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Here’s why demonetization is barely affecting certain tribal villages of Maharashtra

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As we entered Mendha Lekha village in Dhanora Tehsil of Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, one thing which will surprise you the most is that almost every household has grown pumpkin or native beans (wal) and has goats or poultry or cow in their backyard.The livelihood of 300-odd people of Gond tribe community in Mendha is dependent on forest produce and farming. The village has community forest rights on 1,800 hectares of forest land under the Forest Rights Act 2006. Then there is a 100 hectare of farmland under the “individual rights” of all the residents. Following centuries-old traditions, the close-knit tribal village grows only food crops such as rice and pulses, mainly for its own consumption. While, vegetables are grown in the backyard, in every household, eggs, chicken and mutton are also available at home. Barring purchase of small items like salt, spices, tea and utensils, which is usually a monthly affair, tribal families do very little cash transactions.“We hardly need cash above few hundreds. The money we earn by selling tendu and bamboo is disbursed to all villagers through bank accounts only. Hence, demonetization has no effect in my village,” says Devaji Tofa, the village leader of Medha, known for grassroots democracy. He is credited with transforming his village into a rich, self-reliant entity by heading a successful campaign to acquire community forest rights for the Mendha Gram Sabha in 2011, emulated by over 1,300 villages of the district later.While a large part of urban and rural India is facing hardships due to the cash crunch in banks since demonetization, Tribal villages in Naxal-affected Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra seem to be largely unaffected by the move mainly because of self-reliance and adopting banking. The district has nearly 4.8 lakh tribal population, 40% of the total headcount. Maharashtra is home to one crore tribals, who account for nearly 10% of the population in the state.The “big cash component” comes into the picture in the Gadchiroli tribal villages only when they sell tendu leaves, bamboo and some other minor forest produce.This is an annual affair for tendu and other produce and once in 3-4 years for bamboo. Over 1,300 gram sabhas and their residents have bank accounts. Each gram sabha has around 50-100 households, earning up to Rs 40 lakh to Rs 1.5 crore by selling tendu and bamboo. “The earnings are then distributed equally among all, through online mode only,” says Bavsa Pave from Mohgaon, a village nearly 50 km away from Gadchiroli city.The tribals, whose livelihood is primarily based on forests produce and farming, largely remain as a close-knit family even now. They exchange farm produce, celebrate together and help each other in crisis.“We grow rice and pulses in fields while vegetables like beans, pumpkin are grown in the backyard. For constructing home, we use sand and wood from our own forests. All we need is just a few hundred rupees to purchase fruits and other items which are not grown here. Rs 500 or Rs 1,000 never comes into picture, hence no worries,” says Dinesh Tekam, a farmer from Dhanora. Most of the children study in tribal residential schools and the youngsters, a few of them, study in colleges in big cities and live in hostels supported by the government. For big festivals and feasts, which are a community celebration, Gond and Madia tribes go and hunt bigger animals like deer and wild pigs from deep forests. “We have been doing so since ages but we have some strict rules to conserve the nature. A hunter attempts for only three consecutive days. If he fails to get a wild animal, then we abandon it altogether for that festival,” said villagers from Laheri village in Bhamragad tehsil. Other 15 tribal districts in the state are also largely unaffected in the demonetization drive albeit due to different reasons. Since community and individual forest rights are poorly implemented in these districts, people suffer due to lack of livelihood resources. For instance, villages in Palghar and Amravati (Melghat) struggle with poverty and malnutrition. “Being cashless is not a choice but a compulsion for many of us,” says a Palghar villager, who lost his child to malnutrition in May. In Nandurbar, Thane and Nanded, which have sizeable tribal population, most tribals are either farmers with small land holdings or farm labourers. “Many of them have never seen Rs 1,000 or Rs 2,000 note for that matter. Their needs are minimum,” said Gowardhan Munde, a teacher from Kinwat, Nanded. “Cops inquire whether we carry Naxals’ money”Many villagers in Naxal-affected Gadchiroli district charged security personnel of highhandedness and unnecessary questioning while they queued up outside banks to deposit now invalid currencies. “Police personnel unnecessarily harassed us by asking whether we are depositing own money or that of Naxals’. Those who came with higher amounts were questioned by the cops at many places,” claimed Ramdas Jarate, a tribal activist in Gadchiroli. Villagers had to travel 50-60 km to reach to their nearest banks, a part of which was on foot, to deposit banned notes in the initial few weeks. Some had to spend the entire night outside when they failed to get cash. Only handful of banks and ATMs exist in the district, while the tehsils have just one or two.

In chase for missing Jai, Maha seeks video footage from Telangana

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Maharashtra government has sought a video footage from Telangana to ascertain if a tiger spotted in the state’s forests is ‘Jai’, the famous feline, who went missing in April from Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary, near Nagpur.“Local news channels reported that Jai was spotted in Telangana’s forest area. We are seeking help from the Telangana government to send us a video footage of the tiger,” Maharashtra Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said.However, forest officials from Adilabad Forest Division, Telangana, said they did not have any video footage nor were they were successful in capturing images of the tiger on camera traps.“A tiger was spotted at Pippalakoti village, around four kilometers from Tippeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary. The village is outside the forest area and has dense cotton plantation. It has been very difficult to track or locate the tiger. We have not been successful in getting any images either,” said Sivala Rambabu, District Forest Officer (DFO) Adilabad Forest Division.Naturalists, however, believe this to be yet another wild goose chase. “When I spoke to forest officials at Adilabad, they confirmed a tiger sighting by two of their rangers on December 14 at midnight. However, they couldn’t see a collar or even identify if the cat spotted was a male or a female,” said Sarosh Lodhi of Conservation Lenses and Wildlife (ClaW) — an independent group of wildlife lovers and photographers, who flagged off mission Finding Jai.The group has announced a cash prize of Rs50,000 to anyone who can help find Jai.Photographic evidence or a latest scat or hair sample, or at least detailed pug mark is needed to confirm if the feline spotted was Jai, but in this case there is nothing but speculations, said Lodhi.Inputs from PTI

