Chandigarh/Harike, 2 February: The Tourism, Cultural Affairs and Local Government Minister, Punjab, Mr. Navjot Singh Sidhu inaugurated the World Wetland Day function today at one of the most important wetlands of Punjab at Harike. On this occasion, he inspected the exhibition put up by his department in which very attractive photographs of birds of wetlands and its landscape were displayed. The minister divulged that Rs.1200 crore are being spent with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on promoting Brand Punjab as the most favoured tourist destination. Out of this, Rs. 150 crore would be spent on harnessing the immense potential of Harike alone which comprises an important part of the Amritsar tourist circuit.

Recognizing the huge potential of Harike wetlands in promoting tourism in the State, he informed that the infrastructure development activities being undertaken by the Department of Tourism shall be completed by 30th April, 2019. The Department has developed infrastructure facilities in the wetland at a cost of about Rs. 10 crores for construction of an interpretation centre, bird watch towers, bird hides,observation tower, canteen, parking and public conveniences. The Minister further said that Harike is the preferred place for environmentalists and bird watchers.

The minister further divulged that wetland which is also a Ramsar site attracts a large number of migratory birds every year and this year record 1.25 lac birds have arrived in Harike. The Minister informed that very soon the tourists will be able to avail the facilities such as e-rickshaw, bicycles, binoculars etc. He also announced that boating facilities is also going to be provided here where people can enjoy the ride of pedal boats.

            On this occasion, Mr. Sidhu  also inaugurated a photo exhibition where birds found in Harike, Nangal and Keshopur were displayed. These photographs were sent by different photographers who participated in the photography competition organized by the Department of Tourism. The Minister also distributed cash prizes to the winners of the photography competition on this occasion.

            The Minister also disclosed that the State Government is working for the promotion of different types of tourism in Punjab which include heritage, cultural, medical, religious and eco-tourism. Earlier the Minister enjoyed bird watching and visited the works being done on the Left Marginal Bundh. The Minister also visited the viewing deck being developed on the Nose point. The viewing deck shall also ne specially abled friendly.

On the occasion about 100 students were taken on a guided tour of bird watching in the wetland with the assistance from the local Wildlife Officers. Later video presentations were made to the students and general public informing them about the importance of wetland and their role in climate change. The school children also interacted with Mr. Sidhu. A painting competition for the students was also organized on this occasion. The paintings made by these students were exhibited and the winners of the competition were given cash award by the Minister.

Earlier, Mr. Vikas Pratap, Principal Secretary, Tourism and Cultural Affairs, welcomed the Hon’ble Minister, Ms Kalpana Singh Divisional Forest Officer Wildlife Harike also informed the people about the importance of wetlands and their role in climate change. Director Tourism informed that the self-help group at village Churian has been trained by the tourism department is making craft products from the water hyacinth in order to improve their livelihood conditions.The file folders made from water hyacinth by thisself help group are being used in conferences and high level meetings.

The festival was attended by very well-known bird watchers and birdies organisations, sarpanches of the nearby villages and members of self help groups.