Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary on Sunday said that administration was taking several measures to stop encroachments along wetlands and other water bodies in Srinagar, asserting that the community participation was vital for conserving valley’s rich biodiversity.
Speaking at a ceremony organized by Department of Wildlife, Jammu and Kashmir Government on World Wetlands Day here, the Deputy Commissioner said that administration cracked down on the illegal encroachments along Khushhal Sar, demolishing the boundary walls and other encroachments that had been constructed over the past few months.
“Local communities play a vital role in the fight against wildlife crime and also in conserving valley’s rich biodiversity,” said Dr Choudhary in his speech. He said that engaging communities to support conservation activities is often challenging. However, it bears endless fruits. He urged the Department of Wildlife to launch similar programmes—which would woo locals and community at large to help them in mission conservation.
He said that a special squad of officials has been constituted at the district level—who would be closely working with the Department of Wildlife to stop illegal encroachments along wetlands and other water bodies in Srinagar.
“It is sad to spot newer constructions surrounded by wetlands. Those from the down-and-out club find it tough to get even a small piece of land after crossing technical hurdles,” he said.
He point out that there has been no let-up in the illegal attempts to fill paddy fields and wetlands despite several measures from the district administration and the concerned department.
“2014 floods taught a lot of lessons to all of us at the societal level as well as at the policy level. We must have learnt not to mess up with Nature and its and His laws. If we don’t stop encroachments of our wetlands and water bodies, we may see many disasters coming to our ways,” he said, adding “We must ensure that we save and conserve the richness of our wetlands and associated endemism for the contribution to ecosystem services. We must also ensure that our wetlands continue to provide us with resilience to the deleterious effects of climate change.”
Chief Wildlife Warden, Kashmir, Rashid Yehya Naqash said that major wetlands identified in Kashmir districts face threat from excess landfilling, discharge of effluents and human encroachments. However, he presented a detailed account of the works and restorations and retrievals missions carried out by the department in recent months.
He said that the Government has pledged to work in a mission mode to revive the pristine glory of the wetlands by reducing human interference.
“We are doing our best to protect and conserve these wetlands, but we need people’s cooperation at a large level. There has to be a strong opposition against the violators for ruining these areas,” he said.
“Our wetlands, teeming with rich flora and fauna, are essential for the survival of mankind and migratory birds, both endemic and endangered,” he said.
The theme for this year’s World Wetland Day, ‘Wetland and Biodiversity’, which offers a unique opportunity to highland biodiversity.
He said that the Government has urged people and stakeholders to join hands in actively participating in the conservation efforts of the government aimed at the protection and restoration of our wetlands.
Pertinently, Jammu and Kashmir has the distinction of having one of the highest identified wetlands across the country, prominent among them being Wular Lake in Kashmir and Gharana Wetland in Jammu.
The other speakers who also spoke on the occasion highlighted the vital importance of the conservation of wetlands and region’s overall biodiversity.
They said that there was a need to strengthen the inter linkages of the wetlands to meet the requirement of the local population. Apart from the ecological, biodiversity and tourism benefits, it generates sustained awareness among the masses about the shrinking area and quality of wetlands on account of encroachments, illegal reclamation for housing and farming, industrial activity and pollution.
Earlier the Deputy Commissioner released the wall calendar of Department of Wildlife and also gave away prizes among students—who had participated in debate and painting competition organized by the department in view of observing World Wetland Day.