Wetlands play a crucial and important in preserving the eco-system of an area, and this is the reason the government of Jammu and Kashmir has worked overtime to protect these in Kashmir valley. A separate organization has been set up for the safeguarding of wetlands in Kashmir but the same government has taken no cognizance of the large number of wetlands in Jammu which may in Gharana, in Mansar, Surinsar or in other parts of Jammu province. While all efforts are made by the state to protect Hokersar reserve in Kashmir but when it comes to Surnisar-Mansar lakes, and wetlands there is nothing which the government has to offer.
These two lakes are ideal tourist destinations , and can host water sports on a large scale but only if the authorities want to do the same. Despite repeated assurances these two lakes and the catchment areas have only suffered from pollution, encroachment, and shrinking area. The forest department, the wild life department have neither much resources nor shown any interest in developing tourism in Jammu. Even the Patnitop Development Authority has failed to deliver the goods despite the CM announcing that his intent was to develop Jammu as an independent tourist hub.
What is shocking is that budget for Surinsar-Manesar wetland as part of annual grant was mere 30 lakh rupees which is nothing but a joke if the size of the area is considered. In the last six years it was revealed that these wetlands were given 1.82 crores for development and maintenance which is too little, and shows the lack of intent of the government. It is to be noted that two wetlands in Jammu in RS Pura have already vanished because of the ignorance, and little interest shown by authorities to do any work in Jammu. Even local water bodies, and small ponds in villages in and around Jammu have been encroached by anti-social elements and land sold at hefty profits. Even forest land has been sold to people, and turned into residential areas but the government has remained mum.
In the face of growing challenge to the environment it is time government takes immediate action to protect the wetlands, lakes and ponds in Jammu as it is doing in Kashmir as saving the environment should be our top priority.