Chhimi Dema  

Every autumn, about 22 duck species including near-threatened River Lapwing, make Babesa open sewage treatment ponds their home from late October until early April.

In 2021, the birders in the country proposed Thimphu Thromde convert these ponds into an ecological park instead of refilling them and creating a park.

Thimphu Thromde from last year has started working to create a water park around the pond area. However, according to its plan, there are provisions such as river islands to have migratory water birds coming in as today.

Officials from Thromde said that the open sewage treatment plant would be developed into a water park as part of the Wangchhu River Development plan.

“The River Front Development Plan was presented to Thromde Management at the beginning of 2022, and accordingly, we have started to de-sludge the ponds in preparation to carry out the plans,” an official said.

The official added that Thromde is restoring four river islands which would serve as habitats for aquatic birds through the riverbank protection works by planting flood-resilient trees.

Thromde officials said that the project is progressing and they are planting trees and de-sludging the ponds to develop them into other facilities.

A bird enthusiast, Phub Dorji, said the wetland fragmentation in the capital has caused migratory water birds to lose their habitat.

“With the global loss of natural wetlands, the waterbirds have become increasingly dependent on an alternative artificial pond. The pond can become a good habitat for significant waterbirds conservation,” he said.

Phub Dorji said that the sewage pond offers unlimited food resources and compensates for the birds’ lost natural habitat.

He said that no international birders who visited Bhutan have returned home without visiting the sewerage pond and taking back several checklists of water birds from there. “Tourists have more sighting opportunities in the ponds than river sites. They love watching birds in the pond.”

He added that the area can also serve as a living classroom for children.

The most concerning, Phub Dorji said, is the declining population of near-threatened River Lapwing and Ibisbill which are seen all year long. “But without the better conservation plan and action today, we may lose these significant birds tomorrow.”

The area receives species of vagrant, falcated and mandarin ducks as well.

Another bird enthusiast, Hishey Tshering, said that after the construction of the sewage pond, the birds started coming there and it served as an important habitat for winter birds.

“Once the area is tempered, their habitat will be deprived and as a result, the bird watchers may not find the birds there,” he said.

He said, “If Thromde constructs a park with water ponds, then it might have a positive impact because the water would be much cleaner [encouraging the birds to make it a habitat].”