Bustards to lose ground

Supreme Court orders denotification of irrationally big sanctuary

By Ashwin Aghor
Published: Wednesday 31 August 2011

THE Maharashtra government is all set to reduce the area of the only sanctuary for the rare Great Indian Bustard after the Supreme Court allowed its denotification on July 22. The sanctuary in Solapur district will be reduced from its present size of 8,496 sq km to 1,222 sq km.

imageTo compensate the loss of protected areas due to the denotification, the government is speeding up the process of creating new sanctuaries and expanding some of the existing ones. Only 25 birds are left in the bustard sanctuary. The government’s plea to denotify it had been pending with the court since 2006 (see ‘Endgame for bustards’, Down To Earth, July 16-31, 2011). The court, in 2008, had directed the Committee on Rationalisation of National Parks and Sanctuaries of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to recommend how much area should be reserved for the sanctuary.

The committee in its report mentioned that de-notifying parts of the bustard sanctuary will drastically reduce the protected area in the state from 4.97 per cent to 2.6 per cent, a sharp drop of 60.55 per cent. The Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, recommends that states must have five per cent of their land under protected area. Hence, to reduce the ecological loss caused by denotification of the bustard sanctuary, Maharashtra should notify six new sanctuaries, the report stated.

“We have recommended the formation of new protected areas and expansion of the existing ones,” says Pravinsingh Pardeshi, principal secretary (forests), Maharashtra. “Our aim is to accomplish the goal as early as possible without disturbing the human settlements. Rationalisation of the bustard sanctuary boundary will start once we receive the court order,” he adds.

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