Mubina Akhtar

Birders were delighted to spot a Mandarin duck in the Maguri-Motapung beel recently. This was certainly not the only piece of good news this winter. Earlier, reports of sighting a pair of Black-necked cranes came from Manas National Park and Tiger Reserve.

The White-bellied Heron, Ardea insignis, one of the 50 rarest birds in the world, with an estimated global population of less than 250, depends largely on the existence of its wetland habitat. These birds are found in very low numbers over a large area comprising Bhutan, Yunnan in China, northern Myanmar and Northeast India. “Data from 2015 shows its distribution as 28 in Bhutan, 23 in Myanmar and only six in India. The bird has become extinct in Nepal,” said Dr Himadri Sekhar Mondal, Scientist-A with the Bombay Natural History Society. They also recorded the first confirmed nesting site from an area close to the north bank of the fast flowing Noa-Dihing River. Dr Mondal came across six birds in the Namdapha Tiger Reserve during the course of his project study.

The Black-necked crane, Grus nigricollis, is another rare bird that breeds on the Tibetan Plateau and winters mainly in the lower altitudes of Qinghai, on the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, north-eastern Bhutan and Sangti Valley in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh. A slew of infrastructural projects started by China in Tibet, along with hydro power projects built over rivers originating in the Tibetan Plateau, pushed migratory bird habitats to the brink. The cranes, revered by the Buddhist Monpa tribes in Tawang and West Kameng district in Arunachal, are the only high altitude cranes among the 15 species found in the world. The crane’s wintering site at Nyamjam Chu in Arunachal had been threatened by an overlapping barrage of a hydro power project – one of 13 proposed hydropower projects in Tawang.

In 2012, the Save Mon Region Federation (SMRF), a movement led by the monks, challenged in the National Green Tribunal the environment clearance granted to Nyamjam Chu dam on the ground that the project developers did not reveal about the wintering site of the bird in the Environment Impact Assessment report. “NGT suspended the environment clearance given to the Nyamjam Chu project and asked the Environment Ministry to conduct a study,” revealed Malyashri Bhattacharya, a researcher of WII associated with the study.

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