Maharashtra man-animal conflict

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>From crop depredation by herbivores in Vidarbha to the rampaging herds of wild elephants in Konkan to the rising leopard presence in parts of Pune and Ahmednagar, the conflict between urbanisation and natural habitats of animals is coming to a head.“These conflicts are inevitable,” a senior forest department official with extensive experience in wildlife management said. Rising population, development projects and construction of dams and roads come with their own toll on the ecology, he said. The difficulty in balancing these competing interests leads humans to wildlife habitations and vice-versa.“Wild boars, which live around agricultural fields, are responsible for most cases of injuries to humans, followed by leopards and sloth bear. Wild boars and leopards account for the highest conflicts with humans due to their proximity with them,” noted another official, adding that in case of attacks by a tiger, the chances of death are almost certain.“Wild boars, nilgai, chital and sambar cause crop depredations and leopards are responsible for most incidents of cattle lifting,” he said. In the Chandrapur area, which has the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, apart from the Bramhapuri forest division, with a rich tiger base, around 1,500 cases of cattle lifting (4-5 daily), were reported annually. This despite the area being under the control of the Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM).In Bramhapuri, of the 179 injuries caused to people in 2015, 147 were caused by wild boars while it was 70 in 2014. The department had to summon sharp-shooters to cull wild boars in the district after complaints from villagers and farmers.Forest officials noted that the degradation of habitats led to herbivores entering agricultural fields in neighbouring areas, causing crop depredations. This forced farmers to fence their fields affecting animal movement and some even electrocuted the fences, causing animal deaths.From 2008-09 to October 2016, 2,18,394 cases of crop damage by wild animals have been recorded in Maharashtra. The state government has given compensation worth Rs 5,330.85 lakh.Officials claimed that in parts of Konkan, influential landowners have destroyed virgin forest lands for monoculture of rubber plantations, thus severing a crucial link between the Sahyadri landscape and the tiger-dominated areas down south. Presence of mines in parts of Kolhapur has weakened the corridor further.“There is immense grazing pressure on the jungles. This leads to palatable species of grass being trampled upon by domestic animals, which causes an increase in non-palatable and invasive species and a change in the character of forests. This makes it tough for wild herbivores to settle there,” noted wildlife researcher-activist Ramzan Virani.14-year-old Akshay Rose was grievously injured in a leopard attack at Tansa wildlife sanctuary in Maharashtra —File photoThis competition between wild herbivores and domestic animals leads farmers to shift out of jungles in search of food and water, he said. Carnivores like tigers and leopards also move out in tandem for prey. They often feast on domestic animals, which are easier to hunt and yield more meat. Areas near resource-rich habitats were also being diverted for purposes like setting up coal mines and factories, creating an additional burden on the landscape.“Because of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, encroachments in forest areas are rising. Many forests are being cleared for farming, especially in territorial forest divisions near protected areas (like wildlife sanctuaries and national parks),” Virani said. These jungles acted as buffer in areas that were not part of tiger projects (which work on a core- buffer strategy), he said.The number of tigers in non-protected areas is huge. It forms a fourth of Maharashtra’s tiger population of 203, according to the Phase IV exercise conducted by the forest department last year.Virani, who teaches in the department of zoology at the SM College in Pandharkawada, Yavatmal, suggested that to break the deadlock, habitat development work, including moisture conservation, water retention, meadow development and eradication of invasive weeds, should be undertaken fast. This will attract herbivores to these habitats, and, in turn, stabilise a healthy carnivore population in smaller areas due to food and water availability.Virani, however, added that the state government’s schemes, aimed at participatory conservation and development of sustainable livelihoods, saw the involvement of locals.Activists noted that the ban on the culling of bulls had led to these animals being discarded by their owners, once they were past their prime. They often strayed into forests for food. Girish Vashisth, divisional forest officer and spokesperson of the state wildlife wing, said that the department gives 75 per cent subsidy to people in buffer zones for buying LPG cylinders, thus reducing their dependence on forests for firewood. Toilets were also being built in areas around forests.“Livelihood options with training and job placements are being offered to the youth in areas around the Pench tiger project, Tadoba and the Umred Karhandla wildlife sanctuary,” said Vashisth. Eco-tourism facilities in jungles also created additional revenue sources for people, he said. He admitted that they had come across cases where people had encroached upon forest lands to get their rights under the Forest Rights Act.In villages around sanctuaries, cattle are allowed to graze on a rotational basis in “compartments” (the basic administrative unit in the forest department) and in case of problem animals, orders for their killing were given only as the last resort.THE COMPENSATIONDeath (Human): Kin of the victim gets Rs 8 lakh if death is caused by tigers, leopards, dhole, wild boars, crocodiles, elephants, wolves and bisons.Serious injuries: Victims are compensated with Rs 1 lakh.Death (domestic animals): Death of bulls, cows, buffaloes is compensated with 75% of the market price or Rs 25,000, whichever is lower.Destruction: Farmers are also compensated if their fields are destroyed by wild animals. The amount depends on the type of crop (food crops, horticulture, sugarcane, bananas etc).

