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Fauna_E-surveillance system in Maha tiger reserve to be solar powered

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The first electronic surveillance system in Maharashtra to prevent poaching and track faunal movement for minimising man- animal conflict will be powered through non-conventional energy.The project, which will cover the Tadoba- Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) and the neighbouring Chandrapur forest division, which has the highest concentration of tigers in the state, will help monitor animal movement in an unobtrusive manner. It will prevent activities like tree felling, encroachment and animal grazing, which can increase biotic pressures. The surveillance system, which officials said would be the most advanced in the country, will ensure forest staff are on their guard and alert them in case of emergencies.”Each camera will be powered by hybrid power systems,” Pravin Srivastava, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (APCCF- Information Technology and Policy) told DNA, noting that this was done in tough areas by security agencies like the Army.He added that the e-surveillance project would be energised using wind and solar energy and equipped with power backup. This will do away with need for forest clearances which would have been necessitated if electric lines were laid in forest areas.”If conventional electrical transmission lines are laid, it will attract the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980,” explained Srivastava, adding that wind velocity in the monsoons would help energise the system when sunlight may be scarce.The feed will also be relayed using wireless systems from the high-resolution PTZ cameras mounted on about 52 towers to the command and control room for a real-time response. The system will be designed to capture both sound and video footage.Srivastava said that the number of towers and cameras would be decided based on a final survey and the cameras will have 30X zoom function.The forest department has chosen PTZ cameras instead of thermal cameras as the later work on the differential temperature between the human body and the atmosphere. The high temperatures in Chandrapur mean that that the difference between the two is low, explained Srivastava.Work on the Rs 20 crore project is expected to be launched by March 2017 and is likely to be completed in a year.”The command and control room staff will know tiger movement in a particular area and can forewarn people if they are close (to)… where tigers are roaming. This will minimise possible conflicts,” explained Srivastava. This will be done using hooters fitted on towers which can warn both people and even officials in case of illegal intrusions or suspicious movements.Similar e-Eye systems have be executed at the Corbett Tiger Reserve (Uttarakhand), Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary (Madhya Pradesh) and the Kaziranga Tiger Reserve (Assam), but officials said the one in Maharashtra would be more state-of-art. Officials admit that implementation of the project, which will cover areas with the highest tiger density and man- animal conflict, will be a challenging task.The Tadoba tiger reserve is spread over a 625.40 sq km core area, and 1,101.77 sq km buffer and is estimated to have about 72 tigers. The adjoining Chandrapur territorial has about 50 tigers.

Bengaluru: Toxic lake froth propels citizens to rise against civic authorities

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Residents of areas around Bengaluru’s Varthur and Bellandur lakes have complained of foul smell and pollution emanating from these frothing water bodies post-Cyclone Vardah.A local group has written to the civic authorities, saying the matter requires immediate attention, especially as the city is expecting a dry summer. “There is nothing new but now pollution has increased as the lake smells bad, which is going to be harmful and something should be done,” a resident said. “The lake stinks and causes diseases. Civic authorities are yet to take any action, but a few students are seen trying to clean the lakes sometimes,” a local resident said.The toxic froth is caused by allowing untreated sewage water to flow into the lakes. It has spilled over onto roads and into drains around the lakes in the last two days.This has also led to poor visibility on roads, and motorists risk skidding while riding. The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewage Board had sent a tanker to sprinkle water and bring down the froth’s intensity.A local group, ‘Whitefield Rising’, has written to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) and the Karnataka Lake Conservation and Development Authority (KLCDA) to take cognizance of the issue. “This matter needs more attention, especially since we are looking at a dry summer,” a member of Whitefield Rising said. “Wasting a resource as precious as water and dealing with health and safety issues alongside is not good.”The lake must also be desilted and cleared of weeds like hyacinth to allow sun light to penetrate. The BBMP and BWSSB efforts to check frothing by spraying chemicals have failed.Municipal authorities need to install a sewerage treatment plant at Varthur Lake. The water body is supposed to be desilted every year, but the last time this was done was in 1970.

Group fights gender gap in water use in Rajasthan

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The mores of a patriarchal society make themselves evident in a number of ways —from rules about the conduct of women to gender imbalance in boardrooms. Women in Rajasthan, however, are battling a very different set of problems, one that concerns the use of water.A precious commodity in the desert state, water is first given to the men in the family to use, followed by household chores, even though it’s mostly women who fetch it after walking for kilometres. So much so that some women have to go without a bath in the arid region for days on end.Centre for Social Research (CSR), a non-profit organisation from Delhi, has been attempting to change that dynamic through its Water Conservation and Climate Change Training Programme for rural Rajasthan. The programme is being conducted across different villages in Sanganer, Bhimwal, and Sirohi, among other areas.The programme targets all orders of the hierarchy — from housewives to women representatives, including panches and councillors — to spread awareness regarding the connection between water and gender equality. The idea was the brainchild of CSR head Ranjana Kumari and Hanns Seidel Foundation, which is funding the project.Launched in 2013, the project has young members, all in the age group of 22-30 years, who cover more than 300 houses and over 30 clusters.“We came across some shocking facts during our need assessment surveys involving tribal women. For instance, even though they were the ones fetching water for the entire family, men would be given preference, followed by household chores. Some even confessed to going without a bath for days,” said Project Coordinator Ritika Bhatia. This imbalance spilled over into their personal hygiene and health as well, she added.During the course of the programme, the team also found that the women were not too forthcoming about the hardships they suffered. “They were visibly embarrassed. But they said that walking endlessly to get some water was a natural part of their lives,” said Bhatia, who further said that discussing this disparity was the project’s first step.The women were made aware of their rights and how they were equal shareholders in water consumption, limited quantity notwithstanding. The approach, however, was kept subtle and friendly, involving elders and elected representatives of the community. The four-module programme then moved on to the necessity of water conservation and the issue of climate change, with videos on health and hygiene interspersed in between.The efforts are already showing results, breaking down not only gender but caste barriers as well, claimed another team member Pratishtha Arora. “They have become more assertive in their demands for water. I clearly remember how a tribal woman forced the Gram Sabha to bring a water supply near her house, something which is not usual in Rajasthan, given their sharp caste dynamics and repressive environment,” she said.Almost three years into the project, the group said they have become more aware of the sheltered and privileged life they themselves lead. “We take so much for granted till we come across those who have nothing. I have realised how blessed I am after meeting these women and hearing their stories,” Arora said.WATER FOR ALLThe programme is being conducted across different villages in Sanganer, Bhimwal, and Sirohi, among other areas.It targets housewives to women representatives, including panches and councillors. The project has young members all in the age group of 22-30 years

Vultures feed and breed

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While the dwindling numbers of vultures are a cause for concern, an initiative by the state forest department to ensure that these endangered raptors get to feed on carrion has led to their population rising in the Left wing extremism- affected district of Gadchiroli.The ‘vulture restaurant’ model has led to a rise in the numbers of species like Gyps indicus (Indian Vulture or Long-billed Vulture) and Gyps africanus (White-backed vulture) in a tribal dominated district in Vidarbha. Out of total 23 vulture species found globally, India has nine in the wild. While helping dispose of carcasses which would have otherwise been a public health problem, these birds act as natural scavengers.“In the vulture restaurant model, we ask villagers to take the animal carcasses to these restaurants located away from villages instead of burying or burning them. The carcasses are kept in an enclosed area with a raised platform to attract vultures in the vicinity who feed on them while making food available exclusively for vultures, it keeps away competition. This has led to an increase in vulture population,” said P.Kalyankumar, chief conservator of forests, Gadchiroli.The vulture conservation effort was launched in 2012 from Gadchiroli and Kamlapur. The platforms prevent the raptors from being disturbed by other animals like dogs when they feed on the carcasses.He added that the number of these winged scavengers stood at around 800 compared to less than 100 when they started off with the idea in 2013. Most of these birds are from the resident population and some vultures also come from neighbouring Chhattisgarh to feed.The department pays villagers Rs 500 per dead cattle to serve as an incentive to deposit carrions at the 25 such vulture restaurants in the district. “The sightings have improved and gone up around these villages. The number of nesting sites has also increased,” said Kalyankumar, adding that these restaurants had been selected in areas with water sources and trees for these raptors to nest.“We have appointed gidhad mitras (friends of vultures) for villages with a vulture restaurant. They have been given binoculars and a camera and have been trained in conservation. They count the number of birds and inform our nodal officers,” he explained, adding that now, they were mapping nesting sites and asking farmers to preserve huge canopy trees. “The actual enumeration of nesting colonies has been started. We are surveying these nesting sites in minute details and taking their GPS locations. This will help us map their nesting patterns, behaviour and locational preference,” said Kalyankumar.The use of painkiller diclofenac for treating livestock and the resulting presence of the drug in animal carcasses which vultures fed on, led to these birds dying of kidney failures. In 2006, the veterinary manufacture of the drug was banned. Environmentalist Kishor Rithe of the Satpuda Foundation noted that this would tide over the food shortage faced by vultures due to farmers selling off aged, dying livestock to traders for culling. However, Vibhu Prakash of the BNHS Vulture Conservation Breeding Programme, noted that their studies showed the vultures did not face a problem of food availability. Prakash said the main problem for vultures was diclofenac, the presence of which in a carcass would kill several birds. “Human formulations are available in the market and are used for treating cattle,” said Prakash, adding that their 2013 carcass sampling survey had shown that around five to six percent carcasses had traces of the drug, when it should be less than 1%. “However, prevalence of diclofenac has come down,” he noted, adding that the Centre had banned multi-dose vials last year.

CBI won’t probe case of disappeared tiger

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a setback to the Maharashtra government’s efforts for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the “disappearance” of Jai, one of India’s largest tigers, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has written to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) against the move.The NTCA, a statutory body for strengthening tiger conservation has pointed out how, “tiger conservation is species conservation and putting all the states resources into one individual is neither prudent nor financially feasible.” It has opined that “a CBI enquiry is not deemed suitable in such a scenario.”A senior Maharashtra forest department official noted that, while the PMO and the Centre would take a final call on the investigation, “the opinion of a technical department like the NTCA was generally respected.” In July, the forest department had recovered hair samples from Bhandara district which matched with Jai’s DNA.The last location of the 250 kg, seven-footer named after superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s character from Sholay was at Paoni range near his habitat of Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary (UKWLS) on April 18, when his radio collar malfunctioned. This led to a massive outcry and search operation by the forest department, wildlife enthusiasts and NGOs, with fears that the iconic tiger may have been poached.In a recent letter to Dr Shrikar Pardeshi, Director, Prime Minister’s Office, Vaibhav C. Mathur, Assistant Inspector General of Forests, NTCA, noted how tigers are subject to ecological forces which govern their land tenure dynamics.It pointed to a Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun report which said, Jai’s age was around seven to eight years which is a stage when these animals are challenged by younger and fitter males in their territory. This may have led to an experienced male like Jai, who had fathered over 20 cubs, to move away. “This may be one of the reasons for the absence of Jai from UKWLS,” the WII report noted.

