Jammu: A group of thirty senior members of the Central Govt Pensioners’ Welfare Association, Jammu visited the Gharana Wetland in R S Pura as a part of updating the knowledge of the retired senior civil servants about the Govt’s new development initiatives in Jammu. The Group was led by the Patron S. S. Wazir, IPS (Retd) former ADGP.
The visit was quite rewarding and they found the upcoming ambitious Gharana Wetland Project exciting & mesmerizing. The flocks of the migratory birds at the small water body & sweet sound of their chirping cast a real magic spell to visitors whose number are swelling every day.
Apart from the briefing by the Range Officer, Ashish Mahajan, the former Chairman J&K Pollution Control Board and a member of the Association, Dr C M Seth also gave detailed information about these migratory birds & the scientific phenomenon of their flying thousands of miles from areas like Siberia. He explained many interesting features of their low flying.
This small water body currently spread over 15 kanal of area is visited by about 6000 to 7000 migratory birds daily during the season from November to April. The important among them include famous Bar-headed Geese, Black -headed Ibis, Purple Heron, Greater White Fronted Goose, Sarus Crane & Greylag Goose. They come from Siberia, Central Asia & Mongolia. Besides there are Resident and local birds like black winged stilt, Great Eagret & Pied Kingfisher.
Gharana Wetland is unique as the birds are seen very closely unlike other wetlands. Another uniqueness of Gharana sanctuary is its vast biodiversity with presence of about 150 species of birds of which 74 species are of migratory birds. In view of these special features, Gharana Wetland has been declared an International Important Bird Area by Salim Ali founded Bombay Natural Historical Society.
The visit was coordinated by SD Swatantra, former Principal Chief Conservator of Forest who as Regional Wildlife Officer had actually got the Gharana Wetland approved from the State Cabinet in February 1981 & subsequently got it notified from the DC Jammu as protected Gharana Wetland along with two adjoining wetlands of Kakriyan & Sangral in 1982. Another retired Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, P. P. Sharma IFS(Retd) and Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, UC Pachnanda were in the Group.
The Chief Wildlife Warden, Shri Suresh Gupta IFS who hosted the first ever awareness visit of senior retired Central Govt officers is credited with formulation of first ever comprehensive plans of different Wetlands in J&K including the Gharana Wetland and Surinsar & Mansar wetlands and other Wildlife Areas. These plans are of five or ten years in an effort to conserve Wildlife areas of J&K UT. In all, plans of 25 Wildlife Areas have been prepared in the last two years.
As regards Rs. 45 crore Gharana Wetland, the Department has acquired areas around the water body to increase the Wetland area from earlier 15 kanal to 408 kanal which has been fenced. It has spent Rs. 14 cr. on land acquisition last year. This year, over Rs 3 cr. have been spent on it while Rs 6 cr. are likely to be spent next year on various works. The plan envisages a Cafeteria, Public Toilet Complex, Perches, new road, viewing decks, Wallowing area, Composting plant, Biogas Plant, Gobar Gas plant, 10′ wide walking track around the water body, parking lots etc. With massive development, the Gharana Wetland is poised to be an attractive tourist destination in the very near future.
According to Suresh Gupta, the Govt is setting up a Village Committee to ensure participation of local residents in the development of the Project and managing it. A group of locals is being sent to Bharatpur bird sanctuary on exposure visit.