Campaign in Himalayas to conserve wetlands, protect birds

Campaign in Himalayas to conserve wetlands, protect birds

Black neck crane, found only in Ladakh, bhutan and China"The Himalayas are very fragile, its wetlands host endemic species and the rivers in the area play an important role in sustaining the local communities. Rising tourist activity and the humongous solid waste management problem is posing a serious threat to all this," says Archana Chatterjee who heads a conservation programme in the region.

Along with the wetlands in the Ladakh region those in the Pir and Panjar range within Jammu and Kashmir, the Spiti areas in Himachal area and those in the Sikkim and Arunachal have been identified for conservation action by the WWF.

"We began conservation action in Ladakh in the year 2000 and we are in the near future gearing up to intensify our efforts to encourage tours and tour operators in the Himalayan region to reduce their footprint by opting for sustainable and responsible tourism," says Chatterjee. In the first initiative WWF partnerd with Canon to exhibit photographs of the winners of a contest that required participants to upload photos clicked during treks in the Himalayas.

"Under the green hiker campaign the aim is to leave as little as possible footprints of tourism which has been increasing in these areas.  We are encouraging tourists as well as tour operators to adopt eco-friendly measures and try and use the resources available locally instead of creating pollution," points out Chatterjee.

The campaign covers almost the entire Himalayan region and includes participation of the local communities too.

"In Ladakh we have been working with the locals to provide home stays for tourists that has led to a decrease in camping around the lake. Tourists are also motivated to use the more eco friendly Ladakhi style toilets and use less of bottled and packaged water which add to solid waste in the region,"says Chatterjee.

Apart from this tour operators are also involved in putting in place a mechanism of cleaning up.

The Tsomoriri conservation trust formed by the local community of Korzok village with help from WWF-India has taken up sustained conservation measures for protection of the Tsomoriri wetland. Tsomoriri, one of the world's highest lakes lies between 4000-5000m altitude in Ladakh.

Conservationists point out that the work done during the last 10 years have begun to bear fruit. "The most visible result is and increase in the birds getting back to their nesting places. A survey we did has shown a gradual increase in the highly endangered black neck crane and the bar headed geese."

The black neck crane, which is found only in China, Bhutan and in Ladakh, are highly endangered. While nesting they face the dogs kept by the nomadic population of the area are known to attack the cranes and destroy their eggs and chicks.

"We have received help from the local people who are now fencing off the lake to protect them breeding and feeding grounds from vehicular traffic and wild animals. "Both the Indian Army and the ITBP have been rare allies in the programme. When we first recorded there were 40 cranes and the number has increased to 75 cranes now," says Chatterjee.

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