Wildlife in Delhi has all but disappeared except in the protected and notified areas of a few sanctuaries. The Delhi Ridge which is an extension of the Aravalli Range was once a forested area where there was substantial wildlife. Urbanization has taken a toll on the green lungs of the city and the ridge is almost lost in most places. The Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary in the southern most part of Delhi, the Okhla Barrage Bird Sanctuary and the proposed but not yet notified Najafgarh Drain Bird Sanctuary are the only places of respite and provide a peaceful haven to animals and birds.
The two bird sanctuaries have contributed largely to Delhi’s claim as one of the most bird-rich Capitals of the world, second only to Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, Africa.
Famous Wildlife Sanctuaries in Delhi
Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary
There are now very few pockets where there is a semblance of a forest and wildlife in Delhi. Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary is one of these few places. Here in an area covering about 6800 acres ( 2782 Hectares) is a wildlife sanctuary that aims to protect whatever wildlife and flora that the place still has. It is a green lung that allows the increasingly polluted city a chance to breathe. It also allows the flora and fauna there to grow and multiply in peace and security.
More than 193 species of birds have been identified in the sanctuary and there are reports of more and more migratory birds visiting mainly due to the many lakes that have been formed in the pits of the Bhatti mines. Due to these lakes wetland habitat is being developed and flora is regenerating. Floral species are also on the rise with many kinds of medicinal herbs and plants being identified. There are thickets of Anogeissus, Balanite and Riparian buffer areas growing and pushing the advancing desert back. There are also 80 different species of butterflies, and hundreds of reptiles and insects.
Najafgarh Drain Bird Sanctuary
Najafgarh drain is a misnomer as it is actually a part of the Sahibi River that flows from Rajasthan through Haryana passing through Delhi and ending to join the Yamuna. The river as it flows through Delhi is called Najafgarh Drain or Nullah.
The Najafgarh Jheel or Lake, an extension of this river has now almost disappeared. This is because the Najafgarh Drain has been widened considerably to prevent flooding in Delhi. The widened drain has drained all the water from the lake and rain water does not collect in the lake as it used to formerly.
The area of around 25 kms along the Najafgarh Drain has been recommended to be notified as a Bird Sanctuary. About 29 acres of land at Chhawla has been currently classified as Protected Forest. The quiet and peaceful place and wetland conditions attract thousands of migratory birds in winter. In fact it has been observed that the number of species of migratory birds and their total numbers are found to be increasing every year and the numbers at the Okhla Bird sanctuary are dwindling.
It was only as late as 1986-89, that it was noticed by some naturalists and wildlife observers that the area was a good breeding ground for animals and birds and had the potential to be declared as a wildlife sanctuary. Local thorn brush and wetland birds are present and are growing in numbers all round the year and in the winters, migratory birds from the colder regions come to breed and spend time in the comparatively warmer climes.
In 2014 winter it was reported that more than 5000 birds of more than 16 distinct species had arrived. Some of these were endangered species as declared by the IUCN or the International Union of Conservation of Nature, of which some of them are: Black-Necked Stork from the wetlands of South Asia, Black-Tailed Godwit coming from as far as Iceland and Northern Europe , Black-headed Ibis that is a bird of the Indian subcontinent up to Japan and from the plains south of the Himalayas comes the Painted Stork etc.
It is noticed that winter migratory birds are being more attracted to the Najafgarh drain area that is marked to be a protected area as there is less human habitation in the area resulting in more peace and quiet. Also being mostly rural agricultural area, there is much less pollution.
Okhla Barrage Bird Sanctuary is located in the area of the Okhla Barrage on the Yamuna River on the Delhi UP Border. Although it is very near to Delhi –Uttar Pradesh border it is actually in Uttar Pradesh and not in Delhi.
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