Udaipur : About fifty kilometers from Udaipur, this village in Vallabhnagar block of the district sets an example of how birds and humans can co-exit in complete harmony. Menar village is not a reserved bird area, but avian community freely live and co-exist with the locals. Two water bodies in the surrounding areas, too, one each falling in Chittorgarh and Pratapgarh districts, have become homes for dozens of species of both migratory and resident birds. More than 35 species of resident and 50 varieties of terresterial birds can be seen here.
The unique thing about Menar villagers is that they are extreme bird lovers and they call themselves ‘Pakshi Mitras’. Youths, kids and elderly people are so enthusiast about conservation of these birds that they have made teams to guard the waterbodies and prevent poaching or fishing here. Due to a wide variety of rare birds including Great crested grebe (water birds that breed in himalayas) this place attracts lot of tourists and bird watchers every year. Some of the star migratory birds that arrive here are Demoiselle Cranes, Canary Flycatcher, European roller, Rosy Pelican, Pied Avocet, Sandpiper, Painted Stork, Flamingo, Bareheaded Geese, Spot Bill Duck, Blackheaded Ibis, Mallard Common Teal, Common Pochard, Pin Tail, Shoveller, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Brahmini Ducks, Coots etc. Of these, Bareheaded Geese, Coots, Demoiselle Cranes and Brahmini Ducks arrive from Tibetan Plateau, whereas others come from the far end of Asian continent and Europe.
“Villagers are protective not only for birds in Menar but also at Badwai, that is 80 kms away from Udaipur on the Pratapgarh road. Similarly the Kishan Kareri talab, situated in Dungla block of Chittorgarh attracts a large number of birds during the winters and the residents have been passionate about their conservation” says Vinay Dave, a bird enthusiast active for more than a decade in the area. The Pakshi Mitras have been imparted training on bird behaviour by experts of the forest department. ” Three teams of 5-5 members each have been assigned the task of conservation at these waterbodies. The Pakshi Mitras have been provided with binoculars to keep a watch on birds and any possible threat to their existence, the team members make morning and evening rounds in their respective areas and report if they find any prohibited activity” Dave said.
The villagers do not use the water from these lakes and ponds for irrigatory purposes so that the water level remain consistent throughout the year. Fishing is not permitted here so that the birds can have enough food to live, informs Pradeep Sukhwal another expert. To keep the ecosystem clean, the villagers conduct frequent ‘shramdaan’ to get rid of the water hyacinth and other harmful weeds from the water. ” The efforts to conserve these birds have been fruitful and could be taken as a role model to replicate in other areas. The village does not just offers a good bird watching experience but also teaches you a new take on human-bird relationship” says Rahul Bhatnagar, Chief Conservator of Forest (Wild Life).