Flamingoes descend on Agra: Is this a global-warming phenomenon?

AGRA: What are flamingoes doing in Agra at this time of the year? This is the question plaguing environmentalists here after nearly 500 of the gregarious wading birds descended on Agra’s Keitham lake last week.

“I think the flamingoes have lost their way. This is the first time that so many of them have come to Agra. And at this time of the year, it raises some perplexing questions. Is this a global warming-related phenomenon, or has the winter advanced in north Europe? So many questions needing answers,” says Dr KS Rana, environmentalist and a professor of natural sciences.

Ravi Singh, a green farmer and eco-activist of the Barauli Aheer block sees a disturbing trend. “These birds have come looking for nesting spots. Keitham provides good food, the wetland has enough algae to provide plankton for the birds. But why Agra and at this time of the year?” Singh asked.

The forest department’s Uttham RB, in charge of the Keitham lake, said: “The lake provides the right ambience and nesting environment with enough soft mud and adequate feed, but I doubt if they would nest here or stay for long, because the lake’s water level is set to go up once the rain starts. Their nests would be destroyed,” Singh told IANS.

“These birds prefer the Rann of Kutch for nesting. But why are they not going there? Do they fear any problem?… there are no answers at the moment,” he added.

Experts also surmise that these could even be migratory birds, from across the Himalayas or from Gujarat and Rajasthan.

“But if the birds have come from distant shores, it could mean an early winter in the north,” conjectures a researcher in environment, Swabha Takshak, associated with TERI and now conducting a survey on pollution in the Yamuna river near the lake.

Dr R.P. Bharti, chief zonal forester, thinks “it’s the level of humidity and the stable temperature that suits these birds, that has attracted them to the lake. The birds usually come from Afghanistan. Some birds have also been sighted in Bharatpur’s Keoladeo Ghana wildlife sanctuary.”

“Such freak patterns would become more frequent in future. Till some years ago, there used to be more cranes (Saras) in Mathura, but now Mainpuri district has many times more cranes,” he added.

Farmers around the Keitham reservoir, 20 km from the city, however, feared the flamingoes were harbinger of bad news: a poor monsoon this year.


Agra: Longer you stay at Taj, the more you’ll pay

NEW DELHI: Saying “wah Taj” for too long is set to get more expensive.

Taj Mahal gets a minimum 15,000 visitors every day and the maximum ever recorded was almost 55,000 on December 29, 2009. Worried that such mammoth footfalls would put a huge strain on the world heritage site, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is switching to a `stay more, pay more’ concept to dissuade visitors from staying for too long.

At present, an Indian visitor can stay inside Taj from sunrise to sunset for Rs 10. “We are going to introduce bar-coded magnetic strip tickets that will be printed at Nashik’s Government Security Press (where currency notes are printed). A certain maximum number of hours’ stay (most probably two to four) would be allowed for the basic entry fee of Rs 10 (for Indians) and Rs 750 for foreign visitors. Staying beyond that would mean a very high charge and we are working on that figure,” said a top ASI official.

The magnetic ticket would register the visitor’s entry time at the Taj. While exiting, the duration of the person’s stay would be checked and he or she would then have to pay the extra fee for staying beyond the maximum permissible time of the basic price.

According to ASI, Taj gets 12-14,000 visitors daily. “The minimum visitors are close to 15,000 as this figure is just for tickets sold. Children below 15 don’t have to buy tickets and so those visitors are not counted. We saw a new record of 40,000 tickets being sold on December 29, 2009, and adding children the number of visitors that day was about 55,000,” said the official.

In fact, now the ASI is getting a scientific study to find the carrying capacity of Taj Mahal. This will be done along with another study to find the number of hours that should be allowed in base ticket prices.

UP administration levies a steep fee on Taj tickets in the form of Agra Development Authority charge on fee that’s Rs 500 over the ASI ticket of Rs 250 for foreigners. “But in return, successive state governments have done precious little in terms of keeping surroundings of Taj, including its access points, clean. So we want to at least keep the precincts of Taj clean. At present, scores of photographers and guides buy the Rs 10 ticket and spend the day at Taj Mahal’s main entry door inside the complex,” said sources.

Now, they will be stationed at the visitor centre at Taj. A visitor wishing to engage them would have to buy entry ticket for them. And if they stay longer than allowed, the visitor will have to pay for their extra stay too.

From TOI