File action plan to treat eye infection in Himalayan blue sheep: NGT

The National Green Tribunal today directed the Uttarakhand government to submit an action plan to address the issue of eye infection among he endangered Himalayan blue sheep, locally known as ‘bharal’.

A bench headed by Justice Jawad Rahim said the state government has failed to take proper action to prevent and control the disease which is causing death of the animals.

The green panel directed the state government and the state bio-diversity board to jointly file an action plan within a week to address the issue and warned that in case of failure, they would be liable to pay cost of Rs 1 lakh which shall be recovered from the salary of the concerned officer.

The bench also impleaded the Wildlife Institute of India as a party in the case.

Earlier, the Uttarakhand’s forest department had filed an affidavit stating that blue sheep have been spotted with “symptoms of eye infection” and were having difficulty in movement in the Gangotri National Park.

The endangered species live on high-altitude mountains mainly in India, Nepal, Tibet, Pakistan and Bhutan. Many Buddhist monasteries protect the bharals found around them.

The animal is categorised as ‘Least Concern’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Their population faces threat of poaching for meat.

The department’s submission came during the hearing of a plea filed by advocate Gaurav Bansal who has sought shifting of the infected animals from the national park to a safer place.

According to the plea, a group of BSF officers camping in Kedar Tal area of the park in September spotted several Himalayan blue sheep with their eyes popping out and bleeding.

“During camping, one of the officer found several blue sheep with their eyes popping out or bleeding or eye socket empty. He took photographs of some of the infected blue sheeps.

“The applicant also came to know that the BSF officer had informed the state forest department about the condition of the prevailing disease in the blue sheep, but it has failed to take proper measures to prevent and control the spreading of the disease,” the plea had alleged.

It had said that according to the National Wildlife Action Plan, 2017-2031, issued by the environment ministry, the infectious disease was a concern not only to humans but to wildlife as well. It said the authorities were not taking action to protect the animals.

The petitioner has sought the setting up of a high-level team to inspect the Gangotri National Park and formulate an action plan for the conservation of the eco-system and bio-diversity of the ecologically-sensitive area.

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