The tropical grasslands of India are unique ecosystems that support a diverse and fascinating array of biodiversity. However, due to decades of extensive focus on the management and protection of forest ecosystems in the country, the crucial role of grasslands has often been underplayed by managers and conservationists alike. They are often interpreted as degraded forests or ‘wastelands’, ignoring the multiple ecosystem services and goods derived by marginalized communities from them. As a result of apathy towards their conservation, widespread land-use changes across the country, and drivers of climate change, the grassland ecosystems of India are rapidly disappearing ‒ today only a fraction of the original grasslands remain but in a highly degraded and fragmented condition.
The Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) is a stunning emblem of India’s vanishing grasslands. Today, it is one of the most critically endangered bird species in the world. Hunting, habitat degradation and infrastructure development pose some of the most immediate threats to the species’ survival.With the species being critically endangered, WCS-India began a collaboration with the Government of India to help in the recovery of the Great Indian Bustard in the Thar Desert landscape of Rajasthan. The project is focused on critical habitats and breeding populations of the species — the Desert National Park and the Pokhran Range.
One of the primary interventions of this conservation strategy is to secure critical GIB habitats in the landscape through mobilizing support from various stakeholders, as well as creating community leaders in villages who will steer the conservation of GIBs and their habitats. WCS-India is partnering with members of the local communities, local NGOs, Rajasthan Forest Department, and other government agencies including Animal Husbandry, Agriculture and Rural Development departments in this project to establish a community-led conservation model with the goal of saving Great Indian Bustards from the brink of extinction.
A main focus of the project is to address the threats arising from high-tension power lines running across some of the critical GIB habitats in the landscape. We are actively supporting the Government of Rajasthan and facilitating the installation of bird diverters along the most vulnerable stretches of the power lines near Pokhran Field Firing Range (PFFR). Similarly, we have tied up with the Rajasthan Forest Department and are providing them support to strengthen protection and monitoring of the enclosures present inside DNP and near PFFR.