The recent sighting of three Great Indian Bustards (GIBs) deep in Pakistan’s Cholistan desert has given rise to speculation that the endangered birds might have flown across the international border from India’s Desert National Park (DNP)
Prelims, GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Species in News, Conservation of Biodiversity)
Dimensions of the Article:
- About the Great Indian Bustard
- About the Habitat of Great Indian Bustard
- On the brink of extinction
- SC’s recent hearing on Power Lines threatening the GIB
About the Great Indian Bustard
- The Great Indian Bustard is one of the heaviest flying birds in the world often found associated in the same habitat as blackbuck.
- GIBs are the largest among the four bustard species found in India, the other three being MacQueen’s bustard, lesser florican and the Bengal florican.
- The GIB is Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and comes under the Appendix I of CITES, and Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
- Threats to the GIB include widespread hunting for sport and food, and activities such as mining, stone quarrying, excess use of pesticides, grassland conversion and power projects along with the expansion of roads and infrastructures such as wind-turbines and power cables.
About the Habitat of Great Indian Bustard
- The Great Indian Bustard’s habitat includes Arid and semi-arid grasslands with scattered short scrub, bushes and low intensity cultivation in flat or gently undulating terrain. It avoids irrigated areas.
- GIBs’ historic range included much of the Indian sub-continent but it has now shrunken to just 10 per cent of it.
- Among the heaviest birds with flight, GIBs prefer grasslands as their habitats. Being terrestrial birds, they spend most of their time on the ground with occasional flights to go from one part of their habitat to the other.
- GIBs are considered the flagship bird species of grassland and hence barometers of the health of grassland ecosystems.
- They feed on insects, lizards, grass seeds etc.
On the brink of extinction
- In 2020, the Central government had told the 13th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) held in Gandhinagar, that the GIB population in India had fallen to just 150.
- Of the 150 birds in 2020, over 120 birds were in Rajasthan, some were in Kutch district of Gujarat and a few in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
- Pakistan is also believed to host a few GIBs.
- Due to the species’ smaller population size, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorised GIBs as critically endangered, thus on the brink of extinction from the wild.
- Scientists of Wildlife Institute of India (WII) have been pointing out overhead power transmission lines as the biggest threat to the GIBs.
SC’s recent hearing on Power Lines threatening the GIB
- A bench of the Supreme Court will examine on a priority basis whether overhead power cables can be replaced with underground ones to save one of the heaviest flying birds on the planet.
- The CJI suggested that: wherever there is high voltage power lines, they can use flight bird divertors even if the recurring costs are high, and wherever there are overhead low voltage lines, these lines can be placed underground.
- The SC was informed that only low voltage lines can go underground but not the high voltage ones.
- The court found further that an alternative mechanism — to install flight bird divertors — to guide the birds away from the power lines would be expensive. In fact, the court discovered that the divertors, with their recurring costs, would end costing more than installing and maintaining underground lines.
-Source: The Hindu