IN141
Dihaila Jheel and other wetlands


Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
The Karera Bustard Sanctuary in Shivpuri district has one of the richest wetlands of the state, Dihaila jheel. Being entirely rainfed, the size of Dihaila jheel varies from year to year, depending on the quantity of the monsoon rain received which falls between July and September. Two barrages help to impound the water, which is released through sluice gates for irrigation. Being used in all possible ways, the jheel is an extremely important feature of the area. Dihaila jheel helps local inhabitants by providing water for irrigation during years of good rainfall, land for cultivation during poor rainfall years, and pasture for livestock as the jheel dries out (Rahmani 1987). A variety of birds find a haven in the jheel throughout the year. These include resident, breeding and Palearctic migratory birds. As the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps has disappeared totally from the Karera Bustard Sanctuary (Rahmani 2002), and there does not appear any chance for its revival, we have taken only Dihaila jheel as an IBA. Besides Dihaila, there are many more man-made waterbodies within Karera Bustard Sanctuary. The important ones are Ronija tank (10-15 ha), Barsori-Fatehpur tank (30-40 ha), Berkhera tank (104 ha), Karhai-Ramgarha (20 ha), and Gadha tank (20 ha). All these water bodies are included in this IBA.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: A wide range of species of birds can be seen in and around Dihaila jheel. With the onset of the monsoon in late June or early July, hundreds of Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica, Comb Duck Sarkidiornis melanotos, Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha, Cotton Teal or Pygmy Goose Nettapus coromandelicus, Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus, Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis, as well as egrets and storks occupy the newly inundated areas. The Teal, Comb Duck and Spot-billed Duck soon leave the jheel to nest elsewhere. By September-October, migratory Palearctic birds start arriving. Among ducks, the first to arrive is the Northern Pintail Anas acuta, one of the most common ducks in India. Within a few days, Garganey Anas querquedula, Northern Shoveler A. clypeata, Wigeon A. penelope, Common Teal A. crecca, Gadwall A. strepera, Redcrested Pochard Rhodonessa rufina, Common Pochard Aythya ferina, White-eyed Pochard or Ferruginous Pochard Aythya nyroca and Tufted Duck A. fuligula cover the jheel. Flocks consisting of 40-50 thousand ducks are not uncommon. Huge dense flocks of the Ruff Philomachus pugnax, sometimes consisting of 20-30 thousands birds, are found in the inundated paddy fields, downstream of the jheel. They move around in restless flocks. By mid-November, Bar-headed Geese Anser indicus and Greylag Geese A. anser arrive. Up to 1,500 were counted in 1986 (Rahmani 1988). The influx of more birds is seen again on their return migration in end March and early April. White-necked Storks Ciconia episcopus, Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans, Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus and Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala are commonly seen at Dihaila. There are also a few records of White Stork Ciconia ciconia. First observed in 1982, the Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber has been regularly visiting the area thereafter. In 1988, even a Siberian Crane Grus leucogeranus was sighted for about three months (Hussain et al. 1988-89). The Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga, Tawny Eagle A. rapax, Osprey Pandion haliaetus, Peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus, Pallas’s Fish-Eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus and Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus comprise the six species of raptors that are seen at the jheel. There are many more in the surrounding grasslands and crop fields (Rahmani 1991). Resident Sarus Cranes Grus antigone and migrant Demoiselle Cranes Grus virgo are a regular feature at the site. Two or three pairs of Sarus are found around Dihaila, and some more pairs in other wetlands of the Sanctuary (Rahmani 1991). A total of 27 species of waders have been identified in the jheel and surrounding areas. A graduated feeding habitat comprising of dry, muddy and submerged areas occurring in close proximity is provided to the waders as the water of the jheel recedes. At the onset of winter, when the paddy is just ripening, farmers face the difficulty of protecting their crops from depredation by migrating ducks. No fewer than 100,000 waterfowl are regularly present during winter in Dihaila jheel and other waterbodies in the Karera Bustard Sanctuary (Rahmani 1987). Dihaila jheel also serves as a moulting ground for the Comb Duck during winter, when a few hundred birds become flightless for about 2-3 weeks. Bird ringing was done in Dihaila and other waterbodies by BNHS between 1985 and 1989. Some interesting records were made. For instance, a male Greater Scaup Aythya marila was ringed on November 23, 1985 (Natarajan and Sugathan 1987). It is an uncommon migrant to large waterbodies in north India.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Sadly, the Great Indian Bustard became locally extinct in this area in 1993-94. Among the mammals, Blackbuck Antilope cervicapra, Chinkara Gazella bennettii, Wolf Canis lupus, Golden Jackal Canis aureus and Indian Fox Vulpes bengalensis are found in the area.

Nilgai or Bluebul Boselaphus tragocamelus, was not found in the mid 1980s, but it is now seen in increasing numbers.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Denotification of Karera Bustard Sanctuary; Extensive human intervention in the area; Anti-wildlife feeling developing amongst people due to crop damage by Blackbuck.

Before the establishment of the Karera Bustard Sanctuary, Dihaila jheel was a favourite hunting ground for wildfowl. However, once it was declared a sanctuary, adequate protection was given to all wildlife in the area. Tremendous pressure by local politicians and villagers risk the very existence of this waterbody. Furthermore, plans to build a canal to bring water from more than 50 km away form part of the main irrigation plan of the Mohini Sagar Project. Once completed, the canal will greatly increase the irrigation facilities inside the Sanctuary. Also, the water of Dihaila jheel may no longer be required for irrigation, and if that is the case there is the danger that the jheel itself will be drained and cultivated. On the other hand, it may also increase the water inflow to the jheel thereby increasing its water retaining capacity for a much longer period through regular refilling. There is an urgent need to protect this wetlands, in collaboration with the villagers. If necessary, the Government of Madhya Pradesh should purchase this wetland and declare it as a national park.

Acknowledgements
Key contributor: Asad R. Rahmani.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Dihaila Jheel and other wetlands. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 24/05/2022.