Himachal mulls to ply shikaras at migratory bird paradise of Pong wetlands

Shimla, May 30 : The Himachal Pradesh government is planning to start water sports and plying of shikaras at Maharana Pratap Sagar, a paradise of winter migratory birds, particularly the Siberian cranes, popular as man-made Pong Dam reservoir on the Beas river in the picturesque Kangra Valley. Flying thousands of miles from their native habitat in high-altitude lakes in Central Asia to avoid the extreme winter, the bar-headed geese, an endangered migratory bird species, regularly descend Pong wetlands every winter. The government is exploring possibilities to create adequate infrastructure around the lake and start water sports and other allied activities so that it can attract tourists throughout the year, an official statement said. The government will support the youth by providing financial assistance to purchase shikaras, aiming to create employment opportunities in the area. The government has allocated Rs 70 crore for the purpose. As per the plan quoting Chief Minister Sukhvinder Sukhu, introduction of hot air ballooning activities and the construction of a floating hotel are on anvil. Besides, hot air ballooning activities will also be started in the Pong Dam area to provide an added attraction to adventure lovers. Stretched up to 24,529 hectares with few habited islands, the Pong reservoir caters to the needs of fishermen in a big way and is the most important source of economy to hundreds of families engaged in the business. The Pong wetlands are also home to many native birds like the red jungle fowl, large Indian parakeet, Indian cuckoo, bank mynah, wood shrike, yellow-eyed babbler, black ibis, paradise flycatcher, crested lark and the crested bunting. A total of 425 species of birds, both migratory and local, 18 of snake, 90 butterfly, 24 mammal and 27 of fish have been recorded so far in Pong. /IANS


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