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JUN 2022  
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Where Did Our Birds Go?: Birds of Kashmir Valley

Some believe that the melodious voices coming from trees, backyards or gardens are dying down slowly but steadily and we might be at a stage of losing our tiny little creatures forever but unfortunately nobody is there to care about this problem.

The rich diversity of the state of Jammu and Kashmir can be seen in terms of its variety of bird populations and a history of lending home to thousands of birds every year. Some birds were of sacred importance and hence were an indicator of the upcoming season like the onset of winter or spring season. These birds would sing and appear in our gardens to inform us about the weather ahead. Beyond doubt, the Kashmir Valley is home to one of the richest bird populations because of its landscape, weather, and vegetation.

Experts who have been studying birds believe that Kashmir is gifted. Salim Ali, a renowned ornithologist of India, once called Kashmir heaven on earth for migratory birds. While talking about the unique floral and faunal diversity of the Valley, Nazir Malik, Wildlife guard at the Dachigam National Park said, “Our valley has an unmatched reserve of biodiversity, no country can match our richness in terms of plant life, bird, insect as it is like an art form of God.”

During his 25-year career, Nazir has come across nearly all the birds living in this part of the world and claims that he can identify most of them. “We have more than 252 species of birds and I can identify them all, some by their appearance and some by their voice”. Nazir is of the opinion that the natural balance is being disturbed and that is why birds are in danger. “Some species are increasing and some are decreasing, which is shifting the natural balance, and hence is a problem, we can’t say that their population has decreased but it has shrunk in one area as they might have migrated to another area.”

Professor Kuldeep Singh Jamwal, a physicist and a bird watcher helped us in categorizing the bird population of Kashmir. “Here we have two types of birds, resident birds (bulbul, sparrow, crow, maina) and summer migratory birds (song thrush, flycatcher, posh-nool, aynz, pachinn) which migrate from Siberia.” According to Jamwal, the local duck population is also declining as their habitat is shrinking. “Here the duck is also vanishing and the main reason is their habitat destruction.”

Talking about the uncontrolled use of pesticides and their direct impact on the sparrow population Jamwal said, “Sparrows are vanishing because of uncontrolled use of pesticides and fertilizers, first if they consume fertilizers either they die or their eggshell lining thins up, so new ones don’t survive during incubation.” Sighting examples from the recent history Jamwal notes that the partridge population has also declined because of our encroachment into their habitats. “Wild shoagh (one-legged partridge) lived on mountains, people settled on mountains and they shifted to upper reaches and there they didn’t get food and conducive environmental conditions and hence they are endangered.”

Tracing the main reason behind the declining number of birds in the valley Jamwal attributes  man-animal conflict to this. “Man-animal conflict is prevalent these days, if we are barging into their land and if they (animals) are attacking people, it’s totally justified. Disturbing nature means disturbing God.”

Rapid industrialization and urbanization have pushed these species to a dangerous mark.

“Use of hydrocarbons, cement factories, mobile towers, microwaves, all come together to disturb birds and hence they are forced to change their natural settlements. We have changed our identity; birds are also trying to adjust to these things”. On the other hand, Wildlife Warden, Kargil Division holds that there are a few species that are declining but there is no immediate threat. “I am birding for the last 25 years and there is no immediate threat to our common birds,” says Suhail Intesaar, Wildlife Warden Kargil Division, Department of Wildlife Protection, Jammu and Kashmir.

“There are 24 species of birds that are threatened, white trunked vultures, Western tragopan and 11 other species that are restricted to this part of the world like the Kashmir fly catcher, orange bullfinch and they demand to be preserved.” Suhail asserts that there is no data available with the state to compare with the past and the present figures of the bird population count. “We don’t have concrete data on birds because we are concentrating on glamorous species such as leopard, hangul and nobody cares about birds.”

On the other hand, some still believe that things can be regained before it’s too late to recover. Nazir supposes that one should learn from the mistakes of the West and shouldn’t wait for things to go out of hand. “We should not give up like the Europeans, they are people who first destroyed nature for the industrial revolution and now are spending millions of rupees to restore that, we should act now, just not birds but other species as well.”

He opines that nature is the best caretaker of all these things and we should not interfere in its management. “Wildlife management by God is the best one and we should not interfere with it. Global warming is disturbing forest ecosystem and it is all interdependent, we are directly dependent on forests, birds, and animals.” According to him, we should act now before it is too late. “Prevention is better than cure, we shouldn’t wait for their disappearance and try not to disturb them.”

With an aim to provide a ready reference of the avian population in the valley, Dr Shakeel Jehangir, a keen birdwatcher set up Kashmir Network. “The long-term goal is to document the bird species of Kashmir for posterity since bird population is rapidly declining throughout the valley.” In order to prevent bird decline, Dr Shakeel emphasized the importance of awareness campaigns regarding local birds.

“My own efforts to create a project of this magnitude was kick-started by the realization that my two sons could immediately identify an alien species of hornbill or flamingo from a photograph in a book but could not name the liquid voiced golden orioles (posh nool), nesting in our gardens. There is a dire need of awareness campaigns, colouring books put in the curriculum, identify local birds to sensitize people about the importance of birds in our lives.”

There is always a ray of hope, as shown by people’s growing interest in this field, an increasing number of bird watchers from the Valley according to Suhail is a positive sign. “Over the years the number of bird-watchers has increased in our state, I am myself a part of one such group and it consumes most of my time now.” Keeping a record of their sightings is very important, it’s getting interesting now because people from different genres are participating. Bird-watching has become very popular because of the easy access to camera and the internet. A new concept of e-birding was introduced in Kashmir in 2013 and is in continuation with the conservation and identification of birds globally. “e-birding is a very recent concept in Kashmir in which one can make a list and identify birds and keep the record online and help in identification and conservation of birds.” #

Baseera Rafiqi is a freelance journalist based in Kashmir, aspiring to pen down stories about the place and its people, focusing on health, environment, and human rights.

   
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Nominations open for CSP Today India awards 2013


The inaugural CSP Today India awards ceremony takes place on March 12, and CSP developers, EPCs, suppliers and technology providers can now be nominated.

CSP has made tremendous progress since the announcement of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission in 2010. With Phase I projects now drawing closer to completion, the first milestone in India's CSP learning curve is drawing closer. CSP Today has chosen the next CSP Today India conference (12-13 March, New Delhi) as the time for the industry to reflect upon its progress and celebrate its first achievements.

At the awards ceremony, industry leaders will be recognized for their achievements in one of 4 categories: CSP India Developer Award, CSP India Engineering Performance Award, CSP India Technology and Supplier Award, and the prestigious CSP India Personality of the Year.

Matt Carr, Global Events Director at CSP Today, said at the opening of nominations that CSP Today are excited to launch these esteemed awards, which will enhance the reputation of their recipients. I am particularly excited to launch the CSP India Personality of the Year award, a distinguished honor for the industry figure deemed worthy by their peers."

All eyes will be on the CSP Today India 2013 Awards when nomination entry closes on February 4 and the finalists are announced on February 11. The awards are open to all industry stakeholders to nominate until February 4 at
http://www.csptoday.com/india/awards-index.php or by e-mail to awards@csptoday.com

Contact:
Matt Carr
+44 (0) 20 7375 7248
matt@csptoday.com

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