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Irreversible environmental changes are affecting Kashmir

Wular wetland may disappear in 7 yrs: Environmentalist

Mir Tariq (Rising Kashmir)

Bandipora: The world famous Wular wetland reserve, according to environmentalist, may disappear from the scene in next seven years if government continues to ignore it.

The number of migratory birds visiting the wetland is already witnessing a decline.
The area of the wetland reserve, second largest in Asia, has decreased from 157.74 sq kms to 58.71 sq kms from 1911 to 2008.

Experts said that the unchecked encroachment by the locals and government departments has led to reduction of 45 percent of the wetland area. “It is badly affecting the habitat of migratory birds visiting the wetland from November to March,” they said.

It has been recently estimated that 60,000 kanals of wetland area has been encroached upon in the catchment villages of Sonawari, Bandipora, Watlab, Nigili and Sopore. Some of the reclaimed marshlands measuring about 25 sq kms have been transformed into willow plantations by the state government through social forestry while some areas have been transformed into permanent paddy fields.

Environmentalists warned that wetlands in the state especially Wular wetland are rapidly shrinking due to official apathy and rampant encroachment, endangering thousand of animals and migratory birds.

Wular used to host more than 30,000 migratory birds from different countries, but wildlife experts said that the number of winged visitors is slowly declining.
An environmentalist, Iftikhar Rashid Wani warned that if government continues to neglect the wetland, Wular wetland will vanish in next five to seven years.

Wild Life Warden Wetlands (WLWW), Muhammad Maqbool Baba, admitted that there has been a widespread encroachment in the Wular wetland reserve. “Yes, people of the area have encroached upon a large part of the wetland. We have taken steps to retrieve it,” said Baba.

He said, “Obviously Wular Wetland is shrinkage in size and the shallow water may have an impact on the winged birds visiting wetland every year. Such an affect is not visible”.

The guards, who are working in wetland from previous five years said that due to encroachment the number of migratory birds visiting the wetland is on decline.

An aged guard, Mushtaq Ahmad, who has seen lakhs of winged visitors arrive in the wetland, said that lesser number of winged birds are now visiting Wular wetland. “Since the space is shrinking due to encroachment, the birds have to compete and fight with each other for occupying space,” he added.