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.

Horse manure still a threat to Matheran trees

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While the forest department have re-forested the land at Dasturi Naka in Matheran, an eco sensitive zone, where hundreds of trees died due to highly nitrogenous dung from illegally stabled horses, the issue is far from being resolved. Horse owners are now suspected to having moved deeper into the forests.Dasturi Naka had lost most of its green cover, as the soil quality was affected due to horse dung and acidic urine from horses that were illegally stabled under trees.With the area now off-limits for stabling horses, the equines are parked in the deeper parts of Matheran’s forest, said Manoj Khedkar, former councillor. Loss of Matheran’s green cover can be bad news, as the entire Navi Mumbai region depends for its drinking water.The Bombay Environmental Action Group that worked on the re-planting and barricading of the Naka said the Joint Forest Management (JFM) needs to be strengthened for a permanent solution.While only about 460 horses have license to operate, over 1,000 horses ply in peak season. “Most of them are brought from from Neral and Jummapatti. Handlers tie horses to trees that shrivel due to the dung and acidic urine, thus leaving a trail of dead trees,” a local said. In the past, horses brought from outside would be taken back at night.Stables in areas like Indira Nagar and Valmiki Nagar being converted into lodging, as it is more profitable, have compounded the problem. Councillor Prasad Sawant said, “We need to create a facility for horses to be stabled.”Divisional Forest Officer Alibaug Jayoti Banerjee said, “Now that Dasturi Naka has been saved, the department is working on a solution with major stake holders.” In the meanwhile, the officials have been carrying out surprise raids to reduce illegal stabling.

Maha Forest Dept gets new tech to monitor wildfires

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a bid to improve its response to forest fires and mitigate its effects, the Maharashtra Forest Department is all set to launch a command and control room that has access to satellite communications. This will allow the department to track forest fires in real time across the state, and initiate immediate action to control it and minimise its effects.Set up at the State Forest Department’s Nagpur headquarters, the control room will also respond to wildlife offenses, and coordinate with other states for crack downs on inter-state poaching gangs and timber fellers.“In case of a forest fire, thermal radiations detected by the satellite will be transmitted on real-time basis to forest guards via SMS from the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), Hyderabad,” Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (APCCF- Information Technology and Policy), Pravin Srivastava told DNA.The video wall in the command and control room will also contain digital maps of the state, all down to the ‘compartment’ level — the basic administrative unit in the forest department. These maps include information on soil strata, water resources, cadastral, roads, wasteland, village and administrative boundaries.The department will be merging its map data with satellite imagery to track details of the net forest area added or lost, illicit tree felling and encroachment by using this geo-spatial platform. It will also monitor the progress of Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar’s ambitious project of 2.81 crore saplings planted across Maharashtra. This is being undertaken with the Maharashtra Remote Sensing Application Centre (MRSAC) and by March, all forest department maps will be hosted on the MRSAC portal.Srivastava said in case of complaints or untoward incidents, officers manning the command centre can contact the field officer and “control the extent of the potential damage.” The department will also set up an emergency helpline on 1926 for wildlife related emergencies. The control room will also be connected with premier institutes and offices which are on the NIC network with the forest department and collate field reports for real-time solutions.

Watch | Viral video: Lioness roams on streets of Virpur village in Gujarat

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A lioness was seen roaming on the streets of Virpur village in Sasan Gir in Amreli on Sunday. The village is close to the Gir National Park. According to Jansatta, the lioness was in the village for quite sometime and even had meal of the calf she had caught right on the streets, much to the bewilderment of the residents.The lioness was later forced to return to the jungle by the Forest Department.Watch the video below:

Conservation reserve for Gadchiroli to boost wildlife base

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a strange paradox, Maharshtra’s most thickly forested district, Gadchiroli, lags behind in healthy wildlife population. The state government wants to notify around 220 sq km area in the Naxal-affected region as a conservation reserve to improve the situation.According to forest officials, wildlife population in the district, with 80 per cent area under forests, has suffered since a Maoist base came up in the region in the 1980s and hit protection and conservation efforts.As per the new plan, 220 sq km area in Tipagad, northern part of Gadchiroli, close to Maharashtra’s border with Chhattisgarh, will be notified as a conservation reserve.Divisional Forest Officer and Spokesperson of the State Forest Department’s wildlife wing, Girish Vashisht said, “Limitations to implement conservation measures due to presence of left-wing extremists and customary hunting by tribals have effected the wildlife numbers.”A proposal to designate a conservation reserve in the region was first mooted two years ago. However, village panchayats, who have statutory rights under the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, refused to consent to the plan, said a senior forest official. The department is trying to convince the 20 villages. It has also modified the proposal to cover a 220 sq km area, down from the earlier 440 sq km to win them over.Vashisht said a conservation reserve status puts lesser restrictions than other categories of protected areas like wildlife sanctuaries. “Locals can take a call on what areas can be voluntarily closed for grazing of domestic animals. Village development works and protection can also be undertaken,” he added.At present, herbivores like wild boar, spotted and barking deer, sloth bear, and carnivores like leopards, jackals, hyenas are found in Gadchiroli. Officials have also recorded presence of four tigers in areas like Vadsa and Alapalli. With conservation efforts, they hope an increase in herbivore numbers will draw in tigers, especially from Brahmapuri and Tadoba.However, even after nod from villages, the department has other challenges. “Due to Naxal activities, our own movement is restricted. This may inhibit work on habitat improvement, soil and moisture conservation and general protection,” said an official.

