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Project Great Indian Bustard

Context

  • In order to save the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB), the Supreme Court has proposed launching ‘Project GIB’ along the lines of ‘Project Tiger.’
    • Project Tiger was established in 1973 in order to save the big cats.
  • The Supreme Court has requested the government’s response to the proposal.

Relevance

GS Paper 3: Government Policies & Interventions

Mains Question

Explain the significance of India’s Eastern Ghats. Suggest actions that can be taken to protect the region’s biodiversity (250 Words).


The Great Indian Bustard (GIB)

  • The Great Indian Bustard (GIB) is the largest of India’s four bustard species.
    • The other three are MacQueen’s bustard, lesser florican, and Bengal florican.
  • They are terrestrial birds that spend most of their time on the ground with occasional flights to get from one part of their habitat to another. GIBs are considered grassland’s flagship bird species and thus barometers of grassland ecosystem health.

GIB Habitat and status

  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified this bird, which is primarily found in Rajasthan and Gujarat, as critically endangered (IUCN).
    • According to the IUCN’s 2021 report, they are on the verge of extinction, with only 50 to 249 remaining.
  • GIBs’ historic range included much of the Indian subcontinent, but it has now shrunk to only 10% of it.
  • GIBs prefer grasslands as their habitat, being among the heaviest birds with flight.

Threats

  • The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) scientists have identified overhead power transmission lines as the greatest threat to GIBs.
  • According to WII research, 18 GIBs die in Rajasthan each year after colliding with overhead powerlines.
    • Because of their poor frontal vision, these birds cannot detect powerlines in time, and their weight makes in-flight quick manoeuvres difficult.
  • Over the last two decades, Kutch and the Thar desert have seen the construction of massive renewable energy infrastructure, which has resulted in the installation of windmills and the construction of power lines even in core GIB areas.

Conservation efforts

  • The Central Government launched the GIB species recovery programme in 2015.
  • The WII and the Rajasthan Forest Department have collaborated to establish conservation breeding centres where GIB eggs harvested from the wild are artificially incubated and hatchlings raised in a controlled environment.
  • The plan is to establish a population that can serve as insurance against extinction and then release the third generation of these captive-bred birds into the wild.

Intervention of the Supreme Court

  • In April 2021, the Supreme Court ordered that all overhead power transmission lines in core and potential GIB habitats in Rajasthan and Gujarat be undergrounded.
  • The Supreme Court also formed a three-member committee, including Devesh Gadhvi, an IUCN bustard specialist group member, to assist power companies in complying with the order.
  • In November 2022, the court requested reports from the chief secretaries of the two states on the installation of bird diverters in priority areas within six weeks.
  • It also asked them to estimate the length of transmission lines that would need to be buried.
  • On April 1, 1973, the Government of India launched “Project Tiger” to promote tiger conservation.
  • The Ministry of Environment and Forests’ Project Tiger Directorate was tasked with providing technical guidance and funding assistance.
  • National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) o Project Tiger was made a statutory authority (NTCA) by inserting enabling provisions into the Wild Life (Protection) Act of 1972 via an amendment, namely the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act of 2006.
    • The NTCA addresses both ecological and administrative concerns in the conservation of tigers.
    • It establishes a legal framework for the protection of tiger reserves, as well as strengthened institutional mechanisms for the protection of ecologically sensitive areas and endangered species.

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