Published On: Mon, Jul 17th, 2017

Housing project to encroach on raptor habitat in Bikaner

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By Accommodation Times Bureau

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment to conservation of raptors or predatory birds may sound hollow if the Urban Improvement Trust (UIT), Bikaner, and the Rajasthan government have their way.

Barely a year ago, the PM had given his nod for an MoU on the conservation of migratory birds of prey from Africa and Eurasia. Approval for this MoU, also called ‘Raptor MoU’ was taken at a meeting of the Union cabinet, chaired by Modi.

However, in a recent development, the government has given its go ahead for a UIT housing project, ‘Vasundhara Colony’, on the forest land that is the habitat of Schedule I raptors in Jorbeer, Bikaner.

The UIT has now advertised allotment of 500 plots through lottery at the reserved rate of barely Rs 375, to attract investors, near the carcass dumping yard for vultures.

As a protected forest and official carcass dumping site that feeds raptors from over the world, the residential colony coming up in close proximity would not only disturb the roosting site of raptors but would also be detrimental to the health of people living there.

And ultimately one of the two, humans or vultures, would have to make way for the other. The project, officials agree through unofficially, coming up on forest land would be a violation of the Forest Conservation Act 1980 and in contravention to the MoU signed by the PM. This would also destroy the vulture colony that is the largest in the world.

However, in the dispute between UIT and the forest department, while the parties are unanimous on the fact that the land is notified forest, a spate of meetings held over the years have finally decided that the ownership of the land is with UIT and should be handed over to it for development.

While the decision would help UIT complete the project they launched in 2008 for 6,171 residential plots, it would have an adverse impact on birds roosting in the vicinity of their natural habitat. They could ultimately abandon the site owing to human activity.

A year back, when PM Modi signed the ‘Raptor MoU’, India become the 54th signatory to it. As a signatory, the state agrees to work for the conservation of raptor species and their habitats. The MoU extends its coverage to 76 species of birds of prey. Out of this, 46 species, including vultures, falcons, eagles, owls, hawks, kites, harriers, etc., are found in India.

Jorbeer incidentally is home to 14 of these threatened raptor species. Six months a year, the highest number of raptors (5,000) migrate to Jorbeer from Central/Middle Asia and Europe.

The Raptor MoU is also in conformity with the provisions of the existing Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, wherein the birds have been accorded protection. India was to gain domain knowledge which would be helpful in effectively managing the habitats of these raptors.

Ironical as it may sound, India spends crores in captive breeding of vultures in Pinjore, Haryana with Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and plans to release 200 pairs till 2026 in the wild. But the Rajasthan government is going to destroy the natural habitat of Jorbeer that houses over 2,500 pairs in their natural habitat.

Minister backs project: “The UIT had earlier demarcated plots on the land and a lot of development has already taken place. The decision to give land was taken at a meeting of the CS and ACS forests. It is a well thought out decision in favor of the people,” said Shrichand Kriplani, minister UDH and hous

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