A study report released last week by the ELA Foundation on the aquatic biodiversity of the lakes at Thokarwadi, Kundli, Walvan, Shirvata, Mulshi and Lonavala in the northern parts of the Western Ghats documented over 150 species of microscopic organisms called zooplanktons and phytoplanktons and about 50 species of wild orchids in the catchment areas.
About 50 species of fish, of which some were recorded after 70 years, 24 species of caecilians and amphibians, and over 150 bird and reptile species, some of these highly threatened, were documented.
According to Dr Satish Pande, director of Ela Foundation, threatened species of birds like the white ibis, the painted stork and the Eurasian spoonbill, which are in the red book of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), can be found breeding and roosting in the areas.
“Through this research, which was conducted after 100 years, we’ll be focusing on the catchment areas around the water bodies, which are in jeopardy because of urbanisation, industrialisation, and agricultural cropland and infrastructure development,” Pande said. “We found that industrial effluents, pesticides and other pollutants are being discharged in these water bodies.”
He said that certain species of rotifers discovered in the water bodies were said to be indicators of pollution as these are found only in polluted waters.
“This is happening despite the government’s directive that the effluents generated by the industries should not be discharged outside their premises and should be treated by the industries themselves,” he said.
To preserve existing natural habitats and aquatic life, officials of the Tata Power Company say they will list out the species and work towards their preservation the way it was done for conserving the endangered mahseer fish in the state, which after efforts is now breeding in plenty.
The company has also planted thousands of endemic trees around the water bodies to prevent soil erosion. “These areas are harbouring rich bio-diversity and we are working keeping in mind the changing scenario and habitat modification around the water bodies,” a senior Tata Power official, who requested anonymity, said. “Through the research we get to see what have we have protected in the past 100 years.”