Srinagar: The department of Forests, Ecology & Environment has identified 19 sensitive zones to take measures for their conservation on priority. But a top official said that he will ask experts to study Khush-hal Sar water body in Srinagar for including it in the priority list of sensitive eco-zones needing urgent attention.
He said that Jammu & Kashmir has around 1250 water bodies, but only four of them, Hokersar, Tso Morriri, Surinsar and Wular Lake are Ramsar sites which means they have been designated as internationally important wetlands and receive much attention for their conservation as well.
But, the state government has requested the central government that Jammu & Kashmir needs resources to conserve other important wetlands as well, Commissioner Secretary, Forests, Ecology & Environment, Manoj Kumar Dwivedi told Kashmir Observer.
Since it is not possible to have resources for the conservation of all these water bodies, the central government has asked us to prioritise which ones need urgent attention. So far, we have identified 19 sensitive zones and we will take up more eco sensitive zones in a phased manner, Dwivedi said. The priority eco sensitive zones identified so far, include Pahalgam, Sonamarg, Dal Lake, Wular Lake, Mughal Road and sensitive zones in Jammu.
When asked why the government is not taking necessary measures for saving an important water body, Khush-hal Sar, which is in the heart of Srinagar city and needs urgent attention of the government, Dwivedi said that he will ask the experts to study this water body and come up with a report about its present status and the conservation measures which need to be taken for securing its future.
Pertinently, Khush-hal Sar Lake is currently neither under Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) nor under Srinagar Municipality. The lake is under a lot of stress due to increasing urbanisation and lack of proper waste management system in the old city. Dozens of drains, carrying sewage, end up flowing into once pristine lake the name of which means the affluent lake. Organic waste and plastic litter is now dumped into the lake at many places. The residents of the area have demanded that the lake, which used to provide livelihood to people around it, needs to be protected from degradation. Kashmir Observer has run a series of stories highlighting the importance of protecting once splendid waterbody.
Water bodies need Integrated Management
Meanwhile, the wildlife department has submitted a report to the government wherein it has been emphasised that a river basin approach has to be taken by formulating an integrated comprehensive Management Action Plan for the conservation of all the water bodies which are part of the Jhelum basin.
According to the report, copy of which lies with the Kashmir Observer, the wetlands of Narkura (Budgam), Indranagar, Bemina (Srinagar), Poshkur (Pulwama), Boug (Sopore) are some of the vivid examples [of wetlands] which have dwindled over the period of time. The report says that it is too late to restore many areas which have been already been reclaimed for agriculture or urban expansion.
The report says that heavy silt deposition in the wetlands by the inlet channels has silted up many areas of wetlands. Large portion of Hokersar, Hygam, and Mirgund are converted into high land portions and brought under paddy cultivation by local communities. Some of the areas reclaimed have been brought under plantations of willow (Salix spp) and for crop cultivation.
Human settlements along the feeding channels, the report says, are among the main contributors to the environmental degradation of water bodies.
The sewage from these settlements and sewerage from the catchments is discharging directly in to these wetlands. Solid wastes such as vegetable scraps, polythene bags and wreckage easily finds their way to the wetlands. Soil and wind erosion in the catchment is another reason to cause habitat degradation, the report says and adds that use of agriculture fertilisers and pesticides, insecticides, fungicides etc in the catchments of Hokersar, Hygam, Mirgund and Chatullam has spoiled the water chemistry and rescheduled the ecological functions there.
The fishery, it further says, is seriously affected and many species of fish forming a good portion of food to birds are already eliminated while their quantum is also seriously reduced.
Large portions of wetland have been silted up and a few dykes are available to the migratory birds to sustain during winter months in particular.The statistics recorded in the wetlands previously and in the last decade reveals that migratory bird population has come down due to the above reasons. Formation of peat lands and occupation of more areas by weed infestation is also affecting the arrival and population of migratory birds in these wetlands.
According to the report, there is no system of garbage collection and disposal for the biodegradable and non-biodegradable solid wastes which is creating lot of pollution in the wetlands. The steps have to be taken for disposal of solid wastes scientifically. Significant quantity of solid, house and municipal wastes are collected in the Hokersar and other wetlands including the polluted water, the report has highlighted.
In the report, the department has advised the government to formulate an integrated comprehensive Management Action Plan adopting river basin approach for the following:
To study wetland ecosystem characteristics and services.
To study Habitat Restoration and amelioration on scientific basis and recommend necessary interventions.
(3) To augment the efforts for conservation of large breeding /egg laying species (Migratory/resident) in the reserves.
(4) To provide livelihoods to the dependent villagers living at the proximity of wetland.
(5) To reduce siltation into the wetland through soil conservation works.
(6) To publish resource material for education, awareness- tourists and locals.
(7) To establish check points and wildlife tourist guide Centres/facilities at wetland site and at tourist destination points including Air Ports and Tourist Reception Centres.
(8) To set up anti-poaching and Bio-piracy check posts
(9) To build up better infrastructure at different strategic locations including division headquarters.