India recently conferred biodiversity heritage status on an unlikely candidate - the Ameenpur Lake on the fringes of Hyderabad. Other sites across the country also received this distinction. Among them are the shola grasslands of Chikmagalur, the pristine forests of Gadchiroli and Dailong village in Manipur. But, what sets Ameenpur Lake apart is that the tag is not only the first of its kind in the country for a water body, but the first in an urban environment!
India awards Biodiversity Heritage tags under the Biological Diversity Act of 2002. The tags are a way to boost biodiversity conservation and encourage local participation in protecting unique, ecologically fragile ecosystems with a rich variety of rare or threatened species, species of evolutionary significance, and evidence of biological components from the past such as fossil beds.
Set in the heart of Hyderabad's industrial area and IT corridor, the 93-acre Ameenpur Lake has, to a great extent, managed to avoid the fate of its counterparts across the city. Yet, it continues to be threatened by industrial effluents flowing into it from surrounding factories.
The lake attracts more than 180 species of resident and migratory birds: flamingos, painted storks, river terns, pelicans and kingfishers among others. This number is an improvement on the last count of 171 in 2015 owed largely to rejuvenation efforts at the lake. The rich avian life attracts birdwatchers from all over the city. The lake is also home to several varieties of plants, fish, reptiles, amphibians and butterflies, besides providing a livelihood to paddy farmers and fishermen relying on its plentiful supply.
The Biodiversity Heritage tag is valuable as it gives an impetus to conservation efforts by the government and civil society groups. Since receiving the tag, the Telangana government has been successful in spreading awareness about waste segregation among surrounding residential complexes and schools, curbing encroachments and garbage dumping around the site, and encouraging companies to install sewage treatment plants. The tag is also drawing bigger crowds which one hopes will kindle a desire to revive and protect other sites of ecological importance around the country.
Featured image of flamingos at Ameenpur Lake: Wikimedia Commons.