Encroachment threatening existence of Hokesar Wetland

Encroachment on fringes of Hokersar Wetland is threatening existence of water body.

Srinagar: Uncontrolled growth of weeds, pollution and encroachment on the fringes of the Hokersar Wetland is threatening the existence of the water body which is visited by thousands of winged visitors from Europe and Central Asia each year.

Wildlife officials posted at Hokersar Wetland say that waste material coming in the wetland through some streams passing along populated areas have resulted in the shrinking of water pools over the years.

"Hokersar is facing a threat and if remedial measures are not taken up immediately, the wetland will be history within five years," Range Officer Mushtaq Ahmad told PTI.
Spread over 13.75 square kilometres and located just 14 kms from here, the wetland saw a record 10 lakh migratory birds visiting it the last winter and the seven lakh arrivals
so far this year has been encouraging. The officials are hopeful that more birds would arrive this year.

The birds found in the wetland include migratory ducks and geese like Brahminy Duck, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Garganey, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Common Merganser, Northern Pintail, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Red-Crested Pochard,
Ruddy Shelduck, Northern Shoveler, Common Teal, and Eurasian Wigeon.

The birds fly here from Central Asia, Siberia and Europe in September every year to escape the extreme cold conditions there and stay put till April, when they begin the
return journey.

"We have sent proposals for conservation and management plan of the wetland but so far no action has been initiated," Ahmad said.

He said the department has proposed diversion of Doodh Ganga through which most of the waste makes its way to the wetland.

Doodh Ganga, which was once a fresh water stream, has now been reduced to a drain carrying untreated sewage including that from a hospital on the banks of the stream at

"This is the main reason for the steady growth of unwanted weeds like Typha also known as cat-tail, Hydrilla and Trapa natins," he said, adding "if the weed is left unchecked, the day is not far away when it will result in the death of
the wetlands."

Ahmad said waste from a hospital is being dumped into the wetland, adding to its woes.
"The government is also planning to rehabilitate Dal dwellers at nearby Rakh-e-Arath shortly. We apprehend that the waste and sewerage from the housing colony will be diverted to this wetland," he said.

Seeking demarcation of the wetland, another official said, "it will help in protecting Hokersar."

"Hokersar is being used as a transit point by the birds to visit different wetlands in the Valley. If the present situation continues, this wetland will be choked to death," senior Wildlife protection guard Ghulam Mohammad said.

"Encroachment has been taking place for decades but no effort has ever been made to retrieve the land from the encroachers," he said.

"The modus operandi of encroachers is distinct ...they first convert weeds into floating gardens and then plant trees to expedite the process of sedimentation. It is a slow process of conversion of the wetland areas into land mass," he said.

Range Officer of Hygam Wetland Ghulam Mohammad Matta said they are also facing similar problems. "There is a need for diversion of Balikul and Nigli Nallah flowing into Hygam Wetland. Otherwise, it will be turned into agriculture land in the near future.

"Already a portion of the wetland is being used by local youth to play cricket. It has turned into a field," Matta, who was earlier posted in Hokersar, said.
"A stench now emanates from the water and one thinks twice before even dipping a finger in it," he said.