Fight for flight: Securing wetlands for migratory birds in Kashmir by One World South Asia

Cause progress

Months of lobbying helped the wildlife department to take over 1400 Kanals of wetland (around 175 acres) in Pampore from the revenue department.

Pampore:: In a historic moment for wildlife in Kashmir, the Wildlife Department officially took over 1400 Kanals of wetland (around 175 acres) from the state’s Revenue Department this morning at a small ceremony at Town Hall, Pampore.

This brings four wetlands – namely Fushkoori, Mainbugh, Krunchoo and Chatlam – where several species of migratory birds are seen during their transit to the South, under the purview of the J&K Wildlife Protection Act.

Assistant commissioner of the Revenue Department, Dr Shah Faesal, handed over all official possession of the land to Maqbool Baba, Wildlife Warden (Wetlands), Kashmir. He said, “I acknowledge the tremendous work being done by young lawyer Nadeem Qadri for conservation of wetlands in Pampore Tehsil. District Administration is more than eager to see these wetlands restored to their past glory and in collaboration with Wildlife. Department and massive conservation strategy is being implemented soon.”

The landmark event was brought about by months of lobbying and work with local communities by Wildlife Conservation Fund (WCF), run by environmental lawyer Nadeem.

Qadri, supported by Wildlife Trust of India’s (WTI) Rapid Action Project (RAP). Seeing the land being encroached upon and hunters having a reign in the area, Qadri approached WTI with a proposal to win this land back for local and migrant wildlife. Finally in May last year the House Committee on Environment, headed by M.L.A M Y Tarigami, recommended the complete handover of the land to the Wildlife Department.

Since the order was passed, the Revenue Department spent time demarcating the wetlands around the town of Pampore, and making preparations for its handover. The Wildlife Department will now have complete control over the protection and management of the wetlands, their conservation and tackling issues like encroachment and poaching.

Rapid Action Project (RAP) is one of WTI’s longest-running initiatives that seeks to tackle conservation issues of urgent and critical need. Its primary objective is to respond quickly to wildlife emergencies in India by extending all-round help to wildlife in distress. This transfer ensures full protection to the wetlands where at least 25 species of migratory birds have been sighted (including the rare tufted duck). The Wildlife Department now will assign forest guards for the complete protection of the area’s wildlife, that have served as sport for hunters over the last several decades.

Nadeem Qadri, Environmental Lawyer & Executive Director, Wildlife Conservation Fund, said, “We are happy that we are witnessing a historical decision of handover and takeover of more than 1400 Kanals of Wetland area from Revenue Department to Wildlife Department. I am personally thankful to Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) for supporting wetland conservation in Kashmir and I am optimistic about the future of these 4 wetlands of Pampore, which will become models for wetland conservation in the state.”

Dr Jagdish Kishwan, WTI’s Chief Advisor, Policy and Project Implementation, said, “Today is a day for celebration for all wildlife conservationists, especially bird lovers of J&K, India and the world. This event marks the culmination of the epic struggle launched by WCF, supported by WTI, in 2011, when Qadri first spoke of the importance of conservation of wetlands in Kashmir and their scientific management. I hope that this will not be the only event of this kind, but will be the harbinger of many such events in future.”

Over the last year, Qadri, with WTI’s support, carried out awareness drives, making people aware of the ill-effects of improper disposal of garbage, and the importance of conservation of wetlands. Informative signboards were installed and local youth were engaged in monitoring the wetlands. An anti-poaching team was formed, supported by the Wildlife Department, which kept a constant watch on the wetlands. As soon as any poacher or hunter was suspected to be in or around the wetlands, the team would immediately get into action and inform forest officials, who caught around fifteen poachers and helped seize two boats and two cycles with poaching equipment.