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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

Sarus crane count in Ghaziabad stagnant for 5 years

Sarus cranes are known to live in association with humans and prefer well-watered plains, marshlands, ponds and wetlands, which are suitable for their foraging, roosting and nesting.

noida Updated: Jul 23, 2019 14:47 IST
Peeyush Khandelwal
Peeyush Khandelwal
Hindustan Times, Ghaziabad
The sarus crane is the tallest flying bird in the world, and was declared the official state bird of Uttar Pradesh in 2014.
The sarus crane is the tallest flying bird in the world, and was declared the official state bird of Uttar Pradesh in 2014.(Burhaan Kinu/HT Photo)
         

Blame it on the increase in development activities, pollution and vanishing wetlands. The population of sarus cranes (grus antigone) in Ghaziabad district has failed to pick up in the last five years in a row. The annual census conducted by the divisional forest department was able to find only a pair of sarus crane in Muradnagar, where it was sighted five years in a row.

The sarus is the tallest flying bird in the world, and was declared the official state bird of Uttar Pradesh in 2014. According to officials of the forest department, the pair has been sighted in agricultural fields at Rawli-surana Road in Muradnagar.

“Sarus cranes generally make habitats in marshy places like wetlands. This sighting in itself is a case of research as the same pair arrives at the same agricultural field. Their population has failed to pick up and no other sighting has been made so far,” Diksha Bhandari, divisional forest officer, said.

The sarus is listed under Schedule IV of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and also listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), India, their population is now on the decline, with only 15,000-20,000 in India, a majority of which are in UP.

Sarus cranes are known to live in association with humans and prefer well-watered plains, marshlands, ponds and wetlands, which are suitable for their foraging, roosting and nesting.

Officials said several sarus cranes were spotted near Masuri five to six years ago, but could not be sighted later due to constructions. Similar sightings were made around the same time near the Ghaziabad/baghpat border, but there was no sighting later.

On the other hand, neighbouring Hapur district during the recent census, reported the presence of 30 adult Sarus cranes and 16 chicks. A census in June at Gautam Budh Nagar recorded a total of 140 sarus cranes across five forest ranges and wetlands.

“There are many contributing factors to the stagnation of their population in Ghaziabad — infrastructure projects, pollution, development of housing and non-maintenance of water bodies and wetlands. In Ghaziabad, we do not have a single wetland with a minimum area of 2.25 hectare, which is notified. We have 13 wetlands ranging between 2.8 hectares to 5.5 hectares, but the officials say these are either not free or some fisheries’ projects are going on,” Bhandari added.

“As a result, we have not been able to send a list of wetlands in Ghaziabad to the state authority since the Wetland (Conservation & Management) Rules were notified in 2017,” she said.

Dr. Asad Rahmani, ornithologist and former director of the Bombay Natural History Society, said preservation of wetlands is a necessity not just for sarus but humans as well.

“The sarus population is scattered across Gautam Budh Nagar, Hapur, Meerut etc. As long as there are wetlands, there will be sarus crane. But they also live in paddy fields that have standing water. We cannot say whether the same pair arrives at Ghaziabad unless we mark the birds.” Dr Rahmani said.

District magistrate Dr Ajay Shankar Pandey, also the chairperson of the district wetland committee, said, “I will take a call regarding rules and notification. Respective officials will also be asked to provide a list of wetlands that can be notified.”

Officials in 2018 listed 568 wetlands, including 336 in Modi Nagar and 232 in Ghaziabad forest range. These are small, however, measuring between 0.2 and 0.5 hectare.

First Published: Jul 23, 2019 14:47 IST

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