Website by AQEEL FAROOQI  



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Problems of identification of camera-trapped tigers
Indian Wildlife - challenges in the new millennium
The greying of India
On the road to extinction
A Tribute to Rumbha - the elephant  
State development project threatens state bird - Sarus
Shahtoosh ban gains momentum worldwide
The road to disaster
Killing nilgais in the name of crop protection
Warring NGO's may spell doom for the tiger
Where have all the sparrows gone?
Cuckoos that fly out of crows' nests
Corbett park woes continue to mount
A question on post mortem examinations in the wild
Is it time to 'cry wolf' again?
Lifting of US sanctions may boost wildlife conservation
Migratory waterfowl may be hit by war in Afghanistan
UP wetlands to provide improved habitat to waterfowl
Anthrax as a potent wildlife killer
Man-elephant conflict takes heavy toll
Demoiselle cranes fly to safety in India
How long lasting are conservation victories
Fake tiger skins : a knotty disguise
Who cares for the wild here anyway?
A tribute to Charger - the long living tiger
Draining of wetlands threatening wildlife
Wildlife management needs rapid response units
Dudhwa loses another tiger
Indian Wildlife Board meets after five years
An article by Aqeel Farooqi

First published in Hindustan Times, Lucknow | October 10, 2001

Migratory waterfowl likely to be hit by war in Afghanistan

At long last, the inevitable military strikes by US-led coalition are now pounding Afghanistan with the avowed intention of neutralising the much-touted enemy. Curiously though, striking a strange note of harmony with the rhetorical justifications for the first war of the twenty-first century, are a great number of sympathetic voices too, including those of the coalition, who mouth strong words of concern for the safety and well-being of the hapless civilian population of the country, which has so unfortunately been caught up in the vortex of this ‘crime and punishment’ game.

In a sense, it is a history of sorts being made when we witness the unique combination of two different types of payloads being air-dropped on Afghanistan – deadly bombs and accurate tomahawks that blaze a fiery trail of destruction during the night, while relief and succour comes to the bedraggled lot during the day in the form of rations and medicines. Being fortified with such a well conceived humanitarian icing, it is quite possible that the inherent ravages of this war might fail to prick the collective conscience of a lot of peace-loving people, as far as human suffering is concerned.

But I wonder whether the non-human subject of my concern is tenable enough to be even mentioned at such a time. The month of October is the time when a lot of migratory waterfowl would be present in Afghanistan, temporarily inhabiting the lakes and wetlands there, before undertaking the final leg of their southward journey to better climes in India. Given the present state of turmoil that exists there, it is obvious that the fate of migratory waterfowl is bound to be of least priority in Afghanistan at the moment, and it can only be speculated as to what adverse effects the war is likely to have on these species, once their habitat areas get caught in the cross-fire.

One does not have to be a military strategist to presume that after the initial salvo of missiles is directed at the cities to neutralise the administrative and military assets of the retreating Taliban, the next phase of action is likely to be spread out over remote areas of the country, where the intended targets will supposedly take refuge. This will be the time for real concern for the birds, since some of Afghanistan's prime wetlands are bound to be located in these remote areas. Once military action starts in these areas, it would cause extensive disturbance to the resident and migratory waterfowl which would be either wintering, or staging in the lakes such as Ab-e-Istada & Dashte Nawar in Ghazni province, and Kole Hashmat Khan near Kabul.

According to past studies, the wetland ecosystem of Afghanistan is created by its rivers that have no natural outlet to the sea, and hence they drain into a series of depressions, which form large shallow saline lakes and marshes. The beds of these wetlands are constituted of the sediments transported by the rivers, which makes them the most biologically productive ecosystems in the country, and therefore constitute viable waterfowl habitats.

Of the seven wetlands in Afghanistan, the three considered by ornithologists as being of international importance for migrating and wintering waterfowls are Ab-e-Istada and Dashte Nawar which are important habitats for migrating or wintering waders and ducks. They also support large breeding colonies of greater flamingoes (Phoenicopterus ruber). In addition, Ab-e-Istada also has the distinction of being regularly visited by the entire migrating populations of the highly endangered Siberian crane (Grus leucogeranus). The third important wetland is the Kole Hashmat Khan on the outskirts of Kabul, which is also supposed to be rich in bird biodiversity, hosting a large number of ducks and coots during winters.

As things stand today, I believe that there can be no doubting the presumption that the high-powered strikes being currently launched in and around these areas, are sure to be potent enough to destabilize the birds, as they go about their natural business of wintering or staging in the lakes as part of their natural migratory pattern.

However, notwithstanding the fact that Afghanistan has been consistently ravaged by war during the past 20 years or so, one can but fervently hope that during all these years the birds have found ways and means to circumvent the adversity brought upon them by the never-ending follies of man.