All images: Sujan Chatterjee
Harike wetlands in the Tarntaran, Ferozpur and Kapurthala districts of Punjab came in to existence in 1952 after the construction of barrage near the confluence of rivers Sutlej and Beas. Locally known as "Hari-ke-Pattan", it contains a deep water lake which is a part of the 86 Sq. Km Harike Bird Sanctuary.
This water hyacinth covered water body attracts large numbers of wintering waterfowl and is home to many specialties. Common waterfowl and other winter migrants include coot, gulls, geese, diving ducks and grebes. They are said to number 2 -5,00,000.
Harike was designated as a Ramsar site in March 1990, and has been identified as one of the sites for conservation under the Indian National Wetland Programme.
Eichhornia crassipes dominates and covers over 70% of the water surface. Typha elephantina and Phragmites karka are common along the water margin and Azolla sp, is seen in open water areas. Other aquatic vegetation includes Nelumbo nucifera, Ipomoea aquatica, Najas, Hydrilla, Ceratophyllum, Potamogeton, Vallisneria. Typha sp. Is the dominant emergent marsh vegetation. A large portion of wetland is covered by grasses. The dominant species of grasses growing in the area are Saccharum munja, Saccharum spontaneum, Typha elephantia, Cynudon dactylion, Desmostachiya bipinnata and Vitiveria Sp . Dalbergia sissoo, Acacia nilotica, Zizyphus sp, Ficus sp, Prosopis juliflora and other locally common trees/shrubs are to be found along the embankments.
Harike is great destination to see several rarities which include Long-tailed Duck, Indian Skimmers, Black-bellied Terns, Mew Gull, Yellow-eyed Pigeons, White-crowned Penduline Tit, Rufous-vented Prinia, Moustached Warbler, Cetti’s Bush Warbler, Brooks’s Leaf Warbler, and Sind Sparrow. This aside the location offers birds like Hen Harrier, Pallas’ Fish Eagle, Bean Goose and other vagrants.
Harike is also home to rare and endangered species like Indus river dolphin, smooth-coated otter and seven species of freshwater turtles.
How to reach: Harike is near Amritsar (60kms) and Ludhiana (104kms). Amritsar is connected by rail, road and air. If you are coming from Ludhiana, you can travel to Moga and from there to Harike (40 kms).
Airport: Raja Sansi Airport, Amritsar.
Rail: Amritsar Station
Road: 520 kms from Delhi on NH1 to Amritsar via Ambala, Ludhiana and Jalandhar
Where to stay: There is no recommended accomodation near Harike. There are good hotels 40-45 kms away in the outskirts of Amritsar which should be suitable.
Forest Dept. Contact:
Wildlife/ Forest Dept Offices: Range Officer (Wildlife), Harike
Divisional Forest Officer, Amritsar
Best Time: November to March
Location: 31*13'N, 75*12'E