In 1998, BNHS became the BirdLife International partner in India, and began a collaborative project with the BirdLife partner in the UK, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). The BNHS-BirdLife partnership is an outcome of a strategic planning workshop held in September 1998, organised by the BNHS with participation of more than 20 NGOs and governmental organisation including WWF , Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), Department of Wildlife Science, Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA) and RSPB . The outcome of this workshop was an agreement to start an Important Bird Areas (IBA) programme and to form a sustainable network, linking ornithologists, birdwatchers and organisations working for bird conservation in India, called the Indian Bird Conservation Network (IBCN).
The IBA programme involves identification of important sites of global importance for birds and gathering more information on the least studied sites in order to promote action for their conservation. The IBA programme has been continued for the last 8 years and it was a unique opportunity for people to contribute their expertise and knowledge about their areas. Without public support, the IBA Programme has little hope of achieving long-term success. It is therefore essential to disseminate information about IBAs and the IBA Programme as widely as possible.
Site protection is one of the most important and effective ways to ensure the survival of species. Many bird species can be conserved in this way. However the number of sites that can be managed for conservation is limited by resources, available habitat, and pressures from other land uses. It is therefore essential to select sites which support as many species as possible. The IBA process provides a practical and easily used way to select a group of sites that cover the widest possible range of species. IBAs form a network throughout the species' range. This network is essential to make sure that species survive across their ranges, particularly if they suffer from habitat loss. These sites may include the best examples of the species' natural habitat as well as marginal areas. Ideally, each site should be large enough to support self-sustaining populations of as many of the species as possible for which it was identified. IBAs are selected using objective, standard criteria but it is also a very practical approach. The existing protected area network is the basis and will form the backbone of the network with new sites proposed to fill the gaps.
Summary (National Overview) of IBAs
Status of Indian IBAs/ Summery
The IBA programme is the first comprehensive study in which IBA sites have been identified for bird conservation in India on the basis of globally accepted criteria . Four hundred and sixty six sites have been identified throughout the country, covering almost all threatened species, restricted range species, biome-assemblages and congregatory species (mainly wetland birds) of India. This list, however, is dynamic and not a fixed list of sites. It is anticipated that several new IBAs would be included once the bird monitoring programme is started and more surveys carried out, especially in those areas which are not properly explored for birds. The IBA Inventory will give a baseline to improve knowledge on birds, especially threatened species. As new sites are located, the database on the IBAs and on birds would improve.
The analysis of these 466 IBAs shows that 425 sites have globally threatened species (A1), 205 sites hold restricted range species (A2), and 99 sites qualify biome-restricted assemblages (A3), and 136 sites fit the congregatory (A4) criteria. Many sites fit more than one criterion, and some sites such as Keoladeo National Park and Chilika Lake qualify all the four criteria. That is why the sum total is more than 466.
Around 90% of IBAs in India are important for one or more of the 78 globally threatened species in India and 47% for the 74 restricted range species found in India. Almost all IBAs fall under at least one biome and hold some of the 374 bird species that fall in the biome criterion. The IBAs are also important for species that congregate in large numbers, such as congregatory terrestrial birds, wintering and passage waterbirds and breeding seabirds. Almost 17% of the IBAs have been identified for these species.