Magazine

English Hindi

Index

Prelims Capsule

Environment

Great Indian Bustards vanished from Kutch Bustard Sanctuary in Gujarat

Great Indian Bustards vanished from Kutch Bustard Sanctuary in Gujarat

Relevance:

  • GS 3 || Environment || Biodiversity || Conservation Efforts

Why in the news?

Centre admits no Great Indian Bustard left in Kutch.

Present Context:

  • The Central government informed the Rajya Sabha that there were no Great Indian Bustards (GIB) in Kutch Bustard Sanctuary (KBS) in Gujarat’s Kutch district as on January 1 this year.
  • The species is considered to be one of the biggest attractions of the region and only recently had the Supreme Court asked power companies to take power lines underground to not cause any inconvenience to the critically threatened species.

Great Indian Bustards:

  • GIBs are the largest among the four bustard species found in India – the other three being MacQueen’s bustard, lesser florican and the Bengal florican.
  • GIBs’ historic range included much of the Indian sub-continent but it has now shrunken to just 10 percent of it.
  • Great Indian Bustards are the heaviest birds with flight.
  • Their Habitats:
    • GIBs prefer grasslands as their habitats.
    • Being terrestrial birds, they spend most of their time on the ground with occasional flights to go from one part of their habitat to the other.
    • They feed on insects, lizards, grass seeds etc.
    • GIBs are considered the flagship bird species of grassland and hence barometers of the health of grassland ecosystems.
  • IUCN Status
    • Due to the species’ smaller population size, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorised GIBs as critically endangered, thus on the brink of extinction from the wild.
    • CITES Appendix I
    • India Wildlife Protection Act: Schedule I
  • Ecological importance of GIB: Rodents, reptiles, and insects make up the Bustard’s diet. Without the Bustard, there’s a good risk that these species would overpopulate, resulting in a domino effect. Particularly rodents.
    • An increase in rodent population can have a negative impact on grain output in the area. While this is entirely off-topic, something similar happens every 48 years in Myanmar and Mizoram (a state in India’s northeast), when the local rat population explodes owing to the blossoming of bamboo.

Threats

  • Electricity transmission: The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) scientists have identified overhead electricity transmission lines as the greatest threat to GIBs.
    • They can’t identify power wires in time because of their poor frontal vision, and their weight makes in-flight rapid movements impossible.
  • Change in cultivation pattern: Changes in the landscape as a result of farmers cultivating their land and planting cotton and wheat rather than pulses and fodder are also cited as reasons for falling GIB numbers.
  • High-intensity poaching: It still occurs in Pakistan, and egg-collecting was common in several states throughout the early nineteenth century
  • Industrialization: The contemporary concerns are mostly caused by habitat loss and degradation, which is a result of massive agricultural development and industrialization.
    • Irrigation, roads, power pylons, wind turbines, and other infrastructure development.
    • Mining and industrialisation are two topics that come up frequently.
    • Habitat management that is well-intentioned but poorly educated.
    • Insufficient community support.
  • Collisions with power lines: Power companies’ high-tension wires are a serious hazard, with collisions with power lines claiming the lives of roughly 15% of the GIB population.
  • Overhead power transmission lines: According to scientists at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), overhead power transmission lines are the greatest threat to GIBs.
    • According to WII study, 18 GIBs die every year in Rajasthan after colliding with overhead power lines because the birds’ poor frontal vision makes it impossible for them to spot power lines in time, and their weight makes in-flight rapid movements difficult.

Decline in numbers of GIB:

  • In February last year, the Central government had told the 13th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) held in Gandhinagar, that the GIB population in India had fallen to just 150.
  • Of them 128 birds were in Rajasthan, 10 in Kutch district of Gujarat and a few in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

India’s Concerns:

  • The grassland environment in the Cholistan desert, where the GIBs were killed, is remarkably similar to the habitat in Rajasthan’s Desert National Park (DNP), which is home to the GIB’s final wild population.
  • The DNP is located near the cities of Jaisalmer and Barmer, in the vast Thar Desert, and was established as a National Park in 1981 to protect the Great Indian Bustard’s habitat.
  • Because Rajasthan shares an international border with Pakistan’s Sindh and Punjab provinces, gun-toting poachers will find the bird’s easy prey.
  • The quest for the uncommon bird would not only dramatically diminish the GIB population in India, but it will also have an impact on the desert ecology.

