Suo Motu Cognizance of Plight in Death of Migrant Birds Rajasthan HC Orders Post-Mortem of Carcasses

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The Rajasthan High Court took a suo motu cognizance of the plight in death of migrant birds near Sambhar Lake.

Facts

Jodhpur’s Khinchan village residents were in a shock when they found 37 demoiselle cranes dead. Adding to the horror four days later, they found 1,500 migratory birds dead. The deaths were around the Sambhar Lake near Jaipur.

The numbers have been shooting up since. Until 20.11.2019, the Rajasthan government had already buried 18,422 bird carcasses. This will prevent the spread of infection. Some reports indicate the numbers to be over 24,000. There were carcasses of at least 32 species of waterfowl. For instance, Northern Shoveller, Brahminy Duck, Pied Avocet, Kentish Plover, and Tufted Duck.

Jaipur, Nagaur, and Ajmer districts of Rajasthan reported the deaths. The deaths left the officials and the ecologists confused. Moreover, several possible theories for the mysterious deaths started emerging.

Arguments & Reasoning

The National Green Tribunal had sought a factual and action report. The report was regarding the carcasses issue of over 18000 migrated birds, found around the Sambhar Lake area. The directive was jointly given to the National Wetland Authority, Government of India and State Wetland Authority, Rajasthan, Rajasthan State PCB, and District Magistrate, Jaipur.

It was informed that the deaths of the migrant birds were a consequence of the violation of environmental norms. This notably includes the maintenance of the wetland ecosystem including water quality, etc.

The Rajasthan High Court also asked the parties to submit laboratory reports regarding this matter. Following the mass death of birds, the salt commissioner also issued a direction. Reportedly, the commissioner directed Hindustan Salts Ltd., to stop the dispatch of salt produced from the outbreak locations. The stalled production would ascertain that the salt produced is safe for human consumption.

Sambar Lake constitutes the country’s largest inland saltwater lake. It is the source of around 9% of India’s salt production. Thus, it becomes vital to identify the safety of the product.

However, hundred of illegal salt mines also attack the Sambhar Lake. In 2016, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had instructed the State Government to cancel the allotment of any more salt pans. This was in sync with studies showing the adverse impact of the salt industry on the ecosystem. Moreover, hundreds of these salt pans were unauthorized.

Court’s Observation

The Bench directed the State to set up a temporary nursery near the lake to take care of migrant and local birds. The nursery must ensure proper treatment and revival of such birds.

The Court also sought a report on the State’s policy to prevent the unnatural death of migrant and local birds in the Sambhar Lake area within four weeks. The division bench headed by Rajasthan High Court Chief Justice has also heard the possible reasons for the outbreak by the NGT. A three-member committee has been formed to ascertain the deaths of these birds. The committee will also investigate the issue that leads to these deaths.

Court’s Order

The division bench led by Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court, Indrajit Mahanty, took suo motu cognizance of the death of migratory birds around Sambhar Lake in Rajasthan. After assessing the situation, the Court ordered the State Government to remove the carcasses of birds lying around the lake. Subsequently, the Court ordered to conduct a post-mortem to identify the reason behind such deaths.


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