Sumer Singh Bhatti, resident of village Sawanta near Rasla in Pokhran tehsil is an avid bird-lover and wildlife enthusiast. Being a herder by profession, he has been a major voice for the plight of wildlife being affected from the power distribution lines of solar and windmills set up in the middle of an important GIB landscape outside the Desert National Park Sanctuary (DNP) in Jaisalmer.
The grasslands between Devikot, Sawanta, Rasla, Madasar, Sankada, Jaimla and many others used to be a contagious patch and an important area for the great Indian bustard (GIB). In its endorsement to reduce carbon footprint from fossil-based energy generation to wind and solar renewable energy sources, the government through its policy, has encouraged them in a big way. Grasslands, considered wastelands, had to face the brunt of this policy wherein huge chunks of important grasslands were allotted or reserved for the power generation units without any precise impact-assessment study on the wildlife of the region and the livestock which forms the major livelihood source of communities in the Thar Desert landscape. Given the nature of the desert, the primary livelihood of people in this region has been agro-pastoralism, and the region is well known for its livestock breeds and the quality wool it produces. The large tracts of grasslands provide the much-needed fodder for sustaining a huge livestock population and support people’s livelihood.
Sumer Singh, has been vociferous in raising the issue of allotting the important grazing areas for power generation. He, along with his team of several grassroot volunteers who are mostly herders, have been reporting incidences of bird collisions due to the power-lines in the area, including the death of GIBs, as recently as in September 2020. This team tends to the injured birds till the forest department’s team arrives to rescue them.
More often than not, by the time the forest department’s team arrives at the location, birds succumb to death as there will be a delay in administration of primary care. Recognising Sumer Singh and his team’s dedication and enthusiasm, our GIB project in Jaisalmer arranged to train them in administering first-aid to the injured birds and other wildlife, till such time that specialised services from the forest department reach the site.
A short training was held for these grassroot volunteers on 10 February 2021 at the Deg Rai Temple premises in Rasla wherein eight volunteers participated. The volunteers were provided a kit containing a cloth bag, first-aid box and a water bottle. They were trained on carefully handling the injured birds, precautions to be taken while handling such birds/animals, bird and animal behaviour, types of wounds or injuries, how to use the first-aid kit provided, documentation and provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act. The team was trained by Dr. Gaurav Parihar, Dr. Kazveen Umrigar, Anil Kumar and Pradhyuman Sindha of our GIB project team.