Final Call: Saving the Great Indian Bustard
The Corbett Foundation, Dr. M. K. Ranjitsinh, Piraram Bishnoi, Santosh Martin, and Navinbhai Bapat have spearheaded the passing of a seminal legislation to protect the Great Indian Bustard and its habitat. Saevus salutes their tremendous effort to conserve this critically endangered bird.
April 19, 2021 will be written in golden words in the history of wildlife conservation. This is the day that the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India passed a landmark order to place underground the power lines that pass through identified Great Indian Bustard (GIB) habitats in Rajasthan and Gujarat. The order came during the hearing of a PIL filed by Dr. M. K. Ranjitsinh, Piraram Bishnoi, Santosh Martin, Navinbhai Bapat, and The Corbett Foundation. The petitioners have requested the Hon’ble Supreme Court to take necessary decisions for the conservation of GIB (and Lesser Florican) in the country. The power lines passing through the bustard habitat are a proven fatal threat to the GIB, and are also one of the prime reasons behind the steep decline in the GIB population in the past decade. To protect the species from such a threat, the petitioners have requested the underground placement of power lines in critical bustard habitats, and the installation of bird diverters on all power lines in semi-critical habitats. In addition to this, habitat protection and its proper management, control over disturbance caused by free-ranging dogs and other predators, the conservation breeding programme of GIB, and a stop to any further development/expansion of wind farms and solar parks in the bustard habitat have also been requested.
Research studies by the Wildlife Institute of India have shown that nearly 18 GIBs are estimated to die every year due to collisions with power lines in Thar, Rajasthan. GIB deaths due to collision with power lines have also been recorded in Gujarat and Maharashtra. With only 100-odd GIBs left in the wild today, the threat of power line collision if not mitigated immediately would take this magnificent bird to the path of extinction. Thankfully, the Supreme Court has come to the rescue of this heaviest flying bird of the Indian grasslands. It has ordered to place underground all the existing power lines passing through the identified GIB habitats in Rajasthan and Gujarat within one year. It also ordered that all the future power lines must go underground in the areas identified in the order. The court has also ordered the installation of bird-diverters on the power lines till they are made underground so that the birds can see the cables from a distance and avoid colliding with them. For power lines that cannot be laid underground due to technical reasons, the installation of bird diverters has been made mandatory. The Supreme Court has appointed a 3-member committee to monitor and instruct on how and where to underground the high-voltage lines. Dr. Rahul Rawat, Scientist at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Dr. Sutirtha Dutta, Scientist at Wildlife Institute of India, and Mr. Devesh Gadhavi, Deputy Director of The Corbett Foundation, have been appointed as the Members of this Committee.
Speedy implementation of this order by the Rajasthan and Gujarat governments and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, GOI is the key to the safe and secured future of the GIB. All the stakeholders of the power sector must now avoid GIB habitats while planning future power projects. This is India’s last chance to prevent the extinction of a species.
Photo credit for cover image: (©️ Devesh Gadhavi).