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Wetland near Jammu set to come on eco-tourism map

Posted on Dec 27 2011 | IANS

By Binoo Joshi,Jammu, Dec 27 : Thousands of migratory birds are flocking to the Gharana reserve near here that is set to become another addition in the tourism map of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Gharana Bird Conservation Reserve, about 35 km west of Jammu city in the Ranbir Singh Pura sector on the India-Pakistan border, has been notified as an 'Important Bird Area' (IBA) site. It was declared a reserve in 1981.

Migratory birds from the highlands of Central Asia, China and Bhutan start flocking to Gharana around mid-November. The birds start going back at the end of February or the first week of March.

There are 80 to 85 resident-cum-migratory species of birds in Gharana. The Wetland also has over 40,000 resident birds of different species.

"Species like Greylag geese, Common teal, Pintail, Mallard, Little cormorant and Bar-headed geese have been documented in the park. A large flock of Bar-headed geese comprising more than 4,000 individuals was recorded on Dec 20 by the wildlife field staff," Chief Wildlife Warden of Jammu and Kashmir A.K. Singh told IANS.

The birds "eat a lot before their migratory sojourn to gather energy. They fly for five to six hours and then take rest before the next flight. They usually take one month to reach their destination".

Singh said his department would soon launch satellite telemetry to study the migration pattern of the migratory birds. "This will help us to record the migratory pattern of the birds like their routes, resting points, their behaviour enroute."

Gharana is set to be added to the tourism map in 10-15 days.

But developing Gharana has not been easy, given the number of local problems.

"The drainage of the surrounding villages empties into this wetland. Then there is a dispute with local farmers on the surrounding land which we are getting demarcated by revenue authorities. But the worst is farmers getting angry when these birds go into their fields and damage crops. We are sorting this out," said Singh.

Jammu and Kashmir state Forest Minister Mian Altaf Ahmad said that the wildlife department was trying to educate locals on the benefits of boosting eco-tourism in Gharana and of developing the wetland.

"We are telling the locals that Gharana can become a major place of attraction for the lakhs of tourists who visit the state every year. And once the place has been showcased as an eco-tourism destination, it would become a favoured destination for thousands of nature lovers, all of which would catapult the economic profile of the area."

(Binoo Joshi can be contacted at [email protected])

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