Tiger ‘Kingfisher’ found dead in Kanha Tiger Reserve; toll reaches 23 since Jan

A tiger, in Kanha Tiger Reserve, popularly known as ‘Kingfisher’ was found dead, taking the death toll to 23 in Madhya Pradesh. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A tiger, popularly known as ‘Kingfisher’, was found dead in core area of Kanha Tiger Reserve, taking the death toll of big cats in Madhya Pradesh in the last 10 months to 23, KTR officials said on Saturday.Twenty-two deaths of tigers, three due to poisoning in the core area of Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR) on March 28, one each due to electrocution in the wild of Chhindwara and KTR were reported on January 22 and October 22 respectively, have been reported by National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) website site. Yesterday’s death at the KTR is yet to be reported by the NTCA. This is second of death of tiger at the KTR in the last one week. One death was reported there on October 22. “The tiger, aged around 6, was found dead in the Mukki range in core area of the park on Friday. The postmortem report of the striped animal revealed that it died due to infighting over territory with another big cat,” KTR field director Sanjay Shukla told PTI.”We have recently arrested poachers who killed the tiger which was found dead on October 22,” he added. A maximum number of nine tigers have died in the KTR followed by eight in Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR) in last 10 months in the state. Shukla contended that majority of tigers in the KTR have died due to natural deaths. The first tiger death was reported from PTR’s buffer zone on January 2 this year.

The death of a Byculla Zoo penguin: Dory’s demise should teach us about the obsolescence of zoos

This is not the time to gloat, “I told you so“.

It is also neither the time to find a scapegoat, nor to politicise the issue.

The death of a penguin

Rather, it is a time to reflect on the one-and-a-half year life of Dory — the Humboldt penguin that died in Mumbai last week and the questions her death raises over the future of her seven companions. Initially, liver dysfunction and an intestinal infection were being cited as the reason for the flightless bird’s premature demise, but the postmortem report showed that Dory had been unwell for around six days and may have died as a result of septicemia. the report added that the penguin;s bloodstream contained gram-negative bacteria.

Afternoon Despatch and Courier quoted a senior veterinarian on condition of anonymity as saying that “Gram-negative bacteria originates due to unhygienic surroundings, water quality, food etc. The water in which penguins are kept should be regularly filtered. Failure to keep a check on water quality leads to a breeding ground for such bacteria. The bacteria can also be developed because of leftover food which has been kept for a long time”.

We’ll return to this shortly.

A statement had been put out earlier by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (under whose purview the Byculla Zoo lies) to elaborate on Dory’s death:

That it was felt necessary to include the concerned doctor’s credentials — “has dealt with Penguin Health and Management while doing her Masters from New Zealand” — in the press note demonstrates the sort of backlash the authorities were probably expecting.

But what of the other penguins?

Damage control?

“As of now, they are all healthy,” Dr Sanjay Tripathi, director of the Veermata Jijabai Udyan (also known as Byculla Zoo) told Firstpost. “Dory’s condition was not related to Mumbai’s climate, since the penguin enclosure is climate-controlled.” A senior BMC source pointed out, “Singapore has the same weather conditions as Mumbai, and the penguins there have no problem. We have state-of-the-art facilities in Mumbai and have taken all the necessary precautions.”

Seven Humboldt penguins remain, from the eight brought to the Byculla Zoo. News18

Seven Humboldt penguins remain, from the eight brought to the Byculla Zoo. News18

Tripathi and the senior BMC official both added, “There is no question of sending them back or anywhere else.”

Earlier this month, two bits of information regarding the zoo made the news. First, it was reported that the Byculla Zoo will be receiving 10 new species of animals by February 2017. The second was a report about a notice slapped on the zoo by the Central Zoo Authority ostensibly threatening its closure unless the quality of animal enclosures and upkeep was improved.

Tripathi assured Firstpost that the notice was a ‘routine internal communication’ and was not a cause for concern.

At this point, it’s worth revisiting a 2014 letter written to animal rights NGO PAWS by the CZA’s then deputy inspector general Inder Dhamija that points out that “the proposal was not advisable from the point of animal welfare issues, negative publicity, economics and difficulty in creation of naturalistic conditions” (emphasis added).

‘Animal welfare issues’ sound an awful lot like the sort of thing that leads to gram-negative bacteria infections.

Interestingly, after being told on Monday that the media was more than welcome to come and see the state-of-the-art environs in which the penguins were being housed, it was on Tuesday that we were told that no one apart from one veterinary official was allowed into the penguin enclosure. And I was really looking forward to going to see the magnificent seven too.

A CZA official on condition of anonymity told Firstpost that the idea of sending the birds back would be tricky as ‘multiple agencies were involved’. In fact, a glance at the CZA document on ‘Guidelines for exchange or transfer of animals between zoos‘ throws up a few glaring issues.

The third guideline states that “While approving exchange programme the past track record of the zoo with regard to success in breeding and infant healthcare and upkeep shall be given proper weightage“.

The seventh states that “Exchange of animals to zoos outside India, shall be permitted only if it is in over all interest of the conservation of species concerned and also helpful in enriching the population of indigenous species in the country“.

And the ninth guideline holds that “Prior to entering into an exchange with a foreign zoo, the antecedents of the foreign zoo and the nature of housing and health care facility available in the zoo shall be verified“.

On conservation and common sense

It’s worth mentioning at this point that if these guidelines refer to animals being sent overseas from zoos in India, the same should apply to animals being brought to India from zoos across the world. If the third and ninth guidelines are to be applied in reverse (ie in reference to Indian zoos receiving animals), no zoo on the planet would send animals to Byculla Zoo, which as pointed out in an earlier piece, has the worst mortality record in the country.

As for the seventh guideline (if inverted to apply to Indian zoos), conservation of species is far from what is at play in the move to bring Dory and her friends to Mumbai. Don’t take it from me, let environmental activist and founder editor of Sanctuary Asia, Bittu Sahgal explain.

“This (the bringing of penguins) is a hardcore business proposition. There is zero conservation value associated with it,” Sahgal told Firstpost, adding, “It’s much better if they give up on this idea. It was a mistake. There’s no harm in admitting they made a mistake. The city doesn’t need it.”

Pointing out that there are several zoos around the world that focus on conservation of species with a view to releasing them in the wild, he noted, “The present idea of zoos might have had some relevance in the days of the Roman Empire. But today, this (the penguin venture) is an absurd proposition. It’s ill-advised, and it’s aimed at entertainment and balancing project costs. Nothing more.”

Certainly, the Byculla Zoo isn’t without its merits, right? Right?

“It’s a very poorly-run zoo and we don’t really know what’s going on there,” said Sahgal, “But it’s an excellent heritage botanical park. If that aspect was developed, they would get three times the number of visitors.” As this elaborate article in The Indian Express points out, the botanical garden (known in the past as Victoria Gardens) on which the zoo presently stands, was once home to over 1,800 trees belonging to 150-odd different species.

But let’s get back to the point about what can be done with the seven remaining penguins. Seven of an estimated 3,300 to 12,000 left in the world.

Can they be sent back to safer climes and friendlier environments?

“There’s no precedent to send them back. The Centre can’t do anything either. In fact, the government is mostly misled into believing that this is a good step,” he added. It’s worth mentioning that the carbon cost of climate control that will go into maintaining a barely adequate environment for penguins goes entirely against the grain of fighting climate change — something the government has gone to great lengths to point out it is battling.

The politics of it all

Meanwhile, the point is already in danger of being lost in the mire of political bickering ahead of next year’s municipal elections in Mumbai.

On Monday, Maharastra Navnirman Sena (MNS) corporator and member of the BMC’s standing committee Sandip Deshpande wrote a letter to the municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta with the schadenfreude-laden subject line ‘Yeh toh hona hi tha (This was bound to happen)‘. Deshpande claimed that the MNS had decried the move to bring penguins to Mumbai from the time this plan was announced.

He went on to claim that the Rs 24-crore purchase of those ‘innocent creatures’ had been carried out due to a ‘child’s tantrum’ thrown by an entity left unnamed in the letter. Back in July when the penguins arrived in Mumbai, the MNS corporator had suggested that it was Yuva Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray’s ‘tantrums’ that resulted in the Byculla Zoo receiving penguins instead of kangaroos.

Adding that the lives of the innocent penguins were being toyed with, Deshpande, in his letter on Monday, called for the birds to be sent back home. He also asked the commissioner who was responsible for this waste of taxpayer money, before signing off with a ‘we-told-you-so’ kicker that formed the subject of the letter.

Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray reportedly did not take particularly kindly to the letter. After issuing a clarification about the conditions surrounding Dory’s death, he fired a salvo at ‘those who wish to save the lives of the penguins’, asking if they would be able to ‘save their own party’.

So what does this leave us with?

If politicians are willing to use minority groups of human beings as pawns in their game to win elections, what makes you think they’re going to spare animals or birds? Don’t for a minute let yourself buy into the proposition that either the Sena or the MNS truly cares about the fate of Dory’s seven companions who are still standing.

Consider at this point that while the penguins are not even on display for the public yet, one of them has already died.

Take a moment to let those words sink in.

So what to do?

We live in an age of wall-to-wall technology. An age in which Tupac Shakur — a couple or so decades after his untimely death — can appear as a hologram. An age in which 4D (and even more Ds; 7D and 9D attractions are de rigueur in major Indian malls) exhibits can bring time, space and textures in all combinations to one place at any given time. An age in which life-like scenarios can be recreated at home with a virtual reality headset.

What then is the need for zoos in this day and age?

Can we not create a perfectly well-rendered 3D environment filled with all sorts of flora and fauna at the right temperature to be credible? It’s also far easier and cheaper to maintain.

But then again, where’s the political mileage to be gained from that?

With inputs from Sanjay Sawant

More villages talk of tiger projects

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a change from days when inclusion of hamlets in protected areas would be opposed, authorities are getting demands for villages bordering tiger projects to be included in their buffer areas.Senior forest officials said this was because villagers in buffer zones were benefiting due to various developmental and livelihood schemes.Sources said they had received demands from locals and elected representatives for more villages to be included in tiger reserves like Tadoba and Pench. “This will help develop these villages in a sustainable manner without destroying forests and promote conservation-based development. The tiger reserves will also benefit as they can increase their area in a participatory manner,” said another official.A senior department official noted that earlier, inclusion of villages in buffers like in the Navegaon- Nagzira tiger project would lead to resistance by locals due to ignorance and political instigation.”However, schemes like subsidised LPG, grants for biogas plants, solar fencing for crops, water conservation, Van-Dhan yojana and livelihood training have aided development in buffer zone villages. This has led to other villages outside the buffer demanding that they too should be included in these zones,” he added, stating that they were requesting the state government to set up a committee to decide on this.Two legislators—Congress MLA Sunil Kedar (Saoner) and his BJP counterpart D.Mallikarjun Reddy (Ramtek) have written to M.S Reddy, chief conservator of forests and field director of the Pench tiger reserve seeking that six villages from Saoner and one village in Parshivni respectively be included in the buffer. The Pench tiger reserve already has around 40 villages in the buffer zone.Sources said authorities at the Tadoba tiger project had received similar demands from 15 villages. This included 11 from within the buffer which had not been formally notified and four villages from outside the project’s boundary who have sought inclusion in the buffer. The Tadoba Andhari tiger reserve buffer already contains 106 villages including 11 uninhabited ones.Girish Vashisht, divisional forest officer (DFO) and spokesperson of the state forest department’s wildlife wing, said they had received representations from some villages for inclusion in buffers. A significant quantum (30%) of funds collected by the tiger conservation foundations of the tiger projects (through tourism, CSR and compensation grants) are devolved to villages in buffer zones for various works, he said, adding that growth in tourism had led to more benefits flowing to them, resulting in increasing demands from villages for inclusion in tiger projects.However for this to happen, the government will have to set up a fresh committee. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) will also have to consider it before a final notification is issued. Vashisth said however, once these villages were part of the buffer, restrictions would be imposed on large projects like dams, railway lines and mines.”This cannot be done based merely on benefits to villages. It has to be seen if it is technically right (in terms of wildlife management) to include them in the buffer,” he added.The protection and conservation strategy in tiger projects involves creation of a core (critical tiger habitat) and buffer, which is the outer area protecting the core. Maharashtra has six tiger projects, namely Tadoba- Andhari, Melghat, Navegaon- Nagzira, Bor, Sahyadri and Pench.

