Surat :Taking one kilometer detour from the buzzing airport on posh Surat-Dumas road brings you to a different world. Surrounded by the concrete jungle and the hustle-bustle of residential colonies, there is a huge lake spread on about seven hectares of land, protected with bushy trees and plants on its periphery. Welcome to Gavier lake, a lone wetland in the city and probably in Gujarat, which is a jewel of thriving biodiversity with flora and fauna.
Thanks to Nature Club Surat (NCS), a city-based NGO for adopting lake, once used by the locals from the nearby Gavier and Magdalla village for fishing and hunting of birds, and taking up its conservation under the wetland conservation project in 2003, the Gavier lake, according to late checklist of birds, insects, mammals, Amphibians and reptiles, is now home to about 130 bird species, 69 butterflies, 26 reptiles, seven species of amphibians, 74
spider species, 70insects and about nine mammals.
In 2003, NCS volunteers noticed plenty of birdlife in Gavier lake. During that time, the lake was shallow and covered with scrubs and wild vegetation and that the access to the lake was a bit difficult job.The volunteers removed all the gando baval and planted more than 1,200 native tree saplings, beneficial to wildlife directly and indirectly. Fencing was done on the 1.5-kilometer periphery of the lake to protect it from cattle and intruders.
Specialized flat-bottomed boats were constructed for carrying out the work of removing floating vegetation including water hyacinth and algae from the surface of the water. A few floating islands were created for the birds to perch and nest. Some birds like Black Winged Stilts have been nesting on the island.
The lake is home to about 3,000 migratory birds during the winter season. A gradual slope has been created for the birds like Wadgers for landing. On the other side of the lake, Typha weeds are growing naturally, where the birds like Purple moorhens, grey herons, pheasant-tailed jacana can breed.
The lake edges are covered with natural vegetation to prevent erosion and to harbor a lot of insect life. Lily was introduced in the lake so that birds like Bronze-winged jacana, purple moorhens, pheasant tailed jacana can walk on their leaves and explore the water body. Grass crap fish was introduced to keep the aquatic vegetation in check. Also, native species of turtles like flap shells were introduced to keep the water clean.
Every year, more than 3,000 school and college students visit the lake for nature education and bird watching. Not only this, over 1,200 avid bird watchers and nature lovers visit the lake to enjoy its beauty.
Snehal Patel of NCS told TOI, “The town planning (TP) scheme implementation in the area is posing a serious threat to the wetland’s ecosystem and its biodiversity. Though we are thankful to the civic authorities for blocking the road approved on the periphery of the lake, but serious efforts are still required to protect and conserve the beauty of Gavier lake”
Mammals amidst men!
AFTER they disappeared one-and-a-half-decade ago from the water bodies in and around the city, the endangered otters were spotted for the first time at Gavier lake on the Surat-Dumas road in 2013, which inspired the NCS volunteer, Krunal Trivedi to initiate the first ever study in 2015.
NCS joined hands with Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) to take up the conservation project for the smooth-coated otters in the diamond city in 2015.
One of the major distribution patches of the smooth-coated otters lies among Surat and its surrounding areas. Being data deficient species, NCS conducted a study on its distribution in Surat which revealed over 25 different sites of otters. The project was started in February 2018 and its aim is to understand otter ecology and faced in the human-dominated landscape.
Few years ago, smooth-coated Otters were identified at the verge of extinction in Gujarat, but otters have made the rivulets, lakes and river in Surat district their home in the last few years.
smooth-coated Otters, as aquatic predators at the top of the food chain and good indicator species for a healthy riverine ecosystem. They are known to live semi-aquatic lives.
The gaviar lake is host of at least nine mammals which include Smooth coated otter, Golden jackals, Jungle cat, Small Indian Civet, Indian Hare, Indian Grey, Mongoose, and Five-striped palm Squirrel among others.
Zubin Mistry, avid bird watcher: Gavier lake is very close to my heart from the last 17 years. However, the rapid urbanization in the last five years has seriously threatened the very existence of the wetland. We fear that the haphazard development will kill biodiversity. Whatever the town planning scheme is, it is our suggestion that 500 meters land in all the direction of the lake should be declared green belt by the civic body and the State Government.
Dr Paresh Shah, well-known surgeon and nature lover: Gavier lake is a jewel in the crown of the city. I am very much upset from the last five years as the number of migratory birds have decreased due to rapid urbanization around the lake. If we talk about smart cities, biodiversity, water bodies etc. should be part of it. Gavier lake should be a role model for biodiversity development in the city.
Snehal Patel, NCS president: “We are not against urban development, but all we want is the protection and conservation of the Gavier lake. NCS volunteers have toiled hard to protect the biodiversity jewel of the city since 2003. We want that the government and the civic body should hand over the lake for further conservation.
Checklist at Gavier Lake
Butterflies : Striped tiger, plain tiger, Baronet, Great eggfly, danaid eggfly, chocolate pancy, lemon pancy, blue tiger, twany coaster, common Indian crow, common jezbel, common cerulean, common evening brown, common wanderer, common baron, common grass yellow, common four ring, tiny grass blue, lesser grass bleu, forget me not, lime blue.
Reptiles: Green Vine Snake, Rat snake, spectacled cobra, common krait, russel’s viper, saw scaled viper, common sand boa, bronzeback tree snake, red sand boa, checkered keelback, bronze back tree snake, common cat snake, brahminy worm snake, trinket snake, yellow bellied house gecko, common house gecko, bark gecko, bronze grass skink, common snake skin, Bengal monitor lizard
Amphibians: Common Indian toad, common tree frog, skittering frog, Indian bullfrog, orante narrow-mouthed frog, Sri Lankan Bullfrog, cricket frog.
Mammals: Jungle cat, Small Indian civet, Indian Hare, Indian grey mongoose, five stripped palm squirrel, house shrew, Indian flying fox
Birds: Asian open-billed stork, Asian Paradise-flycatch, bank myna, black ibis, tri-colored munia, black-winged stilt, blue rock pigeon, Brahminy starling, bronze-winged iacana, cinnamon bittern, comb duck, orange headed thrush, black napped monarch, common starling, coppersmith barbet, cotton teal, darter, Eurasian collared dove, Indian roller, litter cormorant, lesser pied kingfisher, little grebe, spotted munia, spotted dove.