Past Incidents of Overhead Power Lines:

  • Every year, 18 GIBs die in Rajasthan after colliding with birds.
  • Over the last two decades, the Kutch and Thar Deserts have seen the development of massive renewable energy infrastructure, leading to the installation of windmills and the building of power lines even in core GIB regions.

About Kutch Bustard Sanctuary:

  • The KBS, one of the country’s tiniest bird sanctuaries, is located near Naliya in Kutch’s Abdasa block and covers just 2 square kilometers.
  • It is also known as the Lal-Parjan Sanctuary and is one of the two primary places for the protection of the Indian Bustard.
  • Why no bustard in KBS?
    • Its 220 sqkm eco-sensitive zone encompasses most of the current core GIB habitat, resulting in a rise in the GIB population in KBS—from 30 in 1999 to 45 in 2007.
    • However, beginning in 2008, windmills and electricity cables were built directly on the sanctuary’s borders, and GIB populations began to decline.
    • By 2016, the population had shrunk to only 25 people, and there are currently just seven left, all of whom are female. For the previous two years, no guy has been seen.
    • Apart from the KBS, significant grasslands such as Prajau, Bhanada, and Kunathia-Bhachunda have lately been designated as unclassified forests.
    • Sightings of GIB inside the KBS’ designated two sqkm region are becoming increasingly infrequent because of the barrier established by power infrastructure on all sides.

Supreme Court’s intervention:

  • In April of 2021, the Supreme Court ordered that all overhead electricity transmission lines in GIB habitats in Rajasthan and Gujarat be undergrounded.
  • The SC also established a three-person committee to assist power firms in complying with the decision, which includes Devesh Gadhvi, a member of the IUCN’s bustard expert group.
  • But Gadhvi notes that nothing has happened on the ground.

Bird diverter:

  • Bird diverter devices were created to increase bird vision and minimize the chance of contact with power lines. However, variations in efficacy across types of devices, as well as often contradictory results, call into question their capacity to minimize the danger of bird collisions.
  • The main objective of bird diverter devices is to increase wire visibility for birds, thus reducing collision risk.
    • The most commonly used flight diverters are spiral PVC rolls around ground wires at regularly spaced intervals.
    • They’re highly popular for minimizing bird-related outages or collision-induced bird fatalities because of their ease of usage, durability, and lack of corona, or electrical discharge.
    • The firefly detectors have been installed in the Pokhran tehsil in Rajasthan.

Conservation measures:

  • GIB species recovery programme: The Central Government began the GIB species recovery initiative in 2015, and WII and the Rajasthan Forest Department collaborated to establish conservation breeding centers where wild GIB eggs are artificially incubated and hatchlings are reared in a controlled environment.
  • State Action Plan for Resident Bustards’ Recovery Programme: The Indian government has offered financial assistance to conservation efforts for this species in select areas, and has created recovery guidelines in collaboration with numerous NGOs and specialists.
  • Local people participation: The local population and their active engagement are critical to the species’ survival. In order to avoid it from becoming functionally extinct within a few decades, focused conservation measures must now be accelerated.
  • Consolidate core breeding sites across the species’ range by establishing strict refuges during crucial breeding months (March–September). Create landscape conservation strategies in high-risk areas.
  • Bustard-friendly practices: By subsidy/incentive-driven agro-environmental programs that encourage bustard-friendly practices, community outreach and connecting local livelihoods with bustard conservation in priority regions may be accomplished.
  • Increase park personnel support and equipment to better safeguard places.
  • Starting an ex-situ conservation breeding effort to protect the species from extinction.
  • Regulate and regulate eco-tourism to reduce species disturbance.
  • For the following ten years, assess the efficiency of these conservation efforts by conducting rigorous, country-wide population monitoring on alternate years.

Mains oriented question:

Climate change and development at the cost of stressing nature balance how far it can take the world for proper existence and sustain of human kind on the earth. Comment. (250 words)