By Anjali Lukose
The 49-crore project for GIB will involve protection and development of its habitat in the state over five years.
The Maharashtra Forest Department (MFD) has finalised a five-year plan for in-situ conservation of Great Indian Bustard (GIB) and Lesser Florican in the state and will send it to the the Centre seeking funds for the same in the coming weeks.
The MFD claims it is the first state among Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka that have a population of GIBs to finalise the plan and send it to the Centre.
The 49-crore project for GIB will involve protection and development of its habitat in the state over five years. In Maharashtra, around 25 GIBs are found in Solapur, Ahmednagar, Varora and Nagpur regions, while around 20 Lesser Floricans are found in Akola and Waschim districts.
The plan was finalised at a workshop of bird experts and NGOs from across the state and forest officials in Pune on Wednesday, following a workshop by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests along with World Wildlife Fund in January, where each state was asked to submit a conservation plan.
As part of the habitat restoration from April 1, non-palatable grass will be removed and controlled fires will be used to improve the quality of grass. A large chunk of the funds will be utilised in acquiring private land in Solapur for the GIBs. To date, 372 hectares of the total 474 hectares have been acquired at the cost of around Rs 10 crore in Solapur.
Farmers in these regions will be given incentives to replace grape farming in lands closer to the birds’ natural habitat with growing sorghum and jowar, a more GIB-friendly vegetation. Through awareness programmes, forest officials will try to discourage farming on grasslands and use of chemical pesticides. “Our project will concentrate on people participation. For the farmers, we will give compensation for their loss of income by shifting to traditional farming from the more lucrative grape farming. Maintaining the grassy patches will also allow more water to percolate, restoring the water able and in return, helping people,” said Sunil Limaye, the Chief Conservator of Forests (wildlife) Pune.
In order to track the GIBs’ movement, the MFD will also begin fitting terminal transponder on two pairs of birds in Warora and Nanaj.