Even just two years ago, Jayapara lake -- the largest lake on the campus of Jahangirnagar University -- would offer itself as a safe haven for local and migratory birds. These birds would be seen resting on the water or fluttering about among bloomed water lilies -- a sight people from all over the city would travel to JU for.
This year, however, as hundreds of guest birds began flocking on the campus like every winter, there seems to be hardly any space left in Jayapara for them to move around on.
Teachers and students of JU alleged that Jayapara -- that spans around 21.45 acres -- situated near the Botanical Garden and the university's swimming pool, was filled with aquatic plants, algae and garbage and has been neglected.
Earlier, the JU authorities came under severe criticism from bird enthusiasts for leasing out the water bodies, used by birds since 1985, for fish cultivation. A few teachers and students had then taken the initiative to cancel the lease and create a congenial atmosphere for the birds.
According to the JU estate office, the university has 26 small and large wetlands while guest birds sit in the four lakes – one near Jahanara Imam hall, one near the administrative building, the Wildlife Rescue Centre's lake and Jayapara Lake.
Of the 26, 10 wetlands were leased out for Tk 13, 92,000 yearly. Most of them are leased out for around three years. In 2014, the authorities had also decided to lease out Jayapara and circulated an advertisement, but failed to manage any reliable holder.
Although the university authorities have “unofficially” stopped leasing out this lake for fish cultivation, no effective initiative has been taken yet to renovate the lakes that have been filled up with clumps of dried and dead flowers.
After visiting the lake, this correspondent found that hundreds of guest birds had flocked on the lake but were not able to move to and fro. Some of the bushy areas around the lake were also found burnt and destroyed due to human interference.
A JU estate official, preferring anonymity, said the university's central resource management committee had not been monitoring the internal resources with due diligence, adding that for the past one year, no meeting had been held in this regard.
Contacted, JU's acting chief estate officer Md Nurul Amin alleged that some environmentalists said cleaning the lake and discarding the water hyacinths and other aquatic plants would destroy habitats of small insects and make food for the birds insufficient.
The university's zoology department usually looks after the lake, he added.
Speaking to The Daily Star, ornithologist Kamrul Hasan of the zoology department denied Nurul Amin's allegations and said, “We only urged them to follow the timeframe for cleaning the bushes and aquatic plants. From May to August second week is the period for laying eggs of home birds in the bushy areas.
“This year, guest birds have started arriving early in the winter and most of them have taken position on the rest of the three lakes. The number of guest birds might lessen next year if they are not able to swim or move about, as the largest lake remains unguarded and filled with hyacinths and other plants,” he added.
Kamrul further said that around 15 kinds of birds come to the campus grounds every year. “Last year, five species -- Lesser Whistling Duck (Chhota sarali), Greater Whistling Duck (Boro sarali), Pin-tailed duck, Common Pochard, Comb duck, Cotton Pigmy Goose – were all seen at the lake. This year, so far the Lesser Whistling and Greater Whistling ducks have come.”
Confirming that no steps had been taken to guard Jayapara, JU Treasurer Sheikh Md Monzurul Huq, chief of internal resource management committee, said, “A meeting will be called soon in this regard.”
Like every year, the Zoology department will arrange a bird fair on the campus to raise awareness on migratory birds. The fair is scheduled to be held on January 11.