The Flamingo Festival in Andhra Pradesh is an annual affair by the State Government to increase awareness about the conservation of Flamingos, which make the Pulicat Lake their winter home. As far as I know, this 3 day festival has been happening since 2012, in January every year at the Pulicat & Nelapattu Bird Sanctuaries of Andhra Pradesh.
Only this year, there was not a Flamingo in sight.
The Pulicat Lake, which is the second largest salt-water lagoon in India, is the winter home to numerous Birds from Central Asia (of which Flamingos and Pelicans number the most). These birds come from as far as Siberia to as near as Ladakh, to mate and nest. Looking to escape the chill, they fly across continents, traversing thousands of miles of ocean.
Read: The Flamingo Story
and, what do they find when they finally reach here, their winter home?
Pulicat Lake, January 2015.
To get here you take the road to Sri Hari Kota, an Island off the coast of Bay of Bengal that houses the Satellite Launching Station of ISRO. This is a stretch of around 15km of road with the Pulicat Lake on either side, for as far as you can see.
When I had gone here last year, I had never seen anything like it before. The horizon was pink with flamingos and this ‘Road Through The Lake’ was like no other.
Sorry, no clear shots of the flamingos. 🙁 This was all that I could get on my phone camera.
Pulicat Lake, NOW. January 2016.
Today the Pulicat Lake is totally choked up with sand, thanks to the roads being laid across it cutting off its water inflow from the ocean and making it unsustainable for marine life. 30,000 fishermen once depended on this lake for their livelihood.
Words fail me, as I try to describe the deliberate devastation brought to this place.
The experience of driving on that road-through the lake-to the Island, went from one end of the spectrum to the other, just like that!
No water, no marine life, no flamingos. NADA.
I have been writing this post in my head for 15 days now, but every time I add a photo or a word to the actual draft I can only feel that I am not able to do justice to the situation with my words or photographs. So here is a 15sec video from last year, which I hope paints a more accurate picture of the now no longer existent tranquil life of the Birds of Pulicat Lake.
One can only hope that measures are taken to reverse the damage and the Flamingos come back some day!