Dr. Suresh Kumar (Department of Endangered Species Management at the Wildlife Institute of India)
The Central Asian Flyway comprising 30 countries is one of the nine flyways in the world and supports significant populations of a number of migratory water birds and land birds including several globally threatened and near-threatened species. Populations of these species breed in the northern latitudes of Asia from close to the Arctic coast, and almost 90% of these migrate south to the Indian Subcontinent which serves as their non-breeding destination. Many waterbird populations in the CAF region are reported to be declining as a result of habitat loss and degradation due to changing land use practices, unsustainable water management, pollution, unsustainable hunting and poaching, poisoning, and lack of law enforcement and conservation capacity. Information on how land use changes are impacting Central Asian Flyway (CAF) birds is still poorly known. One another major challenge faced with the management of migratory birds and their habitats is the spread of diseases for example avian influenza. Clearly, the abovementioned are all areas of work that require immediate attention and research, and to manage and mitigate the threats a flyway scale approach is clearly the need of the hour. This calls for working together across national borders through coordinated actions.
India has been actively involved in fostering CAF flyway cooperation and organized intergovernmental meetings in the past that have been critically important in developing and taking forward agreements and plans. The Indian Government through its Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change also developed and launched ‘India’s National Action Plan for Conservation of Migratory Birds and their Habitats along Central Asian Flyway (2018–2023)’. Since CMS CoP13, efforts for the development of an institutional mechanism to be established for the CAF have been underway so as to take forward the CAF initiative.