Environmental activists warn that wetlands in Kashmir are rapidly shrinking due to official apathy and rampant encroachment endangering thousands of animals and migratory birds. The state boasts of 16 wetlands, 9 of them in Kashmir valley. Experts predict these will vanish in around seven years if authorities continue to neglect them.Worse, a large number of satellite wetlands, found in areas adjoining bigger water bodies, have completely vanished due to rampant urbanization and encroachment. Dr Haneefa Banoo, a scientist with the Environment and Remote Sensing Department, has informed that in 1998, 500 lakes and water bodies were spotted in the Valley. Haneefa, had employed satellite imagery techniques to prepare the first classified directory of lakes and water bodies in Kashmir, & is now working on an update.
Many charge that though government departments have funds, they lack coordination on implementing programs to manage wetlands. Last year, US $64,000 was spent under the National Wetland Management Action Plan funded by the federal ministry of environment and forests. A public interest petition in the state high court has also retrieved wetlands that were encroached on way back in 1981. Wular Lake, which is a world heritage site, has thousands of hectares of encroached land that have been identified, according to the director of the Environment and Remote Sensing Department, Shahniyaz Naqshbandhi. Shrinking wetlands have affected the behavior of waterfowl also. Cormorants, which thronged these wetlands in the past, have reduced because of the shallow waters.
The wildlife protection department is now embarking on a massive de-siltation and de-weeding campaign to regain the wetlands.The wetland preservation campaign seems to be gaining momentum among the public as well.