J&K’s largest wildlife protected wetland in Kashmir being developed as major eco-tourism destination

 Thursday, June 8, 2023 


The largest wildlife protected wetland in Kashmir, Shallabugh Wetland Reserve, is being developed as a significant eco-tourism destination in central Kashmir, reports The Hindustan Times.

The wetland, which was designated a Ramsar site last year, is stretched over two districts, Srinagar and Ganderbal, and covers an area of 1675 hectares, according to authorities.

J&K chief secretary, Arun Kumar Mehta visited the wetland on Saturday and assessed the restoration methods being implemented to restore the marsh’s pristine splendour. He stated, “The wetland has shown a lot of improvement in recent past. The wetland has a rich diversity of both flora and fauna. It has a great potential to be developed as a major eco-tourism destination.”

Mehta further emphasised the need of conserving both plant and animal life, as well as desilting the water body, and urged authorities that this gorgeous location be included in the tourist map.

“World class eco-tourism amenities should be created here for attracting wild life lovers from all across the country,” he said.

Aside from plans to improve the road leading to the wetland, the government is developing facilities such as designated parking areas, viewing decks, and landscaping of its surroundings to make the wetland more appealing to tourists, and facilities will be developed to attract wildlife lovers from across the country.

The government is also planning bio-fencing of the area with willow species, solid waste management, acquiring an adequate number of fibreglass boats for visitors, introducing ATVs, promoting local homestays in neighbouring villages, zero tolerance for bird hunting and poaching, and promoting sustainable use of wetland resources for local villagers’ livelihood improvement.

“This is a wonderful wetland but needs to be developed on the modern lines. It was never a priority. Now government seems to bring this waterbody on the tourism map. Hope things will change now,” The Hindustan Times quoted a senior wildlife officer deputed in the area as saying.

Kashmir contains 400 bodies of water, of which authorities and avian watchers study birds in 25 large and well-known ones. The valley now features eight wetlands, with Shalbough, located in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, being the largest, covering 16 square kilometres, Hokersar on the city outskirts covering 13.5 kilometres, and Hygam in north Kashmir covering 9 kilometres.

Every year, migrating birds from Central Asia, Europe, China, and Japan pay a visit. Officials from the wildlife department said they have been heartened by the presence and quantity of birds during the last four years. In recent years, some uncommon bird species have also visited Kashmir.

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