MoEF comes out with norms for infra projects in forests

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Recognizing the threats of linear infrastructure project such as roads and railway lines to wildlife, the union environment, forest and climate change ministry (MoEF&CC) has come out with detailed policy guidelines on putting inadequate safeguards while clearing these projects to facilitate wildlife movement and prevent their deaths.The guidelines come in the wake of severe criticism of the MoEF&CC for clearing infrastructure projects through wildlife habitats without due safeguards and the ministry is also hoping that standard wildlife safeguards for such projects will ensure speedy clearances.Infact, just a month ago it cleared a road widening project through the Kanha-Achanakmar tiger corridor in Chhattisgarh despite calls from National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to reject it. Each year, several endangered wildlife species such as tigers, leopards, elephants and a range of other wildlife get killed as they try to cross highways and railway tracks that bisect wildlife habitats. Besides roads and railway, power transmission lines and canals also kill wildlife as they get electrocuted or drown.The draft policy guideline, ‘eco-friendly measures to mitigate impacts of linear infrastructure on wildlife’ has been prepared by the WII and the ministry has now sought public suggestions and objections on it.For the first time, standard recommendations and engineering solutions have been issued through the report, applicable to specific wildlife and habitats. For instance, it has said that for projects that pass through tiger landscapes, both underpasses and overpasses are potential engineering solutions for reducing the impact of these projects. “A minimum span of 30m with a height of 5m and width of 5-8m would work for most species in tiger landscapes,” the report has said.In the case of elephants, the report has recommended that elevating a road project on pillars is the best solution. If it is an underpass, it should have a height of at least 8m and width of 12m for smooth movement of the biggest land animal, the report added. Monkeys and squirrels can use canopy bridges that are built on railway tracks while pipe culverts are ideal for smaller mammals, reptiles and amphibians, the WII report said.The guidelines also highlight that infrastructure projects are a barrier for wildlife that restrict and prevent their movement. They disturb wildlife habitats and affect natural processes, which in turn may have long-term implications for wildlife such as genetic drift.According to the ministry report, National Highway-7 stretch between Maharashtra and Nagpur, that passes through Kanha-Pench wildlife corridor sees an average traffic volume of 452 vehicles/hour, comprising of all kinds of vehicles. As per the report, a death zone, where 375-600 cars pass per hour, only about 25% of the animals will be able to cross.In sections of the highway where more than 600 cars pass per hour, animals are largely repelled from crossing, preventing them from moving to newer habitats.The report has recommended that on sharp bends and high-speed networks where applying brakes is not possible, railway tracks should be be barricaded while giving access to elephants at other locations.Dna had reported earlier this month that more than 400 railway trains (passenger and goods) pass through the country’s sensitive wildlife habitats.

Buffer zone for Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve declared

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Maharashtra has finally declared an area of 1241.27 sq km as a Buffer Zone of Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve for the purpose of ensuring that the Critical Tiger Habitat (CTH) or core has adequate area for dispersal of tigers and other species as well as promoting co-existence between wildlife and humans.The notification issued by the Revenue and Forests Department, dated September 7, has been welcomed by wildlife activists. The process had been going on for two to three years now and will prove to be a major catalyst in wildlife conservation as well as livelihood of villages falling in this buffer zone.“This is a big relief! With the buffer zone being declared, the wildlife management plan will be applicable to the buffer area as well as to people from the 186 villages that fall in the zone, who will be a part of the eco development committee, which will make them a part of various schemes and initiatives to help reduce their dependence on the forest,” said Prafulla Bhamburkar, Wildlife expert and central India adviser of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) adding that the buffer includes area from both Bhandara and Gondia District.Bhamburkar said that the part of the newly declared buffer zone that is with the Territorial and Forest Development Conservation of Maharashtra (FDCM) at present, will soon be handed over to the wildlife department and all activities including teak plantation and felling will be stopped.Currently of the total 1241.27 sq km declared as buffer zone, 648.68 sq.km is forest area and 592.59 sq.km falls under non-forest area. Wildlife conservationist and director of The Corbett Foundation (TCF), Kedar Gore, shared that the move will go a long way in effective protection of critical tiger habitat. “Wildlife department will now ensure that the buffer is managed efficiently and there will be habitat improvement that will lead to increase in prey base for tigers that leave the core and move towards the buffer. Also the tigers in the buffer zone of Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger reserve will have better protection,” he said.Gore further added, “The forest department will need to sensitize the villegers that the villages that fall in the buffer zone will not be uprooted since there are several miscreants with vested interests who begin spreading rumours to cause discontent. ”A senior forest official said that this was a long pending move. “While there is no doubt that this will help in wildlife conservation since buffer helps in creating vital tiger corridors, one should not forget the positive impact of this on the community. Eco tourism activities can be arranged to help the local villagers along with schemes to benefit them,” said the official.

Tiger safari proposal in Corbett National Park red flagged, Uttarakhand asked to comply with wildlife norms

The Centre has red flagged a proposed tiger safari project in Uttarakhand’s Corbett National Park and asked the state government to first comply with wildlife norms.It cited the central government’s recent decision to stop tiger safari project in Madhya Pradesh’s Pench National Park citing alleged violation of rules. The Uttarakhand forest department had in August last year sought permission of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, to start a tiger safari inside the famous national park.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The NTCA has asked the Uttarakhand government to take prior permission from Central Zoo Authority (CZA).
ALSO READ Stop tiger safari in ‘Mowgli land’: Centre to Madhya Pradesh govtIt may also be looked into that if the proposal is in conformity with and as per tiger conservation plan prepared for Corbett reserve, said a letter by the NTCA to the state, a copy of which was received in reply to an RTI query filed by wildlife activist Ajay Dubey.On the issue of the safari in the Pench National Park, the NTCA had said that it exposes tigers to poaching. The Madhya Pradesh forest department had failed to take prior approval from the CZA before construction of tiger safari there, it said.
ALSO READ Relocate people in tiger reserve within time frame: Panel to CentreThe tiger population in the country was estimated at 1,706 in 2010. It rose to 2,226 in 2014. Uttarakhand ranks second –after Karnataka–in tiger population in the country. It has an estimated 340 tigers, as per the latest government data.

The Draft Wetlands Rules aim to protect India’s wetlands. But is this the best way?

The “fishing cat” is a lesser-known, small wild cat. As its name suggests, it feeds on fish — primarily found in water bodies like wetlands, swamps, rivers etc. Already classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the fishing cat — and several other species — could be severely imperiled if the proposed Draft Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016, replacing the previous Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010, is implemented by the Ministry of Environment , Forests and Climate Change.

“The way we treat our wetlands shows how civilised a society we are; and the way we treat our planet, especially water, says a lot about the way we are as humans,” says Shomita Mukherjee, a scientist with the Salim Ali Center for Ornithology (SACON), who has worked on fishing cats.

The ministry’s deadline for comments on the Draft Wetlands Rules, 2016, closed on 6 June. However, the changes proposed in this draft have ecologists, wildlife scientists, environmental activists and legal experts very concerned. Further, these experts believe that the DWR needs to be looked at in the larger context of what the current government has been doing in terms of environmental legislation.

Chilika Lake. Image from FacebookChilika Lake. Image from Facebook

Chilika Lake. Image from Facebook

Parineeta Dandekar, ‎the associate coordinator for South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People says, “There is complete reluctance to protect wetlands, and some of the gaps in the proposed rules are absolutely shocking. For instance, how are Ramsar wetlands (wetlands notified as per the Ramsar Convention, 1971) going to be managed, how are transboundary wetlands going to be managed, who exactly is going to manage them? The forest department? It raises too many questions. The Draft is a half-hearted attempt to replace the previous one from 2010, it needs to be redone completely.”

Environmentalists claim there are multiple issues with the DWR. The main bone of contention is the doing away of the Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority, which notifies and regulates wetlands. Although the CWRA’s term ended on 31 March 2015, it wasn’t reconstituted. Instead a new National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems (NPCA) was formed, integrating two previous programmes to avoid duplication of responsibilities.

On the occasion of the World Wetland Day on 2 February, Prakash Javdekar, the central environment minister said the NPCA would provide the policy framework and support to the States. However, the NPCA guidelines are yet to be formulated.

The new proposed rules mean wetlands can now come under the purview of state governments. Ironically, only a handful of states even have a functioning State Level Wetland Authority and no new wetlands have been notified since the previous rules came into inception. Activists believe this doesn’t augur well for the wetlands as giving the state governments the authority to regulate wetlands will make them only more susceptible to developmental pressures.

The concerns seem justified when you note that according to studies by SACON, India has lost 38 percent of its wetlands from 1991 to 2001 alone. The main threats to their survival are hydro power projects, reclamation and encroachment by the construction lobby, habitat loss and pollution, mainly in urban areas.

The other main issue the DWR has left out, is the participation of local people, living around the water bodies. Good examples of wetland preservation — like the Chilika lake in Orissa and Vembanad Kol lake in Kerala — have been successful due to the empowerment of people dependent on the lakes. The Draft Regulatory Framework, 2008 was considered a very nuanced document at it classified wetlands in different categories and it included people right down to the zilla parishad level. The DWR, however, has the chief minister(s) of the states heading the State Level Wetland Authority, which will includes 12 other bureaucratic civil servants — leaving out experts from various fields like hydrology, ecology, etc. It is an unnecessary additional responsibility on an already overburdened state machinery which will surely be found wanting in executing guidelines for protection of wetlands.

The present proposed rules have also poorly defined what constitutes a wetland. Agricultural fields, river catchments, and even man-made structures are left out from the definition of wetlands. This can have severe repercussions for animals, birds and the communities directly dependent on such resources.

