Baramulla, Aug 9: Home to many migratory birds, the Hygam Wetland in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district is facing an official apathy as the administration has been unable to stop the land encroachment continuing for the past several decades in the area.
Spread over 1400 hectares of land, the Hygam Wetland has been encroached at many places which include Haritar, Hygam, Lolpora, Gohul, Tengpora and Goshbug.
Scores of structures had come up on the wetland over the past several years while hundreds of kanals of land were being used by encroachers illegally for cultivating paddy.
“The encroachers are cultivating paddy illegally on hundreds of kanals of land. The official inability to act in time has encouraged more and more people to grab the land,” said Muhammad Shaban, a resident of Hygam Baramulla.
The Hygam Wetland has dense settlement around and people of the area are involved in reed and fishery business.
The wetland is host to scores of birds, both local and migratory.
Typha and Phragmites are the dominant species in the wetland.
During the winter, the wetland is home to many migratory ducks, especially Ancer species. While geese, Shovelers, Red Crested Pochards, White Eyed Pochards, Common Teal Coots and Grey Legs are commonly visiting birds to the wetland.
Supporting a wide range of biodiversity, the Hygam Wetland is shrinking with every passing day.
The illegal constructions and conversion of a major portion of the wetland into paddy cultivation has reflected on the callous approach.
“Around 85 illegal constructions have come up on the wetland while hundreds of kanals of land have been converted for crop cultivation. Though scores of cases are registered at police stations against the encroachers, there have not been any concrete attempts so far to evict the land from the encroachers,” said Fayaz Ahmad of Tarzoo, Sopore.
Aijaz Ahmad, a civil society member from Tarzoo, said that in 2002, local civil society members filed a PIL in the court following which scores of official teams visited the area.
The action of the visiting officials brought some respite but after the passing of a few years, the land grabbers again became active and started encroaching on the land which is continuing.
“The encroachers have become so deadly that in June this year, they attacked a team of the Wildlife department and inflicted gruesome injuries on three of the team members,” he said.
Ahmad said that the authorities should work to restore the wetland to its original position and stop further encroachment which was possible only if the area was demarcated and fencing done.
The Regional Wildlife Warden Kashmir, Abdul Rashid Naqash said that the encroachers were cultivating crops on the encroached land and the department would soon free it from the encroachers.