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Will Rannotsav choppers kill flamingo show in Kutch?

Experts fear copter service started by TCGL will drive away the birds, leaving their eggs unprotected

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DV Maheshwari

Updated: Dec 20, 2010, 04:12 PM IST

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This year’s Rannotsav that kicked off with much fanfare in Bhuj on Sunday evening has raised alarm among ornithologists and environmentalists.

Their fear is the helicopter service introduced by the authorities to take tourists for an aerial view of the Rann will spell disaster for about one lakh flamigoes — and also their eggs — in their colony near Khavda. 

This time, the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited (TCGL) has introduced helicopter service in its packaged tour at an additional cost of Rs7,777. The service entitles a tourist for a 15-minute sortie over the Kutch skies to take close aerial view of some destinations, including the flamingo city or Surkhab nagar near Khavda.

“We are not against chopper flying, but the flight must not include the Rann area, particularly the only of its kind flamingo city or Surkhab nagar (in local language). It is the only biggest breeding ground of greater flamingo in the Indian sub-continent, where this time because of good monsoon around one lakh birds have already come and started their nesting activities,’’ said a group of flamingo experts.

According to them, since this would be a sightseeing flight, the helicopter would certainly be flying low. “This would greatly disturb the very shy birds and they would leave the place leaving behind their eggs in their nest. The eggs would turn dead for want of hatching by mother-flamingoes,’’ they said.

An ornithologist said the congregation of flamigoes cannot tolerate either slight noise or human presence even from a distance. “Kutch is a paradise for birdwatchers as hundreds of migratory birds on their winter visit from various parts of the globe sojourn here as their transit camp before going to their various destinations in the country and beyond,’’ he told DNA on condition of anonymity.

This traditional breeding ground is in the midst of the Great Rann of Kutch on an island called Hung bet, named after them near Neer Vandh close to the famous Karo Dungar.

The area also forms part of the wildlife desert sanctuary and is otherwise banned for visitors for security reasons. One has to travel on foot or tractor in knee-deep salty waters for five to six hours to reach this area. 

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