“The role of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has been removed, this gives the Draft a very weak legal standing,” says Sampurna Behura of Reach Law. According to R Shreedhar, Environics Trust, such a move is a disguise to push the ease-of-doing-business agenda of the current government. This can have not only serious implications on conservation of a resource as common as wetlands but also take the bite out of deterrents aimed at vested interests that might abuse these water bodies. Blatant construction on wetlands across cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata has adversely impacted their hydrology, causing grave man-made floods and water crisis for their populations. Behura cautions that with no appellate body and right to grievance, the penalty for abuse of wetlands will be akin to meagre pollution penalties.

“Wetlands are like sponges, they give life to everybody. Life evolved out of water, if we neglect water, what will be left of us?” says Goldin Quadros, a wetland scientist with SACON.

Representational image. Naresh Sharma/FirstpostRepresentational image. Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

Representational image. Naresh Sharma/Firstpost

In an urbanised world, wetlands are the most productive ecological system. About 6 lakh people depend on Bhopal lakes for water supply. Laktak in Manipur provides livelihoods to more than one lakh fisherfolk while Chilika does to two lakh. The same amount depend on the Vembanad Kol for irrigation. Wetlands’ soils may contain as much as 200 times more carbon than the vegetation it supports, thus sequestering large amounts of carbon and regulating microclimate of their areas.
Wetlands such as the mangroves and floodplains also form an important physical barrier against natural disasters like cyclones. Many villages around the Bhitarkanika in Orissa that had intact mangrove forests are considerably less impacted by the effects of periodic cyclones. Many such highly useful benefits of wetlands render them an indispensible part of any ecosystem.

Sangai, an endangered endemic deer species found only in Manipur live in the marshy wetlands of the southern part of the Loktak lake. It is almost entirely dependent on the lake for its survival, just like the fishing cat. Sarus cranes, black necked cranes, Gangetic river dolphins, the Indian mud turtle and numerous threatened species of birds and fauna, feed (off) and live in and around wetlands. It is the only resource apart from rivers that is found across India — from the high altitudes of trans-Himalayas, to the forests of the North-East, the deserts of Kutch and the coasts of peninsular India.

Though the opening lines of the DWR 2016 begins promisingly for the wetlands: “Central Government considers it necessary to supersede the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010 for effective conservation and management of the wetlands in the country” — it might perhaps be best to do away with it completely in its present form, and develop instead, a progressive set of rules involving various stakeholders and experts. This of course, is if it wants to practice what it preaches — not only for the benefit of the communities but also animals dependent on these natural kidneys of our planet.

Here’s it, first proof on presence of Eurasian Otters in India

For the first time in history of India’s wildlife conservation, the near threatened Eurasian Otters have been discovered and captured on camera in Satpura Tiger Reserve and in the Kanha-Pench wildlife corridor, confirming presence of these elusive creatures in the country. The photo evidence was obtained between November, last year and February when Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) and the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department (MPFD) undertook a joint camera trapping study across 58 sq.kms in Satpura Hill Range and Kanha-Pench corridor.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Otters are elusive creatures that are one of apex species in the wetlands and river ecosystems, feeding largely on fishes. In India, three species – the smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata), Asian small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinerea) and the Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) – are found. The Eurasian Otter is spread across Europe, Africa and Asia and the IUCN has listed it as near threatened on its red list. According to experts, the species has either gone extinct from several regions or it has been reduced to small isolated populations. Except for Europe, there is lack of data on population status and distribution of this species from the rest of the world.”After we obtained the evidence through camera trapping, we followed up with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and confirmed that the photographs were indeed first proof of the presence of Eurasian Otters from India. The otters were found in highland streams in the Satpura reserve,” said Milind Pariwakam, wildlife biologist, central Indian landscape programme, WCT. Camera trapping involves installation of cameras equipped with motion sensor or infrared sensor to capture animal photographs inside deep forests. Wildlife researchers commonly use the technology to establish presence of animals and collect evidence.According to Madhya Pradesh forest department, the presence of Eurasian Otters is also a heartening confirmation of the thriving rivers and streams found in Satpura ranges and in the Kanha-Pench corridor. “This is an exciting discovery that was made as part of the study on tigers in these forests. It is an indication of a healthy ecosystem and biodiversity,” said Ramesh Pratap Singh, former field director, Satpura Tiger Reserve and additional principal chief conservator of forest, wildlife protection.Apart from the Eurasian Otter, the smooth-coated otter is the most abundant and widely distributed in India while the Asian small-clawed is patchily distributed and is found in Himalayan foothills in northern India, parts of Eastern Ghats and in southern Western Ghats.To illustrate the magnitude of the discovery, WCT said in a statement, “These new photo-records extends their geographical range to central India. The discovery of the Eurasian Otter in the Satpura Tiger Reserve proves the value of large inviolate protected areas in conserving bio-diversity. The presence of the rare species in the Kanha Pench corridor also proves the value of connected landscapes for highly endangered species such as gaur, wild dogs, leopards and now the Eurasian Otter.”Satpura Tiger Reserve, established in 1999 and located in Hoshangabad district, Madhya Pradesh, is spread across 2133 sq.kms and includes Pachmarhi wildlife sanctuary, Satpura national park and Bori wildlife sanctuary. The reserve is home to nearly 30 tigers, leopards, jackal, otters, sambar, chital, gaur, Indian Giant squirrel, Indian flying squirrel and 31 species of reptiles. The vegetation is of moist deciduous forest type, teak, mixed forest and sal.

In Jammu and Kashmir, animals too fall prey to ‘enforced’ disappearances

Srinagar: In the conflict-ridden Kashmir valley, it is not people alone who go missing. Animals too are now falling prey to ‘enforced’ disappearances and a case in hand is a Hangul, an endangered Kashmir red stag that had been tagged with a satellite collar by wildlife scientists in 2013.

The decision to fit satellite collars on a group of Hangul at Dachigam Park was taken to find out the causes of extinction of the species, but ironically, the lone sample for the research remains untraced. It is being widely speculated that the Hangul died due to strangulation or a possible infection in its neck because the collar had been fixed too tightly. The probable death of the Hangul has also spurred a controversy on the use of radio gadgets on animals. There are no traces of the Hangul and officials have been maintaining silence over the issue.

The collaring was meant to enable satellite telemetry of the animal and provide in-depth knowledge on lesser known aspects of Hangul biology, behaviour and ecology. The cost of the project is pegged at approximately Rs 70 lakh.

Hangul in Jammu and Kashmir. Reuters

Hangul in Jammu and Kashmir. Reuters

“It has come to our knowledge that the Hangul fitted with collar has died in the initial months of the research, and has not survived due to the reasons best known to the scientists,” a wildlife expert said. He said that the satellite collar was tightly fixed around the Hangul’s neck. It is a farce that one Hangul lost its life due to negligence of the officials at a time when the species is already facing extinction due to shrinkage of habitat, official apathy and lack of effective scientific intervention for its survival.

The skeleton of Hangul has not been found so far. “The collared Hangul seems to have migrated to some inaccessible destination where neither the radio waves nor the satellite signals work,” former chief biologist, Department of Wildlife J&K, Dr Mir Mansur, said. He said regardless of which telemetry system was selected, potential effects on Hangul’s normal behaviour must have been considered whenever an animal was handled or instrumented. “Adverse effects from capturing and radio-tagging an animal may have short to long term impact and in some cases, it may prove fatal,” Mansur said. He said there was a technical fault in installing the collar besides disparity in choosing the sample for the study. “Technically, I can affirm that the way the collar was installed onto the animal, it clearly indicates that the Hangul is ether strangulated or has died of infection,” he said. “One Hangul as a sample doesn’t justify the study either.”

After tagging a lone Hangul in 2013, the scientists had later said they would tag eight more Hanguls with satellite collars at Dachigam Park. They claimed to have gained an insight into the behaviour of the highly-endangered animal. The satellite monitoring of Hangul has been carried out by the Centre for Mountain Wildlife Sciences of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Shuhama, in collaboration with Jammu Kashmir Wildlife Protection Department and Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.

“As far as the Hangul project is concerned, researchers haven’t come up with periodical findings and it is because the Hangul is either dead or we have to go by the claims of the researchers,” former Regional Wildlife Warden, Kashmir, Muhammad Shafi Bacha said. He said the Wildlife department in Kashmir “has gone to dogs”.

“There is no rationalisation of the finances issued to the stakeholders. Similar is the case with researches carried out at the department,” Bacha said. “I am working on the census of the Hangul population and the picture is worrying.”

Principal investigator of the project, Dr Khursheed Ahmad, informed that in 2013, an adult male Hangul was tagged with GPS satellite collar and then monitored on a regular basis through real-time satellite link by the scientists. The monitoring enabled scientists to study the animal’s movement, seasonal foraging patterns and other behaviour since 2013. Ahmad said the earlier research on tracking by satellites had given insight not only about the expanse of the park traversed by Hanguls but also on how they avoid certain areas which they see unsafe due to human interference.

He said the research would facilitate better management of these endangered species within its last abode and help scientists plan some future projects. “Collaring gives us an exact data about the subject, its habitation and things that we are working on. In the past, we relied on humans studying the animal behavior and their movements, but now technology gives us more accurate and diverse results,” Dr Khursheed said.

Dachigam National Park, the last habitat of the Hangul, is a 141-sq km multi-terrain expanse near Srinagar starting from the foothills of Zabarwan mountain range to the high-altitude ridges and lakes toward Nagaberan, Tral. “The operation has to be so effective that an animal does not realize what has happened to it and it is vital that it is fitted with the collar quickly and allowed to rejoin its herd,” Dr Khursheed said.

Officials at SKUAST feigned ignorance about the data and assessment of the Hangul project. “I think we have got the data regarding the Hangul project. It has been over two years now. The project should have been completed by now,” Director Research, SKUAST-K, Dr Muhammad Shafi Wani said. About the suspected collar killing issue, Wani said the Hangul may have been eaten up by wild animals in the woods. “We completed the study on that Hangul but I don’t know what happened to the animal afterward,” he said.

Hangul is the only Asiatic survivor of the red deer specie, which was declared a critically engendered species in the Red List of The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) in 1996 and also listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to which India is a signatory. Presently, the animal has lost its conservation status in the IUCN Red list of the species. However, Hangul, being the State animal of the Jammu Kashmir, is protected as Schedule 1 specie under both Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978.

Minister for Forest, Environment and Ecology, Chaudhary Lal Singh said conservation of the State animal (Hangul) was a priority for PDP-BJP coalition government. “This is a serious matter and it will be proved,” he said. “I will personally meet the officials and get the figures about it.” Singh said his government was “serious” about the conservation of wildlife animals in the state. “I am planning a trip to all these areas in order to get the report about various matters pertaining to wildlife,” he said. The former Forest Minster, Bali Bhagat, had ordered a probe into the issue, however nothing concrete came up.

The minister put the population of Hangul in Kashmir region at around 200. In the world of wildlife conservation, use of radio telemetry is nothing new. It gives valuable data on animal behavioural patterns from a distance without disturbing their natural movements. Experts and researchers believe that radio collars play a crucial role when it comes to conserving endangered or threatened species. However, they believe there was something intrinsically wrong with these gadgets, trusted by the wildlife scientists for over three decades.