India’s landmark forest rights law hobbled by conflicting policies: Report

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A landmark Indian forest rights law passed 10 years ago with the aim of protecting indigenous people has been crippled by conflicting legislation, and a lack of political will and funds to ensure its implementation, according to a report.More than a fifth of India’s population were expected to benefit from the 2006 Forest Rights Act covering vast areas of forest land roughly the size of Germany.Instead, only 3 percent of potential community forest rights have been granted so far, and conflicts between states and indigenous communities have been rising as demand for land increases in the world’s fastest growing major economy.”(The law) has the potential to conserve forests and biodiversity (and) improve local livelihoods,” Neema Pathak Broome, a researcher with rights group Kalpavriksh, said in the report released Tuesday by a citizens’ advocacy group.”Unfortunately, due to a lack of political will and intentional efforts to undermine the law, this vast potential for democratic forest governance remains unrealised.”In the decade since the law was passed, the federal government and several states have introduced other laws that sometimes run counter to the Forest Rights Act.For example, a new federal law introduced in July that compensates for deforestation ignores the rights of indigenous people and the requirement for consent of the village council for use of forest land, activists said.The Ministry of Tribal Affairs, which is charged with implementing the 2006 law, is “understaffed and under-resourced”, while state forest departments are largely “hostile, at best apathetic” in implementing it, the report said.The western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, the eastern state of Odisha and the southern state of Kerala lead in recognising community and individual forest rights, the report said.States including Assam, Bihar, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have lagged behind, it said.As well as conserving forests, the law has the potential to secure livelihoods, promote women’s rights and contain conflicts in areas hit by violent extremism, it said.The government needs to mobilise political support and funds for its implementation and strengthen the Tribal Affairs Ministry and state agencies, the report said.”The biggest stumbling block is that there’s very limited understanding of the Forest Rights Act, even within the government,” Tushar Dash, from advocacy group Vasundhara, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.”They believe granting forest rights obstructs development, and are instead giving forest lands for industrial use. But it’s been established that protecting forest rights encourages development and helps conservation efforts far more.”

India’s landmark forest rights law hobbled by conflicting policies – report | Reuters

By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A landmark Indian forest rights law passed 10 years ago with the aim of protecting indigenous people has been crippled by conflicting legislation, and a lack of political will and funds to ensure its implementation, according to a report.More than a fifth of India’s population were expected to benefit from the 2006 Forest Rights Act covering vast areas of forest land roughly the size of Germany.Instead, only 3 percent of potential community forest rights have been granted so far, and conflicts between states and indigenous communities have been rising as demand for land increases in the world’s fastest growing major economy.”(The law) has the potential to conserve forests and biodiversity (and) improve local livelihoods,” Neema Pathak Broome, a researcher with rights group Kalpavriksh, said in the report released Tuesday by a citizens’ advocacy group.”Unfortunately, due to a lack of political will and intentional efforts to undermine the law, this vast potential for democratic forest governance remains unrealised.”

In the decade since the law was passed, the federal government and several states have introduced other laws that sometimes run counter to the Forest Rights Act.For example, a new federal law introduced in July that compensates for deforestation ignores the rights of indigenous people and the requirement for consent of the village council for use of forest land, activists said.The Ministry of Tribal Affairs, which is charged with implementing the 2006 law, is “understaffed and under-resourced”, while state forest departments are largely “hostile, at best apathetic” in implementing it, the report said.

The western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, the eastern state of Odisha and the southern state of Kerala lead in recognising community and individual forest rights, the report said.States including Assam, Bihar, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have lagged behind, it said.As well as conserving forests, the law has the potential to secure livelihoods, promote women’s rights and contain conflicts in areas hit by violent extremism, it said.

The government needs to mobilise political support and funds for its implementation and strengthen the Tribal Affairs Ministry and state agencies, the report said.”The biggest stumbling block is that there’s very limited understanding of the Forest Rights Act, even within the government,” Tushar Dash, from advocacy group Vasundhara, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.”They believe granting forest rights obstructs development, and are instead giving forest lands for industrial use. But it’s been established that protecting forest rights encourages development and helps conservation efforts far more.” (Reporting by Rina Chandran, Editing by Ros Russell; @rinachandran, Editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 00:03 IST

Madhya Pradesh: 260 deaths in man-animal conflict since past 5 years

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>At least 260 people have been killed and 10,955 were injured in man-animal conflict from the past five years in Madhya Pradesh, making it a serious cause of concern for the state forest officials. Besides, 22 tigers, leopards, bears, wild boars, jackals and other carnivores have been killed by humans during the same period.According to the Forest department data, 51 people were killed by wild animals in 2011-12, 48 each in 2012-13 and 2013-14; 61 in 2014-15 and 52 in 2015-16.Likewise, 3,181 people were injured in man-animal conflict in 2011-12, 2,906 in 2012-13, 2,092 in 2013-14, 1,334 in 2014-15 and 1,442 in 2015-16, the data reveals. 25,344 cattle also killed in the past five years.Recently, a minor girl was mauled to death by a tiger in Bagda forest range of Hoshangabad district on November 19.Wildlife activist Ajay Dubey blamed the depleting forest cover in MP and encroachment in forested areas as the major reasons for rise in incidents of man-animal conflict.The forest officials, on condition of anonymity, also said that encroachments in forest area is a disturbing trend.With reports of tigers sneaking into human settlement and killing cattle around the state capital being received at regular intervals, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Jitendra Agrawal said. It is because the settlements have come up just close to the forest areas, he added. “Some times, these tigers are sneaking out of their habitat in search of prey and the area which acts like a buffer and divides the human and animal habitat is shrinking around Bhopal,” Agrawal said.”We have placed four cameras around Bhopal and are maintaining vigil day in and day out to avoid man-animal conflict,” he stressed.Agrawal said presence of 10 wild tigers, including cubs, has been reported in Bhopal forest division recently.

