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Sunday Special » Kaleidoscope

Posted at: Dec 3, 2017, 12:36 AM; last updated: Dec 3, 2017, 12:36 AM (IST)

Welcome back

M Aamir Khan in Srinagar
It’s that time of the year, again: birds from as far as Siberia are flocking to wetlands of Kashmir and Jhajjar in Haryana. Let’s celebrate their arrival
The winter is here, and the Kashmir valley has become a bird watchers’ paradise. Over three lakh winged guests of different varieties have arrived from Europe, Central and North Asian countries, and their number is expected to witness a three-fold rise by February, when the water level in the wetlands rises.

Their rush from as far as Siberia begins from November: the winged guests flock to the wetlands of the Valley and make Kashmir their temporary home. This is despite the wetlands getting shrunk over the years. “We receive at least eight lakh migratory birds annually. This winter there are sixty-eight varieties of them,” says wildlife warden (wetlands) Abdul Rauf Zargar.

So, you have Kingfisher, Brahminy Duck, Garganey, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Common Merganser, Northern Pintail, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Common Teal, Red-Crested Pochard and Ruddy Shelduck and so many others. The Hokersar, near city outskirts, is known as the ‘queen of wetlands’, and is most popular among bird watchers.

These winged guests have become fewer mainly due to encroachments on the wetlands. As per official data, Hokersar’s over 208 acres have been taken over by encroachers in the last 27 years.

Zargar says the wildlife department has taken several steps to restore the natural habitat of these birds. The J&K High Court last month gave the state government three months to complete the demarcation of the wetlands with the help of Geographical Information System (GIS) technology. The birds also face threats from poachers, unscientific waste disposal and noise pollution. The devastating floods of 2014 too had affected the wetlands as its beds had been raised by several feet following heavy influx of silt.

There are around 1,200 water bodies in Kashmir. Nine wetlands and nature reserves managed by the Wildlife Department were notified in 1945. Their demarcation has not been carried out. The High Court in October last directed that the demarcation exercise should be completed in all respects within three month, ‘beyond which no extension of time would be sought.’ The court has also directed revenue authorities to fully cooperate in carrying out the exercise. 

The nine wetlands and nature reserves that are managed by the department of wildlife and are to be demarcated using GIS include three conservation reserves of Khrew, Khimber and Kilsar/Dara/Sharazbal. The six wetland reserves in Kashmir currently being managed by the wildlife department include Hokersar (Srinagar/ Budgam), Mirgund (Baramulla), Shalbugh (Ganderbal), Hygam (Baramulla), Malgam (Bandipora) and Pampore (Pulwama).

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