Marshes in Kashmir

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Chushul Marshes Kashmir

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Location : Est and west of Chushul village, near the Chinese border, 120 km ESE of Leh, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir
Area: 11,000 ha
Altitude: 4385m
Biogeographical province: 2.38.12
Wetland type: 15,16

Description of site: A complex of shallow ponds, marshes, and wet meadows in a broad, sandy valley to the east (10000 ha) and west (1,000 ha) of Chushul, some 15 km south of Pangong Tso. The ponds and marshes are created by springs and streams flowing down into the valley from the Ladakh range to the southwest. Some streams terminate on the sandy plains in stagnant pools, which become saline as they evaporate; others carry sufficient water to flow into Pangong Tso and ultimately the Indus river. Small freshwater marshes have formed where these streams coalesce or where they reach a body of standing water. Most of the ponds and marshes are frozen from November to March; they reach their maximum extent during June and July through increased melt water run-off from the high peaks, and shrink again thereafter. The ponds average only one or two metres in depth

Climatic conditions: Arid Tibetan climate, characterised by marked differences between sun and shade, and night and day temperatures. Summer temperatures range from 0° C to 30° C, winter temperatures from - 5° C to - 30°C. Humidity is low, and there is very little precipitation in the form of rain or snow (average annual precipitation about 75 mm)

Principal vegetation: Species of Hydrilla, Myriophyllum, and Potamogeton in the ponds, and Carex sp., other sedges, and grasses in the marshes. The surrounding and steppe is dominated by Caragana sp.

Land tenure: The wetlands are state-owned (Government of Jammu & Kashmir); surrounding areas are under both government and private ownership
Conservation measures taken: Shooting is strictly prohibited throughout the area
Conservation measures proposed: It has been proposed that the marshes be declared a wildlife sanctuary where grazing and fishing would be allowed only in certain areas. These constraints would also help in conserving water resources in the.area. The wetland lies, within the boundaries of the proposed High Altitude Cold Desert National Park (400,000 ha) in eastern Ladakh

Land use: There is a certain amount of fishing. Yaks, sheep, horses, and goats graze in the marshes and wet meadows
Disturbances and threats: Human activity in the area is increasing. The associated increase in livestock grazing in and around the wetland areas is posing a threat to the vegetation and causing soil erosion. Yaks regularly wade out into the shallow waters and in so doing disturb the nesting birds. Washing activities in streams near Chushul cause some contamination, and permanent human settlement increases predation of the eggs and nestlings of waterfowl by ravens (Corvus corax). Sporadic incidences of hunting by armed forces personnel have been reported

Economic and social values: Freshwater marshes are rare in Ladakh; they are thus a focal point for human beings as well as wildlife, particularly during spring and summer

Fauna: An important breeding area for several species of waterfowl, notably Podiceps cristatus, Tadorna ferruginea, Charadrius mongolus, Tringa totanus, and Sterna hirundo. One pair of black-necked cranes (Grus nigricollis) breeds, usually on a small freshwater lake in the west, and Anser indicus may still breed. A number of Tibetan specialities occur on the surrounding dry plains, including Tibetan partridge (Perdix hodgsoniae), Tibetan sandgrouse (Syrrhaptes tibetanus), and wild ass (Equus hemionus)

Special floral values: No information
Research and facilities: Several studies have been carried out on the ecology of Grus nigricollis, and P. Gole and the Bombay Natural History Society have made collections of plants, aquatic animals, and some bird species

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