On August 14 this year, Shallabugh and Haigam wetlands were added to the list of Ramsar sites by the government of India.
The move is likely to get a new lease of life for these wetlands as the struggle with whole host of issues to keep their original pristine glory as well as their original size.
Shallabugh wetland in Ganderbal is officially spread over 1675 area hectares square kilometres while the Haigam wetland with span of 801.82 hectares is located in North Kashmir’s Baramulla district. However over the years they shrunk. The inclusion in Ramsar site is expected to bring them back on the map as far attraction for fowls, migratory birds including teal, common pochard, merganser, northern shoveler, northern pintail, Eurasian wigeon, red-crested pochard, tufted duck, sheldrake duck, mallard, coot, gadwall, Brahminy duck, cormorant, Greylag goose, etc is concerned.
They also provides livelihood to hundreds of people engaged in fisheries and reed harvesting.
A Ramsar site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, also known as “The Convention on Wetlands”, an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO, which came into force in 1975. It provides for national action and international cooperation regarding the conservation of wetlands, and wise sustainable use of their resources. Ramsar identifies wetlands of international importance, especially those providing waterfowl habitat. The inclusion of these wetlands is likely salvage these distinct ecosystems and regain their past glory. Haigam, a fresh wetland, used to be called as ‘Queen of Mallards’ but due to human interference in a manner opposite to its requirement, it is literally gasping for survival. It grapples with pollution, illegal encroachments, unlawful poaching, hunting etc.
While these wetlands have rich diversity of microfiber and host a number of birds, more so during winter season, the inclusion in Ramsar sites is likely to help being demarcated.
It will in turn help to some extent controlling the encroachments as well as pollution.
One of the reasons for different birds to visit these wetlands is good and natural habitations and inclusion in Ramsar sites should boost it. Shallabugh and Haigam wetlands are not the first wetlands to be included in Ramsar sites in Jammu and Kashmir. But their condition has not improved as one would have hoped. There are several reasons for ruins and some of them have been even well identified. So far little redeeming difference has been achieved on the ground. Nonetheless there is hope. One hopes that inclusion of the two wetlands will save them from further degradation.