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Location India, Gujarat
Central coordinates 69o 24.00' East  23o 42.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4iii
Area 384,700 ha
Altitude 2 - 5m
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society



Site description The Banni area, as the name signifies, is a “Bani hui” (made up) land formed by the detritus brought down and deposited predominantly by the Indus River, which was reported to flow through the Great Rann in the past. Banni is a low-lying alluvial plain. The local Sindhis call the grassland of Banni peera jo paat or the land of saints. Banni falls under the Revenue Department and extends over two talukas, Nakhatrana and Bhuj. A small part of the Banni grassland also falls in Lakhpat and Bhachau talukas. The state highway running from Bhuj to Khavda divides the Banni into eastern Banni (also called locally as Ugamni Banni or Nadhi Banni) and the main Banni. About 38% of the total area of the Banni used to be covered by superior grassland with 40 different varieties of grasses (Anon. 1992). A huge freshwater lake (c. 8,000 ha in good rains) locally known as Chhari-Dhand (dhand = a shallow lake) is a prominent feature of the Banni grassland. There are a number of waterbodies in the Banni grassland (namely Servo Dhand, Vakeria Dhand, Kheerjog Dhand, Abdha Jheel, Mokar Jheel, Luna Jheel), which are seasonal, filling up during years of heavy precipitation and with spillovers from the nearby irrigation reservoirs, namely Bhukhi, Mathal, Nara, and Gajansar. The water gradually turns saline due to excessive evapotranspiration and the high contents of dissolved salts in the soil. A huge concentration of waterfowl is hosted by these dhands during the autumn migration and in winter. Vegetation includes around 40 different species of grasses and sedges. Prosopis chilensis, which was introduced about 80 years ago in this grassland, is the only dominant tree species. It now covers huge tracts of the grassland, and forms impenetrable thickets in some places.

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: The number of bird species reported from this site is about 270 (Tiwari and Rahmani 1997). During the years of good rainfall, Banni becomes the wintering ground for about 40,000 Common Cranes Grus grus (Tiwari and Rahmani 1997, 2002). The 1% threshold of Common Crane population wintering in India is 700 (Wetlands International 2002). Tiwari and Rahmani (1997, 2002) also estimate that about 70,000 Common Cranes winter in the whole of Kutch district, especially after a normal monsoon. The total population of the Common Crane in West Siberia and Kazakhastan is about 70,000 (Wetlands International 2002). This is the population that comes to India, Afghanistan and Iran. Therefore, Kutch district, particularly Banni grasslands and Chhari Dhand receive most of this population. Another globally threatened species is the Pied Tit or Whitewinged Black Tit Parus nuchalis (BirdLife International 2001). It is found in the scrub forests at the edge of the Banni (Tiwari and Rahmani 1996). Grey Hypocolius Hypocolius ampelinus is found in winter, almost every year, but its number fluctuates. Earlier, the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps was regularly found in the Banni grasslands (Himmatsinhji 1983 pers. comm.) but now it is extremely rare. The only recent record is a male seen between Chhari Dhand and Khera Dungar, at the edge of Banni in 1991 (Mehboob Alam pers. comm. 1991). The Indian Skimmer Rynchops albicollis is also listed as threatened by BirdLife International (2001) due to the small, rapidly declining population as a result of widespread degradation and disturbance of lowland rivers and lakes. It has been described as resident, nomadic and also a local migrant, depending upon water conditions (Ali and Ripley 1987). The Indian Skimmer was not seen by Salim Ali during his bird surveys in Kutch in 1943-44 (Ali 1945). Interestingly, during BNHS bird migration studies in Kutch in 1990-91, this species was observed at various wetlands, including one bird seen in Chhari-Dhand on May 19, 1990 (Tiwari and Rahmani 1997). The Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris is listed as Vulnerable by BirdLife International (2001) due to its rapid decline in its core wintering areas as a result of widespread and extensive habitat destruction. It is basically a European bird and in India, it is uncommon to rare. According to Wetlands International (2002), the non-breeding population numbers about 5,000 in South Asia. Akhtar et al. (1992) saw about 200 in February 1990. This would be about 4% of the South Asian population. The Banni Grasslands and Chhari-Dhand form one of the most important bird areas in the desert ecosystems of India. With the presence of 11 globally threatened species, and nine Near Threatened species, it easily fits A4 criteria. With its huge numbers of ducks, waders and cranes, many far exceeding their 1% population threshold numbers, it also qualifies A4i and A4iii criteria. Besides this, the site also fits in A3 criteria (Biome-restricted assemblages). The site falls in Biome-13 (Saharo-Sindian Desert) but many species of Biome-11 are also found here. BirdLife International (undated) has listed 59 birds in the Biome-11 found in India. At this site, 24 have been seen, and many more are likely to occur. Most of them are quite common and widespread.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: The density of wild mammals is very low; mainly Wolf Canis lupus, Hyena Hyaena hyaena and Chinkara Gazella bennettii are seen. Bluebul Boselaphus tragocamelus is seen at the fringes and is increasing in number. Spiny-tailed Lizard Uromastyx hardwickii is one of the commonest reptiles of the Banni.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Indian Vulture Gyps indicus non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps resident  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Chlamydotis undulata winter  2004  present  A1  Not Recognised 
Lesser Florican Sypheotides indicus resident  2004  present  A1  Endangered 
Sarus Crane Antigone antigone resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Common Crane Grus grus 2004  present  A4i  Least Concern 
Indian Skimmer Rynchops albicollis non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
White-naped Tit Parus nuchalis resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds unknown  2004  20,000 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2013 high favourable negligible
unset
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Invasive and other problematic species and genes invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - unspecified species happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high