Pertinently, the minister informed the legislators during an ongoing Budget session in summer capital Srinagar that for preservation and safety of Hangul, the Government has submitted a project report of Rs 25.72 crore to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests for approval. He said the plan provides conservation, completion of construction and maintenance of conservation Breeding Centre as well as other provisions like veterinarian, research fellows, plan, training and Red Deer breeding expertise consultancy etc. The Minister informed that as per records Shikargah is part of Tral-Cum-Khiram Rakh under the J&K Preservation Act-1942. He said these are deemed to be conservation reserves under J&K Wild Life Protection Act-1978. He said for conservation of Hangul, construction of an off-display Hangul Conservation Breeding Centre was taken up in 2008-09, which continued upto 2011-12 with the assistance of Central Zoo Authority of India.

There are too many questions about the issue, but not many answers. Developed in the US in early 1960s, radio collars were first used in India by the Bombay Natural History Society to study elephants and by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to observe behaviour and movement pattern of lions in Gujarat’s Gir forest in the mid 1980s.

Activists who are already worried over the Hangul mortality rate in Kashmir are not ready to accept the red stag’s death “for the sake of research”. They are raising the question whether radio collars are to blame for animals’ death.

“We had already highlighted this important single case of Hangul with collar. We demand an FIR must be filed under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978 against all involved in this act. As an environmental lawyer, I will write to the Chief Minister and Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and seek a detailed inquiry into the issue and also follow up action,” environmental lawyer and Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Law, Nadeem Qadri said.

MoEF panel asks Jharkhand to examine alleged violations at India’s oldest uranium mine in Jaduguda

An expert forest panel of the union environment ministry has sought a detailed report on alleged violation of forest conservation Act and mining lease at India’s oldest uranium mine in Jaduguda, East Singhbhum in Jharkhand, operating since 1967, ministry documents show. It has also deferred the Uranium Corporation of India Limited’s (UCIL) application for renewal of forest clearance that is required to operate the mine on 135 hectares of forest land, with 100 hectares of underground mining and the rest overground. The forest land, though not part of any protected wildlife area is a part of the Singhbum elephant reserve.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The UCIL is a public-sector enterprise under the Department of Atomic Energy and is responsible for mining uranium ore that is processed and fed to the country’s nuclear power plants.The regional chief conservator of forest, Jamshedpur, had submitted on record that in 2014, UCIL operated the mines even after the expiry of mining lease in violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, and had directed UCIL to stop all work on forest land. Accordingly, the divisional forest officer, Jamshedpur directed UCIL to stop mining on forest land. The panel noted that mining lease was granted for a period of twenty years between 1997 and 2007 but later, it could not get the lease renewed. UCIL though has claimed that Deparment of Mines and Geology, Jharkhand, has granted mining lease renewal up to 2027. Senior UCIL officials could not be reached for a comment.The expert panel while deferring recommendation for forest clearance has asked the state government to submit a report on violation of lease within two weeks along with present status of forest land in the proposed area.The panel has also asked the state authorities to clarify on the discrepancy in the dates of lease renewal and specify the period of which the mine was operating without a valid lease in violation of Forest Conservation Act, 1980.In addition to this, the state government has to also examine and submit a detailed report on under what authority UCIL was allowed to carry out the mining operations without approval of the ministry, collection of penal compensatory afforestation and additional net present value.As per UCIL’s website it is currently operating six underground mines in Bagjata, Jaduguda, Bhatin, Narwapahar, Turamdih and Mohuldih and one open pit mine Banduhurang in Jharkhand. Ore from these mines is processed in two plants at Jaduguda and Turamdih. The company is constructing a new underground mine and process plant at Tummalapalle in Andhra Pradesh and as part of its expansion is setting up new mines and in Karnataka, Telanagana nd Meghalaya.Submit report in 2 weeksThe expert panel while deferring recommendation for forest clearance has asked the state government to submit a report on violation of lease within two weeks along with present status of forest land in the proposed area. The panel has also asked the state authorities to clarify on the discrepancy in the dates of lease renewal and specify the period of which the mine was operating without a valid lease in violation of Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

Meet Mayur Kamath, the man who saved 1,000 fishes

When Mayur Kamath, a Vasai-based naturalist, visited an ancient temple in his locality, he saw the 100-year-old pond there had dried up because of the searing heat. The naturalist in him immediately thought of something alraming. The plight of the aquatic life in it was such that several of them were stuck in dried silt or even dying.The pond was home to hundreds of fish. “On speaking to temple authorities, I learnt that this was for the first time that the pond has dried up,” he said. Kamath and other animal lovers plunged into rescue mode.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On April 6, they launched the first operation and saved 1,000 local fishes. Eighty turtles were also saved. Out of this, 41 were Schedule I species like Indian Flapshell, Brown Roof Turtle, Spotted Indian Turtle and others.There were also exotic turtles like Red-Eared Sliders and others kept as pets. They might have have been dumped in the waterbody by their owners, Kamath said.Some 50 big fishes, including small sharks and others, mostly kept in aquarium, were also netted.”Right from the start, we knew this was going to be a tough work. So we used nets to catch the fish while turtles were caught by hand. Lot of silt had accumulated in the pond over the years and it was drying up due to heat,” said Kamath, who is an honorary wildlife warden for Mumbai and state wildlife board member.He was joined by members of his NGO – Wildlife Images and Reflections – local fisherfolks, forest officials and members of Wildlife Conservation And Animal Welfare Association.”During the second operation on Sunday, we rescued 44 more turtles and all the indigenous species have been released into the wilderness. All exotic ones have been kept separately as the law prohibits them from being released. Hence, they will be released in the same waters once the pond gets enough water in the monsoon,” said Kamath. Both operations lasted 10 hours each.Thane-based Vaibhav Vedak, a volunteer, said that the whole operation was extremely gruelling and risky. “We were in knee-deep muck with all kinds of trash, including broken bottles, clothes, plastic, nails and most of us got some injuries or the other. We had to pull out these fishes and turtles from the muck. Since we saved so many lives, all efforts were worth it,” he said.While the team rescued most of the aquatic life in the waterbody, they are even planning to take up another rescue operation soon. Volunteers are invited.Rescue operation in VasaiRescue Operation 1-April 6Local fishes- 1,000Big fishes, including those kept in aquariums- 50Indian turtles- 41Exotic turtles- 39Rescue Operation 2 – April 17Indian turtles-32Exotic turtles-12

Maharashtra: Pankaja Munde clicks selfies in drought-hit Latur, faces flak for ‘insensitivity’

Maharashtra’s Rural Development and Water Conservation Minister Pankaja Munde who visited Latur to monitor the drought situation on Sunday, faced severe flak after she posted selfies on Twitter from the parched district in Maharashtra, which is battling its worst drought ever.In a series of tweets, Pankaja Munde said, “Water n draught is not sensational issue… hats off to Miraj people for satisfying thirst of latur..here in latur feel good cud keep promise.” (sic)<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In another tweet, Munde posted selfies saying, “Selfie with trench of said barrage Manjara ..one relief to latur.”
ALSO READ No drought for high & mighty’s gardens in LaturMunde also visited the Sia Bandara site and said, “Trying to complete ongoing #JalyuktShivar projects before monsoon with proper planning from hill top to plains.”However, Congress party spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi slammed Pankaja Munde and tweeted, “Speechless. Chullu bhar pani for our insensitive mantris? #Selfieism #drought”BJP’s ally Shiv Sena has also termed the pictures as unfortunate, saying they could have been avoided. Several people on Twitter also accused Munde of finding a photo opportunity in the drought-hit district.A few days ago, Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse also faced flak after thousands of litres of water was reportedly used for a make-shift helipad at a village where he landed for reviewing the drought situation in Latur district.

Asia tiger conservation conference: India to help Cambodia in restoring fauna to their forests

New Delhi: The third Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation concluded on Thursday with the 13 Tiger Range Countries adopting a resolution reasserting their commitment to the Global Tiger Recovery Programme (GTRP).

Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar said the ‘New Delhi Resolution on Tiger Conservation’ will help strengthen the commitment of the member countries toward the “Global Tiger Summit” resolution adopted in 2010 at St. Petersburg, Russia — which was to double the tiger population by 2022.

“Restoration, Reintroduction and Rehabilitation is needed to increase tiger population in low density areas,” Javadekar said. According to a report in The Hindu, Sokhun TY, Secretary of State, Ministry of Agricultue, Forestry and Fisheries, Cambodia said that talks are in place about taking six female tigers and two males from India in order to replenish the Cambodian forests.

Artem Sidorov, head of the Federal Supervisory Natural Resources Management Service, Russia said, “We understand that our common goals and compliance still exists.”

“This resolution must not be limited to the respective ministries of environment or forest only. It’s ambit must be broadened and other departments must be included,” said Chencho Norbu, director general of Department of Forest and Park Services, Bhutan.

AFPAFP

Countries resolve to increase tiger population. AFP

The minister said there is need to align development and tiger conservation through participation of locals and other stakeholders.

“We believe in partnership with local communities because they are the real protectors,” said Javadekar.

He added, “India is ready to help non-tiger countries to develop tiger habitats.”

“We have tigers, they have money,” he said.

Answering a question on the tiger parts trade in China, through its several ‘tiger farms’, he said that China has its own legal framework and “we respect that”.

He also stressed to include non-tiger countries, with rich bio-diversity, in the next conference, to be held two years later. The venue of the conference had not been decided yet.

“Strengthen co-operation at the highest levels of government to combat wildlife crime, address the demand for tiger products and increase formal and informal trans boundary coordination,” the resolution stated.

The resolutions adopted also stressed on accelerated implementation of the GTRP, mutual and systematic reporting of the census, integrating tiger and wildlife safeguards in infrastructure at the landscape level, leverage funding and technical support from international organisations and financial institution in addition to the tiger range country governments.

Providing ecosystem services to the tiger reserves, emphasising the tiger recovery growth in the areas with low tiger densities, knowledge sharing and capacity development for all stakeholders and increase in the use of technology were also part of the resolution adopted.

During the three-day conference, representatives from the earlier 13 Tiger Range Countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, India, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russian Federation, Thailand and Vietnam as well as the two new ones of Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan participated. The two new countries gained entry for the Snow Leopard.

While several Tiger Range Countries like India, Nepal, Russia and Bhutan have registered an increase in tiger population, the status of tiger remains ‘endangered’, and has declined to ‘non-viable’ level in some range countries, a cause for concern. India is home to 70 percent of the world’s tigers.

