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Harike wetland is the largest of its type in northern India. It covers an area of 285.1 sq km and spreads into the four districts of Amritsar, Firozpur, Kapurthala and Jalandhar in Punjab. The perennial rivers Sutlej and Beas coalesce at Harike. In 1950, an irrigation barrage was built. This man made lake not only recharges the groundwater but also provides irrigation to the states of Punjab and Rajasthan. There is a huge concentration of migratory waterfowls in this lake. Out of the total wetland area, the waterlogged area is only 10.8 sq km. The lake /ponds cover 3.6 sq km whereas 0.5 sq km is covered by ox bow lakes and cut off meanders. A substantial area of about 198.6 sq km is being used for agriculture. Harike wetland was declared a 41 sq km wildlife sanctuary in 1982. Considered a wetland of international importance, it was included in the List of Ramsar sites in 1990. The sanctuary area was enlarged in 1992 to 86 sq km. From 1980-1985, the Bombay Natural History Society carried out research and a bird rising programme there. The wetland was also the subject of a 1994 publication by WWF-India as part of their series on Ramsar Sites of India.

The different threats on this wetland are: Weed infestation, siltation, pollution (from the sewage, fertilizers and pesticides) and also water fluctuation. Due to irrigation huge amount of water has to be released in the canals, which leaves the water body dry during the summers. This has also led to weed development. Illegal fishing and poaching area the other threats and as a result there has been reduction in the number of migratory birds. The analysis of rainfall, discharge and ground water level showed that the flow pattern is decreasing at Harike. The remote sensing data revealed that the wetland area has reduced approximately 30% over the last 13 years. Due to decrease in flow at Harike and deforestation in the catchment area, the wetland is reducing in size for the last few years.

In 1998, the Chief Minister of Punjab, Prakash Singh Badal had shown an exceptional interest in the wetland. He constituted the Harike Wetland Conservation Mission, to safeguard the future of this rich wetland. In 2000, there was huge drive of cleaning the lake and as a result about 30,000 migratory birds arrived at the lake. In 2001, the army had stepped in to clean the lake. But the condition of the lake has again deteriorated in the recent time. Recently Indus dolphin, one of the endangered species found only in Pakistan, was spotted in Harike.


Down To Earth

Indus dolphin in Punjab
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The birds are back
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Fishy deaths
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Research papers

Impact of Declining Trend of Flow on Harike Wetland, India
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Mapping, monitoring and conservation of Harike wetland ecosystem, Punjab, India, through remote sensing
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Punjab Remote Sensing Centre
Ludhiana, 141 004

  S. K. Jain , A. Sarkar and V. Garg
National Institute of Hydrology
Roorkee 247 667
e-mail: sjain@nih.ernet.in


Basanta Kumar
Divisional Forest Officer
Harike Wetland and Wildlife Sanctuary
Amritsar, Punjab

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