An edifying trail in the wetlands
Harike Wildlife Sanctuary:
A famous bird sanctuary of North India, it is situated approx. 55km from Amritsar city in Punjab. It is located at the confluence of Beas and Sutlej rivers, and spread over an area of approx. 86km2 which attracts thousands of wintering birds from across the world including Siberia, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It has an excellent natural environment which provides favourable conditions for the migrant as well as the resident birds to rest, nest and roost.
In order to commemorate the 41st Anniversary of the Ramsar Convention, WWF-India organized a nature trail for members of the National Conservation Initiative [NCI], Amritsar at Harike, Punjab in collaboration with the Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation, Punjab. This event was organized to spread awareness and sensitise students about the present scenario of the wetlands and rivers in Punjab. 61 NCI members and 3 teachers from Millenium School, Amritsar had participated on 31st January 2012 while 28 NCI students from Spring Dale Senior School, Amritsar participated on 1st February 2012.
The students were encouraged in identifying the avifauna and the flora in the Wildlife Sanctuary. Following the nature trail, the students were taken to the Interpretation Centre and the display room where they were given information about the local flora and fauna and flora and the distribution of Ramsar sites in India. Mr. Daljeet Singh, IFS [Divisional Forest Officer, Ferozpur, and Punjab] gave an introduction about the conservation work being carried out for maintaining the good health of this wetland. The Chief Wildlife Warden, Punjab; Mr. Dhirendera Singh, IFS was also present for the event. Mr. Gunbir Singh, Chairperson, WWF-India Punjab State Committee was present on the first day of the event. He delivered a talk to encourage the participants to take further steps for the conservation of wetlands which are the homes to numerous species of fauna and flora. The NCI members were also sensitized about what they can do for energy and water conservation in order to be responsible towards the environment. This was followed by presentations and documentaries shown to the students by the WWF-India team which was represented by Ms. Archita Baruah Bhattacharyya, Ms. Gitanjali Kanwar, Mohd. Shahnawaz Khan and Tatum Tarby [Intern from Durban] presently associated with the Environment Education Division of WWF-India at Delhi. The students also participated in a quiz competition which was conducted to enhance their knowledge on wetlands and the general ecology of the area. Towards the end of the session, the schools were introduced to the forth-coming campaign-The Earth Hour. Calendars, stickers, badges and posters specially made for the occasion were also distributed as environment awareness material.
WWF-India conducted an excursion for Teachers and Students of the DPS Indirapuram [Ghaziabad] to Surajpur Wetland [Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh] on 3rd February 2012. Surajpur wetland in the Gautam Budh Nagar District (Uttar Pradesh) spreads over an area of 308 ha setting a perfect example of wildlife flourishing near urban areas. Interventions like creation of bunds around the wetland to ensure the availability of water, has brought about positive impacts like increase in number of migratory birds, and as well enriching the local biodiversity.
Ms. Archita Baruah Bhattacharyya from WWF-India gave an introduction to the Ramsar Convention briefly outlining the concept of urban wetland conservation highlighting the development and management of Surajpur wetland. This was followed by a brief on the field activities being conducted by WWF-India and a general information on the local faunal and floral composition by Mr. Nasim Ahmad Ansari (Field Researcher, WWF-India).A lively discussion took place thereafter where students questioned about the wetland values and their conservation. Shortly after, armed with binoculars, cameras and a checklist of birds found in Surajpur Wetland, the WWF-India team, students and teachers set off on a nature trail that gradually revealed the mosaic of habitats (woodland, grassland and marshy area) and floral and faunal diversity. Resident birds such as Sarus Crane, Purple Moorhen, Spot-billed Duck and migrant species such as Bar-headed Goose, Greylag Goose and Northern Pintail were seen. A herd of Neelgai (Blue bull) was also seen along the nature trail. From time to time, participants came across dense algal growth and invasive species such as water hyacinth. The aim of the exercise was to show that a wetland close to a rapidly developing urbanized setup was still rich in biodiversity and that concerted steps in collaboration with the Forest Department would aid in its management and conservation. Prior to wrapping up for the day, the participants were provided with refreshments, calendars, stickers, badges and other relevant WWF resource material.
Okhla Bird Sanctuary:
The sanctuary is small but unique and well known for its rich avifaunal diversity and is located on the River Yamuna. The area includes adjacent wetlands and small islands sandwiched between Delhi Metro and Noida City in the heart of NCR-Delhi. Only 4km2 area protected and notified as Okhla Bird Sanctuary in 1990. 320 bird species have been recorded that includes terrestrial and water birds with rare species of migratory ducks from Tibet, Siberia, Europe and different parts of Asia. Okhla Bird Sanctuary also forms one of the IBA (Important Bird Area) sites in India. More than 188 species of plants have been recorded which also includes herbal plants. About 10 species of mammals, 8 species of reptiles and 2 species of amphibians are also reported from the sanctuary. On 25th January 2012, Teachers and Students from S.L.S. DAV Public School [Mausam Vihar], St. Mary's School [Safdarjung Enclave] and from Dr. Radhakrishnan International School [Defence Colony, Delhi] visited Okhla Bird Sanctuary, Noida. The nature trail was conducted by Mr. Raakesh Khatri (Resource Person) and Ms. Archita Baruah Bhattacharyya (WWF-India). Observations were made on the many resident bird species sighted and from a watch-tower several migratory birds were also identified with the help of binoculars. The third phase included an activity on birds with question-answer round that was distributed to the students. Mr. J.M Banerjee (Range Officer-OBS) was also present. This event in Okhla Bird Sanctuary marked the start of the events unrolled to commemorate the 41st World Wetland Day with active participation of 3 Delhi NCI schools. Thus, the students returned not only with souvenirs (eco-friendly pencils, calendars, badges, bookmarks) but also with several memorable moments to cherish and their bird quotient greatly enhanced!