The Thar desert which is home to more than 100 rare wildlife species has been under threat for a decade despite various initiatives taken by global and state administrations
The Thar desert is one of the best examples of coexistence with a high human density and diverse wildlife in Rajasthan. The desert is however losing its biodiversity due to various big energy projects.
“Thar desert is one of the deserts across the world where there is maximum human density. Anthropogenic forces including the development of unplanned infrastructure and rapid change in land use patterns like solar parks, chain of windmills are the major challenges. In fact, among all the ecosystems in the country, the desert ecosystem is the most threatened,”
Gobind Sagar Bharadwaj, an Indian author and a member of Indian Forest Service said while describing the beauty of the Thar Desert and the threat it suffers. The Thar Desert is by far the most fascinating desert in India, the diversity and the varied ecosystem, makes it more marvelous. The Thar desert extends from Punjab through Haryana in the northwest of the state.The desert has a Recorded Forest Area of 32,727 km, out of which 12,475 sq km is reserved forest area. 18,217 km is protected forest and 2,045 is unclassed forest.
These forests have a number of notable species here like Leopard, Great Indian Bustard, Tigers, the Common Giant Flying Squirrel, the Three Striped Palm Squirrel and even the state animal, the Camel and the Chinkara.
To preserve and prevent these significant rare species of animals, the state has built a number of sanctuaries and reserves. Some of the renowned sanctuaries are the Ranthambore tiger sanctuary and Sariska Tiger Reserve. Additionally, there are 27 designated sanctuaries in the state occupying 9395.20sq/km of area. Despite this, the state has seen an increase in the extinction of these species.
A study conducted by International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research (ISER) explained the prime reasons for extinction of species in the state.
Poaching means hunting of animals illegally. In 2020, despite the lockdown, as per a report, there had been more than 30 cases of poaching of the Great Indian Bustard in 5 districts alone, including Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Pali, and Nagaur. The number of GIB has therefore decreased consistently in the area.
When the habitat starts degrading due to various reasons like pollution, mining, overutilization of the natural resources, the species too begin to decline. Natural ecosystems are becoming unbalanced as a result of habitat degradation, and the total population of species is declining.
Mining is an act of excavating land to gain minerals and in the process of doing so, humans interfere with the natural environment and thus disrupt the ecological balance. This affects the habitat of the wildlife and in some scenarios they even run out of space, due to which they sometimes trespass in the human habitat. Further, mining also means building roads amidst the forest areas, and deforestation is one of the major reasons for extinction of wildlife in rajasthan.
Measures have been taken to protect the state animal by adopting the Rajasthan Camel Act of 2015 which made interstate camel trade illegal. The act states, a penalty of one to five years in prison and a fine of Rs 20,000 will be imposed on any offender who violates the Act. Not just the camels, but the rare Great Indian Bustards are also endangered because of the large energy renewable projects across GIB habitats in Gujarat and Rajasthan. As per Wildlife Institute of India, 18 GIB’s die each year by colliding with the power lines. To resolve this issue and to preserve this exquisite bird, the supreme court passed an order directing the governments of Rajasthan and Gujarat to ensure that bird-diverters are installed on electrical wires by July 20, 2022. This decision was taken after the death of a GIB in Jaisalmer. A city which was home to around 122 of the country's total 150 GIBs.
However, locals believe the population has decreased much further since then. So the question remains intact as to whether these measures are enough to preserve the wildlife and biodiversity in the state? And does the responsibility to heal mother nature remain in the hands of the officials and environmentalists alone? Is it not every individual's duty to protect and tend to the biodiversity of the region and preserve the wildlife? The common people are equally responsible for maintaining a balance in the ecology and environment and spreading awareness about conserving wildlife for the larger good of the society.