The Rajasthan Government has decided to spend `13 crore to save the habitat of the nearly-extinct Great Indian Bustards (GIBs). Of the 200 such birds left in the country, 120 are in Rajasthan. It is also the state bird of Rajasthan.
Rajasthan Forest Minister Bina Kak announced recently that `4.45 crore would be provided this year for the project, which involved habitat conservation and creation of water resources and an anti-poaching force among others.
“We have been pushing for the project for long. We have campaigned in many states to create awareness and to get the governments to start the project.... It is hard to tell how many Rajasthanis have seen their state bird,” said an advocacy officer with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).
The BNHS proposal to the state government to conserve the species has been approved.
“The Great Indian Bustard is a large handsome bird of the short grass plains of the Indian subcontinent. Formerly it was widely distributed from Punjab and West Bengal in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south and from Sindh (in Pakistan) in the west to Odisha in the east. It was always found in the grassy plains, sometimes in those overgrazed by livestock or wild herbivores. It strictly avoided hilly and forest regions,” Dr Asad Rahmani of the BNHS said in his report on Project GIB.
With rapid urbanisation and vanishing grasslands, they are largely limited to Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
In the larger bustard family, apart from the 200 GIB, 300 Bengal Floricans are left and may be 1,500 to 2,000 Lesser Floricans.
Speaking purely in economics terms, the Rajasthan Government would spend `12.9 crore to save over 120 birds. “A plan of `60 crore had been submitted to the Union Environment Ministry for conserving the GIB. However, given the pressure from the conservationists, the state government decided to provide Rs 12.9 crore. The plan would also save hundreds of other species found in the desert region,” Rajasthan Wildlife Board member Rajpal Singh told Express.
As the GIBs are found in grasslands, the new project would create certain inviolate areas where cattle grazing would be banned. The money would also go into fencing the enclosures for birds and creating an anti-poaching cell as the GIB is considered an aphrodisiac.