SRINAGAR: Wildlife officials are working overtime to prepare the wintering grounds for tens of thousands of migratory birds who are winging their way to Hokersar wetland reserve on the outskirts of Srinagar that was hit badly by last month’s floods.
The floods have pushed in thousands of tons of debris and silt into this major migratory bird reserve that was already facing siltation from the Doodh Ganga nallah.
The debris has caused extensive depletion of the flora in the wetland which provides vital food supply for the winged visitors.
In November last year, more than over 300,000 migratory birds had visited the Hokersar reserve which is spread over 7.6 sq km and situated 14 km from city centre Lal Chowk on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road.
Imtiyaz Ahmad Lone, Warden Wetlands, said they are hopeful their efforts will work by the time mass influx of the birds starts.
“The wetland is one of the major stopovers and nestling ground for the birds arriving from Central Asia, Russia and China, but floods have ravaged this important reserve,” Lone told Kashmir Reader.
He said the Doodh Ganga channel that opens in the wetland brought tons of waste that has choked several portions of this reserve, altering its ecology.
“The only silver lining has been that some of the advance parties of the migratory birds have started arriving, and we are confident that the birds would keep date with one of their favorite destinations,” Lone said.
The first birds that arrive in the lake are duck species of Common Teal that wildlife officials say have been sighted in this wetland.
Lone said that impact of floods on migratory birds will be studied over a period of time and hoped that the authorities will give due attention to Hokersar wetland as it is one of major flood defences for Srinagar.
“As a long term flood management and mitigation policy, Hokersar needs attention to rid it of the excess silt thus making it an encouraging habitat for the birds, besides increasing wetland potential to retain flood water,” Lone said.
This distinctive wetland over the years has acted as one of the major stopovers for the migratory birds besides a nestling pace for many.
Graylag geese, mallards, shovellers, pintails, gadwalls, widgeons, coots, etc. frequent this wetland every winter.
Besides Hokersar, the other prominent bird reserves of the Valley are Shallabugh, Mirgund and Hygam, and migratory birds arrive in the Valley every winter from Russia (Siberia), China, and some countries of Eastern Europe.