Even as the number of migratory birds visiting the Indian wetlands has reduced to almost one-third of late, the arrival of winged visitors has been quite encouraging at Keshopur Chhamb (wetland), near Gurdaspur, this year.
As per the bird census conducted by the Avian Habitat Conservation Society, Chandigarh, the Keshopur wetland has received 20,114 migratory birds this season as against last year's 8500 only.
The reason behind the increase in this number is that the district forest and wildlife department has developed favourable conditions at the Keshopur Community Reserve Wetland to attract and accommodate more migratory birds.
District forest and wildlife officer Rajesh Kumar Mahajan said in the first phase, the Keshopur wetland was being developed at a cost of Rs. 1.37 crore of which Rs. 20 lakh had already been spent on the removal of water hyacinth from the pools and de-silting of them, besides providing shelter to the birds.
The Keshopur wetland, spread over 850 acres of land belonging to Mattam, Dalla, Keshopur, Maghar Mudhian and Miani villages, is being developed into a tourist destination.
As many as 800 birds belonging to the “flagship species”, including the common cranes, were found at the Shalla Pattan wetland, also a part of Keshopur wetland, near here.
The other birds found during the census were northern lapwing, palid harrier and feruganise porchard. The birds of threatened species, including wooly necked stark, open builled stark, cranes (saras) and black headed ebis were also spotted. Common cranes migrate from Siberia to Keshopur wetland only.
Seven birds of the rare variety of cranes (saras) were found at the Shalla Pattan wetland during the current census. These birds are usually found in male-female pairs and spend their life in pairs till death. If one bird dies, the other bird of the pair also dies very soon.
The Punjab Heritage Promotion Board has trained youngsters from these villages and employees from the Forest and Wildlife as certified nature guides.
Churchal Kumar, additional director, Punjab Heritage and Tourism Promotion Board, said the training was given in three phases in the last week of November, first week of December. And it would be given in the last week of January.
He said an awareness campaign about the importance of wildlife and its protection would be launched soon in schools and colleges of the area.
He said the Keshopur Chhamb was the only community reserve in the country which had been declared a wetland on panchayati land. The Punjab government with the help of the Asian Development Bank was spending Rs. 8-10 crore to develop the wetland into a tourist destination, he added.
He further said a large number of birds of 69 varieties migrated every year during the winter to Keshopur Chhamb from Siberia, China, Mangolia, Tibet and the Himalayan regions because of freezing temperatures there.