With the winter having set in, wildlife experts are worried over the delay in flocks of migratory birds from Central Asia and Northern Europe reaching the Gharana wetland situated close to the India-Pakistan border in Jammu district.
The birds used to reach the wetland by starting October, but this time the migratory birds might have chosen some other safer wetland in Shivalik foothills or Harike in Punjab, experts point out. Very few birds have so far landed the wetland.
The Gharana wetland is house to thousands of birds, including those of endangered species, which migrate here during winters.
It is also being pointed out that frequent firing by Pakistani troops in violation of ceasefire between India and Pakistan and also bursting of crackers by residents of villages near the wetland might have scared away the migratory birds.
Local residents have been encroaching upon the wetland that has over the years shrunk to about 0.50 sq Kms from the earlier 0.75 sq Kms.
A large number of birds flocked the wetland during the first three years of ceasefire. There were reports of Pakistani troops also killing several birds by firing at the flocks.
According to wildlife officers, 50-67 species, including some rare and endangered species fly to the Gharana wetland every year. They include Siberian hans, Keel, Grey Heron and Little Grebe from New Zealand, America and Australia.
Most of the birds like Grey Key Goose, Shoverler, Marclands, Poachards, Teals and Gadwal are from Central Asia and Northern Europe. They migrate to Gharana to escape the harsh winters.
However, wildlife warden P.K. Singh said there was nothing alarming about the birds having not flown to Gharana.
He said “the pattern of migration of these birds changes every winter because of certain hindering factors”.
He said that the birds might have chosen various wetlands enroute including those in Haryana, foothills of Shivalik and Harike in Punjab.
“About 50,000 birds of various species used to come here every winter, but the number dwindled between 15,000 and 20,000 last year”, Singh said.
There were reports of people living around the wetland indulging in bursting crackers to scare away these birds.
Neither the centre and nor the state government have taken adequate steps to conserve the wetland reportedly because of political pressure of the Basmati rice growers lobby of the area.
Minister for forest, environment and ecology, Mian Altaf had recently said that the centre has approved a proposal for development of Gharana wetland. The proposal has been sanctioned under Wetland Development Scheme, envisaging conservation of the wetland, eviction of encroachments, with expansion and awareness as salient features of the scheme.