Gharana Wetland poised for a turnaround


Famous but a gasping wetland known as Garana Wetland in Tehsil R.S. Pura of Jammu, the actual boundaries of which have not been demarcated nor the encroached land fully retrieved has, of late, started receiving the due attention of the Government though quite belatedly. The wetland carries tags of ‘Conservation Reserve’ and ‘Important Bird Area’ thanks to the paper work on it done by the previous Governments of Jammu and Kashmir as against now some concrete steps reportedly being taken to infuse new life into this wonderful marsh which is favourite home to migratory birds of 50 different species. Such birds usually are arriving during onset of winter months and departing during onset of the spring season. Land acquisition in respect of this wetland had altogether been eluding this wetland which now reportedly being finalised by Jammu district administration has raised hopes for the process of its revival in order to attract more birds as also bird lovers/ tourists. This wetland, it may be noted, has the unique characteristics of being the only one in the world where bird lovers could watch from a close distance such species of birds which have the capacity to fly high and reach high altitudes. “Garana Wetland Reserve is, dying due to biotic pressure, help us save this wetland” is what the signage reads an imploring by the Department of Wildlife Protection, while one enters the periphery of the wetland. Wherefrom to start counting its vows is not that easy as while on the one hand, certain species of migratory birds are reportedly believed to damaging the crops of nearby villages starting from Garana , on the other hand villagers treat them as potent crop destructors and scare them by blaring high decibel sounds and with bursting crackers. There is drainage of domestic, livestock and agricultural waste which pollutes the wetland considerably. Encroachments of its land from all sides results in its continuous shrinkage which, at the outset, is sought to be reversed by attempts to restoring to it its original land. Thanks to the intervention of the High Court where a PIL in respect of saving the wetland is being heard and that all the parties to the PIL at least agree on the main point that this boon of the nature required restoration of its original area reinvigorates possibilities of a possible turnaround in the overall position/ status of the wetland. There have been various impediments stonewalling the process of restoration as objection of the villagers in respect of undertaking developmental activities around the wetland like constructing of roads and widening thereof, setting up a bio-gas plant in the area and the like. We feel, along with the process of acquisition of the land , these issues needed to be sorted out to ensure a comprehensive development of the wetland as any further delay would lead to the inevitable – the slow death of this beautiful marsh. That not only construction of the new approach land leading to the wetland is on cards but establishing a sewage treatment plant, raising of embankments, habitat improvements, bore wells, view points and other measures too are part of the revival and restoration plan which must all be started with due gusto and pace. That would surely increase the footfall of tourists and lend due importance to the famous wetland. We learn that nearly over 410 kanals of land having already been demarcated for the wetland project coupled with the Wildlife Protection Department having remitted to Revenue Department the cost of land to be acquired, must set the process speedily towards achieving the main objective of the prestigious project. That the land owners of the villages were demanding compensation at the market rates having been aptly negotiated and sorted out is a matter of satisfaction. In fact, last two years got fritted away due to non -resolution of the compensation issue. We feel the authorities must take into confidence the villagers and the residents of the area, have periodic meetings with them, seek their co-operation and support in the run up to the fulfilment of one of the most important projects concerning saving our rich natural legacy which not only needs to be preserved, protected and improved but rejuvenated in a sustainable manner At the same time, commercial and tourism angles have to be explored which will bring with it numerous benefits and advantages in particular the self employment schemes for the nearby villages whereby the people, especially the women would be getting greatly benefitted.