Chandigarh, April 22 : The WWF India on Thursday announced a partnership with Danone India to enhance the ecological integrity of the Kali Bein, a Ramsar site and rivulet sacred to Sikhism, in Punjab's Kapurthala district.
The rivulet plays a vital role in maintaining groundwater level in the region and also supports the ecology of the Harike Wildlife Sanctuary, also a Ramsar site that attracts thousands of migratory birds every winter.
Working closely with key state government departments, civil society organisations, experts, communities and industries, this three-year project will support the development of an integrated management plan for the conservation of Kanjli wetlands, a roadmap for restoring freshwater flows and put in place a multi-stakeholder mechanism for conservation of the wetlands, said the WWF.
The Kanjli wetlands is a 183-hectare man-made area constructed across the Kali Bein river for irrigation in 1870. It was declared as a Ramsar site in 2002.
In 2019, with an objective to channelise the efforts for conservation, the state government declared the Kali Bein river along with Kanjli wetlands as the Kali Bein Conservation Reserve.
Various factors threaten the health of the wetlands, such as over-abstraction and diversion of freshwater flows, water-chemical intensive agriculture, and pollution.
This partnership will develop pathways to address these threats and enhance its ecological health by adopting an integrated basin approach, which will contribute towards strengthening the natural interaction and inter-connectedness of the Kanjli, the Kali Bein and the Harike Wildlife Sanctuary.
Ravi Singh, Secretary-General and CEO, WWF India, said, "The project will work towards restoring the ecological and hydrological connectivity of three key freshwater ecosystems in Punjab -- Kanjli, Kali Bein and the Harike Wildlife Sanctuary.
"This will contribute to the long-term health of the rich biodiversity dependent on these systems, particularly the endangered Indus river dolphins and overall wellbeing of communities." Responding to the partnership, Himanshu Bakshi, Managing Director, Danone India, told IANS, "Danone India has partnered with WWF India as water stewardship is important to our 'One Planet, One Health' agenda and our endeavour is to strengthen the existing efforts by WWF India to conserve the Kali Bein Conservation Reserve and Kanjli Wetlands." "We are confident this partnership will make a positive impact on the populations and habitat of aquatic species in the Kali Bein ecosystem," Bakshi added.
The WWF India will also undertake capacity building, and education and awareness programmes to promote the wise use of the wetlands and create a network of 'Wetland Mitras' (friends of wetlands) to demonstrate a model for multi-stakeholder engagement in conservation of wetlands.
A water school programme will be implemented in 30 schools in the area. The initiative will also work closely with the local communities to adopt better management practices in agriculture to reduce water, chemical fertiliser and pesticide use in their farms.