Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Kashmir’s wetlands shrinking fast

Srinagar, Feb 2: Kashmir’s four premier wetlands - attraction for migratory birds from across the globe - have witnessed 28 to 50 percent shrinkage over the years.The data provided by the Wetland Management wing of the wildlife department reveals maximum 50 percent shrinkage in Mirgund Wetland, which has reduced from four-kilometre area initially to mere two kilometres presently. It is seconded by the 38 percent area reduction in Shalbugh Wetland, 29 percent in Hokarsar Wetland and 28 percent in Haigam Wetland.The area under Hokarsar Wetland is down from 13.75 square kilometres to five square kilometres, Shalbugh is down from 16 sq kilometres to six to seven sq KMs, Haigam from 14 sq KMs to four to five sq KMs and Mirgund from four sq KMs to two sq KMs, Wetland wildlife Warden, Ghulam Muhammad Lone, told Greater Kashmir.Ironically, the department has no data about the other wetlands, which are being managed by it. These include Wullar, Narkara, and Satnam.“We are managing them for migratory birds but we have no data about the total area covered by them and the shrinkage in these,” Lone said, adding there was no data about Kranchu, Hetlam and Baednambal Wetlands as well.Pertinently, Lone revealed the central government has asked the state government to notify total area under wetlands in Kashmir. Lone said the wildlife department has received a letter from the Central Government for undertaking the project of notifying the wetland area, which might be taken up later this year.“Once we take up that project we will be able to know how much land is under wetlands in Kashmir,” Lone said.The warden, however, owes the shrinkage to silt, encroachment and the lack of funds for preservation. Lone said the Wetlands have witnessed excessive siltation from inflowing rivers, compounded by encroachments by the local residents.“In Hokarsar around 25 percent land area has been encroached upon and the rest of it has been consumed by the siltation, though there isn’t any fresh encroachment in the wetland now. The other three wetlands have also fallen prey to siltation,” he said, and expressed concern that if immediate steps were not taken the leftover wetlands might also be lost.Asked why the department didn’t work for the preservation of the siltation he said, “It is a massive project and we don’t have the funds for it. We are only provided a meagre amount for management of the wetlands but the project for prevention of siltation needs funding in crores.”The experts too blame the mismanagement of the government and lack of conservation measures for the shrinkage of the wetlands.“We have always been rich in wetlands but we are fast losing them to an unconcerned government and mismanagement. Anchar Lake is dying and the condition of the Nigeen Lake is such that we can’t even row a boat in it. It is because there aren’t experts managing these wetlands at the ground level and the result is shrinking wetlands,” noted Environmentalist, Dr Abdul Majeed Kak, told Greater Kashmir.

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