Home to 45 bird species faces neglect

The lake is more than 400-year-old and includes the lands of Khabeki and Dhadar village


Shoukat Hayat Malik July 07, 2020
Covering 1,700 acres, the ancient lake attracts over 200,000 tourists annually who visit the spot for sightseeing and recrea-tional activities. Amidst the pandemic and lockdown situation, very few people were arriving at the destination. PHOTO: EX-PRESS

KHUSHAB:

The beautiful Khabeki Lake of the Soan Valley is home to 45 species of birds that travel from different countries of the world from October to March. Most of the birds migrate here from Siberia.

The lake was declared a tourist destination in 2015. Since then, it has been managed by the Tourism Department Corporation of Punjab (TDCP).

The lake is more than 400 years old and adjoins the Khabeki and Dhadar villages. It covers 1,700 acres.

It is a wildlife sanctuary, designated as a Ramsar Site under the convention of 1976.

Under the agreement signed by Pakistan, the government is responsible for the protection of birds coming to the lake from all over the world.

The white-headed duck, which is extinct elsewhere in the world, is found only in the lakes of Khabeki and Uchhali in Pakistan.

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The water level keeps increasing and decreasing in Khabeki Lake. It has dried up twice in its life. The lake last dried up in 2001.

For some time, the lake was handed over to the fisheries department for fish production.

But during the period the number of birds decreased significantly because lime was added to the water.

As a result, the birds ran out of food due to which the lake’s control was withdrawn from the fisheries department.

Tourists who visit Kanhatti Bagh also visit Khabeki Lake because it is located near the same village.

A local social figure, Mohammad Yousuf, said that more than 200,000 people visited the lake every year for sightseeing and enjoyment. “Currently, very few people are visiting the lake amidst the coronavirus pandemic and the preventive SOPs strictly enforced by the government,” he said.

Reportedly, whenever the water level in the lake is low, there is a noticeable decrease in the number of birds. Birds are also wary of the people who come for boating.

“Shopping bags and other items are thrown away by people in the lake and there is no arrangement for their removal,” Yousaf lamented.

“No proper parking arrangements have been made,” he added. He called for action to resolve the issue.

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A local resident, Iqbal Awan, said there was less shade at the spot due to lack of trees. “Plastic cabins have been built that heat up in the summer, making it difficult to sit in them,” said Awan.

However, a TDCP official, Naeem Iqbal, told The Express Tribune that facilities of accommodation and restaurant are available for visitors.

“Moreover, the TDCP has purchased land to provide more facilities for tourists visiting the lake,” said Iqbal.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2020.

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