Restored water channel to breathe new life into Hokersar wetland

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Restored water channel to breathe new life into Hokersar wetland

Srinagar, Dec 13:

Authorities have restored an environmentally significant water channel, defunct for the past four decades owing to siltation, to replenish Kashmir’s second biggest wetland, Hokersar.

The channel is expected to give a new lease of life to the wetland spread over an area of 13.54 sq km in central Kashmir’s Srinagar and Budgam districts, which has been reeling from low water levels.

It is also expected to boost the efforts of the wetland authorities to develop it as an eco-tourist destination as it attracts lakhs of migratory birds from Siberia, Central Asia and northern Europe during winter providing breathtaking sights for visitors.

Ifshan Dewan, Kashmir’s wildlife warden (wetlands), said that the channel restoration had been completed.

“The channel will bring water into the wetland as it has now linked with the flood channel from the Doodhganga side. It will also act as our main navigation channel,” Dewan said.

She said that dredging machines were used to clear silt from the channel for the past few months. “Some of our areas in the wetland used to remain dry, which will now have enough water,” she said.

Siltation over the years had resulted in the feeding channels passing through the wetland losing their hydraulic parameters because of the rising bed level.

She said that the channel was feeding water into the wetland decades back. “For the past 30-40 years, it was defunct but now has been restored,” she said adding, “We are also working on peripheral channels.”

Two gates are being made by the irrigation and flood control department at the inlet and outlet points – Soibug and Soezith – to maintain the water level in the wetland.

“Once the gates are placed, we can maintain water at optimum levels throughout the year in the wetland,” she said.

The wetland on Srinagar’s outskirts, with its vast waterways, marshes and vegetation, is the biggest in the city and the second biggest in the Kashmir valley. It gives the impression of a bird’s wonderland when one visits during the arrival of migratory birds between October and April. However, low water levels, owing to siltation and choking of feeding channels, would often prompt birds to leave early for other water bodies.

Dewan said that they are also increasing the depth of the wetland at various points to create water pools.

“Annually, we receive 6-7 lakh birds, some of whom like shallow water and some deep water. So we are forming water pools for such types of birds,” she said.

She said that they are also aiming to attract more tourists and nature and bird lovers in a regulated manner under an eco-tourism project.

“This will take some time, but the wetland and the channel will be a major attraction for tourists as well. Our prime focus is birds right now,” she said.

Range officer Sajid Ahmad said that they are planning a cruise type of boat ride through the channel for tourists.

“It will start from Hokura tipping shed. A cruise ride for some 700 metres in a circular fashion. Next year, we are also planning to develop bays where people can sit and relax in nature. We are currently removing the ‘dredged out’ material and doing landscaping,” he said.

“We have also erected two more watch towers on the periphery for bird lovers. We already have four inside the wetland,” he said.

Birds in good numbers have already started arriving in the wetland, though Srinagar is yet to receive snow this season, pointing to the change inside the wetland.

“Birds have started coming. Right now, some 20,000 birds have already arrived in the wetland,” Dewan said.

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