Great Indian Bustards vanish from state sanctuaries

3/12/2018

Chronicle Reporter, Bhopal This might sound like a clarion call. If things go the way they are, the coming generations would be reading about the Great Indian Bustard (GIB) the way they do about the dinosaurs. Listed as critically endangered (IUCN 2011) under Schedule I (the highest protection status, Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, the GIB is numerically closest to extinction and its conservation efforts are heading nowhere. The bird has most probably totally vanished from the state and its numbers are declining alarmingly in neighbouring Rajasthan. The Madhya Pradesh government will denotify 86 square kilometres of protected area from the ‘Son Chiraiya’ (Great Indian Bustard) Sanctuary at Ghatigaon in Gwalior district. This will pave the way for the separation of 25 villages located in the protected area of the sanctuary. Two ‘Son Chraiya’ (GIB) sanctuaries, Ghatigaon in Gwalior district and Karera in Shivpuri district, had been notified to protect the GIBs in Madhya Pradesh in 1981. The Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotisnigriceps) is one of the most endangered species in the world and only about 150 are believed to be existing in India and Pakistan. In the Ghatigaon sanctuary, notified on 21 May 1981, 512 square km area of revenue and forest department land had been reserved under Section 18 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, by the Madhya Pradesh government but it had not complied with Sections 19 to 26 of the Act to give the rights of settlement to the affected people. As per the notification, people could not sell and purchase the land, construct houses and roads, dig for bore-wells, erect poles for transmission of electricity or conduct business related work in protected area. Consequently, farmers of 55 villages in the protected area are facing several problems and had been demanding that the area be de-notified from the sanctuary. Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, former Union Minister and MP from Guna-Shivpuri, Jyotiraditya Scindia and MP Minister Yashodhara Raje have also raised this issue with the Centre, in Parliament and the state assembly. People residing in the protected area are demanding that the revenue land be completely de-reserved from the sanctuary. They also claimed that the ‘Hukana’ (GIB) birds have not been seen in the area since their birth. A proposal for de-notifying the 86 square km area which is located on the outer boundaries of the sanctuary has been sent to the government. That would clear the way for removing 25 villages from the protected area. An officer of the forest department admitted that the birds have disappeared from the state. He said for the last seven years or so, there have been no sightings of the endangered species in the Ghatigaon and Karera sanctuaries. Over half a dozen birds had been spotted in the Ghatigaon Sanctuary in 2011, an officer added. The geography, climate and atmosphere of Ghatigaon and Karera areas are favourable to the GIBs for feeding and breeding. According to wildlife enthusiasts, effective efforts have not been made by the wildlife department to save such an endangered species in the state.A specified grassland is being set up to invite the birds to a 100 square kilometre fenced area.