With the growing threat to avian diversity, the Union environment, forests and climate change ministry has prepared a draft visionary plan for 10 years to conserve birds and their habitats in the country through multiple measures and scientific studies.
The plan has proposed to carry out 15 major programmes and various activities which should be implemented over short-term (2020-2024), medium-term (2024-2027) and long-term (2027-2030).
The measures include surveillance and monitoring of avian disease programme, identification and evaluation of bird-human conflicts, assessment of anthropogenic activities, including pollution and its consequences on bird population, and setting up of a national database on migratory birds and their habitats.
The draft – visionary perspective plan (2020-2030) – for conservation of avian diversity, their ecosystems, habitats and landscapes in the country was put in the public domain by the ministry of environment, forests and climate change on February 3, 2020, seeking comments from all stakeholders.
The visionary perspective plan has been proposed to be implemented by different stakeholders. The Coimbatore-based Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History will be the nodal institution for implementing the plan.
The report has said that out of the total 554 ‘important bird and biodiversity area’ sites in the country, 219 IBAs are outside the protected areas and have been under severe anthropogenic pressure; 2,01,503 wetlands have also been under stress due to impacts of urbanisation, agricultural runoffs, which require specific management plans for conservation.
Considering the ecological services that birds perform and their role in the stability of ecosystem functioning, the plan has proposed species recovery programmes of critically endangered ones. The plan has envisaged landscape approach to control their declining population and protect birds in urban areas, and protection of their habitats from turning into wastelands.
Moreover the document has aimed at conserving wetlands and coastal areas that are frequented by birds.
The draft plan has observed that 270 species (21 per cent) of Indian avifauna fall under the ‘rare’ category, and they include raptors, pheasants, bustards, hornbills, cranes, storks etc.
They are classified as rare, endangered and threatened bird species.
There are 554 ‘important bird and biodiversity areas’ in the country. Out of which, 506 sites have globally threatened species. Of these 506 IBAs, 335 are in protected areas and 219 are outside the protected areas. It is pertinent to note here that most of them do not have any conservation action plan or management prescription for their sustenance.
The draft plan has recommended ‘bird surveys’ in select landscapes to identify new IBAs for conservation of birds and other biodiversity. The document has called for comprehensive strategies for restoration of bird habitats in select IBAs outside the protected areas and monitoring of avifaunal responses.
To conserve inland aquatic ecosystems that are important bird habitats, the plan has suggested to conduct study on the impacts of anthropogenic stresses on bird communities in inland aquatic ecosystems and carry out an assessment of the health of the 27 Ramsar sites, in terms of biodiversity value, conservation and management. The study will have to recommend specific action plans and roadmap for state governments for better conservation.
The draft has recommended identification of coastal and marine areas that serve as suitable habitats for pelagic and coastal bird species followed by an integrated conservation and management plans for promoting sustainable practices.
The draft plan has favoured mapping and assessment of critical wintering and stopover sites for migratory birds in the country.
It has recommended species-specific action plans for conservation of select migratory birds, setting up of a national database on migratory birds and their habitats, assessment of threats to migratory birds and their habitats, and development of mitigation measures.
The plan has focused on studying the dwindling population of birds in urban areas, calling for consolidating baseline information on birds and their population status in major cities and towns in the country.
The document has envisaged a study on impacts of urbanisation on avian diversity, their habitats and behaviour, monitoring of bird-human interface in urban areas.
Citing an example, the Union ministry has noted that the population decline of vultures, which are carrion feeders, led to an alarming increase in the population of stray dogs especially in urban areas across the country.
The plan has also recommended the establishment of a state-of-the-art disease surveillance centre for identification and monitoring of diseases in wild birds, conduct studies on disease ecology of birds, surveillance of zoonotic and non-zoonotic diseases in wild birds at select locations in the country.
It has sought development of standard operating procedures for mitigating disease outbreaks in birds.