Grassland   0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable
Wetlands (inland)   0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable

Little/none of site covered (<10%)  No management planning has taken place  Unknown  negligible 

Local conservation groups The local conservation group below is working to support conservation at this IBA.

Name Year formed
Chhari Dhand SSG (Centre for Desert and Ocean) 0

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest   -
Shrubland   -
Grassland   -
Wetlands (inland)   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
Notes: Agriculture
fisheries/aquaculture -
Notes: Fishing
nature conservation and research -
Notes: Nature conservation and research
urban/industrial/transport -
Notes: Human habitation
water management -
Notes: Irrigation

Acknowledgements Key contributors: J. K. Tiwari and Asad R. Rahmani.

References 

Akhtar, S. A., Tiwari, J. K. and Bapat, N. N. (1992) Marbled Teal Marmaronetta argustirostris (Manetries) in Western India. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 89: 116-117.

Ali, S. (1945) The birds of Kutch. Bombay: Oxford University Press.

Ali, S. and Ripley, S. D. (1987) Compact Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan (Second Edition). Oxford University Press, Delhi.

Anonymous (1992) Grassland mapping and monitoring of Banni (Kachchh) Gujarat, using remote sensed data. Technical report. Land Resources Division, Remote Sensing Applications Group, Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad.

BirdLife International (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: The BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

BirdLife International (undated) Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Asia: Project briefing book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K., unpublished.

Tiwari, J. K. and Rahmani, A. R. (1996) The current status and biology of the White-naped Tit Parus nuchalis in Kutch, Gujarat, India. Forktail 12: 79-85.

Tiwari, J. K. and Rahmani, A. R. (1997) A study of Grasslands of the Indian Plains with particular reference to their endangered fauna. Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai and Centre of Wildlife and Ornithology. Pp. 343-433.

Tiwari, J. K. and Rahmani, A. R. (2002) The Common Crane Grus grus and its Habitat in Kutch, Gujarat, India. Pp. 26-34. In. Birds of Wetlands and Grasslands: Proceedings of the Salim Ali Centenary Seminar on Conservation of Avifauna of Wetlands and Grasslands. Eds. Rahmani, A. R. and G. Ugra. Pp. x +228. Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai.

Wetlands International (2002) Waterbird Population Estimates – Third Edition. Wetlands International Global Series No. 12, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Banni Grassland and Chhari Dhand. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/12/2014

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