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World Wetland Day - our conservation efforts in Kashmir!

By Aishuwarya Sudarshan 

February 2nd is the World Wetland day and our team in Kashmir celebrated this with great enthusiasm. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has a wealth of wetlands which offer great habitat to the water fowl. These wetlands harbor a very high concentration of water fowls and migratory birds. These winged visitors travel great distances from China, Russia, Northern Europe, Siberia and Central Asia to enjoy our hospitality! While we are fortunate that our wetlands host thousands of migratory birds each year, it is indeed a sad fact that most wetlands are threatened and reducing due to several factors like development, encroachment, flooding, illegal dumping of chemical & sanitary waste, factory effluents etc causing poisoning of these wetlands while also causing weed infestations. 

We firmly believe it is critically important to make school children understand the importance of these wetlands and the need to conserve them. Our objective on this World Wetland day was to help the local school children understand why our foreign visitors who fly thousands of miles to visit our wetlands must not be disappointed after their long journey and the valuable ecological role these wetlands play and why we should help conserve them. What better way than to start talking about it in schools! 

We started building an interest in the project in the schools around the Shalbaugh area, which has one of the largest wetlands in Kashmir. On the occasion of World Wetland Day, we organized a symposium on ‘Importance of Wetlands and their conservation’ at the Shaheen Public School, Manigam, in the Ganderbal district. Students from several schools in the area were invited to participate in this event and what we heard blew us away!!!! 

It was wonderful to see 10-14 year old children speak about the wetlands and the flora and fauna that surround the wetlands. The children had very rapidly clued onto the importance of wetland conservation and the delicate ecological balance that they held. 

The day started off with presentations by our team on wetlands, the species of birds (winter visitors) that frequented and depended on these wetlands and ways to help protect these wetlands. This was followed by an enriching series of young enthusiastic and passionate speakers. The symposium ended on a high note with the prize distribution. Rubeena Nabi and Onaiba Jaan from HKMC School shared the 1st prize. Iqra Fayaz of Shaheen public School received the second prize and Utfa Rashid of HKMC School came in third. Several children were awarded consolation prizes. We made sure no child went home empty handed, so everyone got mementos and participation certificates. 

The symposium was a success and it gives us great pleasure to see children taking the initiative to understand and spread the word about the environment and the wetlands. We hope to engage the younger generation in such meaningful workshops in the future to help make a difference to wetland conservation.

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