According to the latest figures, Bangladesh has 106 tigers, Bhutan 103, Cambodia nil, China seven, India 2,500, Indonesia 371, Lao PDR two, Malaysia 250, Nepal 198, Russia 433, Thailand 189 and Vietnam less than five tigers in the wild.

with inputs from IANS

India willing to cooperate with any country to re-introduce tigers

The Environment Ministry on Thursday expressed its readiness to help non-tiger countries with re-introduction and conservation of the animal in the wild through cooperation “in all aspects” which may include lending the big cats for breeding.”India is willing to cooperate with any country which does not have or has lost its tiger population in the course of history. India is ready to help non-tiger countries to create tiger habitat, capacity building and training,” Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said at the concluding session of 3rd Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation here.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In the three-day conference, ministers from 13 tiger range countries and conservationists from across the world took stock of tiger conservation programmes and signed the Delhi Resolution to ensure conservation of tiger in the wild and their habitats.
ALSO READ India home to nearly 2,500 tigers representing 70% of global population of big cat species”This conference has produced a very good resolve among all the 13 countries and it has laid out a clear cut roadmap of how to move ahead,” Javadekar said.Under the resolution, the countries have resolved to accelerate implementation of tiger recovery programmes through mutual cooperation and evaluation, aligning development and tiger conservation in mutually complementary manner, leveraging funding and technical support, and enhancing importance of tiger habitats.The countries will also emphasise on recovery of tiger population in areas with low tiger density, cooperation of governments to combat wildlife crime and enhance knowledge sharing and capacity development, and increase the use of technology.

Royals feed orphaned rhinos

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge feed orphaned baby rhinos and elephants at a wildlife park in India, as they reveal why they left their children at home.

Prince William and Kate visit villages around Kaziranga

After a jeep safari inside the Kaziranga National Park, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Prince William and Kate Middleton on Wednesday visited villages around the famed park, the Kaziranga Discovery Centre and Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation.The royal couple after the jeep safari in the Bagori range of the Park visited Rong Terang Gaon, where the villagers have shifted their homes to create a corridor for elephants.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Duke and Duchess, dressed in casuals with the latter wearing jeans and a white and black polka shirt, took a keen interest in the measures taken by villagers to reduce man-elephant conflict.In the village, the couple first visited ‘Namghar’, the traditional prayer hall, where they entered after removing their shoes and kneeled down to bow before the altar housing the ‘nam-ghosa’ (the holy book). They then interacted with a group of local villagers and officials.The royal couple also visited the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (CWRC) at Panbari area where they were shown a documentary of man-elephant conflict across the state.The Duke and Duchess also visited Kaziranga Discovery Centre where The Mark Shand Asian Elephant Learning Centre is situated and were briefed about the activities of the Captive Elephant Clinic which completed 4,883 cases.Shand, a renowned travel writer and conservationist, was the co-founder of the Foundation of Elephant Family in 2002 and also the brother of Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla.

‘Doubling population by 2022 is unrealistic’: Wildlife expert Dr Karanth on the tiger population in the country

On Wednesday, newspapers across the world reported widely that the population of wild tigers had grown from 3,200 in 2010 to 3,800 in 2014 which has been steadily dwindling for 100 years.

Quoting a joint report from The World Wildlife Fund and The Global Tiger Forum the news came ahead of the three day International Union for Conservation of Nature Conference of 13 countries in New Delhi.

The WWF-GTF report should have brought much cheer to conservationists, however, world renowned conservation zoologist and leading tiger expert based in Bengaluru, Dr K Ullas Karanth, Director for Science-Asia for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), was quick to release a critical response to the WWF-GTF report.

Dr Ullas Karanth. Photo credit: Sandesh KadurDr Ullas Karanth. Photo credit: Sandesh Kadur

Dr Ullas Karanth. Photo credit: Sandesh Kadur

Stating that these were his personal views and may not reflect that of the WCS, Dr Karanth said, “The various country-wide, regional, and landscape level tiger numbers reported in the WWF-GTF report are not based on any estimates from intensive rigorous camera trap/DNA studies of source populations. They are predominantly based on various kinds of counts of tiger spoor or in some cases simple guesswork.”

He also stated, that “Some tiger numbers cited in the GTF-WWF report have been generated by demonstrably flawed statistical extrapolations. Consequently these numbers are not reliable or useful metrics for assessing the fate of wild tigers, unlike the rigorous methods.”

We reached out to Dr Karanth to find out more.

Firstpost: So does this report call for celebration or is it a call too soon?

Dr Karanth: Neither, these numbers are all derived using poor methods or in some cases, guesswork.

Firstpost: India has the best numbers — 2,226 tigers. Cambodia on the other hand has zero tigers. What did we do better than the other countries?

Dr Karanth: India certainly has more tigers than any other country, for the past 50 years we have invested more money, man power, and political backing for tiger conservation and the results are showing.

Firstpost: Has the tiger population really grown or is it that our survey methods are better? For instance you have pioneered the radio telemetry and also the Camera trapping techniques. How have these newer methods vis-à-vis pug mark method changed in the tiger population census?

Dr Karanth: Tiger population in India has grown from the lows of 1960s, but the growth is uneven across the country.

His response to the report clarified this further: Tiger ‘source populations’ that produce ‘surpluses’ occupy just 90,000 sq km of the remaining 1.2 million square kilometers of tiger habitat in the world. About 90 per cent of all surviving tigers are confined to small 7 per cent area, broken up into 40-50 source populations. Tigers will certainly go extinct if we fail to protect these. Because of this these source populations should be monitored using the most rigorous methods that employ camera trap/DNA surveys at advanced statistical models.

The Pugmark method was abandoned in 2005 and camera traps are being used increasingly now, although not always using the best statistical design or analyses. These aspects need more attention.

Firstpost: You and the Centre for Wildlife Society (CWS) have done a lot of work in the Nagerhole National Park and in saving the Bengal tiger. How did this work help in conservation and preservation of tigers?

Dr Karanth: The WCS supported work in Nagarahole for over 30 years and has many components: development of new methods to monitor tigers and prey; gathering basic knowledge about their biology using these methods, supporting fair voluntary relocation of people who want to move out of the reserve and citizen science to develop local conservation leaders. All these have delivered gains, I think.

Firstpost: What can we look forward to gaining at the upcoming 3 day International Union for Conservation of Nature Conference of 13 countries at Delhi?

Dr Karanth: Such tiger summits have been held regularly for the past 10 years at great cost to the tax-payer… I do not think they have been very useful in practical terms.

Firstpost: Whither 2022 and what are the goals you hope to achieve by then?

Dr Karanth: I do not believe the goal of doubling tiger numbers by 2022 is realistic. I hope the country will infuse more rigorous science into its already substantial investments in tiger conservation.

‘Focus of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has been on doing such advanced monitoring of number of key source populations across tiger range. Rigorous, intensive, long term camera trap studies conducted by WCS in India, Thailand and Russia show that tiger population recovery from depressed levels is a slow process, even in these relatively better protected sites. None of the populations have been observed to ‘double’ in 10 years, even under best of protection.

If that is the case, simple back of the envelope calculations show that to double global tiger numbers from 3200 tigers in 2012 within ten years, would necessarily require increases of 27 per cent per year in ‘sink landscapes’.
This does not appear to be a realistic goal.

Firstpost: Predators are increasingly appearing in human habitats like the recent incidents of a leopard getting into school in Bangalore and a tiger that was killed in Nagaland. With increasing encroachment of forest land, how can we prevent these kinds of human-animal conflict for habitat and right to life?

Dr Karanth: Tigers are at high densities and producing surpluses in some well protected reserves, so such conflicts are inevitable on the edges and need to be managed scientifically so that local people living around the reserves do not turn hostile to them.

The notion that these tigers are coming out because there is no food for them inside is not correct. If there is no prey, tigers cannot raise cubs and the population dwindles.

Tiger population has increased to ‘nearly 2500’ claims Prakash Javadekar

Union minister for environment, forest and climate change Prakash Javadekar claimed on Tuesday that two years after the 2014 tiger estimation study concluded that there 2,226 tigers in the country, their numbers are increased to approximately 2,500. Javadekar said, “Last two years, the number is rising and our rough estimate at this moment is that we have nearly 2500 tigers.” Javadekar was speaking ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 3rd Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While claiming that tiger numbers have shown an upward trend, Javadekar did not specify which tiger reserves in the country have registered a rise in numbers.When dna spoke on the issue to Bishan Singh Bonal, additional director general (Project Tiger) and member secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), he said, “After estimating population of tigers in Phase-III of tiger monitoring programme tiger reserves across each state are to monitor tiger populations using camera trap images in Phase-IV. States like Maharashtra have done a study across almost all of their tiger reserves and this exercise helps to confirm existence or increasing trends and you can extrapolate.”The estimation of tigers and their monitoring happens in four phases. They are divided into assessment of tiger, co-predators, prey and habitat in tiger states once in every four years using the double sampling method, assimilation of spatial and attributes data, estimation of population and its prey and in Phase-Iv states are to monitor the tiger population using camera traps to maintain a databse.The minister’s claims though seems to be based only on limited data and especially from states where extensive camera trapping exercises have been carried out while leaving out tiger reserves that have shown a downward trend. A wildlife biologist and activist who has worked on camera trapping in Maharashtra and other states following the 2014 estimation said that the claims seem to only show an incomplete picture.”One has to take the claims with a pinch of salt. Only Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka have carried out significant camera trapping exercises following the 2014 estimation and these states have always had healthy tiger populations. There are states such as Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha where populations are showing downward trends and even that needs to be accounted for before extrapolating that there is an increase in numbers,” the activist said on the condition of anonymity.The global conference also saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressing the need to end trafficking of wildlife body parts. “Demand for body parts and wildlife trafficking is a major threat to this magnificent animal. We need to co-operate on this serious issue at the highest level and India has zero tolerance against wildlife crimes such as poaching,” said PM Modi.

What is wrong with India’s tiger management?

On January 20 last year, wildlife lovers were thrilled when the 2014 tiger estimation study said that tiger population in India had risen 30% from 1,706 in 2010 to 2,226 across 47 reserves.A decade ago, their numbers were dwindling each week. But 27 tiger deaths and approval of many development projects in key tiger corridors and reserves have raised questions about tiger management.On Tuesday (today), the 3rd Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation, with the participation of 13 countries, will share the best practices on tiger conservation. India is considering loaning out tigers to other countries where theirnumbers are in single digits.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>According to official data there have been 27 tiger deaths and 11 instances of tiger bone-and-skin seizures.Officials dna spoke to said that the deaths were caused by a host of reasons like poisoning, poaching, territorial fights, and, in a few instances, old age. Of the 27 deaths, nine were recorded in Madhya Pradesh alone.Of the 27, the first 10 days of April itself saw three tiger deaths across Chandrapur (Maharashtra), Ranthambore (Rajasthan) and Bandhavgarh(Madhya Pradesh).While the Centre’s data pegs tiger mortality and seizures at 27 and 11, respectively, the WPSI, founded by veteran conservationist Belinda Wright, maintains that there were 21 tiger mortalities and 26 cases of poaching and seizures.When a tiger is found dead with body parts intact, it is prima facie qualified as mortality. At times, tigers are also killed in retaliation for human-wildlife conflict by poisoning them or electrocuting. But when a tigers body parts are missing and skins and bones are seized, they qualify as poaching.This year, the Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, the subject of Rudyard Kipling’s famous Jungle Book collection of stories, alone witnessed five tiger deaths, including the famous Nala Wali Baghin and her two cubs.”On January 2, a tiger drowned in a well. On January 31, we found the cub of tigress Collarwali dead. It looked that the tiger was injured in a fight. In the case of Nala Wali Baghin and her cubs, they were poisoned and further tests are being carried out,” said Shubhranjan Sen, field director, Pench Tiger Reserve.While across many reserves, officials cited territorial fights and natural causes as the reasons for tiger mortality, activists said that lack of transparency in investigations is worrying.”Once they list tiger deaths, the NTCA never reveals the results of post-mortem or their investigations. There is very little transparency,” said Milind Pariwakam, a wildlife biologist.A few other activists said that tiger reserves are not utilising funds to set up special teams for vigilance. “There is lack of monitoring, and preventive measures are lax. Special task forces have not been formed despite reminders from courts. The mining mafia across Madhya Pradesh is another threat,” said Ajay Dubey, a wildlife activist in Bhopal.Besides poaching, the Centre has drawn criticism for clearing big projects inside tiger reserves and corridors and activists have warned that severing these corridors will impact dispersal of tigers outside protected areas, increasing conflict.The National Highway Authority of India is widening the National Highway-7 through Kanha-Pench tiger corridor, considered India’s most crucial corridor. The Ken-Betwa river-linking project will submerge 58 sq km of the Panna Tiger Reserve and also fragment the tiger habitat. Another project, the Rio Tinto diamond mine, will wipe out 970 hectares of rich forests in Bunder in a region used by tigers to disperse outside protected areas.

