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The Fight For Flamingos

The Fight For Flamingos

Spread over 7506 sq. km., the ‘Flamingo City’ in Kutch, the largest flamingo breeding ground in Asia, faces grave threat from a proposed road construction project. An Important Birding Area (IBA) declared by the BNHS and BirdLife International, it could soon be abandoned by the birds, eliminating India’s only flamingo breeding site and jeopardising the bird’s future in the Indian Subcontinent.

About the Campaign:

The proposed road is claimed to facilitate mobility for the Border Security Force (BSF), but experts believe the main objective behind the project is to expand tourism in the region. According to the Times of India, “If the actual purpose of the road is to meet security needs of the Border Security Forces (BSF), officials believe, the proposal to construct it ‘coincides’ with the government’s effort to sell the White Rann as a major tourism attraction in Gujarat.”

The site is a successful breeding ground for flamingos because of the continuous flow and mixture of fresh water from the Luni river in Rajasthan and also from northern Gujarat and Pakistan, with salt water. The nutrients in the flow support hundreds of microorganisms, crustaceans, algae and fish, a delicate balance that will be disturbed by the road construction. Negative impacts will extend to other wadre and waterfowl species, including Rosy Pelicans, Avocets, and others.

These Lesser Flamingos Phoenicopterus minor breed in the Rann of Kutch during the monsoon, and when their chicks are strong enough, will migrate to other brackish water habitats across the Indian subcontinent. This cycle will be devastated by the proposed road project through the region.

Photograph by Jayanth Sharma.

The region also includes exquisite ecological and archeological wonders and several endangered species such as the Indian wild ass, Indian wolf, desert fox, Houbara Bustard, caracal, Great Indian Bustard and desert cat also reside here. The Shravan Kavadia, an extremely rare species of mangrove, is endemic to the region. The proposed road could destroy all this, along with the historical ruins of Dholavira, which is part of what remains of the 5000-year-old Indus Valley civilisation.

A three-member team (Dr. M.K. Ranjitsinh, Dr. Divyabhanusinh Chavda, Dr. Asad Rahmani) from the National Board for Wildlife already assessed the project September 1 - 4, 2011, not only rejecting it on account of the fact that it will alter the water table of the region, hence driving away the flamingos, but recommending an alternate arrangement, which will conserve this fragile ecosystem, while serving the purpose of the BSF.

The site report compiled by the expert members of the Standing Committee asserts that the alternate road “…is feasible, cost-effective, easy to build and would serve a greater use” and “would not have a significant impact.” Prerna Bindra, a member of the Standing Committee of the NBWL has written a letter to the Minister urging her to reject the present proposal. We urge readers to do the same.

Action/Involvement:

Write letters to the Environment Minister, ahead of the next meeting of the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife:

Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister for Environment and Forests,

Paryavaran Bhawan, Lodi Road, Delhi - 3

 
 
 

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