Feathered tourists

Migratory birds add to Kashmirs attractions


Apart from the  scenic beauty of Kashmir which draws tourists from the world over, its  wetlands in the Valley adds another dimension to its attractive attributes. The otherwise drab wetlands  plays host to lakhs of migratory birds every winter that is gradually increasing wtih each passing year . Over 3.5 lakh birds have already reached here from different parts of the globe and the number is expected to cross 5.5 lakh shortly. Last winter five lakh birds were reportedly present  here.

The ongoing cold wave conditions prevalent  at the wetlands are creating problems for the birds. “ With the night temperature dipping down minus, the water in the wetlands gets frozen,” said Abdul Ahmad, an official of wild life protection department.

He added that every day they have to break the ice to facilitate the survival  of the migratory birds in the wetlands. “ If the wetlands  freeze the birds will face a shortage of food and their living conditions would become difficult and they would look for other places,” Ahmad said.

Although the guns  refuse to fall silent in other parts of Kashmir because of the presence of militants, the wetlands do not face  such problems. The state government is strictly enforcing the ban on hunting.  For several years in the past, the hunters too used to take full advantage of the vulnerable  security situation. They would go on a killing spree. This had reduced the arrival of migratory birds for some time.

Later when the government managed to enforce its writ again  and the ban on hunting was strictly implemented, the number of   birds which  arrived in Kashmir started increasing. The migratory birds prefer to live at the three major wetlands Hokersar, Haigam and Shalibugh in Kashmir.

The officials at these wetlands remain very busy during these months. Besides keeping a check on hunting , they have to also keep a watch on the large number of people going to the places for sight seeing.

“ We usually suggest to people not to go beyond a certain area. Because the  excess ive human movement disturbs these birds. The people do listen to us and also cooperate. Even the number of foreign and domestic tourists visiting  the wetlands is also increasing,” said Abdul Majid , another official.

Peaceful environment

Besides providing a peaceful environment to these birds, the employees of the wild life protection department, have to also maintain the water level of these wetlands. “ You see the wetlands of Kashmir are already shrinking fast. The state government and centre will have to pay special attention towards it. The government has to take measures so that the wetlands which form part of Kashmir’s beauty do not disappear,” said Majid. He added that if the wetlands disappear the migratory birds would naturally stop coming over here.

Mahesh Kumar , a tourist from Delhi, said that he was happy to see huge number of migratory birds at the Hokersar wetland in Kashmir

 “Kashmir is known the world over for its scenic beauty. Not only our countrymen from other states, but foreigners  also are mesmerized with Kashmir’s beauty. Even the birds are  attracted towards this Paradise on Earth. This is evident from the arrival of lakhs of birds here,” he said.

Asset to Kashmir

 Mahesh regretted that much is not being done on the ground in Kashmir for the promotion of tourism. “These wetlands have to be preserved in a big way. They are an asset to Kashmir. The migratory birds make these wetlands look more beautiful,” he said.
The tourist said he and his  family were excited to see different kinds of migratory birds. “We were able to see these beautiful birds which have come from different areas of the world,” he said.

 Mahesh’s wife Sarooj said that unlike other tourist spots in Kashmir, one feels safe at these wetlands. “There is no fear of  firing and explosions and one enjoys his or her time with ease,” she said

The birds start arriving at the wetlands in September and leave in February  and March. The birds also reach the Wullar, Manabal, Anchar, Dal and Nagin lakes  located in Srinagar.

Some of the birds also spend time during the day at the Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium and itst vicinity in Srinagar.  After  spending some time at the cricket stadium, these birds return to the neighbouring Dal or Anchar lakes or even fly upto Hokersar also.

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