The birds are back

Published: Friday 15 December 2000

Blissful solitude: an egret fi (Credit: Asad Rahmani) almost 30,000 migratory birds have arrived at the Harike wetland lake at Ferozepur, Punjab, a result of a massive lake cleanup operation. In four months, at least 125,000 tonnes of water hyacinth were cleared from the lake by the army. Coot, common pochard, shoveller, brahmini duck, common teel, pintail and egrets are some of the bird species that have come to Harike in large numbers.

The lake authority's clean up attempt has, however, come amid a controversy. Prevention of encroachments inside the sanctuary has evoked strong protests from a section of local farmers, who have been cultivating land inside the restricted area of the sanctuary for several years now.

The farmers allege that the government had earlier encouraged them to cultivate the land to curb movement of terrorists. This was done with the help of the security forces in the 1980s. But now, without providing them with an alternative, it is taking away the land from them. "They should provide us with an alternative as a number of families rely on this land for a living," said Balkar Singh, a farmer.

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