Monday, June 3, 2013

Kutch Bustard Sanctuary Adds 32 Square Kilometers

A pair of great Indian bustards near a field at Kutch's Naliya grasslands

It has been recently reported that the Kutch Bustard Sanctuary in the Indian state of Gujarat has added 32 square kilometers in a major push for conservation efforts conducted at the critically endangered great Indian bustard. The recent addition of land has been given to the state forest department in and around the Naliya grasslands through the "land bank" procedure and under the demands of the Forest Conservation Act. The Kutch Bustard Sanctuary currently exceeds over only two square kilometers, and efforts to make it grow bigger have been slow since much of the surrounding land is comprised of grazing fields, revenue wastelands, and private property. Earlier this year, these uninhabited lands near the sanctuary and at the grasslands' outer edge converted into agricultural fields. Even the 32-square kilometer areas of land that has recently been transferred to the forest department has undergone such transformation over many years in about a dozen installments. According to one official, the transferred areas will steadily be announced as protected areas and the forest department now has legal groundwork with which to preserve the land as habitat for the bustards.

I'm glad to know that the Kutch Bustard Sanctuary has acquired more areas of land as part of the effort to conserve the great Indian bustard. However, majority of the area beyond the borders of the sanctuary is comprised of agricultural land which has been slowing the process. As of now, there are still ongoing negotiations with the forest and revenue departments for more land transfers. I hope that the two sides will come to an agreement regarding the acquired number of areas for the bustards. This current transferred patch of land made up less than a third of area recognized as the bustards' core habitat, which covers more than ninety square kilometers. The great Indian bustard is a critically endangered species, whose habitat in recent times has degraded across India due to human-encroachment through agriculture and mining. As part of the effort to revive the species, the nation must acquire pieces of land to allow this magnificent bird to flourish without any form of disturbance by people.

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