By Vijay Pinjarkar
NAGPUR: After a task force to monitor the critically endangered Great Indian Bustards (GIBs), the state government has now set up an six-member expert committee for conservation of sarus cranes in Gondia district.
The tall sarus birds are facing extinction but efforts by a couple of local NGOs and volunteers have kept hopes alive for the bird in Gondia, where their number is estimated to be over 50. Six years ago, there were only four birds in Maharashtra.
The issue of protecting and strengthening habitat for sarus cranes was raised at Maharashtra State Biodiversity Board (MSBB) meeting on February 25 at Mumbai. MSSB member Kishor Rithe, who has prepared a proposal for sarus conservation in Vidarbha, raised the matter.
Additional principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF) & MSSB member-secretary Dilip Singh announced the formation of a committee. It includes deputy conservator of forests of Gondia and Bhandara, Narayan Madhavrao Patil of Dhabe Paoni, conservation officer of Satpuda Foundation Mukund Dhurve, and Sawan Bahekar and Rajkamal Job, honorary district wildlife wardens of Gondia and Bhandara respectively. Gondia deputy conservator has been urged to call a meeting of members to discuss the detailed action plan.
Singh said, "We will set up biodiversity management committees (BMCs) through which conservation of sarus will be taken up. The MSBB will also allot funds as and when required."
Rithe said, "We have a really action-oriented agenda. It will achieve a lot. I suggest appointing 'Friends of Saras' and 'Friends of GIB' in habitats from among the local community, and provide remuneration as per EGS rate during the entire nesting season. This has been very successful in Gujarat."
Principal secretary (forests) Praveen Pardeshi had already ordered Gondia officials to conserve malguzari tanks, grass plantations, remove ipomoea weeds from sarus areas among other things.