SRINAGAR: On the periphery of Srinagar, Kashmir’s second-largest wetland, Hokarsar, has this year served as life-saver for two lakh additional migratory birds who could not get down at the nearby Shalbug wetland, where constriction work is going on.
The Hokarsar wetland is spread over nearly 13 sq km of land and hosts nearly 4.5 lakh migratory birds every year. These birds come to escape the freezing winter in Siberia, China, and Central Asia. This year, two lakh more of them descended on Hokarsar, proving once again that the wetland is not just the lifeline of Srinagar, which it prevents from floods, and of nearby seven villages that are dependent on it for livelihood.
Deputy Conservator of Wetlands, Kashmir, Abdul Rouf Zargar told Kashmir Reader that construction work is going on at the Shalbug wetland to conserve its ecosystem. “This work may take some time, so the birds found their place at Hokarsar. Today we have nearly two lakh additional birds here. Hokarsar has been a life line for them,” Zargar said.
Ghulam Muhammad, who works as one of the caretakers of Hokarsar, said the arrival of so many birds should be an eye-opener to those who are hell bent on putting an end to it. He singled out locals who he said are trying to convert the wetland into a residential area, and the company that is doing dredging of the wetland to create more space for flood water to flow into the wetland. The Kolkata-based Reach Dredging Limited, he said, seems to not be doing work as per the specifications, as piles of muck dredged out from the water have been lying unattended at the wetland.
According to Muhammad, the wetland has also been providing economic support to seven large villages situated in the surroundings. He said the villagers use the extracted grass and waste from the wetland to feed their cattle and goats, which is their main source of income.
The wetland also produces a variety of dry vegetable that sustains many households, he said.
Muhammad complained that many residential areas which have come up in the past two decades in the city exhaust their sewage drains into the wetland. The sight of lakhs of birds this year should be an eye-opener for them, he said.