The government has introduced a comprehensive plan to develop the Harike wetland at Makhu, a rural town under Zira subdivision of Ferozepur, under the Eco Development Project at a cost of Rs 7.5 crore. A nature interpretation centre is under construction, which would be completed within a year.
“Funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the plan has the provision to construct a 6.5-km nature trail surrounding the wetland (outside the core protected area) besides a short trail of about 600 m ending at the notch point for visitors, who want to use boats to visit the confluence of the Beas and the Sutlej rivers,” said DPS Kharbanda, deputy commissioner.
“The project has the provision for a vehicle parking and a reception complex with facilities of a reception counter, drawing room, refreshment canteen, souvenir shop and other facilities (outside the core protected area).
The provision of public amenities including toilets, dustbins, drinking water facilities, garden benches, etc. (outside core protected area).
The other facilities included the provision of internal sign/ information boards of a uniform design (strategic locations), upgrading of the old building at the Churian check post to an interpretation centre, more boating facilities, landscaping outside the core protected area (approximate area of 500 sq m), the DC added while taking stock the ongoing project at Harike.
A total of 1,05,890 birds were counted at the wetland on Monday and the number is highest till date in the history of the annual bird count as against 1,00,124 in 2011, 72,488 in 2013, 62,065 in 2014 and 82,100 in 2015.
“The migratory birds spotted included Eurasian coots (45,769), followed by greylag geese (19,145 approx), gadwal (16,693 approx), northern shoveller (5,288), common teal (2,959), bar-headed geese (2,534), northern pintail (1,829), common pochard (1,257), rudy shelduck (933), red-crested pochard (881), great cormorant (1,975) and little cormorant (1,056),” read the census report.
“Threatened species like painted stork, black-headed ibis, eurasian spoonbill, ferruginous pochard and darter were recorded in good numbers. Interesting sightings included peregrine falcon, western osprey, western black-tailed godwit and northern lapwing while bird flocks were mostly reported within sanctuary unlike last year when flocks were mostly reported from outside sanctuary,” the report further added.
The Harike Wildlife Sanctuary, 65km from Ferozepur, is the most important sanctuary in the state, located in the western part of the state and covering three districts of Amritsar, Ferozepur and Kapurthala on the confluence of the Beas and the Sutlej. The main water body or the reservoir came into existence when a barrage was constructed across the confluence of the two rivers in 1952.
However, even before the construction of the barrage, the area was a marshy, riparian wetland dotted with oxbows, small water channels and ponds around the confluence of the two rivers. Harike is a refuge for a large number of resident and migratory birds.
The lake is particularly famous for diving ducks, such as the crested pochard, common pochard and tufted ducks, which occur in very large numbers.
Bird species ranging from 200-350 are reported from the wetland area in the different studies carried out by different scientists.
Of these, some 40 species were long-distance migrants, which pass through the area. Apart from avifauna, some 7 species of turtle and 26 species of fish have been recorded including river dolphins. The mammals found at the Harike included smooth Indian otter, the jungle cat, jackal, Indian wild boar and the common mongoose.