National wildlife board seeks framing of rules for ecological management

Published on Feb 07, 2022 11:08 PM IST

The proposed guidelines should also address the problem of bird mortality due to power lines, the committee said.

As many as six Great Indian Bustards died in the Thar between 2017-20 due to power line collisions; some deaths were connected to wind turbines, a study by the Wildlife Institute of India revealed last year. (Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo)
As many as six Great Indian Bustards died in the Thar between 2017-20 due to power line collisions; some deaths were connected to wind turbines, a study by the Wildlife Institute of India revealed last year. (Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo)
ByJayashree Nandi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

All proposals to lay transmission lines through protected areas and wildlife sanctuaries will have to have a plan to manage the land beneath, the National Board for Wildlife has decided.

There is a need to frame rules for ecological management of areas affected by power lines and to curb bird mortality, the standing committee of the board decided in its 66th meeting held on December 31. Minutes of the meeting were published last week.

Measures need to be taken to check the growth of invasive weeds like lantana that start growing in the area cleared for installation of power transmission lines, said H S Singh, a member of the board that oversees changes in wildlife habitats.

Since the transmission lines are usually 10m or more from the ground, trees that grow up to 5m, and shrubs and grasses may be planted in the cleared area, Singh said. Species like Aloe vera, Agave and Commiphora, among others, can be planted as green hedges.

The proposed guidelines should also address the problem of bird mortality due to power lines, the committee said.

“Lakhs of birds die every year in India due to collisions with power lines,” said Qamar Qureshi, conservation biologist and landscape ecology expert. “This includes the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard.”

As many as six Great Indian Bustards died in the Thar between 2017-20 due to power line collisions; some deaths were connected to wind turbines, a study by the Wildlife Institute of India revealed last year.

Only an estimated 150 of the Great Indian Bustards survive in the wild and their population has declined by 75% in the past 30 years.

Power line mortality is the biggest threat to the iconic bird found in the sparse grasslands of Gujarat and Rajasthan, the Wildlife Institute of India said. If measures such as laying the transmission lines underground in the bird habitats are not undertaken urgently, it could lead to extinction of the species in the next 10-20 years, the government institute said.

Between January and June 2021, the committee considered 62 proposals in four meetings, out of which 29 proposals were to divert forests within protected areas for other uses, according to an analysis by the Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment, an advocacy group.

The maximum number of proposals (87.96%) were approved for diversion within the linear category covering more than 1,200 ha, the analysis found. Linear projects include transmission lines, roads, railways, pipelines and canals.

In its 66th meeting, the committee approved the diversion of 4.8681 ha of forest land in Namdapha Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh to lay power lines from Namsai to Miao. The approval is contingent on wildlife protection measures, including bird diverters to minimise avian mortality. The committee also approved the diversion of 0.07 ha of forest land in Mitiyala Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat; diversion of 7.68 ha of forest and non-forest land in Todgarh Raoli Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajasthan; and diversion of 4.58 ha of forest land in Fambonglho Wildlife Sanctuary in Sikkim to lay transmission lines.

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