Srinagar, Oct 13: The Shallabugh Wetland site currently exhibits a desolate landscape, raising questions regarding the legitimacy of its Ramsar status, and has sadly led to the disappearance of numerous flora and fauna species.
The wetland, which earned the prestigious Ramsar site designation just last year, spans across two districts including Srinagar and Ganderbal, encompassing a vast expanse totaling 1,675 hectares.
Many environmentalists, expressing their concerns about the site’s deteriorating condition said that despite receiving Ramsar Site status months ago, it has now transformed into a parched and waterless expanse. “Its condition has deteriorated to such an extent that referring to it as a wetland seems like a mockery, as not even a trace of water is visible from a distance. If the concerned authorities had taken timely action, its current state might have been different today, but unfortunately,” they said, adding that immediate water management plans are needed for the conservation of wetlands like this for their preservation.
“It’s no longer a wetland; it has transformed into a desert. We can’t merely say it’s dying; it’s now a lifeless wetland. During our site visit, we observed animals desperately searching for a drop of water, which eluded them,” said an expert.
“We couldn’t spot any fish or lotus stems; all we encountered were animals desperately in search of water. The aquatic ecosystem, including both flora and fauna, has been profoundly impacted,” he explained.
“Despite some children collecting chestnuts, they were deemed inedible. The fishing community has been profoundly affected by the current state of the wetland, severely impacting their livelihoods,” said another expert.
“If we don’t address this issue promptly, it could lead to significant environmental challenges for our future generations,” he added.
A bird photographer commented, “The current state of the wetland is far from suitable for birds. It’s imperative that the government takes action; otherwise, we are not far from a disaster.” “I failed to capture pictures of local birds, and there’s no sign of migratory birds either,” he added.
Recently, the Environmental Protection Group (EPG) conducted an inspection of Shallabugh Wetland, which was once a pristine 1675-hectare wetland. However, as per the statement their findings painted a grim picture, revealing that it has transformed into a parched expanse completely devoid of water. The EPG expressed deep concerns over the deteriorating state of this wetland. Their assessment revealed that over half of the 33,000 kanal area is enclosed by a bund, raising suspicions about potential underlying motives. Some believe this might be linked to future real estate development or connections with influential land stakeholders.
Shallabugh, historically dependent on natural water sources like rainwater, snowmelt, and a stream originating from Sindh and Anchar, is currently undergoing bund construction efforts. These efforts aim to create artificial pools, giving the illusion of water bodies during sporadic rainfall but misleadingly so.
Faiz Bakshi, the Convenor of the EPG, expressed deep sorrow, stating, “The current condition of Shallabugh Wetland is profoundly unfortunate and distressing. Describing it as a wetland is increasingly untenable; it has essentially transformed into barren land.”
Syed Farhat, an environmental activist, emphasized the urgency of taking immediate action to rejuvenate the wetland and prevent harm to future generations. Social worker Syed Adil raised concerns about encroachments in the area.
Er Ajaz Rasool, serving as a Technical Advisor, highlighted the pressing need for effective water management, the establishment of high-altitude storage, and the preservation of gorges to regulate river flow effectively. These actions are essential to revitalize this once-thriving wetland and protect it for generations to come.
An official stressed the gravity of the situation, affirming that the government is actively engaged in comprehensive efforts to safeguard and restore the wetland to its original state.