One of the largest and most populous states of India, Uttar Pradesh is a state of many facets. Situated on the border of India and Nepal, it is home to cities like Agra, Varanasi and Mathura that have immense cultural and religious significance. The capital city of Lucknow is known for its medieval Indian culture of the Nawabs of Awadh while Agra is known for its architectural marvel, the Taj Mahal. Monuments like the Agra Fort and Fatehpur sikri add to the rich heritage of the state.
It is also one of the most agriculturally rich states due to the presence of the Gangetic plains that is formed by various rivers like the Ganges, Yamuna, Ghaghra, Gandak and Kosi. The peninsular rivers such as Chambal, Betwa, Son also joined the Ganga river system contributing in the formation of the great plains.
What makes Uttar Pradesh unique is also its mixed topography that includes the Bhabar tract, Terai, Gangetic plains, Southern Plateau and mountains. The Bhabar includes the Shivalik areas in Saharanpur District and parts of Suhelwa wild life sanctuary, Shravasti, adjoining the Nepal border. The pebble studded rocks are porous and cause the streams to disappear and flow underground. The underground streams flow below the earth and reappear in the Terai region that consists of several seasonal rivers originating in the Shivaliks.
The high water levels and rich forested areas have resulted in a high density of wild animal population in the Amangarh tiger reserve, Pilibhit tiger reserve, Kishanpur wildlife sanctuary and Dudhwa National Park.
The state has rich wetlands formed by the numerous oxbow lakes, marhses and rivulets on which bunds have been created to store water for irrigation. These wetlands are rich in avifauna. Some of the wetlands in the Gangetic plains which attract migratory birds and have good number of resident birds have been declared as bird sanctuaries. Some of them are Soor sarovar bird sanctuary, Keetham, Agra, Saman Bird Sanctuary, Mainpuri, Chambal Sanctuary, Lakbahosi bird sanctuary, Kannauj and Nawbganj bird sanctuary.
The state has 6.88 percent of geographical area under forests with one National park and 25 wildlife sanctuaries and hence eco-tourism has been a key priority focus of the Government. The key objectives of the state’s ecotourism policy formulated in 2014 has been employment generation, environmental regeneration, development of remote areas and development of women and other disadvantaged groups besides promoting social integration.
Given that Uttar Pradesh is home to a large number of migratory and resident birds, the annual bird festival is the best way to pay tribute to this fact. This year the festival is set to be held between Feb 9 and Feb 11, 2018 at the Dudhwa National Park, Lakhimpur Kheeri.
Ram Pratap Singh who also runs Chambal Safari lodge, in Bah, Agra, and promotes ecotourism in Chambal has worked extensively with the Government to plan the first bird festival that was held in December 2015 in the Chambal Sanctuary, Agra. The UP Eco-tourism, a wing of the UP Forest Corporation and Forest Department of Uttar Pradesh organized the event and Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries were the co-organisers. The festival included bird watching trips to Chambal sanctuary, Sarus crane wetland area of Sarsai Nawar and adjoining areas in the morning. Apart from a photography exhibition, there were presentations by various renowned ornithologists as well.
The second edition was conducted in December 2016 and the Forests and wildlife Department was the associate sponsor and included several sessions on bird life as well as sessions for school children too. The UP Bird Festival has become a Birdlife species champion and has supported a whopping 10000 pound sterling for its Birdlife preventing Extinction programmes.
Curtain Raiser to the 2018 Edition
The third edition of the festival is all set to be held in Dudhwa to highlight the terai eco system and give a boost to the protected areas here and champion the cause of conservation of endangered bird species such as Indian Skimmer. The open space available near the Dudhwa national park, a property of Late Bili Arjun Singh, a well-known wildlife conservationist has been selected as the venue. The festival is all set to showcase the migratory birds on the site as well as the birds returning to Northern Asia on reverse migration. The birds will be getting their breeding plumage and the clear weather will ensure that observing the birds is easier and clearer.
The festival is expected to be attended by 5000 visitors with reputed names from the conservation world being present. Guests who will be making presentations include Dr. Asad Rahmani, Dr. Gobind Sagar Bhardwaj, IFS, Mr. Ajai Saxena, IFS, Mr. Ananda Bannerjee, Dr. Raju Kasambe, Dr Satish Pande, Gopi Sundar, Shashak Dalvi, Garima Bhatia, Satpal Gandhi, Sanjay Kumar IAS, Ran levy Yamamori, Amano Saparpan, Julien Gonin, Harri Tavetti and Tim Appleton among others.
To highlight the efforts of conservation and to promote ecotourism this year, eminent journalists and travel bloggers will also be part of the event. The event will also witness on the spot painting on easels, a photo gallery, stalls for photo equipment, books, field guides, handicrafts and a showcase of local cuisine showcase as well. The field visits and indoor discussions will ensure this is an event that showcases the birds in the right light.
Photo credits: Bindu Gopal Rao