a central Empowered Committee- appointed expert panel has suggested reducing the size of the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in Maharashtra to 122,200 hectares (ha). But the state government wants to reduce it further, to 35,000 ha.
The sanctuary, a prime habitat of the Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps), is spread over 850,000 ha across Ahmednagar and Solapur districts. A few years ago, the state government approached the Supreme Court seeking permission to build an irrigation canal through it. "The canal was okayed with some caveats," says A K Saxena, Chief Conservator of Forests (wildlife), Nagpur. One of the requirements was to set up an expert panel to rationalize the size of the sanctuary. Now that the panel has submitted its report, the government wants to reduce it further. "We have excluded all villages and developed areas and kept good habitat for the birds," says V B Savarkar, former director of the Wildlife Institute of India, who heads the panel. Meanwhile, in February 2008, Reliance Gas got an approval from the court for laying underground pipeline through the sanctuary. Whether the pipeline route falls outside the government-suggested 35,000 ha sanctuary, is not clear.
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