Lake and Environ
Kukkarahalli tank was constructed in 1864 for the purpose of supplying potable water to Mysore City by erstwhile rulers, Wodeyars of Mysore. The tank is located at 12. 18’ 18” N, 76. 32’ 60” E, in Mysore District, Southern Karnataka. Tank is spread over 58 hectares. Being part of the prestigious Mysore University campus, tank is instrumental for more than hundred scientific papers. Surroundings of tank, gardens, lawns and avenues of campus accommodate 432 species of plants spread over 85 families (Rao & Razi, 1974). In addition, campuses of CFTRI, RIE, AIISH, Chandravana, and Mysore university makes vast stretches of green patch supporting varied life forms.
In 70’s, University constructed a solid waste and silt traps to improve the water quality, as much of the sewage was entering through the southern feeder line. Part of this effluent treatment project, a bund constructed half-way was washed away at both the ends by a torrential rain, gradually changed into the present breeding island. Over the years abandoned island saw the growth of trees, slowly attracting local and wintering -roosting and breeding birds.
Tank is declared as Important Bird Area (designated IBA no. IN KA-20)because of breeding of vulnerable, Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis; near threatened Darter Anhinga melanogaster, Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala, Oriental White Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus . With the aid of Asian Development Bank, state government agency Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development Board successfully diverted the sewage water inflow from the tank to treatment plant. Along with restoration of tank bund, a new walkway along the water body was made. ‘Nature priority of conservation’ didn’t receive importance but the ‘human centred’ lake development did, and failed to ensure a steady inflow of fresh water into the lake by removing the encroachments along the feeder canal. The new all season walkway has increased tremendous human density in the morning and evening hours disturbing the birds in shore, marsh, water and terrestrial in the vicinity.
Fig: Breeding Island
Fig: (Clockwise) Grey Heron, Ruddy Breasted Crake, Baillons' Crake & Coot.
The lake had a small catchment area of 4.5 Sq.Km. However, the feeder Canal of 22.5 km long did ensure the fresh water flow. Improper planning of new extension and encroachment has destroyed the feeder canal of the lake. The restoration of the lake without restoring the feeder canal is resulting into fast eutrophication, but often, timely rain is saving the lake.
1. In addition to 177 species of birds recorded in Kukkarahalli (MAN 1997), another five species have been added in the last four years. At the same time, forty bird species have stopped visiting the lake for various reasons sighted in annexure 1.
2. The vegetation has undergone a significant change. Plantation and woodland have succeeded grassland in the northwestern part of the lake over period of 22 years. A corresponding change in bird life has been seen, with disappearance of grassland species.
3. Isolated island in lake hosted colonial breeding activity of Pelicans from 1998-1999 onwards; whereas, Painted Storks & White Ibises breeding was well before 1996.
4. White Ibises made an attempt to build nests during off-season, 19 to 26.2.2000, but abandoned the breeding activity after few nests were built, could not conclude the reason.
5. 177 species of birds have been recorded in Kukkarahalli till 1997 (Guruprasad et al)
6. Totally, 176 species of birds including two vagrants have been recorded since 1995 December; Out of this
66, species (checklist colored in skyblue) have tendencies of population decline/altogether missing.
7. Important common birds that are missing–Lesser Whistling Teal, Black Winged Kite, Streaked Fantail Warbler, Plain Prinia, Streaked Weaver Bird, White-bellied Drongo, Red Munia, Large Grey Babbler, Rufous backed Shrike, Lesser Pied Kingfisher, Stone Curlew, Jungle bush Quail, and Oriental Scope Owl
8. This has been selected as an IBA because the Pelican is breeding here except in 2000-2001and Lesser Adjutant was a resident for one complete season.
9. In August 2000, nearly 0.1 million fish died due to pollution from sewage and resultant depletion of oxygen.
10. Two Pelicans found dead in Kukkarahalli Lake on Dec 14, 2005
11. In 2003 Shovellers. Pintals, Garganey, Lesser Whistling teal were found just roosting for a day, but not foraging; probably arrived due to disturbance in Lingambudhi Lake. Prior to that these birds were sighted last year on 31.1.1997
12. Stone curlew breeding was last sighted on 1996
13. For the past five years (since, 2005 winter), 60-65 species have been recorded in the winter months in the lake. However, it is significantly lesser by 10-15 species compared to 1995 to 2004.
14. Max Number of adult Pelicans and Painted Storks recorded at the end of breeding season in breeding colony.
Two age old trees (more than 100 year old) located in Mysore University Campus -Ficus religiosa and Tamarindus indica, have been declared as Heritage trees by Committee for protection of Heritage trees of Mysore.
Study over a period of a decade has resulted in observation of 85 species representing all the five families. Regularly Common Sailer Neptis hylas, Blue Tiger Tirumala limniace, Psyche Leptosia nina and rarely Bamboo Tree Brown Lethe europa, Common Silverline Spindasis vulcanus are met with. Occasionally rare butterfly like -Chestnut streaked Sailer, Gaudy Baron and Peacock Royal have been recorded. Abundance, seasonal variation and encounter frequency have been depicted below. Repeated clearance of under herb and shrub in tank bed has drastically reduced the diversity and density count.
References and Additional Reading:
Guruprasad P, Manu K, Ramesh S & Rajkumar D. 1997. Birds of Kukkarahalli, Mysore Amateure Naturalists, Mysore. Pages 36
Rao,R.R & Razi,B.A. 1981. A synoptic flora of Mysore district, Today & Tomorrow's printrs and publishers, New Delhi. 20- 22
Shivaprakash, A. 2001. Roositng Birds of Mysore city, Newsletter for Birdwatchers: 41(2):22-23.