Goa to receive Rs 350 crore Central funds in next 5 years: Manohar Parrikar

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Goa will get Rs 350 crore funds in the next five years to be spent on the mining belt in the state, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said here. “There’s Rs 150 crore pending with Central government which will be released soon. This is the amount collected after levying 10 per cent tax on the profits earned by mining firms,” he said referring to the Goa Iron Ore Permanent Fund.”Another Rs 50 crore is with the Central government after levying 10% tax on the fresh extraction,” the former Chief Minister said while addressing BJP’s Vijay Sankalp rally at Sanvordem village in South Goa last evening.”Together from the mining sector there is Rs 200 crore which will be released by the central government,” he added.In addition, he said Rs 140 crore are in central coffers as part of tax on Forest diversion. Parrikar said a total of Rs 350 crore from mining and forest would be released to the state which has to be used in eight different talukas (mining belt).The minister assured that with BJP government in the Centre, Goa can be developed into a model state if the party is voted to power during 2017 Goa Legislative Assembly elections.

NGT asks govt buildings to undergo green audit

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a bid to check the environmental compliance and their impact on pollution and public health , the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday directed that all government establishments including colleges, hospitals, and courts should undergo an environmental audit. The Tribunal’s principal bench, headed by justice Swatanter Kumar, has ordered the union environment, Forest and Climate Change Ministry, and Central Pollution Control Board to issue guidelines in this regard under section 5 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, article 31 of Air Act and article 33 of the Water Act within two weeks. The environment ministry’s notification will specify the exact scope of the audit. “Being aware of the seriousness of environment problem in Delhi, particularly air pollution, we direct all government buildings, including offices, hospitals, schools, and colleges, to be subjected to minimum environment audit. This will include collection and dispensation of solid waste, indoor air quality system and sewage system,” the four-member bench said. It added, “The purpose is that every government building should take necessary precautions to control pollution so that no hazardous result follows in relation to public health.” The bench clarified that it was not asking for these buildings to be converted into green buildings. It also added that wherever rainwater harvesting is not carried out, it should be done, though, old buildings may be exempted. NGT’s order for an environmental audit of government buildings comes in the wake of several orders it has passed on air pollution. In the past year, it has passed orders to curb pollution from burning of waste and leaves, construction and demolition, and transporting of construction material. After Delhi’s air quality plunged to alarming levels, the NGT had also ordered a temporary prohibition on construction activity in the Capital. In fact, in an order passed on November 10, the NGT put in place an ‘emergency’ response system wherein authorities in the Capital will have to halt construction activities if the PM 10 and PM 2.5 levels cross 431 and 251 respectively.

Kerala: Rights groups alleges elephant torture during Vaikom Mahadeva Temple’s fest

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Thrissur-based animal rights campaigner Heritage Animal Task Force, condemned the alleged torture of elephants, who were paraded inside the Vaikom Mahadeva Temple in Kottayam district of Kerala as part of a festival, and claimed the parades were ‘unlawful’.In a letter to the Director, Project Elephant, Environment and Forest Ministry, it complained that more than three elephants were paraded inside the temple premises on November 16 and 17 during the annual Vaikkathashtamy festival and both parades were ‘unlawful’.”Both these elephant parades were unlawful as the Elephant Parade Rule issued by State Forest Secretary on March 13, 2013 specifically states that nobody has the freedom to allow entry of more than three elephants at a time,” Task Force secretary V K Venkitachalam said.But the officials of departments of Devaswom, the temple management body, police and forest remained mute spectators without initiating any penal action against those responsible “for this type of violations related to elephant parade,” he alleged in the letter.”Anyone can see the torture inflicted by placing flaming torch very near to the body of the elephants as part of the rituals. As the temple complex is brightly illuminated by electric lights, use of flaming torches are meant only to scare the elephants,” he claimed.The campaigner also urged the Centre to take steps to ban these types of ‘unlawful’ elephant parades at the earliest.