Madhya Pradesh loses 16 tigers in last 12 months

Madhya Pradesh has lost nearly 16 tigers, including seven in Pench reserve, due to poaching and others reasons in the last one year.While an NGO blamed the state government for it, forest officials contended that most of the deaths were natural.”MP, which was once tagged as tiger state, has slipped to number three slot in the country in big cats count primarily due to the state government’s failure to protect the majestic beasts,” Ajay Dubey, who runs NGO Prayatna for protecting the feline, told PTI today.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Even after eight years, the Special Tiger Protection Force has not been formed in MP,” he said.”The conviction rate in tiger poaching is below 10 per cent in MP. The intelligence gathering regarding poaching is zero. No preventive arrest in regard to tiger poaching has been made in recent memory,” he contended.However, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Shahbaz Ahmad said, “The state government and forest department are doing their best to protect tigers. The killing of tigers is just negligible.”Maximum deaths of the big cats reported in the state were natural, he said.Ahmad said a few cases of electrocution and poisoning of tigers had come to light which were being dealt with severely.In some cases, people had laid traps to kill herbivores where the striped animals walked-in, he said.Efforts were also on to overcome man-animal conflict around the tiger reserves, he said.On the formation of Special Tiger Protection Force, Ahmad said it is under consideration of the state government.As per National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) official website, MP lost 16 tigers in the last 12 months.Seven deaths were reported from Pench Tiger Reserve, where a tigress along with its two cubs were poisoned in Satosha area last month, a senior official said, adding three persons were arrested in this connection.In September last year also, the Pench Tiger Reserve authorities arrested four poachers and recovered body parts of a big cat they had killed.”These poachers are being prosecuted,” Pench Reserve’s Director Shubranjan Sen told PTI.Besides, tiger deaths were also reported from Kanha Tiger Reserve, Bandhavgarh Reserve, Panna Tiger Reserve, Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary, Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve, a forest in Chhindwara district, Umaria-Shahdol district highway and Dewas, as per the NTCA website.The details of most of the deaths was awaited by NTCA, the website said.

Mine lease sparks Australia reef fears

Indian mining giant Adani is a step closer to building one of the world’s biggest coal mines in Australia, but still faces legal challenges from environmental and Indigenous groups.

ASI says Taj Mahal minaret pinnacle was taken down for repairs

The “missing” pinnacle of one of the minarets of Taj Mahal was brought down for repairs, ASI today said, putting at rest speculation on social media that it had “fallen off”.LIVE England vs New Zealand 1st Semi-Final T20, ICC World T20 2016, March 30, 2016″During repair and maintenance work, the pinnacle was found to be weak and showed clear signs of ageing. It was, therefore, brought down for repairs on Monday,” an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) official said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The iron rod of the pinnacle was rusty and weak and needed to be replaced, he said, adding that fresh mortar has to be filled to provide stability to the surface “which remains exposed to elements”.
ALSO READ Taj Mahal’s minaret pinnacle suffers damage, ASI being blamedSocial media was abuzz yesterday with talk that the pinnacle of one of the four minarets of the 17th century monument — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — had “fallen off” during repair work and was “in pieces”. Meanwhile, Conservation Assistant Ram Ratan today said that work has begun to restore the damaged pinnacle. Efforts would be made to re-install it within a week, another official said.’Mud pack therapy’ to remove dust particles and restore the lustre of the monument’s marble surface is continuing, Ratan said.

Environmental conservation efforts also have to address the developmental needs in Arunachal Pradesh: Pul

Itanagar:  Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Kalikho Pul has stressed on the need for striking balance between conservation of environment and development interest.

“Conservation of environment is always our top priority but development interest should also be taken care of,” Pul
said during a meeting with top forest officials on Monday in Itanagar.

The forest officials met him to discuss on the growing conflict between the rights of the people and the conservation created through protected areas, a CMO release informed on Tuesday.

A file photo of Kalikho Pul. PTIA file photo of Kalikho Pul. PTI

A file photo of Kalikho Pul. PTI

The chief minister pointed out that many protected areas in the state were created through arbitrary demarcation of the forest reserve violating the Wildlife Protection Act.

“The inhabitants in the area were not consulted and their consent was not obtained. Boundaries were demarcated sitting on a table with the lines running across settled villages and towns,” he said.

“As a result many big towns, villages, agriculture and jhum areas have come under the protected areas limiting the scope for taking up development projects,” he said noting that the scope to find possible ways for co-existence between wildlife habitats and human settlement were limited.

“Moreover, many of the protected areas are now barren lands without forest cover and wildlife. It is neither serving the purpose of conservation or development. So these are the areas where we hope to find a middle ground,” said Pul.

On the need to find a middle path, the chief minister said the state has to first address the key issues of development with respect to conservation.

“Arunachal cannot be looked only through the lens of environment conservation. With growing population and modernisation, there is growing pressure for socio-economic growth. So conservation efforts also has to address the developmental needs, else it will lead to conflict,” said Pul.

He hoped that if a successful compromise could be made and a middle path chosen where development and conservation could go hand-in-hand, it can be used as a model to open up larger areas for conservation- conscious developments in the state.

“We have low revenue base and our scope for trade with outside countries or state is limited as all our boundaries
are sealed. If we think of setting up industries, we have limited raw materials, labours and market within the state.

The only viable option we can think of is opening up of investment sector,” the chief minister added.

PTI

An airstrip inside Indravati tiger reserve and mine near Similipal reserve cleared by MoEF

At a time when the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is trying to improve the tiger habitat and their numbers in Chhattisgarh and Odisha, the union environment ministry’s wildlife board has cleared an air-strip in the buffer area of Indravati Tiger Reserve, Bijapur and also approved renewal of an iron mining license near the Similipal Tiger Reserve in the Badampahar reserved forest.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Compared to the states such as Madhya Pradesh or Maharashtra that have a high tiger population, Chhattisgarh and Odisha lag behind. While the Indravati tiger reserve serves as a crucial tiger corridor linking it to the Tadoba-Andhari tiger reserve in Maharashtra, the Similipal tiger reserve has seen a reduction Badampahar forests serve as a crucial elephant corridor.According to the 2014 all India tiger estimation report, Chhattisgarh has shown an increase in tiger numbers due to the first extensive assessment of Indravati Tiger Reserve but Odisha has shown a decline due to loss of tiger habitat.Official documents show that the airstrip inside buffer area of Indravati Tiger Reserve has been planned to counter left-wing extremism in the region. But interestingly, there was no discussion in the wildlife board meeting on the potential disturbance to wildlife due to operations at the air-strip, according to the minutes of the meeting.In fact, even the NTCA approved the project without much resistance. The wildlife board though has granted wildlife clearance with riders. The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has been told to work out a plan to reduce disturbance to wild animals and accident by vehicles as the air strip will be located close to the forest area.To distract animals from coming close to the air strip, creation of water bodies and development of grassland has to be taken up in buffer ranges of Bijapur. As compensation, Rs5 crore, the state government has to deposit Rs5 crore in the tiger conservation foundation.Meanwhile, independent experts in the wildlife board highlighted the importance Mayurbhanj Elephant Project close to the iron mine. It was suggested that adequate mitigation measures are needed for preventing human-elephant conflict As part of mitigation efforts the mining company M/s Lal Traders and Agencies has been asked to deposit 2 per cent of project cost or Rs.1 crore, whichever is lesser. The company has also been asked to fund a project on elephant dispersal from Similipal Tiger Reserve to adjoining landscapes.

Here’s Kaziranga story that’s not about poaching: Rangers rescue 12-day-old abandoned rhino

Bokakhat: Wearing a red and grey-striped blanket, a 12-day-old baby rhinoceros is bottle-fed by keepers at a wildlife rehabilitation centre in northeast India, after being found alone in a remote forest region.

Rangers from Kaziranga National Park found the rhino calf lying in a stream and abandoned by his mother in the Bagori forest range in Assam.

Dehydrated and in distress, the calf, a greater one-horned rhino, was brought to the nearby Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC), which cares for orphaned or displaced wild animals.

Indian veterinarian Panjit Basumatary(L)examines a 12 day-old male rhino calf at The Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation facility at Kaziranga National Park in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam on March 24, 2016. Wearing a red and grey-striped blanket, a 12-day-old baby rhinoceros is bottle-fed by keepers at a wildlife rehabilitation centre in northeast India, after being found alone in a remote forest region. AFPIndian veterinarian Panjit Basumatary(L)examines a 12 day-old male rhino calf at The Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation facility at Kaziranga National Park in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam on March 24, 2016. Wearing a red and grey-striped blanket, a 12-day-old baby rhinoceros is bottle-fed by keepers at a wildlife rehabilitation centre in northeast India, after being found alone in a remote forest region. AFP

Veterinarian Panjit Basumatary examines a 12 day-old male rhino calf at The Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation facility at Kaziranga National Park, Assam. AFP

Staff have begun hand-raising the rhino, bottle-feeding him milk replacement powder and vitamin supplements and allowing him to interact with other calves to reduce stress.

“When he came he was unable to walk properly, he was very weak and suffering from hypothermia,” Dr Panjit Basumatary, a veterinarian at the CWRC, told AFP.

“Now he is almost back to normal, another week or two of care and we think he should survive,” he said.

The baby rhino will be released into the wild when he is about three years old, the vet said, as he will be less vulnerable to being attacked by tigers or other wild animals.

Kaziranga National Park is home to two-thirds of the world’s greater one-horned rhinoceros population, according to the park’s website, as well as the highest density of tigers in a protected area.

Excessive hunting has left the Indian rhinoceros, which once roamed over wide swaths of the country, now classed as vulnerable, after its habitat was reduced dramatically.

The world’s fourth-largest land animal, it can weigh up to 3,000 kilos.

