A few kilometres out of Srinagar, Kashmir, against the backdrop of the Pir Panjal ranges, lies the Ramsar site of Hokersar Wetland Reserve. It is a natural perennial wetland adjoining the Jhelum basin. And it has been the home away from home to several migratory fowls which fly in from Siberia, China, central Asia, and northern Europe. Hokersar was declared a Conservation Reserve under the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Wilderness Protection Act of 1978. In 2005, it was declared a Ramsar site under the Ramsar Convention, created for wetlands conservation and sustainable utilisation.
The One And Only
Hokersar is the last remaining reedbed wetland of Kashmir. It has three types of areas: the water reed-filled marshy regions where the waterfowls nest, the deep area in the centre, which is an expanse of free water, and the silted portion where cattle graze. Its importance can also be judged by the fact that it is in the pathway of 68 waterfowl species, such as the Large egret, Great Crested Grebe, Little cormorant, Common shelduck, Tufted duck, and the endangered White-eyed pochard. It goes without saying that Hokersar is an important breeding ground and food source for birds, as it is the spawning site and nursery for several fish. Its marshes have vegetation such as the typha, phragmites, Eleocharis, trapa, and nymphoides species, some of which you will be able to see in shallow portions of Hokersar, while the others are open water aquatic flora. The wetland is fed by two inflows, the Doodhganga and Sukhnag Nalla.
The Correct Intervention
Some of the locals continue to make careful use of the wetland for fish, animal fodder, and home-use fuel, even though the wetland is under constant threat from reckless construction around its receding perimeter due to dredging after the 2014 floods and non-removal of silt which now blocks inflow into the wetland. Additionally, the dried-up and shallow areas of the wetland are being used to dispose garbage, affecting the marshes’ ecology. Also, uncontrolled tourism disturbs vital ecosystems, which work best without unwanted human intervention. Although work has been planned to de-silt the marshes and for the removal of garbage, more needs to be done to save the last wetland reserve of Kashmir.
Best time to visit: October to April
How to get there:
Hokersar wetlands are about 10 kilometres outside Srinagar.
By air: Sheikh ul Alam, or Srinagar airport, receives regular flights from New Delhi, Mumbai, and Chandigarh. The airport is 15 kilometres from the city centre.
By railway: The Banihal railway station is well-connected to Srinagar.
By road: Srinagar has major national highways connecting it to New Delhi, Chandigarh, Leh and Jammu. You can choose to travel on public or private transport.
Source : Outlook India