Kash­mir’s parched wet­lands make winged vis­i­tors’ stay dif­fi­cult

Many bird watch­ers say that they have seen many birds go­ing out of Kash­mir val­ley around mid-win­ter in the past few years due to their dry habi­tat.

The Sunday Guardian - - Nation -

Mi­gra­tory birds, “winged vis­i­tors” to the Kash­mir val­ley, have started throng­ing Kash­mir but parched wet­lands have made their so­journ un­easy, var­i­ous re­ports from wet­lands ar­eas sug­gested. Kash­mir has hun­dreds of wa­ter bod­ies, in­clud­ing wet­lands and lakes, and these birds come here from Cen­tral Asia, Ja­pan and China to stay for the win­ters as the wa­ter bod­ies in their na­tive lands freeze.

Many bird watch­ers and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists say that they have seen many birds go­ing out of Kash­mir val­ley around mid-win­ter in the past few years be­cause of their dry habi­tat. One of them said that they are look­ing for new places, es­pe­cially in the Jammu re­gion, to stay for the win­ter. Near the line of con­trol in R.S. Pora is the mas­sive wet­land of Gha­rana. The wet­land is par­tially en­croached on and many sewage pipes di­rectly go into it. These birds have nowhere to go as Gha­rana is al­ready a dis­turbed habi­tat.

The state wildlife de­part­ment said they were ready to host these mi­gra­tory birds, but the ground re­al­i­ties sug­gest that they may look for other op­tions as most of the wet­lands in Kash­mir are not ready. Pam­pore wet­lands in South Kash­mir at Chatlum, Kurchi, Kreshkhori are no longer vis­ited by the birds due to a fast in­crease of en­croach­ments and hu­man set­tle­ments in the area. Cur­rently, most of the birds come and stay at Hokarsar wet­land and Shal­labugh wet­land in Gan­der­bal District. A se­nior wildlife of­fi­cer told The Sun­day Guardian that there is not much wet­land avail­able for the mi­gra­tory birds in Kash­mir. Most wet­lands have been filled with silt by the dev­as­tat­ing floods in Septem­ber 2014. He said that the gov­ern­ment has not al­lo­cated the re­quired funds to clean these wet­lands.

Many bird ex­perts and na­ture lovers in Kash­mir blame peo­ple and the gov­ern­ment for this mess in the wet­lands. They blame rapid ur­ban­i­sa­tion, lack of will on the part of the gov­ern­ment to re­move en­croach­ments in and around the wet­lands, in­creas­ing noise pol­lu­tion due to a rapid in­crease in ve­hic­u­lar traffic.

A se­nior wildlife of­fi­cer told The Sun­day Guardian on the con­di­tion of anonymity that mi­gra­tory birds may fi­nally take the route of Jammu and other such warm places, if wildlife au­thor­i­ties in Kash­mir Val­ley don’t take prompt mea­sures to clean the wet­lands. Mir­gund wet­land in Budgam has been en­croached on to such an ex­tent that mi­gra­tory birds no longer come there. Sim­i­larly, 13 other wet- lands lo­cated near Ha­jan in North­west Bandi­pora are no longer the favourites of these birds.

Mi­gra­tory birds like Mal­lards are seen on the wa­ter bod­ies like Dal Lake, Manas­bal Lake and Wu­lar lake in­stead of flock­ing to wet­lands across Kash­mir. Shal­labug wet­land of Gan­der­bal is still in a sham­bles. Wildlife war­den of Kash­mir Ab­dul Rouf Zar­gar told The Sun­day Guardian that they were work­ing on the Shal­labug wet­land and it would be ready in two weeks. Zar­gar said that the sit­u­a­tion was not as alarm­ing as be­ing pro­jected by this re­porter and claimed that thou­sands of birds were al­ready stay­ing in Hokarsar and Hygam wet­lands in North Kash­mir. Zar­gar con­cluded that he ex­pects that dur­ing the cur­rent win­ter sea­son, around 5 lakh mi­gra­tory birds will visit Kash­mir through the Asian fly zone route.

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