DAINIK NATION BUREAU
The month of February attracts a large number of visitors to the Assan Barrage and Wetland, one of the most scenic sites of Doon valley. On the occasion of the World Wetland Day students of many colleges and schools of the valley visited the Assan Barrage and Wetland located to the west of the valley .
The water sports resort of the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) at Assan is a great attraction for students. The Assan lake is also known as Dhalipur lake. Flocks of migratory birds arrive at Assan every October and can be seen around till early March.
The drive from the heart of Dehradun to Assan takes one past the Forest Research Institute and the Indian Military Academy on the National Highway connecting Dehra Dun to Himachal Pradesh. On the route falls Selaqui which has developed as an industrial area over the past few years. The rural landscape of Vikasnagar and nearby villages adds an interesting dimension to the drive upto Assan which is nearer to Paonta in Himachal than to the city of Doon. Herbertpur also in Dehradun district,is another vast,busy market and residential area along the highway. Assan is almost a distance of 50 kilometres from the heart of the provisional state capital city of Dehradun and takes one right upto the Uttarakhand –HP Border.
A signboard of the Forest Department welcomes visitors to Assan and just a few metres ahead is a signage of the GMVN .Both the departments look after Assan .The sight of the basking birds is comforting as well as exhilarating . The view of the birds from the barrage is just breathtaking! Their constant chattering, flitting from one place to another and their enjoyment of the sun’s warmth together create a charming sight. The flocking together of the black birds with the white ones belies the proverb which claims that “Birds of a feather, flock together”.
The Assan Reservoir attracts 53 species of water birds of which 19 are winter migrants from Eurasia. During the winter months ,most of the water bird population comprises eleven migratory species namely Brahminy Duck(Surkhaab), Pintail, Red Crested Pochard, Gadwall, Common Pochard, Mallard, Coot, Wigeon, Common Teal, Tufted Duck and Shoveller. Critically Endangered birds like Oriental White-backed Vulture and Slender-billed Vulture and vulnerable birds like marbled teal and Greater Spotted eagle come to Assan which is one of the best sites for Brahminy Duck congregation. In 2005, Assan was declared as Uttarakhand’s first wetland conservation reserve. The reservoir is fed from the river Asan and the discharge channel of Yamuna through Dhalipur powerhouse.
Tourists from Punjab and Himachal Pradesh come to Assan during winter while traveling from Dehra Dun to Himachal and Punjab or on their way to Dehra Dun and Mussoorie. Avid bird watchers with their cameras and binoculars are a regular sight at Assan.
Dr. Arun Kumar, Director, Dolphin (PG) Institute of Biomedical & Natural Sciences, Dehra Dun and Yawar Munsoor Bhat, FRI University, have stressed the need for protecting the Assan Conservation Reserve, the first wetland conservation reserve in India.
The Assan Conservation Reserve (ACR) comprises a fresh water reservoir, a Reserve Forest Area, a stretch of river bed of Asan Reserve and Yamuna Hydel canal.
Dr. Arun Kumar and Yawar Bhat have been monitoring the wetland bird diversity of Assan regularly and have added three more species namely Stork-billed Kingfisher, Greater Painted Snipe and Bronze-winged Jacana, which were photographed at the Reserve. This updates the number of wetland species to 83.
Experts say “though the area is a Conservation Reserve under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, it has a reserved forest covering a major part of it while a large part is under the control of Irrigation Department. It comes under different scales of anthropogenic pressure from many corners of the catchment area. These include weed infestation, siltation, live stock grazing and human encroachment as well as poaching. Another very crucial factor is the sand mining and quarrying.”
Being a vibrant tourist, birding and recreational spot, Assan has a potential of income generation for the local people. The area is also an active centre for conservation education. A lot of water based recreational facilities developed at the reservoir in the Conservation Reserve attract a large number of tourists from Dehradun and nearby cities.
Being a wetland it also performs a host of other ecological and environmental functions as well, which though not fully understood yet, are critical for the future well being and existence of the wildlife and to humanity.