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Maharashtra government appoints BNHS to study migratory birds in six wetlands

By Badri Chatterjee, Lonavala
PUBLISHED ON NOV 21, 2019 12:43 AM IST

The Maharashtra government has appointed the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) to study migratory birds and their habitats across six wetland sites in the state over the next five years. The decision was announced on Wednesday, during the International Conference on Wetlands and Migratory Waterbirds of the Asian Flyways in Lonavala. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) will be signed between Maharashtra’s forest department and BNHS soon, forest officials said.

At a cost of Rs. 2.77 crore, the BNHS will develop location-wise action plans for six sites – Jayakwadi in Paithan; Gangapur and Nandur Madhyameshwar in Nasik; Hatnur in Jalgaon; Ujni in Solapur; and Visapur in Ahmednagar. These are located within the Central Asian Flyway (CAF) and the action plans will help protect the sites better under India’s National Action Plan for Conservation of Migratory Birds (2018-2023).

Each of these wetlands is 10 hectares (ha) or more in size, with some extending beyond 500ha, and together, they are home to at least 30,000 migratory birds each winter. “The aim is to monitor the overall health of each wetland by identifying the exact coordinates, document the biodiversity, threats (encroachments), and address other conservation issues through this program. The BNHS will prepare a management plan for each of these wetlands,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forests (mangrove cell), state forest department. “There are 310 migratory bird species that pass through the CAF. While our emphasis will be on getting detailed information on critically-endangered birds, our efforts will be focused on habitat safety of all wetland birds.”

BNHS said the focus is on bird species population monitoring, bird ringing, site fidelity, and capacity building. “Execution of this project will ensure the overall protection of these large wetland habitats under CAF. We have baseline data for these locations, but it will be revised for each location, and develop separate management chapters,” said Deepak Apte, director, BNHS. “We will be training 120 people (mostly forest staff) with 20 for each protected area, to enhance conservation and documentation efforts, and final preparation of action plans.”

Vasudevan said the focus was on larger wetlands at the moment, which is a current limitation for protection of other areas in CAF. “Small wetlands are disappearing fast. There is a need to change legislation to document and safeguard the biodiversity and habitat of small wetlands (less than 2.25ha) across Maharashtra,” he said.

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