Dam comes in way of winged guests

Guwahati: The sighting of a flock of seven black-necked cranes, a threatened migratory species, in Tawang district where a hydroelectric project is coming up could force the government to do a rethink.
Zemithang valley in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh is one of the only two wintering habitats of the black-necked crane in the country.
The other habitat is Sangti valley in Arunachal Pradesh.
“Last month, two members of Pangchen Lumpo Muchat community conserved area and Pangchen Lakhar community conserved area, Lham Tsering and Kokti of Zemithang valley, were able to sight seven black-necked cranes which came for wintering and stayed in the valley for about a month. Of the seven birds, one is a one-year-old crane which came for wintering from the breeding site,” Pijush Kumar Dutta, senior landscape coordinator, Western Arunachal Landscape Conservation Programme WWF-India, toldThe Telegraph.
Dutta said last year, three cranes were reported from this area and so the increase in number this year is very encouraging for the species which is already under serious threat.
Divisional forest officer, Tawang, B. Pradhan, confirmed that a 780MW hydroelectric project was coming up in the district.
Zemithang valley is in the northeast of Tawang district.
Deputy conservator of forests (wildlife) Arunachal, P. Ringu, said one can know the impact only after the distance between the wintering habitat and the dam location is known.
“When the issue comes up for wildlife clearance at the state level, we will take stock,” he said.
He said the sighting of a flock of seven black-necked crane is good news and an important indicator of the site’s condition.
Forest clearance has already become a big issue in Arunachal Pradesh where big hydroelectric projects are coming up over large tracts of forest areas.
Dutta said in the valley there was a ban on hunting and documentation of the cranes this year by villagers is a part of their effort for the conservation of rich biodiversity of the area.
The black-necked crane is classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List 2003 and listed “threatened” by Birdlife International. It is the only high-altitude crane among the 15 species found in the world.
The expert appraisal committee of the ministry of environment and forests has said as almost the entire Arunachal Pradesh is forest land, it is important to know how much land belongs to the community and how much is with the forest department.

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