Bandipora: The arrival of migratory birds at Asia’s one of the largest freshwater lakes, Wullar Lake in northern Kashmir paints a vivid picture as vibrant Black-headed Gulls adorn the surface, signalling the onset of a seasonal visit.
An official from Wular Conservation and Management Authority (WUCMA) told the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), that these birds, hailing from Europe and Asia, call the Wullar Lake and various South Asian regions home during the winter season. “Their migration patterns pivot on seasonal shifts and food availability, with the gulls journeying to warmer climes in search of sustenance and favourable weather during the non-breeding season,” he said.
“Feeding primarily on fish, insects, small crustaceans, and aquatic invertebrates, the Black-headed Gulls exhibit dexterity in catching flying insects and foraging in shallow water bodies,” the official added.
Notably, the Wullar Lake has resurfaced as a thriving habitat for these migratory birds, marking a triumphant conservation victory in recent years.
Despite years of environmental degradation, the lake has witnessed a turnaround, thanks to concerted efforts in restoration. Human encroachment, pollution, and illegal fishing had posed severe threats to the lake’s ecosystem. However, joint initiatives involving central government and district administration and the local have led to a remarkable revival.
Another official said that the restoration journey has involved crucial steps, such as eliminating encroachments, curbing pollution, and reintroducing indigenous fish species, thereby rejuvenating the lake’s aquatic life. “This rejuvenation has notably impacted the migratory bird population, drawing them back to the lake owing to an abundance of fish and other aquatic resources,” he said.
Last year’s census by the Wullar Lake Conservation and Management Authority reported over 50,000 migratory birds gracing the lake’s waters. Among the rare sightings was a group of Long-Tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis) not spotted in the region since 1939. This welcome return further emphasizes the revitalization of the lake’s biodiversity.
The Lake, spanning across Baramulla and Bandipora districts in northern Kashmir, covers 130 square kilometers, contributing substantially to the Valley’s fish production. Designated as a wetland of international significance under the Ramsar Convention in 1990, the lake is a lifeline for the 30 surrounding villages, characterized by its water chestnuts and lotus stems.
In a recent development, the Wullar Conservation and Management Authority (WUCMA) has sanctioned a ₹59.59 crore project for the upcoming year to further enhance the aesthetics and functionality of Wullar Lake.
The approval, granted in a meeting chaired by Principal Secretary Dheeraj Gupta, underscores the continued commitment to preserve and elevate this ecological gem.
Earlier this year, a film crew from South India shot scenes near Wular Lake, marking the first movie production in the area after the Jammu and Kashmir government implemented a film policy in 2021 to renew connections with the film industry.
Meanwhile, local residents, noting the arrival of birds at the lake for the first time in decades, praised the Government’s efforts, stating that the restoration process has been tremendous—(KNO)