Gharana Wetland Conservation Reserve along the India-Pakistan border in RS Pura is striving to survive. Local people say that the ecosystem is facing an existential threat as its land is being encroached and reservoir is shrinking as it is getting filled with silt and waste.
Locals are complaining that the department had failed to conserve the reservoir. Earlier Panchayats would have the responsibility for its maintenance. One of the locals said that the reservoir is in terrible condition. Reservoir receives the waste of homes and cattle and it has deteriorated its condition. Despite the fact that these birds damage locals’ crops, people believe that this wetland could earn them a living if the government had built it in a sustainable manner.
Gharana Wetland is located 35 km from Jammu city. As the season of winters come, the migratory birds reach Gharana after crossing Himalayas from Central Asian countries of Mongolia, China, and Siberia and other countries. It features migratory birds like purple swamp hens, black-winged stilts, gadwalls, egrets and many other species which stay for three to four months.
Gharana houses around 150 bird species while thousands of migratory birds visit the wetland every winter. From 1952 to 2000, Panchayats would have the responsibility to maintain Gharana Wetland and the reservoir area was huge. As its responsibility for maintenance was transferred to concerned department, the wetland reservoir area shrunk to a few kanals only because of encroachment and silt. Department has never properly cared to do de-silting work.
Gharana Wetland was defined in a zigzag manner with 408 kanal of land was kept for the preservation of the wetland. However, locals said that compensation which was being offered to them was very less. They demanded that either they should be given agricultural land in place of agricultural land at another suitable area or they should be compensated according to market rates.
Anil Attri, Wildlife Warden of Gharana Wetland, told Greater Kashmir that some NGOs had even gone to the High Court requesting interference in the issue of wetland. He said that the High Court ordered to demarcate 408 kanal land to immediately initiate the revival plan of the wetland. He said that their department has provided compensation to the revenue department for providing it to farmers whose land has been demarcated for wetland protection and extension.
Attri assured that they are working to implement a management plan for next five years to conserve the wetland. He said that even though they do de-weeding regularly, they’ll use the additional land for the preservation measures like extension, bio-gas plant for villagers, fencing, birds-grazing points, management of garbage, waste (from locality) to send outside wetland and other such steps to promote eco-friendly tourism.