Why’re Flames Erupting From Kashmir Wetlands?

Flames erupting from Narkara wetland on the evening of February 17. KO Photo by Arshad Wani.

Second time in a week, wetlands in the valley rose up in flames leaving birds as well as environment in a chokehold situation.

Narkara (Srinagar)- When the air suddenly turned bitter on the evening of February 17, Arshad Wani feared some burning house situation in his hometown Hyderpora, Srinagar.

As he stepped out to find the source of the smoke smell, he suddenly heard shrieks and hoots.

That nocturnal noise didn’t sound human — and clearly, it didn’t come far from his home.

“They were migratory birds caught in flames,” Wani recalls the deafening moment.

“The poor creatures looked alarmed and were being roasted alive.”

The flames were coming from the Hyderpora-Narkara wetland where Wani shortly paid a visit along with some neighbours.

“The wetland is the home of thousands of migratory and native birds,” Wani said.

“Someone had set it afire leaving the guest birds in the lurch. This was the second consecutive night that flora of the wetland was torched.”

On February 10, similar mysterious flames came from the Baba Demb lagoon in Old City. The daytime blaze not only filled the locality with choking smoke but also forced birds to flee.

“This is surely the job of drug addicts or land mafias eyeing these wetlands,” Wani said.

When Kashmir Observer visited Narkara, the local residents alleged that gamblers and drug addicts have made the wetland their hub.

“Narkara is also being encroached by land mafia and no one takes any cognizance of it,” Mohammad Faisal, a local resident, told Kashmir Observer.

“The fire created panic in the area last night and no one from the official department came to extinguish it.”

However, Ifshan Dewan, wildlife warden, told Kashmir Observer that the fire was dozed-off on time and the watch-and-warden team was immediately deployed for the nocturnal patrolling.

“Since this is not the breeding season, the migratory birds will shift to other areas,” said Intisar Suhail, Wildlife Warden of Shopian and Pulwama belt.

“The fire could’ve been disastrous for the birds in their breeding season.”

Since wetlands are the breeding ground for the birds, thousands of migratory birds from different areas of the world arrive in Kashmir during winter when freezing temperatures in their summer habitats make food scarce.

They start arriving in October and stay until the end of April.

But according to reports, many migratory birds have already left the valley wetlands early this year because of the increase in day temperature.

Meanwhile, Wani is still shuddering at the sight he witnessed on February 17.

“The flames could be seen from 3-4 kilometres,” he said.

“People from neighbouring areas like Barzulla, Sanat Nagar and Chanapora were calling us to enquire about the fire. This choking situation needs to be checked and curbed as soon as possible.”

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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