By Syed Mustafa Ahmad
In the Covid-19 pandemic, it is very difficult to enjoy nature. The reason is that there are chances of getting infected. Yes, it is true that one should take precautions as much as one can. Taking precautions, I went to the Hokera Wetland yesterday. I was reminded of my childhood when I used to bathe, catch fish, eat water nuts, bring grass for the cattle, row boats, catch birds, etc. I found an apparent change in the whole environment of the Hokera Wetland. The changes that caught my eyes will be discussed in this piece of writing.
The first change that I observed since my childhood is in the area of the Hokera Wetland. In our childhood, it used to be around 12 sq. kms but now it has been reduced to 8sq. kms. The vast area of the Hokera Wetland that used to be seen in our childhood, is no more.
The second change that I observed is that the ecosystems of the Hokera Wetland are totally destroyed or disturbed. The ecological balance that was found in our childhood, is no more available. In our times, fish, insects, algae, reed, water nuts, etc., were found in abundance while today, there is no water. Fish have died, grass is absent and there only is barren land, with dust rising to miles.
The third change that I observed is that the native as well as the migrants birds are exiled. Greed has destroyed their habitat. The different sounds of the birds are not now found. Mallards, Pochards, Pintails, Little Egret, Egret, etc., have gone away. They have abandoned this forever.
The fourth change that I observed is that there are playgrounds in place of ponds and wells. A lot of children are seen playing in the Hokera Wetland. They don’t know the value of herbs and the eggs of the birds. They play and destroy the ecosystem of this area.
The fifth change that I observed is that there were orchards and kitchen gardens. Agricultural land is converted into orchards and kitchen gardens. In place of rice, people need vegetables and fruits. Now, people have forgotten that how useful the agricultural field was.
The sixth change that I observed is that it has become a meeting place for the romantic lovers. Since the Government of Jammu and Kashmir constructed a road that leads to the Hokera Wetland. The romantic lovers find it easy to reach there and enjoy the atmosphere of the Hokera Wetland.
The seventh change that I observed is the rise in the level of pollution. Plastic, grease, fertilizers, bottles, etc., are found in abundance in the Hokera Wetland. The landscape is littered with obnoxious material that has suffocated the atmosphere of the Hokera Wetland.
The eighth change that I observed is that was increase in the temperature in the Hokera Wetland. The scorching heat almost suffocates a person. A person wants to leave the place as much early as he or she can because there is no shade, under which a person can enjoy. We are thankful to the government that has wasted no time in cutting those trees that used to provide shade in the hot weather.
The ninth change that I observed is that there is constructional work going on. Recently, a police station was installed there. It produces pollution that directly goes into the Hokera Wetland. Moreover, the use of vehicles by the police personnel emit the toxic gases that pollute the environment.
The tenth change that I observed is that it has been encroached by all and sundry. A large area is gone to those who want it to get reduced day by day, without caring for its restoration.
The eleventh change that I observed is that the poachers have increased their number in killing as many birds they can. They bribe the local officials and go on killing the native as well as the migratory birds.
Apart from the above changes, I observed many other changes that I forgot. But the basic thing is that the old Hokera Wetland and the new Hokera Wetland are totally different. The need of the hour is to restore it. The queen of wetlands cannot be overlooked. Overall, the wetlands are the kidneys of an ecosystem.
Syed Mustafa Ahmad can be reached at email@example.com