Airfield Environment Management Committee (AEMC) headed by the environment secretary, government of NCTDelhi, also takes up initiatives such as waste management, garbage removal, curbing slaughter houses and meat shops. "As per international standards, the 'desired bird strike rate' is 1 per 10,000 aircraft movements and at Delhi it is much below that rate," the IGIA statement informs.[37][38][39][40][41][42][43]

Birds most commonly involved in Bird strikes are Pariah or Black Kite which is a medium-sized bird, Red-wattled Lapwing, a small bird usually seen in pairs or small flocks, Cattle Egret, known as a cosmopolitan type of a heron. Apart from these, pigeons and crows also affect flights, these birds are not related to the wetland ecosystem of Najafgarh drain but are local to the immediate vicinity and premises of the Delhi Airport.[44]

See also


  1. ^ Plantation/Greening of Delhi, Department of Environment, Government of NCT of Delhi, India website, [1]
  2. ^ RECORDED FORESTS (NOTIFIED FOREST AREAS IN DELHI), Forest Department, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi, India, [2]
  3. ^ Search for Najafgarh drain on Forest Department, Government of NCT of Delhi, India website
  4. ^ [A bird sanctuary for Delhi soon, By Nirupama Subramanian, Express News Service, City, New Delhi, March 7, 1988, Indian Express Newspaper]
  5. ^ [Flamingos flock to Capital, By N. Suresh, New Delhi, January 7, 1988, The Times of India]
  6. ^ [Down by the wetlands, on the wild side, Najafgarh drain, By Vivek Menon, March 9, 1991, Weekend, New Delhi, Indian Express Newspaper (Vivek Menon formerly with WWF-India now with Wildlife Trust of India)]
  7. ^ Flood Problem due to Sahibi River, Department of Irrigation and Flood Control, Government of NCT of Delhi, India.
  9. ^ DTTDC to develop bird sanctuary near Najafgarh, January 12, 2003, The Indian Express
  10. ^ Migratory birds are giving Delhi the go-by, January 17, 2010, The Hindu
  11. ^ Najafgarh jheel may chirp again, August 20, 2006, The Indian Express
  12. ^ Capital to get nine new city forests, New Delhi, Jun 26, 2008, The Hindu Green drive launched, 29 June 2008, Tribune, Chandigarh, India
  13. ^ INTACH
  14. ^ Important Bird Areas in India - Delhi
  15. ^ Don't cloud the issue - USHA RAI looks at some success stories in rainwater harvesting that should convince those of us who are still sceptical., Dec 22, 2002, The Hindu
  16. ^ Proposal for Ground Water Recharge in National Capital Region (NCR) Dr S.K. Sharma Ground Water Expert, [4]
  17. ^ Groundwater to be recharged at Najafgarh, Mungeshwar drains, March 10, 2007, The Indian Express
  18. ^ Tourism Infrastructure, Tourism department, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi, India. Retrieved on 3 May 2011
  19. ^ Delhiites to cool off with aqua sports, 01 Oct 2007, The Tribune
  20. ^ BIO-MONITORING OF WETLANDS IN WILD LIFE HABITATS OF BIRDS SANCTUARIES IN INDIA - CASE STUDIESANDS, Part-1 Bird sanctuaries, `PARIVESH', July 2003, Central Pollution Control Board, Ministry of Environment and Forests of India, [5], [6], [7], [8] Retrieved on 3 May 2011
  21. ^ [9]
  22. ^ Blot across the Capital: Najafgarh most polluted, Sunday, July 10, 2005, The Indian Express
  23. ^ Environment minister raises a stink over Najafgarh jheel, February 22, 2005, The Indian Express
  24. ^ Najafgarh basin Delhi’s most polluted area, Dec 25 2009, The Indian Express
  25. ^ Najafgarh drain 11th among highly polluted industrial clusters, Dec 25, 2009, The Times of India
  26. ^ Najafgarh drain causes less pollution in Yamuna now, July 04, 2006, The Indian Express
  27. ^ Najafgarh marsh: "The (Najafgarh) marsh was a favored duck-shoot ground of the British, but was eventually drained out into the Najafgarh Nallah." Strategy Framework for Delhi beyond the Commonwealth Games 2010, BY DANNY CHERIAN, 2004
  28. ^ [A Guide to the Birds of the Delhi Area (1975) by Usha Ganguli, a member of the Delhi Birdwatching Society.]
  29. ^ [Birdwatching Articles from 1961 -70 from Najafgarh lake by Usha Ganguli in "Newsletter for Birdwatchers" edited by Zafar Futehally]
  30. ^ [10], Most bird hits at Delhi airport, Feb 20, 2009, TNN, The Economic Times, New Delhi, India. Retrieved on 4 May 2011
  31. ^ In IGI backyard, a new ‘bird sanctuary’, Mar 22 2010, The Indian Express
  32. ^ [11], Most bird hits at Delhi airport, Feb 20, 2009, TNN, The Economic Times, New Delhi, India. Retrieved on 4 May 2011
  34. ^ MCD to tackle bird menace at airport, New Delhi, 30/07/2008, The Hindu
  35. ^ MCD to initiate steps to curb bird hit menace around IGI airport, [IST], 27 July 2008, Oneindia
  36. ^ Seven spots of bird activity near IGI, Delhi, Jul 30, 2008, Times of India
  37. ^ Bird menace hikes airlines costs at Delhi, S.P.S. Pannu, New Delhi, December 20, 2010, business today, India Today GROUP
  38. ^ Tackling winged menace at airport, Feb 09 2010, New Delhi, The Indian Express
  39. ^ 'Bird chasers' at airport, 01 Oct 2010, The Tribune
  40. ^ [13]
  41. ^ [14]
  42. ^ Hi-tech airport fails to tackle flying menace, New Delhi, May 03, 2011, Hindustan Times
  43. ^ [15], [16], [17]
  44. ^ India's first Airport bird audit, Mumbai, 2009-01-21, MiD DAY

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