The Hokersar wetland is located in the northwest of Srinagar. It is twelve kilometers away from Srinagar. It is called the” Queen of Wetlands”. It is spread over 1,375 hectares (3,400 acres). It is governed by Kashmir Department of Wildlife Protection. On 8 November, 2005, it was designated as the “Ramsar Site”. A Ramsar site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. The Convention on Wetlands, known as the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental environmental treaty established in 1972 by UNESCO, which came into force in 1975.
Many water bird species and associated bird species are found in wetland. It is an important place for migratory birds coming from Siberia, Central Asia and china. Lakhs of birds visit this site every year. Northern Pintail, Mallard, gadwall, northern shoveller, Eurasian Wigeon, Common teal, Eurasian coot, red-crested pochard, greylag goose, Common pochard, garganey, Ruddy shelduck, etc., are found here. They present a mesmerizing view as I have got enthralled hundreds of times by their charming view/s.
Hokersar Wetland is under serious pressure. First is encroachment. In 1969, it was 18.75 square kilometers that reduced to 13.00 square kilometers in 2008. Second is conversion of Hokersar into paddy cultivation. Hajibagh, Zainakote, Soibugh, Daharmuna, Gundhassi Bhat, etc., are major encroachers. Third is sewage. Domestic sewage finds its way in the Hokera Wetland through small inlets. Fourth is army camp. They dump harmful materials into the Hokera Wetland day in and day out. Fifth and last is that the neighbouring people and the Doodhganga, a perennial tributary of the Hokera Wetland bring wastes and weeds with it that give rise to many environmental problems.
Hokera Wetland is a conservation reserve under the Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife (protection) Act, 1978. In 2005, it was designated as the Ramsar Site, which means that it got an international importance. Yes, it is a fact that like other Wetlands, Hokersar Wetland acts as a reservoir for the flood waters of the river Jhelum. This fact came into surface in 2014 when the whole Wetland was inundated under many feet of flood water. And importantly, they are the “Kidneys of environment” that purify the environment and provide sustenance to a large group of people. It is also protected under the India’s National Wetlands Conservation Programme.
Hokersar Wetland is on the verge of extinction. The need of the hour is that the concerned authorities must come forward to do something tangible on the ground. In the past, a lot of damage has been done due to corruption, nepotism, lack of planning, greed, laziness, etc. Encroached land should be released at the earliest. Government employees associated with it must do their duties. Poachers should be severely dealt with. Legal hunting on appropriate times should be allowed. Sewage must not be absorbed in wetland. Moreover, army must be advised not to make it a dumping site. It is a matter of life and death. Hope good sense prevails!