A date with the Val­ley

Mi­gra­tory birds flock to Kash­mir de­spite the dam­age caused to wet­lands by flood

Down to Earth - - WILDLIFE - DOWN TO EARTH |

Tflood in HE UN­PRECE­DENTED Jammu and Kash­mir in Septem­ber last year left a trail of de­struc­tion. While the state is still deal­ing with its af­ter­math, wildlife au­thor­i­ties have some­thing to cheer about: winged vis­tors kept their date with the Val­ley de­spite the dam­age caused to the wet­lands by the flood.

Wet­lands in the state have been rapidly shrink­ing over the years due to ur­ban en­croach­ment. The flood only wors­ened their con­di­tion. The wa­ter brought with it mud, piles of rub­ble, dirt, rocks, de­bris from dam­aged houses and high­ways,sep­tic waste from houses and sewage.Th­ese blocked the inflow and out­flow chan­nels of the wet­lands. Oil from petrol pumps drifted along with the flood­wa­ter and ac­cu­mu­lated in the Hok­er­sar wet­land,14 km north of Sri­na­gar. The wa­ter con­tam­i­na­tion, ecol­o­gists feared, would take a toll on the num­ber of mi­gra­tory birds this sea­son. But they were pleas­antly sur­prised as birds flocked to their win­ter homes,in­clud­ing Hok­er­sar wet­land, at the usual time.

No stop­ping the winged vis­i­tors

Mi­gra­tory birds translo­cate to Kash­mir ev­ery year to avert the ex­treme win­ter in Rus­sia and Cen­tral Asia. Birds also come from the Philip­pines,Turkey and China.

“The num­ber of mi­gra­tory birds is slowly go­ing up, which is the usual trend. It in­creased from 0.3 mil­lion in Novem­ber 2014 to 0.6 mil­lion in De­cem­ber.With more birds flock­ing, the num­ber is ex­pected to go up fur­ther.This is sat­is­fac­tory con­sid­er­ing the dam­age caused by the flood,” says Imtiyaz Ah­mad Lone,Wildlife War­den (Wet­lands), Sri­na­gar. Com­par­a­tive stud­ies in­di­cate an up­ward trend in the num­ber of mi­gra­tory birds in the state in re­cent years. Last year, 1.2 mil­lion birds were recorded.

The wildlife au­thor­i­ties claim that they took prompt ac­tion to en­sure that the nat­u­ral habi­tat of the birds was not dis­turbed. Although they did not have a mech­a­nism in place to take out the oil, they worked over­time to clean the wa­ters. “We cleared the inflow and out­flow chan­nels, which were blocked by solid waste and silt. Once th­ese chan­nels were free, the oil slick was drained and fresh wa­ter could eas­ily come in,” Lone adds.

Other wet­lands to­wards north Kash­mir,

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