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Foreign friends calling Jammuities to Gharana wetland

Sub-head: Bird watching in Jammu

Just 25 kilometers away from Jammu, a splendid birding opportunity awaits you all at Gharana wetland reserve in RS Pura sector. All you need to do is get on the road, carry binoculars, and seek out the Bar-headed geese, Greater Cormorant, Pond Heron, Moorhen and much more. Bird watching could be your escape from the stress around and help in conservation of wonderful avian species visiting Gharana every year during winters (December- March). The right time to visit Gharana for witnessing the arrival of famous bar-headed geese is around 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

I am sure most of you have been involved in birding without even knowing it. Every now and then, common birds from the neighborhood must have got you glued to your windows, bringing a different sort of epiphany. If you relate to this incident, consider yourself a birdwatcher confined to your home. But if you want to expand your horizon then Gharana visit is a must. One can watch around hundreds of bar-headed geese, migratory birds that flock to Gharana wetland from north hemisphere during winter every year. Gharana, is a recognized wetland conservation reserve along the International border in Jammu under Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Protection Act, 1978.

The wetland has also received international recognition as one of the most important bird areas in the world by Birdlife International (UK) and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).

Main attraction

The world's highest altitude migrants, Bar-headed goose is the highlight at Gharana wetland. These migratory birds cover more than 1000 miles distance in a single day. These birds migrate to Gharana for a hospitable habitat from freezing temperatures of Central Asia. Some other famous birds found in and around Gharana wetland reserve include Cattle egret, Black stork, northern pintail, common teal, northern shoveler, red-wattled lapwing, rock pigeon, ruddy shelduck, laughing dove, common sand piper, black Duronto, yellow wagtail, red-vented bulbul, bay-backed shrike etc. It is a treat for any bird watcher to witness such varied species of birds at one place.

Major issues

Certain issues pertaining to land acquisition and loss of moisture in the area has threatened the wetland since a long time, but recent developments seem to have changed the scenario. Like, the issue of land encroachment around the wetland is in the final stages in court. Soon, the occupants of agricultural land around gharana reserve will be provided with the compensation and then there will be no hurdle in acquiring the original area of wetland. Besides, another major issue was lack of water and moisture in the land because usually the water overflowing nearby fields would seep into the wetland and keep it alive but lately, the wetland started drying up so in order to counter that, a water pump has been put in place to keep the land moist and thriving for avifauna.

Recently, a Wildlife Board for the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir has also been constituted in November 2020 with Lieutenant Governor as the Chairman. The Board has around 25 members including Chairman and Vice-Chairman with expertise in the field of conservation of wildlife and specified plants. The wildlife department has also appointed birdwatchers in place to assist visitors and help them in identifying birds.

Jammu Links News conducted a field visit and interacted with a few locals and officials from the concerned department regarding the migration of thousands of bar-headed geese to Gharana.

Kuldeep, a local resident of RS Pura said, "We are witnessing flocks of birds visiting gharana since childhood but recently, we got to know about them so I want people to come and explore birding here."

Guldev Raj, Bird photographer and member of J&K Wildlife Board said, "Gharana is an excellent spot for birdwatching, people of Jammu should definitely visit more often to get in touch with nature and avifauna here."

Suresh Kumar Gupta, Chief Wildlife Warden, J&K, said, "As the long pending land dispute has reached the final stages, we have developed a detailed management plan to upscale and promote Gharana over the next few years. We are planning to upgrade the infrastructure by constructing the fence around the boundary, four viewpoints, sewage treatment plant, parking area, approach and provide basic public utilities. The plan will help in generating employment for locals and increase footfall too."

Gharana wetland reserve is a wintering site for hundreds of migratory birds including bar headed geese during their sojourn hence this place demands conservation and public support for recognition. So, make a pledge to visit Gharana with family or friends and experience birdwatching in Jammu.



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Hardeep Bali