Conservationists cry foul over India’s landmark forest rights law

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Almost four times as many individual as community claims have been lodged under a landmark Indian law to protect the rights of forest dwellers and tribal communities, sparking criticism it is being exploited for financial gain and leading to deforestation.The Forest Rights Act (FRA) gives indigenous people and forest dwellers rights to manage and govern their traditional forests and resources. The law recognises individual and community rights of those who have lived there since before 2005.More than four million individual claims and about 1.1 million community claims were filed as of August 31, according to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. About 1.7 million individual and 47,443 community claims have been distributed, it said. The high number of individual claims is cited by some conservationists as a reason to oppose the law, amid an ongoing clash between activists and environmentalists over its impact.They say states are under pressure to accept even bogus claims and that individual claims must not be allowed as many are motivated by financial gain. “People are predictably keen to claim individual rights as this enables them to encash real estate and other financial opportunities,” leading conservationist Bittu Sahgal wrote in a blog this week. “No rights can be championed, nor wildlife saved, if the forests at the centre of the tussle vanish,” he said, adding that deforestation and denting of wildlife numbers was evident in states including Assam, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Bihar.SLOW IMPLEMENTATIONUnder the law, at least 150 million people could have their rights recognised to at least 40 million hectares (154,400 sq miles) of forest land, the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) has estimated. But few states have implemented the FRA fully and more than half of all claims for titles have been rejected, data shows. States have held back from implementing the law because they view it as an obstacle to development projects, with consensus required from village councils for any project that requires forest land to be cleared.Conservationists who are in favour of the law say it must be implemented in full, and that disregarding it or undermining it “will greatly damage environmental protection”. In a recent letter to the environment minister, more than 40 conservationists and environmentalists said the FRA empowers forest communities to be a part of the decision-making process, and “therefore encourages a bottom-up approach to natural resource governance”. But, they said, evictions and harassment of rights holders had led to a situation of “continuous conflict” in forest areas. They said settling individual rights was not leading to deforestation as these rights largely correspond to historically settled or cultivated land that does not contain forest cover.Last month, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs said it was concerned about the large number of claims that are rejected and asked all states to speed up the clearance of claims. “Communities are pivotal in the reversal of destruction and degradation of India’s forests,” Kundan Kumar, RRI’s Asia director said. “The government should pay heed to the combined wisdom of India’s conservationists,” he said.

Whistleblower IFS officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi gets promotion

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Forest Service officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi, whose appointment as OSD to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was shot down by the Centre, has been promoted by the Uttarakhand government, a move which will pave way for his posting. The officer has been promoted as Conservator of Forests. Separate order will be issued regarding his posting, as per an order issued by Uttarakhand government. Chaturvedi, a 2002-batch Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer of Uttarakhand cadre, has been awaiting a posting for past over three months. The promotion is important as he was at loggerheads with the Centre and had approached courts against some of the Centre’s decisions of allegedly denying him due service- related benefits. Chaturvedi worked as Chief Vigilance Officer and then as Deputy Secretary in All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here from June 2012 to June 2016. Last year, he had sought inter-cadre deputation to Delhi government.The Appointments Committee of Cabinet-led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had declined the proposal for inter- cadre deputation of Chaturvedi (for appointment as Officer on Special Duty to the Delhi Chief Minister) from Uttarakhand cadre. He is at present working without any post in the Uttarakhand government.As per norms, an officer of Indian Foreign Service is appointed to the post of Conservator of Forests after completing 14 years of service. However, the Annual Confidential Report of the officer concerned need to be outstanding.The Supreme Court had recently sought responses from the Centre, AIIMS and the Central Vigilance Commission on the plea of the officer who has alleged that he was not given any work at the premier medical institution here despite having an exemplary service record.

Black buck case: Court completes hearing of arguments from Salman Khan’s side

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Jodhpur court on Monday completed hearing of arguments from Bollywood actor Salman Khan’s side in the black bucks poaching case.Khan’s counsel Hastimal Saraswat has been arguing with the then Forest Officer Lalit Bora, who had first registered the case against the actor on the basis of the statements of Harish Dulani, driver of the vehicle allegedly used in the poaching by Khan.”We have completed arguments with Bora and now the counsels of the co-accused would begin arguments from tomorrow,” Saraswat said.Besides Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Sonali Bendre, Neelam and two others are the co-accused in this case. Dinesh Gawre has been missing and the investigation against him is pending. The case against them was registered on the complaint of Bora for alleged poaching of two black bucks in Kankani area near here on October 1-2, 1998.The court had granted Saraswat permission to recall Bora in September. But Bora could not appear due to ill-health.Along with this plea, Saraswat had also sought permission from the court to produce a video cassette with the recording of statements of Khan immediately after the registration of case against him.”There were some apparent difference between the written statements and those recorded during interrogation by Bora. In order to address that difference, we wanted to see the video recording of those statements,” said Saraswat.

Delhi pollution: Arvind Kejriwal calls emergency meet to take stock

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday called for an emergency meeting to take stock on recent measures announced to combat the soaring pollution levels in the national capital.The meeting will be held at Kejriwal’s residence at 12:30 p.m. where technologies like jet sprinkling and the dust sweep machine will be discussed at length.This development comes in the wake of the Centre calling a meeting of environment ministers of all neighbouring states on Monday to put an end to crop burning as Delhi’s pollution level rises to alarming levels.Yesterday, Kejriwal had met Union Environment Minister Anil Dave to ask the central government to intervene, following which the latter declared an emergency situation in Delhi, adding that the circumstances are quite bad, particularly for children, patients, women and the elderly.Kejriwal has, however, blamed the practice of crop burning in Haryana and Punjab for the pollution in the national capital, as air quality in the city dips to its worst in 17 years.”I saw smoke across Punjab, Haryana during my visits. We need Centre’s help. We are hiring an agency in a week or two to study the sources of pollution in Delhi afresh. The Centre needs to intervene,” he said.Delhi Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung has also called a high level meeting tomorrow on the issue in which immediate, short-term and long-term measures to combat the growing air pollution in the city are to be discussed.Delhi Chief Minister, PWD Minister, Environment and Forest Minister, Chief Secretary, NDMC Chairman and all three Municipal Commissioners are among those attending the meeting.Meanwhile, a thick blanket of haze continued to cover the national capital with pollution level remaining very high and breaching the safe limit by over 17 times at several places.

