An introduction to the Report
Sunil Kumar M
The Hesaraghatta lake bed is facing another assault. Parts of the lake bed have become barren and are laid waste due to heavy vehicular movement on the lake bed. In this case most of the damage is due to nature photographers chasing migratory birds using cars and SUVs.
A rapid assessment of the impacts caused by nature photographers driving on the dry Hesaraghatta lake bed reveals a wide and extensive network of vehicle tracks amounting to about 43 km. About 136 ha of habitat was either lost or disturbed because of vehicular movement and on an average, 20 vehicles were found to be pursuing birds on weekends and holidays. If one considers the area coming directly under the wheel, it amounts to almost six standard football fields!
The assessment was carried out in December 2012 by independent researchers and students from St Joseph’s College using the plant line transect method, on-site measurements and imageries to assess the full-scale damage to the habitat.
“Apart from habitat damage, we also witnessed several incidents where unethical means such as chasing the bird till it was tired and reluctant to fly were being used to photograph birds, especially the rare, vagrant and migrant birds such as kestrels and harriers”, says Mr K S Seshadri who has worked on road ecology in other parts of the country.
A rare species of butterfly the Lilac Silverline (Apharitis lilacinus) was observed and photographed after a span of 103 years, during the study by one of the students. Persistent off-road driving could also destroy this rare and such protected butterfly species in this area, apart from grasses and other smaller life forms.
Dr Krishna points out that this problem is not unique to Hesaraghatta. “It is already rampant in other lake beds and other wilderness areas where nature photography and eco-tourism exists. We need transparent and systematic damage assessment surveys everywhere, especially where vehicles are entering wilderness areas.”
The study recommends several methods to mitigate the impacts of this unregulated mode of operation. It stresses that self regulation is the best way forward (even though it has had limited success in the past) for the habitat, life-forms and for photographers.