SC moots idea of ‘Project Great Indian Bustard’


    In News

    • Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) sought Centre’s review on the idea of ‘Project Great Indian Bustard (GIB)’ to save endangered birds.

    Key Points

    • About: 
      • The Supreme Court had set up a three-member committee to assess the feasibility of laying high-voltage underground power cables.
      • SC directed the committee to submit an updated status report on steps to safeguard the GIB.
      • Project GIB is on the lines of ‘Project Tiger’, which was started in 1973 to save the big cats.
    • SC’s Demands: 
      • It sought reports from the chief secretaries of Rajasthan and Gujarat on:
        • Installation of bird diverters in priority areas
        • All bird diverters shall be in compliance with the quality required by the committee appointed by this court
        • Assess the total length of transmission lines in the two states where under-grounding of electric wires have to be done to ensure the birds do not die of electrocution.


    Great Indian Bustard

    Image Courtesy: Britannica 

    • About: 
      • It is considered India’s most critically endangered bird species.
      • It is especially found in Rajasthan and Gujarat.
      • One of the heaviest flying birds endemic to the Indian subcontinent.
      • State Bird of Rajasthan
    • Extinction: 
      • As per the 2021 report of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), they are on the verge of extinction with hardly 50 to 249 of them alive.
    • Scientific Name: Ardeotis nigriceps
    • Features:
      • It is a large bird with brown-and-white feathers with black crown and wing markings. It is one of the heaviest birds in the world.
      • Males have whitish necks and underparts with narrow black breast-bands. 
      • Females are smaller, with a greyer neck and typically no or incomplete breast-band.
    • Habitat: 
      • Untamed, Arid grasslands.
      • A Maximum number of GIBs were found in Jaisalmer and the Indian Army-controlled field firing range near Pokhran, Rajasthan.
      • Other areas: Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
      • The species occurs in the Indian Subcontinent, with former strongholds in the Thar desert in the north-west and the Deccan tableland of the Peninsula.
      • This species inhabits arid and semi-arid grasslands with scattered short scrub, bushes and low intensity cultivation in flat or gently undulating terrain. 
    • Population:
      • As per the studies conducted by Wildlife Institute of India, there are around 150 Great Indian Bustards left across the country which includes about 128 birds in Rajasthan and less than 10 birds each in the States of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
      • Bustard deaths have reached a total of seven this year (2022).
    • Protection Status:
      • IUCN Status: Critically Endangered.
      • Listed in Wildlife Protection Act’s Schedule 1.
    • Threats to the Bird:
      • Hunting, Intensification of agriculture, Power lines.
      • It has an extremely small population that has undergone an extremely rapid decline.
      • Widespread hunting for sport and food precipitated its decline, accelerated by vehicular access to remote areas.
      • High intensity poaching still continues in Pakistan and egg-collecting was rampant in many states during the early 19th century.
      • However, the current threats are mostly from habitat loss and degradation, caused by
        • Widespread agricultural expansion and mechanization of farming.
        • Infrastructural development such as irrigation, roads, electricity pylons, wind turbines and constructions.
        • Mining and industrialization.
        • Well intended but ill-informed habitat management.
        • Lack of community support.
      • Power companies’ high tension wires are major threat factors, leading to death of about 15 percent of GIB population due to collisions with power lines, according to the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).


    Indian Initiatives for Protection of GIB

    • ‘Habitat Improvement and Conservation Breeding of Great Indian Bustard-an integrated approach’:
      • The Ministry with financial support from National Authority for Compensatory Afforestation Funds has sanctioned an outlay of Rs. 33.85 crores for the duration of five years for the programme titled ‘Habitat Improvement and Conservation Breeding of Great Indian Bustard-an integrated approach’. 
      • The objective :
        • to build up the captive population of Great Indian Bustard and to release the chicks in the wild for increasing the population and also to promote in-situ conservation of the species.
    • Task Force:
      • The Ministry has also constituted a Task Force for suggesting Eco- friendly measures to mitigate impacts of power transmission lines and other power transmission infrastructures on wildlife including the Great Indian Bustard.
    • The Great Indian Bustard has been included in the Appendix I of Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) on the basis of a proposal submitted by India. 
      • It was also the mascot of the prestigious 13th CMS Conference of Parties held in Gandhinagar giving wider publicity for the conservation of the species.
    • Important habitats of Great Indian Bustards are designated as National Parks/Sanctuaries for their better protection.
    • The species has been identified for conservation efforts under the component ‘Species Recovery Programme’ of the Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS)-Development of Wildlife Habitat
    • Directions of the National Green Tribunal (NGT): 
      • NGT ordered a time-bound action plan for the implementation of mitigation measures such as installation of bird diverters and their regular maintenance and monitoring by power agencies.
    • A Bustard conservation breeding centre in Rajasthan has been set up in Jaisalmer.
    • Conservation Reserves: Great Indian Bustard habitats to be declared as conservation reserves.

    Way Ahead

    • The bird diverters should be expeditiously installed in priority areas.
    • It now requires an urgent acceleration in targeted conservation actions in order to prevent it from becoming functionally extinct within a few decades.
    • Formulate landscape conservation strategies in priority areas.
    • Consolidate core breeding areas identified across the species’ range by creating strict refuges during prime breeding months (March–September).
    • Assess the efficacy of these conservation actions by systematic, country-wide population monitoring on alternate years for the next 10 years.
    • Commencing an ex-situ conservation breeding programme as an insurance against extinction.
    • The local people and their active participation are central to conserving the species. 
    • Community outreach and linking local livelihoods with bustard conservation in priority areas by subsidy/incentive-driven agro-environmental schemes that promote bustard-friendly practices.
    • Regulate and control eco-tourism to minimise disturbance to the species.

    Source: TH