Famed Shalbugh wetland fast losing its sheen

A famous and preferred destination for lakhs of migratory birds, Shalabugh wetland in Ganderbal district is fast losing its sheen and craving for attention.

Encroachment, unabated pollution and lack of conservation measures have drastically affected the eco-system of Shalbugh wetland here.
The famous wetland in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district has virtually turned into a ‘wasteland’ due to the lackadaisical approach of the concerned department.

Unlike in the past when lakhs of migratory birds from various European countries came to valley and stayed in various wetlands including this one, this year a negligible number of such birds were seen in Shalbugh wetland.

The wetland spreading over thousands of kanals wear a deserted look during this period of time with not a single migratory bird in it, though flock of sheep and other animals can be seen grazing in the dry fields.

The wetlands department, sources said, has allegedly failed to provide a feasible ambience to these visiting avian guests nor has it taken any measure to preserve this wetland.

Sources said to ensure that migratory birds arrive here, the government agencies concerned need to build embankments to ensure that the water level is adequately maintained. “Besides, supervision and maintenance are essential,” they said, adding that however no such steps or measures have been taken by the agencies concerned.

Spanning over 14 kilometers, Shallabugh, which mainly receives its waters from Aanchar lake in Srinagar, spreads from Takenwari Srinagar to Sangam Ganderbal.

The wetland receives its waters from Aanchar lake here. “Disposal of biomedical waste from SKIMS Soura into Aanchar subsequently pollutes Shallabugh Wetland,” said locals.

Talking to Greater Kashmir, wildlife warden (Wetlands) Rouf Ahmed Zargar acknowledged that the department couldn’t make any measures that will ensure the stay of the migratory birds in the Shalbugh wetland.

“Last year we were not able to build embankments, maintain water level, besides other things that could provide a feasible environment to the avian guests,” he said, adding that there were some issues with the locals which led to the delay in the process.

“We were getting water from a fisheries nullah. Many a time we plugged the breaches in it and diverted the water to the wetland but the locals used to unplug them to travel to nearby Anchar lake. This created confrontation and delay,” Zargar said.

He said that the department has set up a revival plan for the Shalbugh wetland and this financial year “we will ensure that all the required measures are taken to host the migratory birds in the wetland and also to preserve it.”

“We will construct on our own a ring bund that will maintain the required water level in the wetland. The work on it will start soon,” he said.

He said the field staff was posted there to keep watch at the wetland.