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Conservationists want 3,000-hct land for Bustard conservation

Ahmedabad: Conservationists want about 3,000 hectares of revenue land near the Bustard Sanctuary in Kutch district to be converted into forest land to save the endangered Great Indian Bustard.

"We have written to the revenue department to convert the revenue land adjoining the Bustard Sanctuary (in Naliya taluka of Kutch) to forest land which could be used for conservation of the Great Indian Bustard (GIB). We are yet to get any reply from revenue department with regard to the letter," Chief Conservator of Forests, Kutch D K Sharma said.

District Forest officer (DFO), in charge of the Bustard Sanctuary, D T Vasavda said that they have asked for the 3,000 hectare grassland, as it is a prime breeding ground for the GIB, an endangered species listed in Schedule I of the Wild Life Protection Act.

"The land which we have asked for is in Naliya and was previously with the Gujarat Energy Development Agency (GEDA), which had done plantation in some part, but most of it is still grassland," Vasavada said.

He said declaring the grassland as protected area would help in conservation of the GIB which is a shy creature and hard to spot. Also, the conservation was essential as GIB lays only one egg at a time during the breeding season in June-July.

Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had also written to the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to convert the revenue land to forest land for conservation of the GIB and thereby prevent its extinction from Gujarat.

The letter from Ramesh to the Gujarat CM for conservation of GIB has given a boost to our efforts to get the grassland from the revenue department," Vasavada said, adding he was hopeful of a positive outcome.

Ramesh had said in the letter to Modi in June last year that conversationalist and researchers working in Kutch have brought to his attention the opening of area in Abdasa grassland in Naliya, a prime breeding ground for GIB, for agriculture.

"I am writing to request you to immediately intervene and prevent the diversion of revenue gauchar land to agriculture, and to ensure that the district officials support the Naliya conservation activities," Ramesh wrote.

"If we do not intervene, the possibility of the GIB going extinct in Gujarat is very high and real," the Union Minister had said.

According to Vasavada there are 47 GIB, as per last census of 2007, in the Bustard Sanctuary. The sanctuary that was notified in 1992 is currently spread over 202 hectares of land.

Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) is found in India and the adjoining regions of Pakistan. It is a large bird with a horizontal body and long bare legs giving it an ostrich like appearance. This bird is among the heaviest of the flying birds.

In India, they are found in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

The Desert National Park (DNP), Rajasthan is the biggest of GIB sanctuaries. The second main protected hotspot of their survival is the Bustard Sanctuary in Naliya, Kutch.

Listed in Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 (India), the GIB is classified as `endangered` on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List 2002.

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