Himachal plans major development around Pong wetlands

February 9th, 2011 - 6:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, Feb 9 (IANS) The Himachal Pradesh government will launch large scale infrastructure development in the Kangra Valley to promote the Pong Dam wetlands there, an official said Wednesday. The decision comes as part of the government plan to turn the wetlands into a preferred destination for bird watching, he said.

“The department of tourism and civil aviation will develop the Pong wetlands with an Asian Development Bank loan of $2.31 million (Rs.10.39 crore),” Arun Sharma, director of state tourism, told IANS.

Bird-watching towers, landscaping, an information centre, development of islands located within the reservoir and creation of treks and camping facilities are among the infrastructure projects planned for the Pong wetlands, he said.

“The project will cover eco, rural and heritage tourism promotion,” Sharma added.

Community-based tourism activities will also be developed to help local people economically benefit from these.

The Pong wetlands, some 250 km from state capital Shimla, are among the preferred destinations of annual migratory birds that descend in the area during winter.

During the two-day bird census conducted by the wildlife department from Jan 30 at the Pong reservoir, over 132,000 migratory waterbirds of 95 species were recorded.

The pied avocet, a wading bird species, has been spotted there this year for the first time.

Last year, 144,000 waterfowl of 91 species were recorded.

Wildlife authorities said the influx this year included bar-headed geese (23,800), coots (12,200), common pochards (41,200), pintails (13,900), great cormorant (9,400) and common teal (6,400).

The Pong wetlands have a total catchment area of 12,562 sq. km which falls in Kangra, Mandi and Kullu districts with the snow-capped Dhauladhar range providing the backdrop.

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