A date with the Valley
Migratory birds flock to Kashmir despite the damage caused to wetlands by flood
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,