SRINAGAR: Dr. Arun Kumar Mehta, on Saturday visited the Shallabugh Wetland in the Ganderbal District and took stock of the restoration measures being taken to rejuvenate it to its pristine glory.Along with other relevant personnel from the Forest Department, he was accompanied on the occasion by the Principal Secretary for Forests, the Deputy Commissioner for Ganderbal, the Chief Wildlife Warden, the Regional Wildlife Warden for Kashmir, and the Superintendent of Police for Ganderbal. Dr. Mehta argued that the wetland has significantly improved recently during the visit.He noted that there is a wide variety of vegetation and fauna in the wetland. As a result, it has a lot of potential to grow into a top ecotourism destination. He emphasised the importance of desilting the water body in addition to taking all required steps to preserve the plant and animal life. In order to keep its dissolved oxygen, pH, and other bioindicators within the normal range by targeted actions, he asked the officers to periodically test them.According to the Chief Secretary, this scenic location needs to have top-notch ecotourism amenities built in order to draw nature enthusiasts from all over the nation. He exhorted them to immediately improve the condition of the road leading to the destination. Dr. Mehta also persuaded the officials to consider constructing additional amenities like designated parking spaces, viewing decks, and landscaping the area around the structure to make it more aesthetically pleasing and tourist-friendly. He requested that they include the community and nearby PRIs in the overall planning and restoration efforts. He described their participation as crucial since the local population would benefit most from it in terms of getting jobs and having a better environment. The Chief Secretary discussed a variety of topics pertaining to the long-term preservation of the wetlands and ordered immediate actions, such as bio-fencing the lake area with willow species, solid waste management, acquiring enough fibreglass boats for visitors, introducing ATVs, promoting local homestays in nearby villages, and advocating for the responsible use of wetlands resources for the improvement of local livelihoods.Dr. Mehta also praised the Regional Wildlife Warden for his results-driven efforts to improve the water body’s condition. He expressed the expectation that the water body would develop into a fantastic attraction and become one of the most popular new destinations in the valley with the effective implementation of the integrated plan. The Shallabugh Wetland Reserve, which covers an area of 1675 Hectares and is located in the districts of Srinagar and Ganderbal, is the largest wildlife-protected wetland in Kashmir Valley, according to the regional wildlife warden for Kashmir Region. The fact that this wetland was designated a Ramsar Site last year was also disclosed. Approximately 49 demarcation pillars were built in 2022, according to the Chief Secretary, and 3 km of the 5 km ring embankment had been finished. A bird festival and the Asian Waterbird Census 2023 were also organised, along with the completion of around 958 rft of chainlink fencing and 250 cleanliness drives. It was also disclosed that as part of its restoration plan, work on the ring embankment, the installation of 25 boundary pillars and 1950 bio-fencing pillars, the restoration of navigational channels and water pools, the building of dockyards, watch towers and regulatory gates, as well as the provision of other essential amenities, are all scheduled to be finished this year.