Virat Jolli: Chamba town is in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh. It is located on the bank of Ravi River. This river is one of the majour river and tributary of Indus River System. Government of India has constructed Chamera Hydro Electric Project (CHEP) on the upstream of Ravi River to generate electricity. Chamera Hydro Power Project comprised of three stages: Stage-I downstream of Chamba town generating a total of 540 MW; Stage-II upstream of Chamba town generating 300 MW while Stage-III further up of Stage-II generating a total of 231 MW of electricity. The silent feature of these projects is that these are run of the river scheme which require relatively lesser impoundment of river water for electricity generation.
Considering their low impact on environment, we made a rapid field assessment of birds along upstream of Ravi River from Chamba town to Bharmour which covered two CHEP-II & III to know the avifauna of the Ravi River.
It was 6th of June 2018 i.e. Summer season, I along with Dabe Ram hired a taxi to cover 60 km distance from Chamba Town to Bharmour. We left the town during morning at around 7:15 am and begin the rapid bird assessment from 7:30 am starting from a Karian Station. The station is located on the outskirt of Chamba Town. We spent 10 minutes at this point and spotted birds like Striated Prinia, Himalayan Bulbul, Russet Sparrow, Ashy Drongo and a Shikra but to our surprise no river birds were seen. We left the station and travel 3 km ahead and observed birds for another 10 mins. At this point we saw some Blue Whistling Thrushes, White throated Kingfisher some more Ashy Drongos, Alpine Swifts and Purple Sunbird.
|Blue Whistling Thrush|
Hoping to find more new bird species we moved ahead and stopped at Mehla Station, at this point we spotted only Blue Whistling Thrush and a Striated Prinia. After this point we halted at another important station Rakh. This station had flock of Blue Rock Pigeon, few Blue Whistling Thrushes and pair of Black-eared Kite.
Our next station was Dunali where only one Blue Whistling Thrush was seen we left the site and move further North and reached our last station Durgati close to Chamera HEP-III here we saw Black eared Kite, Blue Rock Pigeon and Blue Whistling Thrush.
When we began our rapid bird assessment, we were expecting to see Dippers, Redstarts, Wagtails, Kingfishers but spotted none. The current rapid assessment pointed out fact that Hydro Power Projects are reducing the avian fauna probably by affecting their food supply and nesting sites. The river flow through some important protected areas like Tunda Wildlife Sanctuary and Kugti Wildlife Sanctuary and therefore has high conservation value. Though, we need more extensive survey to validate it further however our rapid assessment has shown the likely negative impact of HEP which we have published earlier (Jolli V 2017).
Jolli, V. (2017). Hydro Power Development and Its Impacts on the Habitats and Diversity of Montane Birds of Western Himalayas, Vestnik Zoologii, 51(4), 311-324. doi: https://doi.org/10.1515/vzoo-2017-0036