It’s been a bittersweet winter for our natural heritage. Bitter, because of Bharatpur, which is a very popular national bird park in India. It’s in coma this winter, because there is no water. This year, you can walk across its dry lake beds. The Rajasthan forest department and state government seems to have decided to let this sliver of our heritage wither away.
On the other hand, an old and rich wetland, known mostly to birders, received much attention. That’s Harike, in Punjab, a wetland from the 1950s, when a barrage was built downstream of the confluence of the Beas and Sutlej. It lies strategically on the migration flyway, so migratory birds land here naturally. This year, Harike’s fortunes were in sharp contrast with those of Bharatpur.
To celebrate the International Wetlands day on the 2nd of February, the Avian Wetlands Habitat Society, in partnership with the Punjab forest department and Indian Army organised a census of birds in Harike. Birding enthusiasts spent 3 days, counting and documenting the birds of Harike. The tally was 75,000 waterbirds and 160 species in all.
Both Harike and Bharatpur are recognised as globally important by the Ramsar Convention of 1975, which protects important wetlands, especially if they are home to waterfowl. We shouldn’t have to lose either — our government owes us both, fully protected.
Now that Copenhagen is over, let’s make sure we don’t forget climate change. In a week, trees around us will begin to shed their leaves. Typically, they will be gathered and burned, releasing carbon dioxide. All of us know that digging a pit and throwing the leaves, covering them with mud is good enough and a greener thing to do.
If you want to act on climate change, you should talk to your community and ensure no leaves get burnt this year.