MoEFCC sanctions 3-year study to map migratory bird pathways across India

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Published on Nov 19, 2019 12:21 AM IST
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The Union environment ministry has approved a three-year study called the ‘Bird Sensitivity Mapping Tool’ to chart the pathways of migratory bird under the Central Asian Flyway (CAF) across India.

Flyways are used by groups of birds or species during their annual cycle to travel to breeding areas, stopovers and wintering zones. Globally, nine migratory flyways have been identified under the Convention of Migratory Species (CMS). CAF is one of them covering migratory bird routes across 30 countries with maximum routes passing through India. The study by Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), which had made the proposal to the union environment ministry, will look at 77 locations over 17 states

The study was announced on the sidelines of the International Conference on Wetlands and Migratory Waterbirds of the Asian Flyways in Lonavala on Monday.

Apart from mapping and safeguarding bird pathways, the study will help policy development for proposed infrastructure projects and civil aviation bird alert issues, said officials from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC). “This is the first such tool using advanced modelling techniques (augmented reality) in India to map migratory bird routes. The Centre is very serious about migratory bird conservation, and this is why an international conference is being held in India,” said MS Negi, additional director general of forest (wildlife), MoEFCC. “These decisions are precursors to the 13th Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on the conservation of migratory species (CMS), an environmental treaty under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme, to be held in February 2020.”

BNHS’ study will be part of India’s National Action Plan for Conservation of Migratory Birds and their Habitats along Central Asian Flyway (2018-2023), released last year by the Centre.

“We had been pushing for this for quite a few years, and it has finally been approved,” said Deepak Apte, director, BNHS. “The aim is to enhance conservation practices across 77 locations (46 wetlands and 31 land sites including grasslands, forests, etc.).”

At a cost of Rs. 3.9 crore, the study will collate preliminary data related to bird ringing, satellite studies, bird collaring, flagging, etc. already available with BNHS and geo-code it in an organised manner on one portal. BNHS plans to further use augmented reality to develop three-dimensional profiling of migratory paths used by waterbirds in CAF with help from a Bengaluru-based technology company. “This app which can give states and the Centre real-time information on bird movement, seasonality, flock size etc. At a later stage, it will be useful for urban planning, and safety of wetlands. Today, this information is not available in a unified manner on any platform,” said Apte. “Most importantly, it will also be useful for airline operators to identify vulnerable migratory routes.”

Independent ornithologists were sceptical about the project. “Most of these plans involving a large number of funds only remain on paper. At the same time, this government is responsible for the loss of more wetlands over six years than declaring new protected areas,” said Sunjoy Monga, naturalist writer, and ornithologist.


    Badri Chatterjee is an environment correspondent at Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He writes about environment issues - air, water and noise pollution, climate change - weather, wildlife - forests, marine and mangrove conservation

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