JAMMU: A large number of wetlands and water bodies in Jammu and Kashmir has been encroached upon, posing a serious threat to biodiversity.
The state government has said that 718 people have encroached upon 422 acres of wetlands in Kashmir Valley.
To retrieve water bodies from encroachers, the state forest department has initiated various measures.
It has registered more than 400 cases against encroachers.
In Jammu, 1,510 acres of land has been encroached upon as the Jammu Development Authority is yet to demarcate 6,818 acres of land, meant for development, given to it in 1973.
Several water bodies too have been encroached upon in the past few decades, Nodal Officer and Chief Conservator of Forest (Eco Tourism and Wildlife) M P Dogra said in a report.
Various factors such as migration of labourers and nomads, rapid urbanisation and movement of people from rural areas to Jammu city have led to large-scale encroachment.
Temporary settlements have come up along the banks of nullahs and ravines, he said.
The report states that encroachers have also attempted to grab major ponds at Patoli Mangotrian, Paloura and Upper Paloura areas in Jammu. But these attempts were foiled the civic body.
In Kashmir Valley, five wetlands have been identified where encroachments have been recorded by the wildlife department and the revenue authorities, Dogra said.
He said that 718 people have encroached 422 acres in five wetlands -- Hokersar, Hygam, Mirgund, Chattlum and Fresh Kori -- in the valley.
Giving details, he said 381 encroachers have grabbed parts of Hokersar wetland, followed by 212 in Mirgund wetland and 125 in Hygam wetland.
The Hokersar Lake, which attracts migratory birds from various parts of the world, is facing a threat from massive encroachments.
As per the report, three major wetlands of Shallabug, Chanthang-Pangong Tso and Tsomoriri, spread on an area of 398 square kilometres in Ladakh region, have also recorded encroachments.
Wildlife and revenue authorities have prepared lists and cases have been registered.
In Srinagar, the total area of Dal-Nageen Lake has shown decrease from 25.86 square kilometres to 25.76 square kilometres in 2009 as per satellite imagery, the report said.
In Jammu, all the encroachments are being removed and FIRs being registered against the encroachers, the report said.
The forest department, along with the JDA, has prepared a plan for developing the Tawi riverfront.
The forest department is also contemplating dredging operations in the wetlands in Kashmir, a proposal for which has been submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change under the National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems (NPCA).
Measures for prevention of pollution to Wular lake through scientific techniques are also envisaged in the plan.
The Rs 34.04 crore plan will also have provisions for enhancement of sustained livelihood of dependent communities, including fishermen.
Jammu and Kashmir Minister for Forest, Environment and Ecology Choudhary Lal Singh said today that over 2,801.23 hectares of forest land of total recorded encroachment of 14,345 hectares has been retrieved in the past three years.
The state has 1,230 big and small lakes and water bodies -- 425 in Kashmir, 150 in Jammu and 665 in Ladakh region.