From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Great Indian Bustards
Mains level : Species Recovery Programme
May go extinct very soon
The Great Indian Bustard (GIB) is one of the few species that the Government of India has included in its ‘recovery programme for critically endangered species’.
With less than 200 GIBs remaining in the world, most of them found in Rajasthan’s ‘Desert National Park’.
We are on the brink of forever losing a majestic bird species, which was once a strong contender to be declared as India’s National Bird.
Various threats to GIBs
I. General threats to GIB
Habitat loss & fragmentation, change of land use pattern, desertification, ill-thought plantation of exotic & invasive species in grassland ecosystems are some of the generic causes.
Neglect of state institutions due to classification of ‘grasslands’ as ‘wastelands’, conversion of grasslands to agriculture lands due to increasing irrigation potential and decline of nature/GIB-friendly agrarian practices, are all commonly and correctly blamed for the steady decline in India’s GIB population.
II. Role of Noise Pollution
Noise pollution affects the mating and courtship practices of the GIB.
The male GIB inflates his ‘gular’ pouch (near the neck) which almost touches the ground, in order to produce a large booming sound which reverberates across the grassland.
The male GIB does this to attract GIB females and to inform them of his exact location in the vast expanse of the grassland.
Thus, the sound of the male GIB should be loud enough to transcend the walls of the sanctuary and be audible to female GIBs in the fields nearby.
The noise generated by human activities, whether be it by vehicles, tractors, music during processions, firecrackers, may interfere with the GIB’s mating call and drown it out.
III. Other threats
The rate of reproduction amongst GIBs is very low; the female GIB lays only one egg per year.
This solitary egg is under threat from natural predators of the grasslands such as jackals, hyenas or foxes or invasive species such as crows or feral dogs.
In such a scenario, every opportunity the GIBs lose to mate pushes the species closer to extinction.
The best course of action to guarantee the GIB’s revival, is to remove impediments in its natural breeding cycle, including noise barriers.
Along with all other measures to revive GIB numbers, the aspect of regulating noise pollution levels needs to be incorporated.
This may include techno-fixes such as retro-fitting vehicles/tractors in the area with advanced ‘super-quiet’ silencers.
We can co-ordinate with the people and their local leaders to ensure that any procession or ceremony during the pre-monsoon & monsoon period would not make use of high noise making equipment.
Unless the villagers’ basic developmental aspirations are linked & simultaneously fulfilled hand-in-hand with GIB conservation, it would be incorrect to expect their full-fledged support to this cause.