Birds Bring Employment to Gharana – Latest Jammu and Kashmir News | Tourism
Thousands of migrating birds creating a winter rite for birdwatchers in the Gharana Wetland located near the international Indo-Pakistan (IB) border at RS Pura, about 35 kilometers from Jammu will finally bring jobs with them for local residents who until now have been worried about their land being grabbed by the government or the influx of tourists leaving them without a livelihood. Once developed, this site where more than two dozen species of birds from Central Asia and Northern Europe arrive each year will be a boon to locals.
The wildlife protection department intends to involve local villagers as they form a society, register with the Registrar of Societies and run the show by setting up souvenir shops, confectioneries as well as other restaurants and parking spaces to generate self-employment. and support the influx of tourists besides creating a niche for themselves by even getting involved in a conservation project to protect this wetland which has been declared an Important Bird Area (IBA) in northern India.
After acquiring about 410 Kanals of land for an estimated amount of Rs 11.70 crore which has been made available to the revenue authorities to compensate local villagers, the Department of Wildlife Protection intends to develop this site in a holistic way where weeding and siltation will be done in the initial stages to create more space for migrating birds and provide them with a natural habitat. The department, after acquiring land, immediately erected a temporary fence around the area and now intends to undertake civil works, said J&K Chief Wildlife Warden Suresh Kumar Gupta .
Arriving last November and feasting the eyes of birdwatchers, these migratory birds are now in retirement and will fly off to their summer habitat of the high altitude lakes of the Gharana Wetland sometime in mid-March this year. . The reduced number of birds, including bar-headed geese and Siberian cranes in Gharana, establishes that they have almost finished their stay this year in Southeast Asia and are preparing to fly over the mighty Himalayas to return in their natural habitat in Central Asian colonies like Tibet, Mangolia, Kazakhstan and Russia.
As the temperature soars, these birds, including gray wagtail, green-winged teal, black-headed ibis, gray heron, spoonbill, coot, little grebe, mallard, pintail, painted stork, painted snipe, northern shoveler, green-winged teal, ruff, lesser wiggly duck, bar-headed goose and Siberian crane should all resume their flight homeward at the end of the day. half-March. Strangely, these bar-headed geese are believed to take a high-altitude flight of around 21,000 feet above the mighty Himalayas to reach their native land in Siberia.
Siberia is a vast Russian province that includes most of northern Asia and its terrain is scattered to tundra, coniferous forest and mountain ranges including the Urals, Altai and Verkhoyansk . Lake Baikal in its south is the deepest lake in the world. The temperature in Siberia dips to -68°C and the bar-headed geese that breed in Central Asia and migrate to Indian states in extreme winters are thought to be the same ones that stay in Jammu for three to four months. . Bar-headed geese are the biggest attraction because instead of taking a route through the middle of mountain passes, they fly over them at very high altitudes in a single flight to land in Indian states or return to their place of origin.
Previously, the Gharana wetland in Jammu had nothing to offer these migratory birds other than 0.75 km² of shallow dirty land encroaching on the pond where more than 5,000 birds alighted each year. Now that the department is serious about developing the area, more birds are expected to arrive in an even larger wetland. According to local surveys, this pond, which when unencroached was clean and free of weeds, supported about 25,000 birds and their many species for about four and a half months of harsh winters. This marsh was notified in 1982, but final approval was not given until 2017, after which the acquisition was to be made, which finally took place recently.
Despite the decline in bird numbers, the number of visitors to the site has not decreased. During a recent visit to the site by the writer, a few doctors, professional photographers, journalists and people from the art world were seen busy watching the birds, clicking their shutters or capturing moments for the paintings in addition to taking notes to write their point of view on the winter festival of migratory birds. The bird landing and take off site is indeed an experience for which bird watchers are bound to visit Gharana Wetland early in the morning.
Zoomers on tripods and binoculars could all be seen busy capturing moments of bird flights, their formations and landings. Those from the Department of Wildlife Protection who look after the wetlands said the birds are so disciplined that they leave and arrive at a specific time. Their biological clocks have been set so meticulously that the multi-training herd arrives and leaves the pond at exactly the same time each day. Many winger friends could be seen moving away from the landing field a bit and then coming back twisting their wings and tails in different permutations and combinations to make safe landings, which was a feast for the eyes.
The Gharana Wetland, which was once not known to the public or never made it onto a tourist’s wish list, is now a favorite destination for birdwatchers, especially when the mustard fields on both sides of the access road welcome people to the zero point. Now that the wildlife protection department intends to revitalize the existing pond by putting in small fish or weeding and silting, there is every chance that more birds and subsequently more ornithologists arrive on the site every year, thus generating many jobs. opportunities for residents who will be educated enough to reap the benefits of this project.
Since all issues relating to wetlands set aside in Gharana including those of state land, Shamlat Deh, ownership, custodian ownership or notified area stands have been resolved, the department has no impediments to develop The area. Earlier, in 2001, the Bombay Natural History Society listed this neglected sanctuary on the Indo-Pakistan border as an Important Bird Area, after which little development of the area has resumed. However, the guns exploding on the Indo-Pakistan border forced these birds not to settle in their natural habitat, but when in 2013 the guns fell silent, the birds returned to the Gharana wetland.
Also today, according to local investigations, it was revealed that Pakistani hunters were still targeting the birds and some of the injured birds that fell on this side of the fence were treated by the department and left again in the wetland to join their herd. The wildlife protection department plans to build a sewage treatment plant (STP) to prevent waste from houses in the village from flowing into the main pond. He plans to build an embankment to protect the entire wetland from encroachment in the near future.
The department also has plans on maps to build sluices and install submersible water pumps to control the water level whereby the water depth could be maintained for the birds to stay comfortably for longer. The most important project is to build a wider access road and parking spaces so that visitors can park their vehicles a little away from the site and not disturb the birds. Over time, the department has also fixed signposts from RS Pura to the bird site for the convenience of visitors who were previously missing.
Birdwatchers, officials, visitors, tourists and filmmakers in addition to wildlife filmmakers have flocked to this site for centuries, but no one has ever bothered to do anything about it. from the village of Gharana, because of which the inhabitants also showed the least interest in the conservation of this wetland. They have no love for the wetland, which is evident from the fact that not even a single person from the village has been hired as a guide or warden by any department.
There is a lot of pressure on this wetland which has destroyed the reserve. Issues of wetland degradation through pollution, encroachment, groundwater abstraction, poor drainage and other actions also require special attention, especially by the people of RS Pura. Wetland conservation initiatives should also be declared as an important part of our national heritage so that they become a center of attraction for neighboring states, especially after the conversion of the former state into a union territory. .
(The author is a seasoned journalist)