Saturday, November 15, 2014

'Unsustainable' development: Gujarat's Flamingo City is grievously threatened, says UK conservation affiliate

Lesser flamingos: Near threatened 
By Our Representative
The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), an affiliate of the UK-based BirdLife International – a global conservation organization – has identified the Flamingo City in Kutch district of Gujarat as one of the ten important bird areas (IBAs) in India, which are in danger because of “unsustainable developmental policies” and “rising insensitivity towards nature.” Topping the list of ten, the BNHS believes that the situation is particularly precarious for the Flamingo City, because it is “a potential Ramsar site.”
According to Raju Kasambe and Siddhesh Surve of the BNHS, who analysed the situation in Flamingo City in a study “IBAs in Danger”, “In 1945, S├ílim Ali estimated that half a million Greater and Lesser Flamingos congregated here. It is possibly the only flamingo breeding ground of this magnitude in Asia.” Part of the Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary, the first signs of danger to the Flamingo City arose in 2011, when the Gujarat roads and buildings department "submitted a proposal wanting diversion of 79.474 hectares of forest land for construction of a road passing through the sanctuary", they add.
Pointing out the direction the road was to take – “Gaduli to Hajipur-Odma-Khavda-Kunariya- Dholavira-Maovana-Gadakbet-Santalpur road” -- the environmentalists say, “It was claimed that the proposed road would facilitate movement of the Border Security Force (BSF) in this region that falls on the Indo-Pakistan border. However, other sources claim that this project is nothing but a cover for promoting and expanding tourism in the region.”
Rajy Kosambe and Siddhesh Surve
Saying that the “BSF already has a frontier road”, the BNHS experts say, “A highway through the area will not only jeopardise flamingos, but also other species including the Indian Wild Ass (Equus hemionus khur), Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps), Indian Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes), and Caracal (Caracal caracal).” They add, “In September 2011, a three-member expert team from the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) assessed the potential ecological impact of the project.”
The expert team said, “The proposed road would in all probability result in the abandonment of this only breeding site of flamingos, which in turn could spell doom to the population of these birds in the Indian subcontinent.” It recommended the rejection of the road proposal and an alternative alignment of the road, which would spare this fragile ecosystem from devastation, while serving the purpose of the BSF if needed.”
Other IBAs which the BNHS says are in danger include the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary, Solapur/Ahmednagar, Maharashtra; Sewri-Mahul Creek, Mumbai, Maharashtra; Sailana Kharmor Sanctuary, Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh; Tillangchong, Andaman-Nicobar; Dihaila Jheel, Shivpuri, Madhya Pradesh; Karera Wildlife Sanctuary, Shivpuri, Madhya Pradesh; Basai, Gurgaon, Haryana; Sardarpur Florican Sanctuary, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh; and Ranebennur, Haveri, Karnataka.
The BNHS has identified several “major reasons” behind the loss of biodiversity and habitat in these and other areas, which include
  • Destruction/disturbance due to infrastructure development,
  • Wrong anti-people conservation policies,
  • Indiscriminate livestock grazing beyond traditional pastoral lands, 4) Industrial and sewage pollution,
  • Indiscriminate agricultural expansion including use of pesticides,
  • Rapid urbanization and
  • Poaching. 
Commenting on the issue, Kasambe, who is project manager, IBA Programme, BNHS, said, “Unfortunately in India, nearly 50% of the IBAs are not getting any sort official recognition from the government agencies. These are the areas which need utmost and urgent protection, if we are really serious about saving the threatened species of birds in India. Our future generations will never pardon us for destroying the important habitats of birds in such a callous manner.”

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