It's been over a year, but an 'eco-tourism' plan for the Harike wetland and sanctuary, spread over 86 sq km on the Ferozepur-Amritsar district border, remains on paper, awaiting approval and funds.
It was in February last year that the then DFO (wildlife) Sanjeev Tiwari prepared a plan for development of Harike, 65 km from here, to tap its high tourism potential. Sources told HT that the plan was even discussed at length with chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who has since won another term.
Badal reportedly assured of an approval to the plan, but so far it has been lying with the state tourism department awaiting its sanction. The state department is to send it further to the union government's wildlife department for final approval and release of the required Rs 5 crore, an official told HT.
Supporting the move to develop Harike as a tourist place, Ferozepur ADC (general) DPS Kharbanda advocated that a PPP (public private partnership) mode could be adopted, while expressions of interest should be sought from "experienced, big players of the hospitality industry" in a transparent manner.
"A PPP scheme will not only save a lot of government funds but will also ensure the wetland's maintenance and development in future," he said, claiming the he would soon take up the matter with the state as well as central government.
Harike wetland is one of the most important wildlife sanctuaries of not only Punjab but also of India, and is recognised throughout the world. Situated on the confluence of the rivers Beas and Sutlej on the Ferozepur-Amritsar border the sanctuary encompass an area of approximately 86 sq km.
The area was declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1999, and because of its importance as a wetland of international stature, it was declared a Ramsar site in 1990.
The sanctuary is a birdwatcher's paradise and attracts thousands of migratory birds during winter, some from as far as Siberia and the Arctic, including wigeon, common teal, pintail, shoveller and brahminy ducks. Besides 365 species of waterfowl (migrants as well as residents), seven species of turtles have also been found.
Apart from these, smooth Indian otter, jungle cat, fishing cat, hog deer, wild boar, jackal & common Indian hare are also found in the sanctuary.
Even though nature has given Harike wetland a lot of blessings, it is facing a number of manmade problems including encroachments on the wetland habitat; widespread infestation by water hyacinth weed; which is slowly chocking the system and reducing the available surface area; silting which is decreasing the volume of water; drainage of untreated and toxic industrial effluents into the system from big cities like Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Kapurthala; illegal fishing and poaching of birds.