Save the herons

Posted: October 26, 2010 in Opinions

For a country that preaches the gospel of environmental conservation, the death of five young White Bellied Herons reported sometime in June this year must come as a huge blow. Given the total world population of the white bellied heron at 200 of which 30 are in Bhutan, it is a big loss to Bhutan’s much touted rich biodiversity.

The incident reveals that conservation efforts to protect one of the most endangered bird species on the planet are not up to the mark. So it seems.

Environmentalists have consistently raised awareness on how these birds are being threatened by human activities, calling for a more holistic approach to protect the birds. Somehow it seems not enough has been done. It’s a wakeup call to step up our conservation efforts beyond mere lip service.

The Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) and the National Environment Commission have been putting in measures to protect the bird’s habitat. However, over the last few years, increased human settlement and activities near the natural habitat of the birds have disturbed the ecosystem. And with the constructions of Punatshangchu hydropower project underway, environmentalists have repeatedly warned that this could pose huge risks to the birds, which are on the brink of extinction.

While it raises the perennial debate over conservation versus development, we must not forget that each single life of the bird is precious. This would be, if we manage well, one of Bhutan’s greatest contributions to ecological welfare.

There is a need to balance, as usual, our approach toward development and environmental protection. Indeed, we need to seriously rethink how to address this fragile issue of sustaining the birds by keeping the ecosystem intact, with limited or no human interference in the area. To do that, the government must first put in place strict vigilance system and declare the area out of bound.

Second, there must be advanced technological set up and research labs that will trace and study the birds. This could help in collecting valuable information and data which could be used in framing certain policies.

Environmentalists are getting on board local communities to work on the protection of the birds. The significance of the White Bellied Heron needs to be understood by the people so that there is least human impact on the ecosystem, if at all.

Above all, the government needs to have the political will to conserve the environment and protect the birds. This might come at the expense of certain developmental activities.  If not, the government must take appropriate measures so that natural habitats are not disturbed and the ecosystem of the birds is protected. The environmental cause to protect the endangered birds must not be lost. We have lost five birds; we should not let this repeat!

 

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