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Revisiting Wetlands of Hoshiarpur, Punjab

Revisiting Wetlands of Hoshiarpur, Punjab

#Wetlands #Birds #Ecosystem #Landuse

Virat Jolli: Last year in the month of November, 2017, we visited a specialised wetland ecosystem in North Eastern part of Punjab in Hoshiarpur District. These wetlands are locally known as chos (seasonal nallahs). During our past visit, we documented some important rare and large sized waterbirds in these wetlands and surrounding areas along with other terrestrial birds and animals. This has fascinated us and raised our curiosity to further explore the region and know more about this relatively little and unexplored region.

Chos of Punjab
Keeping this in mind, this year in the month of October, 2018, we planned to revisit the site and document its biological wealth. It was a sunny day, I along with a local villager named Gurpreet  explored chos of this region. These chos received water from Himalayan rivulets which recharge them and flooded them during monsoon season. Gurpreet, told me that this year the whole region got submerge under water during monsoon. These chos are dominant geographic landform of this region and have carved its landscape. 

Frequent floods during monsoon have hampered the economic development of this region in the past and as a result it was classified under backward region category. Government of Punjab, took various initiative to regulate the water during monsoon. E.g. A check dam has been built up in the upstream of these chos to store excess water and supply to adjoining agricultural fields. However, these dams have limited water storage capacity and the excess water overflowed from the dam is discharged through these chos

These chos harbour variety of plants and animals which provides water, food, fodder and fuel wood to the surrounding villages. We explored chos near Mahalpur town which is close to Hoshiarpur city. These chos have  water which were being used by Himantopus himantopus Black winged stilts , Vanellus indicus Red wettled lapwings and Gallinula chloropus Common moorehens. In between we also recorded Phalacrocorax niger Little cormorant but were in few numbers. These chos are surrounded by agricultural fields and patches of Red gum trees. The agriculture fields has abundant population of Bubulcus ibis Cattle egrets which were foraging on insects and reptiles. In some field these egrets shared the accompany of Pseudibis papillosa Red napped ibis and  Red wattled lapwings.
Bird community comprised of  Red napped Ibis, Cattle Egret and Red wattled Lapwing foraging in the pea field.

Little cormorant in chos
There are some village ponds, which had plenty of Common moorehens, Red wattled lapwings and some individuals of White breasted waterhen.

Common Moorhens
During our exploration we spotted three Ciconia episcopus Woolly-necked Storks hovering over these chos making our field visit a success.

Woolly-necked Storks hovering over chos
Flock of Indian Peafowl foraging in agriculture field close to Chos
Apart from these, we recorded Jungle Babblers, Indian peafowl, Black francolin, Red vented bulbuls, Common stonechat, White throated kingfisher, Common hoppoe  and rose ringed parakeet. During our exploration, we saw many butterflies like Common mormon, Plain tiger and Common grass yellow. The chos had abundant dragonflies along with some amphibian species of Frog in the Chos. The presence of many life form in chos indicate the functional status of these wetland which is vital ecosystem health. 

A common frog species in wetland

Threat to Chos

a) Sand mining: Local people are engaged in sand mining from chos, they collect the sand and use it for construction purpose and some sell it to nearby regions.
b) River impoundment: check dams pose serious threat to these chos
c) Agriculture intensification and diversion of water for agriculture
d) Pesticide and insecticide: chemicals sprayed is toxic to aquatic and terrestrial organism and can affect food chain.

Herbicide used in the agriculture field laying close to foraging sites of birds

Thus, we can conclude that these chos are repository of biodiversity of the region and must be protected. Punjab Government should formulate policy to protect these important wetland ecosystems.


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