Eco-activists demand no pesticide zone near Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary

To halt the declining numbers of the Great Indian Bustard, environmentalists want forest department to declare 10-km area around bird sanctuary in Solapur as pesticide free

The damaging effects of pesticides on our health and ecological system are widely known. The pervasive use of pesticides is linked to a marked decline in the population of the critically endangered bird — Great Indian Bustard. Concerned with the continuous decline in the number of the bird, environmentalists want the authorities to declare ‘No Pesticide’ zone around the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in Nannaj, Solapur.

Also read: In search of the great Indian bustard

The number of the Great Indian Bustard in India is now less than 300. Pic/Pune Forest Department (Wildlife)
The number of the Great Indian Bustard in India is now less than 300. Pic/Pune Forest Department (Wildlife)

The environmentalists will also be sending a letter to the Pune forest department (Wildlife) citing their apprehensions.

The eco-activists suggested the area within the 10-km radius, surrounding the sanctuary, should be demarcated as a no-pesticide zone. They also want farmers to do organic farming around the region.

Recently, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had given its go-ahead for the rationalisation of the boundary of the sanctuary. Now, the Nannaj bird sanctuary has been reduced from its original 8,496 sq km to just 1,100 sq km. The government had faced flak from nature lovers over this move. Now, the experts point out that as the forest department has substantially shrunk the area, they should focus on proper monitoring and grazing of the grassland.

The reason for reducing the size of the sanctuary was the protests by the farmers. The local farmers were against the sanctuary as it was occupying a lot of farming land.

Official speak
S Limaye, chief conservator of forest, Pune Wildlife, said, “The decision taken by the Ministry of Environment and Forests ( MoEF) will help in conservation of the GIB and we are confident that communities staying around the sanctuary will help us in protecting the birds. We would also be interacting with the local farmers and educate them about benefits of organic pesticides and harms of chemical pesticides.”

The Great Indian Bustard
>> A black crown on the forehead, contrasting with the pale neck and head distinguishes the great Indian bustard. 

>> It is one of the heaviest flying birds in the world 

>> They can weigh up to 15 kg and grow up to one metre in height

>> It was once a top contender for the national bird of India

>> The number of the endangered bird is less than 300 in the country

>> The species has disappeared from 95% of its original habitat, as well as the three sanctuaries in India — the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary (Nannaj), Desert National Park (Jaisalmer) and Kutch Bustard Sanctuary (Gujarat) — that were declared for its protection

>> They feed on grass seeds, insects like grasshoppers and beetles, and sometimes even small rodents and reptiles.


Bittu Sahgal, editor, Sanctuary Asia
The decision may well be fine, but the truth is the bird is vanishing in front of our eyes. It clearly needs more than we are collectively giving it. Too much pesticide usage, farmers moving from food to cash crops, and less resources for research and conservation are all leading up to this. There is almost total national myopia, which causes planners to maximise profit while running roughshod over the natural world.

Adesh Shivkar, bird expert
The government’s decision to reduce the area of the GIB sanctuary is a welcome move. The move will help in reducing the conflict. Now, the authorities should involve the local community for the conservation of this species.

Nayan Khanolkar, wildlife photographer
The biggest enemy of the bustard is pesticides usage, which is reducing viability. It would be great if the government declares ‘No Pesticide Zone’ up to 10 km around prime bustard areas.

Naveena Mohan, wildlife and bird lover
It is true that if a forest area or government land is declared as a sanctuary, it cannot be taken back. However, the local farmers were not happy with this, as their farming lands were also included in the sanctuary. In such cases, it’s always better to protect the bird and simultaneously engage the locals in actively helping the forest officials in conserving the habitat.

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