Okhla Bird Sanctuary is a bird sanctuary at the Okhla barrage over Yamuna River. It is situated in Noida, Gautam Buddh Nagar district, on Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border and known as a haven for over 300 bird species, especially waterbirds. In 1990, an area of 3.5 square kilometres (1.4 sq mi) on the river Yamuna was designated a bird sanctuary by the Government of Uttar Pradesh under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The site is located at the point where the river enters Uttar Pradesh. The most prominent feature of the sanctuary is the large lake created by damming the river, which lies between Okhla village to the west and Gautam Budh Nagar to the east. The Okhla Bird Sanctuary (OBS) is roughly 4 square kilometres in size and is situated at the entrance of NOIDA in Gautam Budh Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh. It is situated at a point where river Yamuna enters in the state of Uttar Pradesh leaving the territory of Delhi. It is one among fifteen bird sanctuaries in the state.
The bird species of thorny scrub, grassland and wetland are seen in the sanctuary due its location. This wetland was formed by the creation of Okhla Barrage. The Uttar Pradesh Government designated this a sanctuary in the year 1990. It is now one of the 466 IBAs (Important Bird Areas) in India.
The areas around Okhla barrage, encompassing the river Yamuna and the marshes associated with it, have been a favorite haunt for birdwatchers, ever since the construction of Agra Canal, which started from here in 1874. Major-General H. P. W. Hutson recorded the birds of Okhla during the course of his ornithological surveys in the Delhi region during June 1943 to May 1945. Subsequently, Mrs Usha Ganguli also recorded the avifauna from this site in her book, A guide to the birds of the Delhi area. Following the construction of a barrage and the resulting lake in 1986, birdwatching activity has increased at this site. Spread over 3.5 square kilometres (1.4 sq mi) on the river Yamuna, the sanctuary is in the Gautam Budh Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh. It was declared a protected area in 1990, under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Over the years, due to increasing pollution in the Yamuna, and shrinking habitat of marshlands and water areas, the bird count has reduced. The habitat of the sanctuary has been under threat due to rapid urban development and construction activities in the surrounding areas. On August 14, 2013, responding to a petition filed by local environmentalist, National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered the Noida authority to stop unauthorised constructions by private builders within a 10-km radius of the sanctuary. It also asked the authority to conduct fresh land-survey in the area. In October 2013, the tribunal issued an interim directive stating “all the building constructions made within 10 km radius of the Okhla bird sanctuary or within distance of eco-sensitive zone as may be prescribed by the notification issued by the MoEF shall be subject to the decision of the National Board of Wild Life (NBWL) and till the time the clearance of NBWL is obtained, the authority concerned shall not issue completion certificates to projects.” Thereafter, in June 2014, the Supreme Court upheld the order.
A total of 302 species have confirmed records from Okhla bird sanctuary and the areas in its immediate vicinity. An additional 27 species have been listed by Harris (2001) as probable, but unconfirmed, occurrence. In January 2011, as a part of Asian Waterbird Census 2011, a leucistic Coot, known for its unusual bright white plumage, was spotted with the flock of Common Coots, for the first time in India. The sanctuary hosts over 400 species year round and over 1 lakh migratory birds in winter months. It hosts 30% of the 1200 to 1300 bird species recorded in the Indian sub-continent.
The total Okhla list includes:
- Two Critically Endangered (CR) species (White-rumped Vulture and Indian Vulture)
- Nine Vulnerable (VU) species (Baikal Teal, Baer’s Pochard, Sarus Crane, Sociable Lapwing, Indian Skimmer, Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Lesser Adjutant, Bristled Grassbird and Finn’s Weaver)
- Seven Near Threatened (NT) species (Ferruginous Pochard, Black-bellied Tern, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, erratically east to West Bengal and south to Kerala and Sri Lanka.
- Arid Forest Research Institute (AFRI)
- Najafgarh drain bird sanctuary, Delhi
- National Zoological Park Delhi
- Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, Delhi
- Sultanpur National Park, bordering Delhi in adjoining Gurgaon District, Haryana
- Bhalswa horseshoe lake, Northwest Delhi
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- "Petition to protect Okhla bird sanctuary". The Times of India. Mar 12, 2009. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
- "Riot of colours returns to Okhla Bird Sanctuary". The Hindu. Jan 3, 2011. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
- Ananda Banerjee (July 28, 2011). "Report from India: Where Have the Birds Gone?". ClimateStoryTellers.org. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
- "National Green Tribunal whammy to realty projects". The Times of India. August 15, 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
- Anumeha Yadav (June 12, 2014). "SC order on Noida projects puts ball back in National Board of Wildlife’s court". The Hindu. Retrieved 2014-06-18.
- "SC refuses to hear real estate firm’s plea against Okhla sanctuary curbs". Livemint. June 10, 2014. Retrieved 2014-06-18.
- "Bird census records rare leucistic Coot in Okhla sanctuary". The Hindu. January 24, 2011. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
- Vandana Ramnani (June 16, 2014). "Paradise destroyed". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 2014-06-18.
- "Okhla Bird Sanctuary". Retrieved 2013-08-15.