Punjab flooding threatens endangered gharial, migratory birds in Harike wetlands

BATHINDA: Heavy silt deposits within the Harike Wetland zone attributable to flooding within the Beas and Sutlej rivers have left specialists fearful about Punjab’s novel undertaking to preserve gharial, an endangered Indian number of crocodiles, as a piece of the reptile inhabitants has reportedly swept into adjoining Pakistan waters. Gharials at Harike(Gitanjali Kanwar/ World Wildlife Fund for Nature-India) PREMIUM Gharials at Harike(Gitanjali Kanwar/ World Wildlife Fund for Nature-India)

Additionally they worry the silt deposit might have a direct impression on the large inhabitants of migratory birds who begin arriving at Harike from November onwards as floods have prompted havoc on the pure meals chain of natural world.

The Harike wetland and wildlife sanctuary is the nation’s second-largest wetland unfold over 86 sq. km, together with 41 sq km of the wetland itself, which is residence to scores of fowl species visiting from so far as the Arctic and Siberia.

Unfold on the Ferozepur-Tarn Taran border, Harike is a uncommon biodiversity hotspot that pulls hundreds of birds from overseas and different Indian states. The wetland is positioned on the confluence of the Sutlej and Beas rivers, with the sanctuary on the spot the place the Majha, Malwa and Doaba areas of Punjab meet.

Roshan Lal, the sarpanch of Harike village, mentioned wildlife authorities have been alerted about a minimum of three sightings of gharials and one river dolphin within the waters.

“The wildlife was noticed flowing within the quick present of the flooded rivers. Flooding in Satluj and Beas is widespread throughout rains, but it surely was the primary time in over 5 many years that the world witnessed an enormous quantity of water for greater than one-and-a-half months. Fields and wetlands have been submerged for the final a number of days and it has prompted an irreparable loss to people and wildlife,” Lal mentioned.

Based on specialists, Harike was a pure residence to gharials earlier than it disappeared within the Sixties.

Beneath Undertaking Crocodile initiated in 1975 by the Authorities of India, 47 gharials introduced from the Morena captive breeding centre in Madhya Pradesh have been launched into Punjab’s Beas River in three batches.

Gitanjali Kanwar, senior coordinator, aquatic biodiversity, World Wildlife Fund for Nature-India, who has been a part of the gharial conservation undertaking in Punjab, mentioned there are about 40 reptiles in Harike and the large flooding has raised critical considerations about their existence.

“Of the estimated gharial inhabitants sighted within the belt, 90% are juveniles, weak to being swept away within the large present. These reptiles have been launched in Beas however now they’ve made a habitat in Sutlej. There may be each risk that they have been swept away downstream into Pakistan,” she added.

"Gharials that swept with the current may not return to the conservation site as the reptile would look for food downstream now"(Gitanjali Kanwar/ World Wildlife Fund for Nature-India)

“Gharials that swept with the present might not return to the conservation website because the reptile would search for meals downstream now”(Gitanjali Kanwar/ World Wildlife Fund for Nature-India)

Punjab wildlife authorities and conservationists worry that the reported incidents of gharials swept downstream in Pakistan’s Kasur province pose a menace to the pure belongings of the state.

A functionary within the state wildlife division, who requested to not be named, mentioned that floods have inundated a number of islands within the wetland zone and they’re conserving their fingers crossed concerning the loss.

“It’s a wealthy habitat for a number of species of mammals just like the Indian otter, jungle cat, jackal, wild boar, widespread mongoose, and monkeys whereas the marshy space has numerous fish, snakes, turtles and snails. For the reason that giant space remained inaccessible for weeks as a result of flooding and silt deposition, the impression of floods on the wildlife is definitely unknown,” the official added.

Yogesh Kumar Rawal, chairperson of the zoology division at Chandigarh-based Panjab College, mentioned floods prompted an enormous lack of vegetation and wildlife and it might not be replenished quickly because the harm was extreme.

“Gharials that swept with the present might not return to the conservation website because the reptile would search for meals downstream now. The area has a small inhabitants of one other endangered species of river dolphins. Although these freshwater aquatic mammal habitats are in deep waters, the big water influx for weeks that introduced with it silt…may face a problem,” he mentioned.

Rawal mentioned the Harike wetland is the habitat for a number of species of fish, snails, algae and different vegetation, making it an ideal supply of meals for birds flying into the wetland from completely different nations together with Siberia and Mongolia.

“These birds make Harike residence as a result of considerable pure meals availability. Floods have washed away enormous fish populations and uprooted flora and its fallout could also be felt when migratory birds begin reaching Harike after three months,” the official mentioned.

Dharminder Sharma, Punjab’s chief wildlife warden, mentioned that as a result of launch of extra water from Bhakra Dam into the Sutlej and Beas rivers, the wetland space witnessed flooding.

An aquatic audit can be undertaken to determine the losses after flood water recedes, Sharma mentioned, including: “Our groups are sustaining a detailed watch on the wildlife in the complete belt. Up to now, our area groups haven’t rescued any wildlife”.

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