Category “Environmental Conservation”

Pong – a migration hotspot

Wednesday, 3 April, 2013

By Devinder Singh Dhadwalbirds-2 238 cropped

Situated about 250 km from Shimla and 190 km from Chandigarh and nestled in the picturesque Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh, Pong is one of the largest manmade wetlands of northern India. This huge wetland came into existence in 1974 after the construction of Pong Dam across the River Beas. Fed by waters from the Dhauladhar mountain range, the reservoir – also known as Maharana Pratap Sagar – forms a lake that is 42 km long and 19 km wide. It has a catchment area of 12,500 sq km that extends over the districts of Kangra, Mandi and Kullu. The area of the waterbody varies seasonally – ranging from about 125 sq km in summer to around 220 sq km in the monsoons.

DSC_6537 croppedPong has a variety of habitats in its fold – ranging from deep waters to marshlands. This, together with its geographic location in the foot of the Himalayas, makes Pong a very important wintering ground for migratory birds – including some rare species – from Central and Northern Asia. This wetland is the first major stopover reserve for birds migrating from the trans-Himalayan zone during winters when the wetlands in the Europe and North and Central Asia become frozen. Flocks of waterfowl that breed in the northern areas arrive during winter (October–March) to Pong to winter to more congenial climatic conditions.

Till date more than 400 species of birds have been recorded from Pong. The latest addition to the list (418th) is also one of the rarest birds to be seen in the Indian Subcontinent: On 29th January 2013, a pair of Whooper Swans was sighted and photographed. It may be noted that the last IMG_4405 copy croppedrecord of this elusive swan from India was way back in 1900 by E H Aitken (on Beas River) and Gen Osborne (at Talwara). Whooper Swan, the national bird of Finland (also featured on the Finnish 1-Euro coin), is a rare migrant to India from Central Asia and Europe. Like Sarus Cranes, the Whooper Swans are known to pair for life and are one of the heaviest flying birds with an average body weight ranging from 8.2 to 11.4 kg. The news of the Whooper Swan, drew tremendous interest from ornithologists all across the country. Another interesting bird that was recently sighted at Pong was the Ruddy-breasted Crake in the periphery of the Pong Dam wetland for the first time.

Pong also has the distinction of being the first Ramsar site of Himachal. It is, without doubt, one of the most critical sites for bird migration in India. An estimated 1.50 lakh migratory birds visit Pong to roost and feed every winter! The scale can be judged by a recent survey wherein huge numbers of species such as the Bar-Headed Goose (34,000), Northern Pintail (21,000), Common Pochard (12,000), Tufted Pochard (8,000), and Common Teal (6,800) were observed.

DS Dhadwal photo_cropped1MigrantWatcher Devinder Singh Dhadwal is an Assistant Conservator of Forests with the Himachal Pradesh Forest Department. He is a passionate ornithologist who has been working on conservation efforts in Pong for more than 10 years in his capacity of Wildlife Warden. Also a keen photographer, DS Dhadwal has authored a book titled Wild Wings: Pong and its Birds.



For more details on Pong please write to DS Dhadwal at dd123.singh[at]gmail[dot]com

World Wetlands Day

Wednesday, 2 February, 2011

2 Feb 2011; World Wetlands Day marks the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands, called Ramsar Convention, on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar.

Wetlands in India come in a variety of forms ranging from small village tanks to large river systems and backwater lakes. Wetlands are exciting and vibrant ecosystems which host a wide variety of species. Over winter, Indian wetlands attract a large number of migratory birds. Nearly one-third of the species on the MigrantWatch list are birds that  live on wetlands or extensively use wetland habitats. Some prominent visitors include several species of migratory geese, cranes, storks and flamingos.

MigrantWatchers across India have diligently monitored numerous wetlands over the past few years, generating valuable data from not only popular locations such as the Chilika lagoon, but also several lesser-known wetlands that dot the countryside.

Wetlands are highly threatened ecosystems and are declining at an alarming rate. Among the plethora of threats they face, over-exploitation, drainage for land development and pollution are among the most prominent. There is a pressing need for increased awareness and action to conserve wetlands.

Join us in celebrating Wetlands Day. Wetlands Day works as a reminder of the crucial services that these fast disappearing habitats provide not just to us but also the birds that we love to watch.


Environment Day 2009

Friday, 5 June, 2009

On the occasion of Environment Day today (5 June), we thought we’d put together some favourite links from across the web that deal with the environment. These links range from video talks on environmental problems and solutions, to sites where you can compare countries on various environmental parameters through bulging maps.
Happy browsing and here’s hoping for a healthier planet in the year to come!


UNEP: World Environment Day (WED) was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.

Measure your Carbon Footprint: A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact our activities have on the environment, and in particular climate change. It relates to the amount of greenhouse gases produced in our day-to-day lives through burning fossil fuels for electricity, heating and transportation etc. You can measure this!

Worldmapper: An interactive map showing population density, pollution, carbon emissions etc. across the world and by country


Sir David Attenborough: The Truth About Climate Change
The legendary broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough was long unsure about the causes of the observed climate warming. In his documentary, The Truth About Climate Change, he sheds doubt and explains what convinced him.

Synthetic seas
Plastics, like diamonds, are forever. Plastic floating in the ocean is the number one source of pollution of the world ocean, and 80% of marine debris comes from urban run-off. The problem is many marine birds and fish confuse floating plastic particles with food.

Melting Himalayan glaciers
A Greenpeace expedition went to the Himalayas to document glacial retreat there – something that could affect the water supply of millions.

Home (Film on Climate Change)
Through the landscapes of 54 countries captured from above, Yann Arthus-Bertrand takes us on an unique journey all around the planet, to contemplate it and to understand it.

More videos (TED talks)

Kamal Meattle on how to grow fresh air (in Delhi!):
Researcher Kamal Meattle shows how an arrangement of three common houseplants, used in specific spots in a home or office building, can result in measurably cleaner indoor air.

Amy Smith shares simple, lifesaving design: Fumes from indoor cooking fires kill more than 2 million children a year in the developing world. MIT engineer Amy Smith details an exciting but simple solution: a tool for turning farm waste into clean-burning charcoal.

Paul MacCready on nature vs. humans: In 1998, aircraft designer Paul MacCready looks at a planet on which humans have utterly dominated nature, and talks about what we all can do to preserve nature’s balance. His contribution: solar planes, superefficient gliders and the electric car.

E.O. Wilson on saving life on Earth: As E.O. Wilson accepts his 2007 TED Prize, he makes a plea on behalf of all creatures that we learn more about our biosphere — and build a networked encyclopedia of all the world’s knowledge about life.

Jane Goodall on what separates us from the apes: Jane Goodall hasn’t found the missing link, but she’s come closer than nearly anyone else. The primatologist says the only real difference between humans and chimps is our sophisticated language. She urges us to start using it to change the world.

Alex Steffen sees a sustainable future: founder Alex Steffen argues that reducing humanity’s ecological footprint is incredibly vital now, as the western consumer lifestyle spreads to developing countries.

Capt. Charles Moore on the seas of plastic: Capt. Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation first discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — an endless floating waste of plastic trash. Now he’s drawing attention to the growing, choking problem of plastic debris in our seas.

Al Gore on averting climate crisis: With the same humour and humanity he exuded in An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore spells out 15 ways that individuals can address climate change immediately, from buying a hybrid to inventing a new, hotter “brand name” for global warming.