The information left the environmentalists and nature lovers in shock as 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.
In a surprising revelation, the government in Rajya Sabha informed that there were no Great Indian Bustards present in Gujarat’s Kutch Bustard Sanctuary since January this year. The information left the environmentalists and nature lovers in shock as 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, the Indian Express reported.
Where are Great Indian Bustards found?
Largest among the four bustard species found in India, the GIB historically inhabited almost all parts of the Indian subcontinent. However, due to consistent degradation of their habitat, they are now concentrated in about 10 percent of the country. Since the species is one of the heaviest bird species, it only flies when it has to shift from one habitat to another while it rests on the land most of its time. Accustomed to living in the grasslands, the bird species eats insects, lizards and grass seeds. The presence of the species also reveals much about the overall health of the grassland ecosystem of an area as it sits at the higher levels of the food chain.
How many Great Indian Bustards are left?
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which categorises the wild fauna on the basis of its availability has put the species under the ‘critically endangered species’ the most critical stage. The species which slide further are termed extinct in the wild and no longer found in any of their natural habitat. The central government had in February 2020 told the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals that there are only 150 odd Great Indian Bustards left in India with more than 90 percent available in Rajasthan and about 10 birds in Gujarat’s Kutch area.
Major threats to GIB
Experts have long argued that the overhead power transmission lines have emerged as the biggest threat to the species as the birds are understood to have poor frontal vision and owing to their heavyweight fail to dodge the power transmission lines at the last moment. As per the research conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), about 18 GIBs die every year in Rajasthan due to the power transmission. It is noteworthy to mention that Rajasthan and Gujarat are also the states which are emerging as the emerging hotspots of renewable energy as both receive adequate heat and wind vital for the movement of the power turbine. In addition to the power transmission lines, change in crop pattern among farmers in the arid region has also become a threat to the species as farmers have started growing cotton, wheat instead of traditional pulses and fodder.
What did the Supreme Court order?
The Apex Court in April this year had ordered that all overhead power transmission lines in the core GIB habitat be taken under the ground to not pose any threat to the species. The Indian Express quoted Devesh Gadhvi, who was appointed as a member of committee to oversee the implementation of the SC order, as saying that there is no change on ground and overhead power transmission lines are still the order of the day.