Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Volunteers threaten to boycott vulture census

Volunteers threaten to boycott vulture census
Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

Several volunteers and NGOs involved with vulture conservation in the state have decided to stay away from the official vulture count beginning May 29.

The volunteers, who are associated with such government projects and refused to be identified, said that the government had done two counts, in 2005 and 2007, but little happened in the area of conservation of vultures. The 2007 census showed that the vulture count had dropped to 1,431 from 2,642 in 2005.

The NGOs and the volunteers claimed they wanted action and not mere lip service. They said that would stay away from the census till they find some action on the ground. The NGOs have been conducting raids on use of diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory non-steroid drug used to treat cattle/domestic livestock. But they claimed they got no support from government departments.

A volunteer said, during the census meeting, several volunteers tried to ask the authorities about the conservation programmes, but they were just told to shut up. It's the meeting for the census and not related to conservation, they were told.

Another volunteer working in the state government said, "Officials ask us to go out on bikes while their enumerators and officials go out in AC cars." They also complained that last time they were given only Rs 1,000 per day to cover whole district and expenses like petrol, food and even remuneration. Bharat Jethwa, a conservationist said that the volunteers had decided to stay away mainly because there were no conservation measures by the government. The government has got Rs 84 lakh for vulture conservation, but the amount has not been spent, he said.

Vipul Lehri, working in Amreli on issues related to vulture population, said that there were no doctors and the banned drug was easily available over the counter. CN Pandey, director of Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (Geer) Foundation, said that the volunteers were yet to communicate their decision to him. "The volunteers are just raising baseless issues. Several measures have been taken."

The real issue was that several organisations wanted to take up the census, but the government asked Geer to conduct it which was not liked by these organisations and hence they were raising a hue and cry, he claimed.

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