Jagadishpur Reservoir turning into centre of attraction for birdwatchers

JITPUR, KAPILVASTU: The Jagadishpur Reservoir in Kapilvastu district, which figures in the list of major wetlands of the world, has been gradually developing into a tourist destination in recent times.

The reservoir is the largest artificial lake in the country, which is located in Kapilvastu Municipality-9, about 11 kilometres to the north of Taulihawa, the headquarters of Kapilvastu district.

This lake has become a new destination for tourists visiting Lumbini — the birthplace of Gautama Buddha — which lies in the neighbouring Rupandehi district. The foreign visitors coming to Lumbini have also been visiting the Jagadishpur Reservoir for sight-seeing.

Many species of birds that inhabit the Jagadishpur wetland area are an attraction for the visitors. The number of visitors coming for bird-watching has also increased, which includes students and researchers of forestry and environment. So far, the highest number of tourists visiting the Jagadishpur area are from Britain and Australia.

Although there isn't an exact record of the number of visitors coming to the area, of late, the place has become a destination for bird-watching, senior ornithologist Dr Hem Sagar Baral, said.

He said that one could see birds of many species at a time. "One can see the water birds, which have migrated from Siberia and Tibet, crossing the Himalayas, inhabiting, breeding and hatching in this area during winter. These birds can be seen floating and frolicking in the lake and the indigenous birds also join them, which is really very enjoyable to see," he shared.

According to Dr Baral, migratory birds from Siberai, Russia, China, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan come to this wetland. Large number of birds can be seen roaming around the bank of Banganga River and irrigation canals, searching for food and rooting on trees and bushes in the area.

The reservoir with a surface area of 225 hectares — constructed in the early 1970s for irrigation purposes — is fed by a canal from the nearby Banganga River, which drains the Chure Hills. The depth of the reservoir varies between 2 metres in the dry season and 7 metres in the monsoon season.

Recently, British ornithologist Tony Menwood came here along with his spouse Helen for bird-watching. "I felt a different kind of joy to see more than 4,000 birds in a single flock here. It is really exhilarating to see a large population of birds floating and moving around the lake making all kinds of sounds," he shared.

Helen said that she was also overcome with joy when she saw birds of more than 30 species at once. "I felt a kind of peace watching the birds. I knew from reading Buddhist literature that peace could be felt by watching birds and I could really experience it here," she said.

Clyde Odone, a famous wildlife photographer of Austria, comes here every two years to take photos of the birds. Bird photographer Om Yadav of Nepal also comes to Jagadishpur Reservoir every year for photographing birds.

"My heart became joyous watching the birds. Jagadishpur is a heaven for bird-watchers," said environmental journalist Ramesh Bhusal, who has also worked for the BBC Nepali Service.

A total of 22,491 water birds were counted in Jagadishpur wetland this year, according to Baral. "Although birds are facing problems in their habitat and feeding due to the effect of climate change, Jagadishpur wetland still offers better environment and habitat for the birds. It is a big lake and the birds can freely roam and play around in the waters," he said and stressed the need to protect the area. It could be developed into one of the best destinations in the country for bird-watching, he suggested.

Bird Festival is organised at Jagadishpur Lake every year for the last five years as part of its promotion.

A study carried out by the IUCN showed that the Jagadishpur wetland is home to more than 167 species of birds including eight species of rare birds, eight species of amphibians, and 38 species of reptiles.