“We were unable to photograph the first five birds, which arrived this season when I was away, but I have images of these two birds, which landed on December 3 rd . We are thrilled they are back. Seven have arrived so far,” said the school teacher and ardent wildlife conservationist, from the Pangchen Valley in the Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh.
This short three-kilometre stretch of the Nyamjang river, is one of only two current wintering sites of the Black-necked Crane in India, where the birds have been documented to winter over many years. The other site is the Sangti Valley, in the West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh.
The Black-necked Crane is considered sacred by the local Monpa Buddhists and its winter arrival is thought to be auspicious. The Monpas of Tawang have a special bond with the bird. One of their famous fellow Monpas, born in Tawang as Tsangyang Gyatso in 1683, went on to become an important religious and spiritual leader, the sixth Dalai Lama. He was also a poet of acclaim, and mentioned the crane in his poetry. The locals consider the bird an embodiment of the sixth Dalai Lama.
But the winter habitat of the bird along the Nyamjang Chhu river has been under threat from the proposed 780 MW Nyamjang Chhu Hydroelectric Project. The barrage for this project and the ensuing submergence area will destroy this stretch of the river, which is critical for the bird. This was the subject of a legal battle in the National Green Tribunal. The Save Mon Region Federation (SMRF), a local group spear-headed by Buddhist monks, had challenged the environmental clearance granted by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate