46 kilometers away from Noida, Dhanauri in Gautam Budh Nagar is a lush wetland, with a dense bird population.
As you tread into the heart of this vast green-field, you are warned by trumpets of almost six-feet tall adult Sarus cranes. This is the onset of the nesting season for the state bird of Uttar Pradesh.
Home to over 120 such giant cranes, Dhanauri was first noticed as a Sarus breeding zone, when birder Anand Arya chanced upon it during a birding trip in 2014 and demanded it be notified as a wetland.
Dhanauri is a marshland with a core wet area of 100 acres, surrounded by a buffer green zone. It spreads across YEIDA's Sector 16 and 17. Arya had informed the UP State government, NGT and the MOEF of his findings. YEIDA has so far recognised only the core area of the marsh, about 50 acres as a wetland.
Arya, a noted birder now demands it be listed as a Ramsar Site, stating it meets all the criterion for it.
"Dhanauri meets the two crucial criterion which are needed for a birding site to be declared as a Ramsar site. That it should have 1% population of a certain bird species which is present in their entire country and at least 20,000 birds. Dhanauri, as per a census by birders, has a total bird population of over 25,000 and 120 Sarus cranes," Anand Arya told TOI.
The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. It is also known as the Convention on Wetlands. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the Convention was signed in 1971.
"We are asking the Ministry of Environment and Forests as well as the Central Wetland Regulatory Authority to propose Dhanauri as a Ramsar site. We will make an appeal with the NGT in a month's time after documenting the entire area. We are working on it. This will help protect not only the core wetland area, but also the entire buffer zone. The total area that needs to be protected at the site is about 400 acres to prevent encroachment and a destruction of the Sarus habitat," he said.
The Gautam Budh Nagar forest department responds to Arya's demands stating that the state government is taking proactive steps to protect the area. "We have engaged the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), noted environmentalists and the World Wildlife Fund representative to survey the area and check its potentiality as a prospective Sarus conservation zone under the regulations of the Sarus Society of UP State Government's forest department. The survey is slated to be held very soon," DFO, Gautam Budh Nagar, HV Girish told TOI.
Sarus being the state bird of Uttar Pradesh, is specially protected by the State government's Sarus Conservation Society. The society's core objective is to study the ecology and support activities that would ensure survival of the Sarus in perpetuity. According to a census done by the society, the population of the Sarus crane in UP has gone up over the years and is about 12,000 presently.