The Loss of Purathur Estuary: Pallas’s and Heuglin’s Gulls at Kutipuram

On strange grounds: Pallas’s Gulls and Heuglin’s Gulls at Kutipuram. 8 Oct 2012

The big gulls are here again.  The awesome black hooded Pallas’s Gulls and the serene Heuglin’s Gulls are leading in the flocks.  They take the eastern route through the Perar/Nila from Ponnani and are now resting in and around Kutipuram.  On most days they are there in the middle of the river from morning to evening.  At dusk they fly to the Purathur estuary and into the Arabian Sea.  They come out of the blue and suddenly vanish into thin air…

Pushed by the devastation in Purathur: Thousands of migratory gulls are congregating at Kutipuram in the sand beds of the Perar during day. 8 Oct 2012

A few years ago they peacefully rested on the sand beds of Purathur estuary during their winter visits to Kerala.  But unfortunately the sand beds are no more.  Those precious living grounds were literally erased from the river mouth for making a new fish landing on the southern bank of the river.

Pallas’s Gulls with black hoods and Heuglin’s Gulls with white heads on the sand banks of Perar/Nila at Kutipuram. They go back to Purathur at sunset in search of food from the sea. 8 Oct 2012

Sand dredging near the mouth of Perar called Purathur-Ponnani estuary has resulted in a serious ecological catastrophe.  It is done in the name of development to make the bigger fish landing and to deepen the channel.  But unfortunately it has seriously affected the estuary and related life forms severely.  It is a gross encroachment into the estuary that changed its geography and water-scape and is proving to be an environmental wreck.

A fading light: Sunset in Perar at Kutipuram. 8 Oct 2012

The ironic tragedy is that the new fish landing and reclaimed area amidst the river mouth is lying wasted.  It is not benefiting the fisher folks or the vulnerable local people.  It lacks basic provisions like electricity and water essential to attract fishers and traders.  The dredged sand also lies wasted here.  The banks near the Pally Kadavu are under the threat of erosion due to this unscientific encroached embankment into the river mouth and careless dredging.

Thousands of gulls mostly big gulls at Kutipuram. Early Oct 2012

I remember visiting the estuary on country boats with Dilip, Manoj and other friends during the previous migratory seasons.  Purathur/Ponnani estuary was  an asylum to thousands of migratory threatened birds from all over the world.  I have seen curlews, whimbrels, godwits, shanks, sandpipers, plovers, turn-stones, gulls, terns, storks, herons and much much more here until a few years ago.  The local people even talk about flamingos visiting the estuary.

It is raining big gulls: Around 5000 big gulls congregated on the sand beds of Perar at Kutipuram in early Oct 2012

The loss of Purathur-Ponnani estuary is a typical example of environmental devastation done in the name of development.  It is a serious crime against nature and culture, against the environment and human beings at the same time.  The people whose public revenue is utilized for all this “development” are the least benefited.  The contractors, engineers and political mediators benefit and thrive on public fund.  The extremely marginalized and impoverished people living on the periphery of the river are loosing their coconut palms, precious land and even little huts and homes due to erosion.

Taker’s shadow in the image: Photographing gulls in Perar at Kutipuram. Early Oct 2012

The suffering of the migratory birds is a sign.  For what befalls on earth today will befall on her children tomorrow, as the chief of Seattle says.  The eco-blind encroaching development has already affected the weaker and vulnerable human sections in the region who live on the edge of the land and water.  Tomorrow it is going to touch the middlemen and middle classes and the developmental fanatics who are playing a safe game in the present by vampiring on public fund and natural resources.  Unfortunately our media and academia are monopolized by people from this traditional safe upper middle strata of the undead.

Shorebirds of Chavakad and Ponnani

Eurasian Oystercatchers, Chavakad Puthan Kadapuram, 11 Feb 2012

Puthan Kadapuram is becoming a new found bird-beach north of Chavakad coast in Thrissur district of Kerala.  It is a calm fishing beach that lures shorebirds and birders.

Common Green Shank, Puthan Kadapuram, 11 Feb 2012

Plenty of migrant birds from all over the world are coming here.  Today (11 Feb 2012) I could see Oystercatchers, Grey Plovers, Kentish Plovers, Lesser Sand Plovers, Sanderlings, Green Shanks and plenty of Gulls there.

Grey Plovers, Chavakad beach, 11 Feb 2012
Brown-headed Gull, Chavakad Puthan Kadapuram, 11 Feb 2012

In the after noon I moved north to Ponnani.  As the Ponnani estuary has lost sand flats due to dredging for the new fishing harbor migrants are shifting to southern shores now.

Lesser Sand Plovers, Ponnani beach, 11 Feb 2012
Black and Brown-headed Gulls, Puthan Kadapuram, Chavakad

Gulls are even going upstream to Kutipuram bridge and beyond to rest on sandy banks.  The plastic menace is not yet a problem in Puthan Kadapuram and it is considerably clean in terms of waste.  Plenty of crabs and other life forms are also vibrant here.  I also found a dead turtle on the shore.

Sanderlings, Chavakad beach, 11 Feb 2012

At Ponnani estuary I was astonished to watch a  White-bellied Sea Eagle just above the port being chased by Brahminy Kites.  This threatened bird in Malabar coast was  recently reported from Chavakad beach as well.

Heuglin's Gulls (Immature) at Ponnani beach, 11 Feb 2012
Little Stints, Chavakad beach, 11 Feb 2012

It is clear that this magnificent bird is straying south in search of survival and sea food.   It is not found normally south of Mahe.  The loss of Purathur estuary could be another fatal blow to the survival of such innumerable endemic and migrant birds and millions of other life forms for ever.

White-belllied Sea Eagle, Ponnani estuary, 11 Feb 2012
Heuglin's Gulls, Ponnani beach, 11 Feb 2012
Lesser Black-backed Gull (left), Ponnani beach, 11 Feb 2012
Oystercatcher, Chavakad beach, 11 Feb 2012
Grey Plovers, Chavakad 11 Feb 2012