Sunday, March 20, 2011

Local Village Communities to Help Protect Great Indian Bustards

Great Indian Bustards

It has been recently reported that village communities will be involved in the process of making policies in a conservation plan to save great Indian bustards. On the 21st of March, the forest department of Pune and the Great Indian Bustard Foundation will hold meetings with local villagers. They will also hold workshops with the forest staff on the conservation of these magnificent birds in the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary located in Maharashtra's Solapur District. One of the key figures in this conservation plan is Pramod Patil, director of the Great Indian Bustard Foundation, who is preparing a state emergency plan draft with the forest department. This draft consists of changes and additions, which will be made after feedback from the villagers and forest guards. It will be reviewed by the Bombay Natural History Society, and sent to the Ministry of Environment and Forests for appeal. According to Mr. Patil, the implementation will take place at state level. He also added that local participation is often neglected. That is, the villagers fear that they will have to be relocated. However, Mr. Patil assured that he and others will dismiss such rumors, saying that this has to be a community-based conservation. And during the meetings held on March 21st, he and his colleagues will present their plans, get feedback from the locals, and evaluate their role towards conservation.

Mr. Patil further added that the forest department will have to look at the future trend in farming, since the birds are attracted to crops like Bengal gram, groundnut, wheat, and millet. He even pointed out that locals have lodged complaints that a development inside the sanctuary is being obstructed because of its protected area. The reason is because many locals are not aware of these legal issues, and should be made aware of future trends in conservation and their impact, laws and legislation, among others. Furthermore, on the March 22nd, a workshop will be held for the forest department in which the staff will learn about the bustards' ecological importance, how to identify them, and conservation issues. There will also be a discussion regarding the department's various constraints, such as its funding. Mr. Patil also said that the department's staff will discuss about the emergency plan. The forest guards will give inputs on the plan and this way, it will be changed and additions will be made accordingly.

I'm very proud and happy to see what Mr. Patil has stated regarding the protection and conservation of the great Indian bustards. Which is by involving participation by the local communities living alongside these critically endangered birds. What amazes me about this plan is that it does not include relocation of various communities, since the idea would spark an uproar among villagers. Instead, it is going to be a community-based conservation where everyone is going to play his/her part in protecting the birds. In places like Ranthambore during the 1970s and '80s, villagers were encouraged to relocate elsewhere in order to make space for the wildlife. This is seen from images of old torn-down hamlets in the jungles' interior. But nowadays, things are different, particularly in the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary. Rather than forcing the villagers to move, the forest staff and the locals will be working together and share ideas to help protect the bustards. In my opinion, this is the best way to help save India's wildlife: through conservation based on community. I believe that if other Indian national parks and wildlife sanctuaries follow this example, then the wildlife of India will flourish in peace and harmony.

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