The Centre will seek the help of the Indian Army to conserve the population of critically endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB) found in the Pokhran firing range in Rajasthan.
The decision was taken in the second meeting of the steering committee formed under the Great Indian Bustard and Lesser Florican Conservation Breeding and Research Programme held in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan recently.
According to the minutes of the meeting, some population of the GIB is found in Pokhran Field Firing Range, Jaisalmer.
It was informed that the population in the firing range is undisturbed and efforts should be made to get support from the Army in conservation efforts for protection of the bird.
"The ministry would seek support of the Indian Army in the conservation and breeding programme of GIB at the ministerial level," the document said.
According to the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), the GIB population has been reduced by 75 per cent in the last 30 years, with only 150 members of the species left.
WII's research has shown that power lines, particularly high voltage (33-440 KV) transmission lines with vertical alignment are the biggest threat to the birds as of now and their habitats have a high density of transmission lines because of the impetus on renewable energy production in GIB habitats of Rajasthan and Gujarat.
It has been noted by the government officials and scientists that the birds were nearing extinction due to collision with high voltage power lines that criss-cross their flying path.
In the meeting, the scientists of WII and chief wildlife warden of Rajasthan raised the issue that there were new transmission lines coming up in the GIB areas despite a proposal for power line mitigation submitted by the WII in December 2018.
"The matter of new transmission lines coming up in the GIB arc area was raised by chief wildlife warden (CWLW), Rajasthan. He said that without any legal sanctity of the GIB arc, it is difficult to stop the projects and requested the ministry to come up with legal notification/order in this matter.
"He also informed that there are several agencies which are approaching the forest department for granting permissions/NOCs for implementing their projects falling within/outside the GIB arc prepared by WII," the minutes stated, while noting that the matter was pending before a bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
Environmentalist and advocate Gaurav Bansal, who has approached the NGT on the issue, said the need of the hour was to direct all power companies to adopt mitigation measures for the protection of GIBs.
"Power companies situated in the GIB habitats have failed to adopt mitigation measures for the protection and conservation of GIBs resulting in huge wastage of public money which the Environment Ministry has for the protection of GIBs.
"Because of the red tape attitude adopted by some other ministries concerned, there was no proper implementation of the ministry's plan for the conservation of the species. Several new companies are pressuring the government to to grant lease for establishing new projects in critical areas, which if permitted, situation will get worse," Bansal said.
The Environment Ministry decided to take up the issue with the Ministry of Renewable Energy and Rajasthan Vidyut Prasaran Nigam Ltd (RVPNL), Jaisalmer.
On being informed that Rajasthan Forest Department has prepared an in-situ conservation plan for GIB in Desert National Park for a period of 2019-20 to 2028-29 in consultation with WII, including incentivised translocation of villages from GIB habitats, the committee 'in-principle' approved it and suggested that it be considered for funding support from state plan and state CAMPA funds.
The government has released Rs 33 crore for the conservation of the GIB through a project, titled 'Habitat Improvement and Conservation Breeding of Great Indian Bustard-An Integrated Approach', for five years from the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) for conservation, breeding of the GIB with technical support from the WII.
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