Boating, photography, and night camping will be allowed at Harike here to tap the tourism potential of the wetland and bird sanctuary.
Commercial activity at the reserve will continue to be barred, suggests a proposal that the local wildlife authorities have moved to the chief wildlife warden of the state.
The warden has accepted the idea and forwarded it to the principal chief conservator of forests, and now it waits for consent from the state government. It will be a pilot project.
Before Harike, the Punjab forest department had chosen Karanpur lake as first potential tourist site in the state. The Punjab tourism department and Asia Development Bank support the special project.
Divisional forest officer (wildlife) M Saudagar confirmed that there was a proposal to now bring the pilot project to Harike.
Once the forest department get clearance from the state government, it will open the sanctuary for tourists, students, and researchers.
Know the wetland
Harike, about 65 kilometres from Ferozepur, is one of the most important wildlife sanctuaries of India, and recognised across the world. Sitting on the confluence of rivers Beas and Sutlej at the border of Ferozepur and Amritsar districts, it covers 86 square kilometres.
The area was declared wildlife sanctuary in 1999 and because of its importance as a wetland of international stature, declared a Ramsar site in 1990 by the International Body of Wetlands under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
A birdwatcher's paradise, it attracts thousands of migratory birds every winter, some from as far off as Siberia and the Arctic. Of late, even river dolphins have been spotted at the lake teeming with diving ducks such as crested pochard, common pochard and tufted duck.
This year, the arrival of a Jerdon's babbler scindicum (a relative of Sind sparrow) at Harike was the first recorded Indian visit of the rare resident bird.
Encroachment upon on the wildlife habitat
Land grab in the guise of farming
Illegal fishing and poaching
The spread of the water hyacinth weed choking its system and reducing its surface area
Silting and the resultant fall in the water volume
The draining of untreated, toxic industrial waste effluents into the system from big cities such as n Ludhiana, Jallandhar and Kapurthala.