By SYED RAFIYAH
SRINAGAR: A few decades ago, a vast stretch of Mirgund wetland in the outskirts of Srinagar city on Tangmarg-Narbal road was an attractive site as thousands of migratory birds would fly over and cackle around in winters. The attraction is diminishing every year. This year it was the least.
The wetland is under serious threat of extinction due to unchecked encroachment by people and increasing level of pollution levels from the water sources that drain into it.
Locals say that encroachment on the wetland is one of the major causes for the dwindling number of waterfowl arriving during the winters. “It was a safe zone for migratory birds and every winter we used to see tens of thousands of them arriving”, recalled Ajaz Ahmad, a resident of Narbal village.
Now, vast portions (of the wetland) have come under paddy cultivation. Where paddy plantation was not possible, people have grown poplars and willows”, he said.
Ahmad said the wetland was feeding domestic animals throughout the year as varieties of grass used to grow in it.
Ahmad claims the wetland was spread over an area of 4000 kanals ( eight kanals make a hectare) but it has now shrunken to a few hundreds kanals.
Village headman Shabir Ahamad. Quoting revenue records, claims that the wetland is divided between Mirgund (comprising 148 Kanals) and Kawoosa Jagir of 1000 Kanals.
Ahmad’s father Muhammad Akbar recalls how varieties of fish used to nourish in the fresh water of this wetland, a cherished food for migratory birds.
The pollution attacked the aquatic life that in turn dispelled the migratory birds”, Akbar said.
He said the steams of fresh water emanating from Tosamaidan and Apharwat glaciers were the main sources of water for Mirgund wetland. “These streams now carry loads of waste and impurities to the wetland and silently killing it”, he said.
He said that locals have been demanding conservation of the wetland but the authorities are lacking initiative. “Perhaps, the land-grab mafia and the encroachers are more powerful than the authorities who are unable to take any action against them”, he said.