Asian waterbird census: Feathered creature population drops by 1.5 lakh in Kashmir

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Srinagar: Bird population in Kashmir has decreased by 1.5 lakh since 2020, according to the latest `Asian waterbird census’. 

The census holds significance as it helps to understand which species are most important, which might require special management and protection.

In this census, around 75 species of water birds were recorded, 56 species each from Kashmir and Jammu with 37 species observed in both regions. These include 3 Ramsar sites, 11 wetland conservation reserves, and 7 wetlands of ecological importance.

The report, besides highlighting the richness and abundance of water birds, depicts the trend in the waterbird population during five years of extensive surveys from 2015-to 2021.

The findings revealed that Kashmir has recorded a total of 6.4 lakh birds. The number has decreased by 1.5 lakh since 2020.

Interestingly, the decline in the number has been observed majorly in two Ramsar sites (a wetland site designated to be of international importance) of the UT. They include Hokersar wetlands and Wular lake in Kashmir.

“Hokersar wetland recorded a drop from 4.8 lakh birds in 2020 to 65,000 in 2021 and birds in Wular dropped to 707 birds from 1.2 lakh,” the census reads.

Local bird watcher, who has reported around 204 species in Hokersar Wetland, Reyan Sofi said the wetland has been an important sanctuary for many kinds of shorebirds, waterfowl, and trans-Himalayan species during winters.

“It has been one of the major flood basins of Kashmir. However, it has been seriously deteriorated in recent years after a flood management program, intended to protect nearby Srinagar city, resulted in dredged earth being dumped in the wetland and half-constructed channels diverting water away. Large areas of the 1,375-hectare wetland are now dry,” he said.

He emphasized that the birder community has repeatedly informed the concerned departments including Wildlife Department about wetland restoration. “Three years counting and they are yet to take any concrete measures so far,” Sofi said.

Biologist at Wildlife Trust of India Tahir Ganzanfer said the census shows the need to do a scientific assessment of the wetlands and other bird habitats. “Besides, the poorly implemented policies, the wetlands continue to be encroached and polluted and no action is being taken to remove the illegal encroachments by the administration,” he said.

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