After several decades, Gharana Wetland Reserve set to get back its original area

Acquisition proceedings for 415 kanals reach penultimate stage
* Wildlife Deptt ready with plan for conservation

Mohinder Verma

JAMMU, Oct 1: After several decades, the Gharana Wetland Reserve situated along the International Border in R S Pura tehsil is all set to get back its original area as the proceedings for acquisition of 415 kanals of land have reached penultimate stage. Moreover, the Wildlife Department has prepared a plan for its conservation over a period of next few years.
The fast pace shrinking of Gharana Wetland hogged limelight when a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the High Court seeking various directions for restoration of pristine glory of the water body, which is abode for unimaginable number of bird species from different parts of world particularly Siberia.
In the PIL, the Division Bench of the High Court in the month of December 2017 issued directions for acquisition of land to restore the original area of the wetland. The direction was issued after the counsels for the petitioner as well as Government advocates fairly admitted that acquisition of land in the vicinity of wetland was the only option to restore its original area.
After the long drawn exercise, the proceedings for acquisition of 415 kanals of land in the vicinity of wetland have reached the penultimate stage and approval has been granted for issuance of final award under the relevant law, official sources told EXCELSIOR.
“Actually this particular chunk of land was originally the area of Gharana Wetland Reserve but it was converted into agriculture land long time back under the well-knit conspiracy and due to the connivance of the officers who otherwise were supposed to foil the designs”, they further said.
Stating that adequate compensation for the occupants of 415 kanals of land has been worked out by the administration, sources said, “soon after the issuance of final award, which is likely shortly, the occupants of the land will be given compensation at the rate fixed by the Collectors and thereafter necessary changes in the land record will be carried out so that in future there remains on confusion”, adding “as desired by the Revenue Department, the Wildlife Department has already given around Rs 12 crore for providing compensation to the occupants of the land”.
“The land acquisition proceedings got delayed as there was confusion about applicability of J&K land law on the subject after the reorganization of erstwhile State and extension of Central law. However, the Law Department clarified that proceedings which were initiated under the law of erstwhile State before October 31, 2019, have to be completed under the same law”, sources said.
They said, “now, there is no hurdle in restoring original area of wetland as acquisition proceedings have been initiated as per the directions of the Division Bench of the High Court and progress in this regard is being monitored by the court after regular intervals”.
Meanwhile, Wildlife Department has prepared a detailed plan for conservation of Gharana Wetland Reserve by utilizing 415 kanals of land. “The management plan will be implemented over a period of next few years and foremost priority will be given to fencing of the boundary and establishment of Sewage Treatment Plant”, sources added.
When contacted, Chief Wildlife Warden J&K Suresh Kumar Gupta confirmed that detailed plan has already been worked out and its implementation will begin soon after transfer of land to the department. “We will construct Sewage Treatment Plant so as to prevent discharge of sewage from the nearby areas into the wetland”, he said.
“Moreover, there will be bandh around the wetland reserve with view-points in order to make it more attractive for the visitors”, he further said, adding “we have also planned de-silting of wetland and installation of sluice gates for better conservation”.
It is pertinent to mention here that Gharana Wetland Conservation Reserve was notified in 1981 and is home to more than 150 species of birds. During the winter, the wetland is visited by thousands of birds from Central Asia and some of the migratory bird species visiting this wetland are endangered.