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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines wetland as “areas that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions”. Wetlands are often described as "kidneys of the landscape”. And they act as a sponge to absorb the water especially during floods. 

A wetland is a land area that is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally, such that it takes on the characteristics of a distinct ecosystem. The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other land forms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants, adapted to the unique hydric soil. The main wetland types include swampsmarshesbogs, and fens; and sub-types include mangrovecarr, pocosin, and varzea.

Wetlands play a number of roles in the environment, principally water purification, flood control, carbon sink and shoreline stability. Wetlands are also considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, serving as home to a wide range of plant and animal life. Wetlands occur naturally on every continent except Antarctica, the largest including the Amazon River basin, the West Siberian Plain, and the Pantanal in South America. The water found in wetlands can be freshwater, brackish, or saltwater.  Wetlands play a vital role in maintaining the overall cultural, economic and ecological health of the ecosystem; their fast pace of disappearance from the landscape is of great concern.

The Kashmir valley in Jammu and Kashmir has a large number of wetlands. However, their ecological and socio-economic values were rarely explored. The famous wetlands of Kashmir are Dal Lake, Anchar, Wular, Haigam, Malgam, Hokarsar and Kranchu lakes. These wetlands face serious threat from anthropogenic activities like increasing human settlements, urbanization, siltation, expansion of agricultural fields and the expansion of roads. 

Every one of us are aware about the devastating floods during the September 2015 in Kashmir valley when water submerges almost all areas of the valley. And the flood take deaths of many people but the highest loss was in terms of economic and infrastructure. All of us see these devastating effects of the flood and we can’t do anything, but as none of us know the exact reason of this flood.

One of the biggest reason of the flood was the encroachment on the wetlands of Kashmir especially the Wular and the Haigam lake.  The siltation and the human encroachment on these wetland which cover the most of the areas of these two wetland and the water doesn’t fill in these areas and the result was the water takes its path to the residential, agricultural, horticultural and other such places of the valley and the result was the heavy loss in terms of business, life and the economic conditions.

These wetland contribute to a healthy environment in many ways. They retain water during dry periods, thus keeping the water table high and relatively stable. During periods of flooding, they mitigate floods and trap suspended solids and attached nutrients. Thus, streams flowing into lakes by way of wetland areas will transport fewer suspended solids and nutrients to the lakes than if they flow directly into the lakes. The removal of such wetland systems because of urbanization or other factors typically causes lake water quality to worsen. In addition, wetlands are important feeding and breeding areas for wildlife and provide a stopping place and refuge for waterfowls. As with any natural habitat, wetlands are important.

The present study was carried by out by Bilal Bashir Bhat in Haigam wetland (Sopore) Reserve. The wetland contributes significantly to the livelihoods of local communities and also acts as a major source of flood control.

Haigam wetland of Sopore Baramulla J&K —one of the beautiful wetland in Jammu and Kashmir, is continuously changing due to un-planned Anthropogenic activities like Human settlements, expansion of the agricultural fields and the siltation and the wetland of the village has been shrinking. This study evaluates wetland changes in Haigam Sopore Baramulla J&K, between 1969 and 20013. Spatial and temporal dynamics of wetland changes were quantified using one top sheet and two Liss-3 images and the post-classification change detection technique in remote sensing and GIS environment. The analysis revealed that area of wetland decreased significantly over the last 35 years by the conversation of the wetland into human non wetland use like Agricultural, human settlement, pasture land, orchids and vegetable gardens.

The total area of the Haigam Lake was 754.32 ha in 1969 and after conversion of this wetland by humans into non wetland use like Agricultural, Human Settlement, orchids, and vegetables gardens it remains only 533.60 ha respectively in 2013. This changing trend of Haigam wetland makes the migratory birds population vulnerable, creating water logging problems and their consequences. Land filling and encroachment were recognized to be the main reasons for shrinking of the Haigam wetland. Another threat from the human side is the reckless killing and poaching of migratory birds resulting in the loss of these birds. The Haigam wetland was considered as a game reserve and the local people use pellet guns to kill these migratory birds, who are visitors in this wetland.

Another threat to these migratory and the local birds was the destruction of their nests by the removing of the macrophytic vegetation and the creed from the wetland by the local people and used as fodder for their cattle’s.  If the same pace continues then in the near future the Haigam wetland remains no more. If conservation measures are not taken then the consequences are severe and the effects are seen are where especially on the local people.

Haigam wetland which is included in the Indian bird conservation network on an average receives nearly 300,000 migratory birds, ducks and waterfowl species. Being an important breeding site for the birds and refuge over a dozen species of shorebirds and several Trans-Himalayans species. But due to alleged callousness of officials of wildlife and other departments, farmers from the nearby the villages gradually started to encroach upon the wetland by cultivation of paddy, human settlement and orchids.

S.NO

Class Name

TOTAL AREA Ha

year 1969

1

Open Water

475.57967

 

2

open land

154.89732

 

 3

Swampy area

96.177498

 

4

agricultural land

27.635205

 

5

plantation

0

 

6

silt

0

 

7

build up

0

 

S.NO

Class Name

TOTAL AREA Ha

year 2011

1

Open Water

0

 

2

open land

0

 

3

Swampy area

396.282176

 

4

agricultural land

     103.343688

 

5

Plantation

168.381506

 

6

silt

     84.878373

 

7

Build up

     1.372909

 


                                            Fig.
Area of Haigam wetland during 1969 and 2011

So I request to the Minister of Environment, the conservation Authorities and other NGOS of Jammu and Kashmir to take immediate steps to preserve and conserve this wetland until it is lost forever if not then in nearby Future we all see its negative consequences and then there was no time to do anything so…

                                                 “Raise Your Voice Until it is too late”