AFP

Hindustan Unilever agrees to settlement with former factory workers in Kodaikanal

Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) and the group representing ex-employees of the former thermometer factory in Kodaikanal on Wednesday announced that a settlement has been reached wherein the workers would be paid ex-gratia and other compensations, according to a report in The New Indian Express.

This comes after a massive protests and outrage online when a central government appointed committee found around 45 people had died and over 600 poisoned as a result of toxic dumping in the region.

Meanwhile, according to The Economic Times, SA Mahindra Babu, the president of the Pond’s HLL ex-Mercury Employees Welfare Association, welcomed the decision of settlement and said they were satisfied with the terms of the settlement.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The report added that the agreement, which was signed last Friday, has promised ex-gratia payments to 591 former factory workers at the factory, which will be used for “livelihood enhancement” and skill development programmes.

The former workers had filed a petition in the Madras High Court in February 2006 seeking economic rehabilitation, as per the Business Standard.

Mercury poisoning in Kodaikanal, a popular hill station about 530 km from Chennai, due to dumping of toxic waste by Unilever’s now-shut thermometer factory is one of the the most infamous cases of shirking of corporate social responsibility in India.

Pond’s moved the factory to India from the United States in the early 1980s and by 1987 Pond’s India and the Thermometer factory went to Hindustan Unilever. Around early 2000s, factory workers complained of health problems and many public interest groups, such as Greenpeace, alleged that the company wasn’t handling mercury, a highly potent metal, properly.

According to various reports, the company was directed to shut down in 2001 after Palani Hills Conservation Council and Greenpeace exposed the company’s attempt to sell glass contaminated with mercury to a scrap dealer and in 2003, 300 tonnes of contaminated waste was extracted.

In 2015, Sofia Ashraf, a Chennai-based rapper’s video telling Unilever to ‘clean up their mess’ and detox Kodaikanal had gone viral.

Make in India Lion irks Shiv Sena ‘tiger,’ faces ‘heritage’ objections

The blow-hot blow-cold relations between the BJP and the Shiv Sena have now arrived at another point of bickering. The latest flashpoint is the much-touted Make in India campaign in Mumbai, which was marred by the fire at Girgaum Chowpatty.

The Shiv Sena has complained to the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee against the lion mascot installations which have been put up across the city as part of the campaign, an Indian Express report has said. Civic officials are said to have claimed that four out of seven installations are at heritage sites in violation of legal restrictions-including Gateway of India, the BMC headquarters, Marine Lines and the Kilachand garden at Babulnath.

Earlier this week, too, the Sena had taken potshots at the Make in India event, saying that commercial agreements signed before the elections have not been honoured yet.

Image courtesy: makeinindia.comImage courtesy: makeinindia.com

Image courtesy: makeinindia.com

“The BJP had signed MoUs with 4 smaller parties of Mahadev Jankar, Sadabhau Khot, Ramdas Athawale and Raju Shetty. They were offered ministerial berths, corporations and promises to solve farmers’ issues were made. They were also promised respect in the government if they helped the BJP come to power. What happened to those MoUs?,” it asked.

“2,594 MoUs have been signed during the MII Week and Rs 3,25,000 crore worth investments have been promised for Mumbai-Konkan region, Rs 1,50,000 crore for Vidarbha region and Rs 25,000 crore for Khandesh. Also, Rs 50,000 crore will be invested in Pune.

“These figures may vary because like air is filled in balloons, investment figures are usually inflated,” Shiv Sena had said.

The Sena’s consternation against its alliance partner may have been compounded by the fact that its chief Uddhav Thackeray was not invited to any of the Make in India events held in Mumbai, as reported by Sanjay Sawant of Firstpost. One of these events was a gala dinner on 13 February where Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present.

A BJP leader was quoted as saying, “There would be guests from foreign countries and prime ministers from various countries like Sweden, Finland and Lithuania. It was not in the protocol to invite Uddhav Thackeray.”

The Sena and the BJP have even sparred over the colour of the lights at the iconic Marine Drive in South Mumbai. While the former bats for the yellow lights in the area-termed as the Queen’s necklace-the latter has favoured white LED lights, saying that they are energy efficient.

With the fire at Girgaum Chowpatty casting a dampener over the Make in India campaign in Maharashtra, it remains to be seen what the Shiv Sena’s stance will be in the days to come.

NGT clears decks for controversial Hubli-Ankola railway line in Karnataka

Decks have been cleared for the controversial Hubli-Ankola railway line, cutting across the eco-sensitive Western Ghats in Karnataka, with the National Green Tribunal giving its nod to Railways to approach the state government.The order assumes significance as Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) last year had disapproved the 168-km rail link project, conceived in 1998 primarily to transport iron ore from the Bellary-Hospet mines, and said that it would have “huge and irreparable” ecological impact on the forests, wildlife and biodiversity of the Western Ghats.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The controversy in the present case relates to conversion of forest land to a non-forest activity (construction of broad gauge railway line) for which total land of 965 hectares falling in Dharwad, Yellapur and Karwar forest divisions in Karnataka was required.The green panel said that to apply for conversion of forest land to a non-forest activity was a right available to the project proponent and the state government which has to be dealt with in accordance with law.”Under the provision of Section 2 of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 the State Government has to issue an order permitting such conversion with prior approval of the Central Government that is MoEF. We do not think that CEC even intended to allow or deny such right to the Project Proponent (Railways) but has expressed its view for non grant of such permission in terms of Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.”The principal apprehension was the environmental and ecological damage to the Western Ghats. In the circumstances, we dispose of this application with liberty to the project proponent to move the state government by submitting an appropriate proposal for diversion of land for this project,” a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.In 2006, two Karnataka-based NGOs — Parisara Sanmrakshana Kendra and Wilderness Club — filed a petition in Supreme Court against the diversion of forest land for this project.Later, the apex court halted the construction.The apex court on October 5 last year transferred bunch of cases involving forest clearances and the CEC’s views on it to the green panel while asking it to decide them expeditiously.

Maharashtra govt to deploy special force for tigers outside reserves

While the recent deaths of tigers in Maharashtra sparked off concerns, the state government is planning to deploy a special tiger protection force (STPF) for big cats outside the reserve areas. The presence of a specialised force will strengthen the conservation measures in non-tiger project areas and prevent poaching of these animals.”At present, STPF has been deployed only in reserve areas with sizeable tiger population. Now, we will deploy them in areas outside the core and buffer areas,” said Maharashtra finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, who is also the state’s forest minister.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The move is expected to control poaching in non-tiger reserve areas, which account for a sizeable tiger population. A senior state forest department official said the force was specially trained and armed, like the police and paramilitary forces. It will move around in groups, as opposed to the forest guards who walk their beats in the jungles, he added.At present, STPF has been stationed in the Pench, Melghat, Navegaon Nagzira and Tadoba tiger reserves. Maharashtra has a total of six tiger reserves, including Sahyadri and Bor. The forest department officials, however, pointed out that since the Centre provided funds only for STPF personnel deployed in tiger reserve areas, the state government would have to pay for the salaries of personnel deployed in areas outside the core and buffer zones.Meanwhile, Mungantiwar said it was likely that the tiger found dead at Deolapar near Nagpur recently had strayed into Maharashtra from the neighbouring Madhya Pradesh and stressed on the need for public awareness to ensure tiger conservation.According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) database, in 2015, the country’s tiger mortality figures were marginally up from 66 in 2014 and stood at 69, of which Maharashtra accounted for 12 deaths due to various reasons. This is a rise from just seven tiger deaths in the state in 2014. Actor Amitabh Bachchan has consented to be Maharashtra’s tiger ambassador to help boost the conservation efforts.Maharashtra has six national parks, 47 wildlife sanctuaries and four conservation reserves with a tiger population of around 190 in 2014, up from 169 in 2010. According to the tiger census, results for which were released in 2014, India has 2,226 tigers, up from 1,706 in 2010.According to the India State of Forest Report -2015 (ISFR), published by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), India’s recorded forest area (RFA) covers 23.26 per cent of the 32,87,263 sq km geographical area.The report said Maharashtra has RFAs of 20.01 per cent of the total geographical area. The National Forest Policy 1988 has set a target of 33 per cent.DeathsIn December, four tiger cubs were found dead, reportedly due to hunger in Chandrapur district. In January, a dead male tiger was found in the Deolapar range near Nagpur.

Centre inks RS 1,000 crore loan agreement to clean Pune’s Mula, Mutha rivers

The Centre on Wednesday signed a loan agreement of Rs1,000 crore with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for cleaning Pune’s highly polluted Mula and Mutha rivers. The agreement will be monitored under the National River Conservation Plan.As part of the agreement, the JICA will fund a soft loan of Rs990 crore at an interest rate of 0.30% per annum and the project cost will be shared between Centre and Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) in the ratio of 85:15, respectively. The Centre has to repay the loan in a period of 40 years which includes a 10-year grace period. JICA is an autonomous body of the Japanese government and it aids developing countries with financial assistance.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It has already committed to fund the ambitious projects such as Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train corridor, phase-III of the Mumbai Metro and the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link sea-bridge project. With the help of JICA’s funding PMC, the project’s implementing agency, will construct 11 new sewage treatment plants (STPs), lay 113.6kms of sewer lines and revamp four existing intermediate pumping stations. This will augment the STP capacity by 396 million litres/day (MLD) over the existing capacity of 477 MLD.According to ministry officials, the project completion target is 2022. Along with creation of STP’s, the project also involves construction of 24 community toilet blocks in slums and fringe areas and GIS mapping of sewerage facilities.The rivers both originate in the Western Ghats and join to form the Mula-Mutha river that eventually meets the east-flowing Bhima River. Both Mula and Mutha have been dammed and are sources of drinking water for Pune. The rivers are two of the 302 most polluted river stretches of the country identified by Central Pollution Control Board.Discharge of untreated domestic and industrial waste water, garbage dumping and open defecation on the banks have been the main causes of pollution in the rivers. In fact, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board’s latest water quality data shows that high concentration of fecal coliform bacteria in the both rivers.With the help of JICA’s funding, the union environment ministry aims to reduce this pollution load and improve water quality in both rivers.

Thousands of unvaccinated dogs found around Corbett, tigers open to virus threat: Study

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) commissioned the study to Humane Society International (HSI) to get an idea of potential threat to tigers from canine viruses.According to Dr Amit Chaudhari, who was in-charge of the survey, HSI carried out the survey across the upper and lower altitude villages around Corbett national park and took a sample size of 90 villages from 318 villages. “We found that 90 per cent of the dogs were stray pet who were shepherd dogs. Villagers also said they were attacked and taken away by tigers at times, exposing them to potential viruses,”Chaudhari told dna.HSI informed NTCA that tigers and leopards in the sanctuary are at a risk from canine diseases like rabies, parvo and distemper, all viruses that can be transferred from canine to feline as the big cats prey on the dogs in the buffer zone. HSI said they will propose vaccination of dogs around the national park. NTCA officials could not be reached to know if it plans to vaccinate the dogs around Corbett national park.

Nikhil M Ghanekar

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