Satellite imaging to track survival of new saplings

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After completing its drive to plant almost three crore trees in Maharashtra, the state government will harness satellite imaging to track the survival of these saplings.Conceived by Finance and Forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, the plan aims at planting 50 crore trees in the state in three years to increase its forest cover to 33 per cent from 20.01 per cent. On July 1, around 2.81 crore saplings were planted at sites across Maharashtra.Forest department officials admitted that one of the problems it was facing was the survival rate of these saplings, which was especially low in areas with scanty rainfall such as Marathwada.The department is also deploying a mobile app that can be used by the field staff to click photographs of plantings done on July 1. These images will be uploaded on a GIS portal where the sites have been geo-tagged. While strengthening monitoring and formulating responses to increase the survival rates of these plants, it will also create a central repository for further plantation projects. “The app has been finalised by the Maharashtra Remote Sensing Applications Centre (MRSAC),” PP Srivastava, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (APCCF- Information Technology and Policy), told DNA, adding it will enable the independent assessment of the status of all sites.The Vanyukta Shivaar app will be used by guards, foresters, range forest officers, assistant conservator of forests and deputy conservator of forests on their smart phones.“This will ensure sustained monitoring of the survival of these plantations,” Srivastava said, adding that technology will further enable them to understand the rationale for the survival rate and thus help improve it.These officials will visit sites, photograph saplings, and enter details like names of species and girth of plants and trees along with location details. The data will be updated on the website which will be hosted on the MRSAC server.The sites where the forest department has set up plantations have already been geo-tagged. Of the 2.81 crore saplings planted, the department accounts for the largest chunk of 2.21 crore, which this monitoring will encompass.Forest is the second largest land-use after agriculture in Maharashtra. According to India State of Forest Report, 2015, (ISFR) published by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), India’s recorded forest areas cover 23.26 per cent of the 32,87,263 sq km geographical area.

Chennai forest dept nabs culprits who slit monitor lizard’s throat

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The disturbing video that went viral all across Chennai, in which some people were seen drinking blood dripping from a monitor lizard’s slit throat, helped the Forest Department nab the two accused on Thursday, who were selling the meat and blood.According to the Forest Department, Chennai, they were on the lookout for the accused since Monday when the video started circulating, and began visiting several such settlements belonging to Narikuravas— a nomadic tribal community known for hunting wildlife.“We got a tip-off about a settlement that looked similar in the video located at Mappedu. We reached the location and arrested the two accused who were identified from the video,” said Range Forest Officer (RFO) T Murugesan.
ALSO READ Chennai: Monitor lizards tortured to death for their bloodKnowing how close knit the community is, the Forest Department went with a 15 member staff. “The members started protesting and getting aggressive, but we managed to detain the two accused Vijay Kumar and Manickam who were involved in cutting the throat of the Monitor lizard and selling it,” said Murugesan, adding that they also recovered a live monitor lizard.During interrogation, they confessed that they were selling one kg of meat for Rs 5,000 and one glass of raw blood was being served on the spot for Rs 1,000. The accused have been booked under various sections of Wildlife Protection Act.Wildlife conservationist Shravan Krishnan from Chennai appreciated the work of Forest staff and said, “Had there been no video this issue would have never come to the notice of the people. The inhuman footage where one could see both the accused involved had flared up emotions of animal lovers and there was a lot of pressure on the forest department to nab them and we are glad that they cracked the case.”The monitor lizard is protected under Schedule II of the wildlife Protection Act, however, it is regularly killed for its meat, blood and oil as it is said to contain aphrodisiac properties as well as cure to several ailments, which has been rubbished by medical professionals. “The practice is extremely cruel as the neck of a live monitor lizard is first slit and the blood is gradually collected as its also believed that drinking fresh blood has even more effects,” said the activist who volunteers with the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau to crack wildlife crimes.In fact, according to wildlife experts in several parts of the country, there is a myth that consuming the cooked meat of the monitor lizard or drinking blood helps cure arthritis, muscular pains and is even considered an aphrodisiac.

Security forces bust militant hideout in Poonch

On specific information, a joint operation was launched by a team of BSF, along with police and SOG in Mendhar area of the district. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Security forces on Wednesday busted a militant hideout and recovered large quantity of arms and ammunition in the frontier Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir.On specific information, a joint operation was launched by a team of BSF, along with police and SOG in Mendhar area of the district, a BSF spokesman said. He said the search led to the busting of the hideout in the Gani Forest area in which three Chinese pistols, three magazines, 120 pistol bullets, 15 metres of Cordex wire, one IED timer and one wireless set with charger (Icom) were recovered.

