Situated at the confluence of the Asan river and Eastern Yamuna Canal alongside bordering states of Uttarakhand-Himachal lies the Asan Conservation Reserve/ Asan Barrage or Assan Barrage. This barrage created the Asan Reservoir which is also called Dhalipur Lake, and was developed in 1967 when the Dhalipur power house was under construction.
The scenic geographical location and the azure blue waters has long drawn the the interests of the conservationists, bird watchers, photographers and tourists too. Asan wetland is home to around 330 species of birds (including some rare species).
Critically endangered species like white-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis), red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus), and Baer’s pochard (Aythya baeri) are found here. The migratory birds listed as globally endangered species in the IUCN’s Red Data Book like- Brahminy Duck, Pintail, Red Crested Pochard, Gadwall, Common Pochard, Mallard, Coot, Wigeon, Common Teal, Tufted Duck, Shoveller- travelling from Central Asia also take shelter for about four – months in the lake. It is also home to about 49 fish species, including endangered Putitor mahseer (Tor putitora). Asan wetland is rich in biological diversity.
In the year 2020, Asan barrage also known as Asan Conservation Reserve was declared to be the first Ramsar site from Uttarakhand state, India. Ramsar is a city in Iran where the first World Convention on Wetlands was held on 2 February 1971.The Ramsar Convention defines wetlands as ‘Wetlands are area of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water, the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres.’
Wetlands support many different types of plant and animal species.They naturally filter our water. Wetlands are areas where the water meets the land. They are a transition between dry land areas and deeper water areas. As a result, some wetlands hold water year-round while others may only hold water for one or two months each spring. But wetlands are facing many threats owing to biotic and abiotic factors such as:
• Uncontrolled siltation and weed infestation.
• Uncontrolled discharge of waste water, industrial effluents, surface run-off, etc. resulting in proliferation of aquatic weeds, which adversely affect the flora and fauna.
• Tree felling for fuel wood and wood products causes soil loss affecting rainfall pattern, loss of various aquatic species due to water-level fluctuation. Uncontrolled siltation and weed infestation
• Habitat destruction leading to loss of fish and decrease in number of migratory birds.
• Encroachment resulting in shrinkage of area.
• Anthropogenic pressures resulting in habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity.
• Uncontrolled dredging resulting in successional changes.
• Hydrological intervention resulting in loss of aquifers.
• Pollution from point and non-point sources resulting in deterioration of water quality. Ill-effects of fertilizers and insecticides used in adjoining agricultural fields.
India being a mega-diversity country, so far managed to delineate only few sites till date. According to one report of WWF nearly 70 percent of wetlands in the state have degraded due to negligence. Excessive tourism pressure with trekkers camping at the site, spreading of filth and pollutants in the water body and extreme grazing pressure by shepherds have contributed to the destruction of these wetlands. There is obviously much ground to be covered in our conservation efforts of wetlands. Responsible tourism can aid in upkeeping the serenity. In addition, a paradigm shift in conservation ethic is also a strong need of the hour. This shift is necessary and perhaps mandatory due to the very nature of resource being conserved and protected.
©All images and content are subjected to copyright