Website by AQEEL FAROOQI  



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Problems of identification of camera-trapped tigers
Indian Wildlife - challenges in the new millennium
The greying of India
On the road to extinction
A Tribute to Rumbha - the elephant  
State development project threatens state bird - Sarus
Shahtoosh ban gains momentum worldwide
The road to disaster
Killing nilgais in the name of crop protection
Warring NGO's may spell doom for the tiger
Where have all the sparrows gone?
Cuckoos that fly out of crows' nests
Corbett park woes continue to mount
A question on post mortem examinations in the wild
Is it time to 'cry wolf' again?
Lifting of US sanctions may boost wildlife conservation
Migratory waterfowl may be hit by war in Afghanistan
UP wetlands to provide improved habitat to waterfowl
Anthrax as a potent wildlife killer
Man-elephant conflict takes heavy toll
Demoiselle cranes fly to safety in India
How long lasting are conservation victories
Fake tiger skins : a knotty disguise
Who cares for the wild here anyway?
A tribute to Charger - the long living tiger
Draining of wetlands threatening wildlife
Wildlife management needs rapid response units
Dudhwa loses another tiger
Indian Wildlife Board meets after five years

 WILDLIFE WINDOW | Aqeel Farooqi

Hindustan Times, Lucknow | June 26, 2001


UP state development project threatens state bird – Sarus

More than once, avid tiger-lovers from foreign countries have accosted me with the rueful complaint that although we Indians have declared the tiger as our national animal, we are doing precious little to save it from being decimated by poachers. The ever-increasing frequency of seizures of tiger bones and skins in recent times is such overwhelming evidence that it precludes any argument to the contrary. And so, while one falters for a convincing answer, the question that really nags is whether we actually seek to destroy what we revere, or is it just inherent callousness that leaves us untouched by our collective depredations against nature and its bounties.

If India as a country stands accused of failure to protect the national animal, the state of Uttar Pradesh is now on the verge of being indicted in the same manner for threatening the very existence of the state bird Sarus (Grus antigone antigone), in the districts of Etawah and Mainpuri where it has been apparently flourishing.

Of the three sub-species of this tallest flying bird in the world, the Indian Sarus is the largest and is distributed in Pakistan, Nepal, India and Bangladesh. According to researchers, the global population estimate of the subspecies is between 8,000–1,000, with more than 95% spread across India.

 But it is Uttar Pradesh that has the distinction of being home to more than 50% of the total Indian population of Sarus, which probably was reason enough for the thoughtful state government to accord it the honourable status of ‘state bird’. The highest number and density of Sarus is found in the districts of Etawah and Mainpuri, which provide an excellent habitat due to the existence of a number of marshlands, most suited to the nesting and breeding of this bird. The border areas of these two districts encompassing the towns of Etawah, Saiphai, Karhal, Saman, Sarsai Nawar, and Baralokpur contain a substantial population, with the highest numbers being concentrated in four wetlands - Kudaiyya & Ambarpur in Mainpuri, Saman Katra lying in Mainpuri / Etawah, and Sarsai Nawar in Etawah.

Ironically however, a developmental project of the Ministry of Agriculture, aimed at enhancing the agricultural area of Etawah & Mainpuri, envisages the draining out of a number of these wetlands, thereby threatening to destroy crucial habitat for Sarus as well as other birds, plants and animals. It is rather unfortunate that the Ministry for Rural Development has categorized wetlands and marshlands as ‘wastelands’ even though these are globally regarded as endangered habitats having tremendous biodiversity, as well as being of crucial importance in hydrological cycles. It is understood that the Ministry of Agriculture project plans to reclaim these wetlands under ‘wasteland development’. It goes without saying that if the implementation of this plan goes on, it may cause irreparable displacement of a great number of Sarus populations in the area, leading to huge declines in the productivity of breeding pairs.

It is to the credit of the state government that ornithologists and conservationists concede that while wetlands are persecuted without a second thought all over the country, Uttar Pradesh has so far succeeded in preserving most of its wetlands. If this sense of confidence is to be retained, it would be incumbent upon the state government to review the present project in the light of the Environment Impact Analysis which must surely have been prepared before its implementation. This is not to say that development activity for humans should be sidelined, but only that it must go on without destroying other species. Researchers and conservation NGO’s have been working overtime to bring alternative strategies before the government, which can be adopted to save the Sarus without hurdling the developmental project. It is now up to the planners and officials to take bold decisions in order to help the Sarus survive where it belongs.

Few people in their forties and more, can forget the ubiquitous Sarus during their younger days, when not a single train or road journey could end without the sighting of this magnificent bird in the countryside. They would also remember the many legends told of its undying loyalty to its mate, which seemed to be the key virtue that earned it our respect and awe. For the sake of the Sarus cranes of Etawah and Mainpuri, I can only hope that the planners and officials belong to that age and time.