SAVING THE ECOSYSTEMS

With the winter having set in, the state of Jammu and Kashmir is going to be abode during the season for a variety of aves species including Brahminy Duck, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Garganey, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Common Merganser, Northern Pintail, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Red-Crested Pochard, Ruddy Shelduck, Northern Shoveler, Common Teal, and Eurasian Wigeon which are some of the most sighted birds in the wetlands of this crown state of the world’s largest democracy after migrating from Central Asia and Europe during the winter months. The state which is already blessed with nature’s bounty witnesses further vibrance with these migratory birds making the season as well as the environs colourful and lively. However given the carelessness on the part of various stakeholders be it the concerned agencies or the people at large as of today these winged visitors might be forced to look for alternative winter homes in the near future due to increasing encroachments, waste disposal and noise pollution having reached alarming level in the wetlands across the state. About ten lakh migratory birds leave for their summer sojourn across continents after having lived winter months in the wetlands of Jammu and Kashmir to escape harsh cold weather back home. These wetlands undoubtedly form one of the most significant ecosystems supporting equally important biodiversity in the region and it becomes our foremost duty to ensure the preservation of ecosystems at all costs especially in view of the global initiative to conserve biodiversity in order to address the issue of climate change for which India has been making consistent efforts both at the national as well as international level. Wetlands are essential for maintaining bio-diversity, water harvesting and water availability. As elsewhere the wetlands play an important role in the economic activities of the people in Jammu and Kashmir. Besides being reservoirs of water and rich repository of macrophytic vegetation and winter asylum to migratory birds, these provide livelihood to thousands of locals in terms of various products harvested from their waters be it fish or vegetation. These also boost tourism in the concerned areas thus providing an economic boost to the region as well as its people. J&K has 29 wetlands, 16 in Kashmir, 8 in Jammu and 5 in Ladakh with around 106 species of birds nestling in these wetlands including 25 species of land birds who visit occasionally. The importance of these wetlands increases as they provide sanctuary to migratory birds some of them belonging to the endangered species. Two near extinct species, White-eyed Pochard was found in seven wetlands in the state and Ibis in two wetlands in Jammu besides two endangered species namely Black-necked Crane and Sarus Crane spotted in wetlands of Ladakh and at Gharana in Jammu respectively. Unfortunately it is a matter of great concern that these wetlands are shrinking as a result of human greed and the pressures of rapid population growth. Once having about 600 small and big wetlands around Kashmir valley alone, today we are left with just a few wetlands and those too being on the verge of extinction. It is high time for one and all to rise to the occasion and initiate measures to preserve and enhance the wetlands that we are left with today by proceeding at individual as well as community level besides government as well as NGO levels and stop encroachment of the wetlands and unscientific waste disposal that have been playing havoc around these ecosystems. But first and foremost there is a need to tackle the issue of noise pollution around the wetlands because despite transforming the wetlands into the best abode these aves will desist from even landing near such wetlands. It is hoped that all the stakeholders without any further delay come forward with a practicable project and transform it on ground to prevent these guest birds from finding alternate places to spend their winters that could deprive this state of one of the most important components of its rich biodiversity.