The Supreme Court of India, in a recent hearing, has directed the powerlines in the great Indian bustard (GIB) landscape to be undergrounded. We, under our GIB Conservation Project, took the initiative in demonstrating the alternatives to save the birds till the undergrounding of powerlines happens in Jaisalmer district. Two stretches of approximately 6.5 kms were selected between Chacha to Dholiya villages in Pokhran tehsil after due consultations with the Rajasthan Forest Department and ground surveys. The selected stretch is opposite the Pokhran Field Firing Range, which offers a safe habitat to a breeding population of GIBs outside the Desert National Park Sanctuary in Jaisalmer. The powerline in this stretch cuts across the firing range and the agriculture fields, where the GIBs are seen very often.
A total of 1,848 ‘Fire Fly’ bird diverters are being installed in this stretch – a model that was endorsed by experts from IUCN’s SSC Bustard Specialist Group. This type of flapper diverter was found to have the highest reduction in mortality when tested in different environmental conditions compared to the spiral diverters during a study done in Spain (Miguel Ferrer et al., 2020).
Flock of red-naped ibis (Indian black ibis) roosting on the diverter wire
For the first time in India, this has been initiated by an NGO with the generous support by the Rural India Support Trust (RIST), the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change, and the Rajasthan Forest Department.