Madhya Pradesh: Kanha Tiger Reserve cracks tiger poaching case

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Forest officials from Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh managed to not only crack a tiger poaching case within a span of two days, but also arrested all the six accused involved.According to forest officials, on October 22 they received information about a tiger carcass being found in the buffer zone of Khatia range with all its paws missing.“When we reached the spot, we saw that all the canines of the carcass were intact. We realised that it was not the work of a professional poaching group and suspected locals to be involved. Without touching the tiger or disturbing the site around, the dog squad led us to Banjar river and we understood that the people must have entered water to escape,” informed Sanjay Shukla, Field Director of Kanha Tiger Reserve.Back on the site, the forest officials soon saw that there was an electric line and the post mortem also showed that the tiger was killed by electrocution. “We started gathering intel and soon rounded up people for questioning from Manegaon village, which is close to the site from where the tiger was found. After several rounds of questioning, we managed to crack the case on October 24 by arresting six accused who accepted killing the tiger by mistake,” Shukla said.“All the accused had met in the market on October 19 and planned to kill a wild pig or Chital for meat and laid out a naked wire near Manegaon forest village. At night they realised that unfortunately a Tiger had got electrocuted,” shared Shukla informing that the scared accused dragged the dead tiger in the bushes and hid it. But two of the accused Devi Singh and Chhotelal then planned to cut the legs with an idea to earn some money by selling it.However, with news of dog squads being employed by the forest department, they feared being caught and to destroy the evidence they took the tiger’s paws to an isolated place near Banjar river and set it on fire.Later, Devi Singh took the forest department officials to the place were they had burnt the tigers paws and the remains were seized along with the electric wires from the home of another accused.The forest department has booked all the six accused under various sections of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. Meanwhile, wildlife activists praised the quick action taken by the forest officials in cracking the case.Tiger reserves across Madhya Pradesh have been under scanner with the rising number of tigers being found dead.

BSF catches Pakistan trained falcon from Anupgadh near International Border

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A trained falcon from Pakistan has been caught by the Border Security Force (BSF) in Anupgadh near the International Border in Rajasthan’s Bikaner District.However, no transmitter or antenna has been found on it. As per the BSF sources, the trained falcon probably belongs to Saudi sheikhs who hunt Houbara bustards in Pakistan. It has been handed over to the Forest Department of Anupgadh. A tag has been found on the falcon’s body.The Houbara bustard is an endangered migratory bird, whose meat is prized by elite Arab sheikhs for its aphrodisiac value. It is listed in the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals, also known as the Bonn Convention, and is declared as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).Each year, several thousand Houbara bustards traverse a 2,000-km migratory route from Central Asia to the southern deserts of Pakistan and Iran, and return with the onset of summer.

In a new book, The Burning Forest, Nandini Sundar looks at the Maoist conflict in Bastar

In her meticulously researched book, The Burning Forest: India’s War in Bastar, Nandini Sundar writes about the Maoist conflict in Bastar. Here she talks to Firstpost about the academia’s role (or lack thereof) in studying the Maoist conflict, the politics of co-option by the state in the region, the maligned adivasisthe future and what it may bring to the region.

Nandini Sundar's new book 'The Burning Forest' looks at 'India's war in Bastar'Nandini Sundar's new book 'The Burning Forest' looks at 'India's war in Bastar'

Nandini Sundar’s new book ‘The Burning Forest’ looks at ‘India’s war in Bastar’

Maoists are regularly a source of inquiry, and keen interest for the academia in India. Why do you think that is? Is it down to ideology, which would be in contrast with the much larger corporate structures now operating in the country, feeding pockets here and there, something that the academia finds itself opposing on a regular basis?

In fact, there is very little academic work on the current phase of the Maoist movement. In the earlier phase of the 1970s, we had some excellent scholarly work like Sumanta Banerjee’s In the Wake of Naxalbari or Manoranjan Mohanty’s Revolutionary Violence, but that tended to focus on ideological and political developments. While there are good films and novels on the period, academic research has not kept pace. We are only now beginning to see some scholarly work based on oral histories, for instance interviewing former women guerillas.

As for the current movement, which is in many ways very different from the earlier phase which was more urban and middle class, it was only in 2009-10 that people began to do PhDs or other research on this subject. Most of the books that have come out on the Maoists in the last few years have been journalistic accounts — Gautam Navlakha’s Days and Nights in the Heartland of Rebellion, Shubhranshu Chaudhury’s Let’s call him Vasu, Rahul Pandita’s Hello Bastar, and Arundhati Roy’s Walking with the Comrades. There is some work generated by security think tanks, but that’s from a statist perspective, and focused on how to get rid of the Naxalites.  This is not to say that there is no social science work at all — Bela Bhatia and George Kunnath have done some good work on Bihar Naxalism. But really there is very, very little.

I don’t think the issue is the ideological leanings of academics at all. The academics who study movements and political organisations — whether the Maoists or the RSS — need not belong to that persuasion. I myself have done research on the RSS adivasi front, the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, in 2001. One problem is that academics often take up issues for study only after they become newsworthy, rather than tracking long term processes in society. When it comes to organisations like the Maoists which are banned, it becomes very hard to do research — both because it is dangerous for the Maoists to trust researchers and because the state suspects you if you work on such issues. The biggest problem is that the state does not make the distinction between legitimate research and political activity, and does not appreciate the value of social science research.

Extending the previous question a little further, does it also reflect the country’s near-sighted approach when it feels that the adivasi requires “saving” from himself and his prehistoric lifestyle (as you also quote a minister saying so during the Congress’ tenure at the centre)? How, where do we draw the line when we talk about bringing India into the modern world then?

The country has always used adivasi labour — whether to cut timber, collect forest produce, work on tea gardens, brick kilns, urban construction sites, or in the army — in these roles, they appear to need no ‘saving’. It’s only when they live on their own land in relative autonomy that they are seen as needing to be saved. Adivasis have always been modern. It’s the upper-caste upper-class India which looks down on them while exploiting their labour and resources, which is trapped in a feudal mindset. Even in terms of their culture which is relatively more egalitarian, they are more in keeping with the modern values of the constitution than some of the ‘civilised’ parts of the country who practice honour killings or lynch people for eating meat.

Have we, the academia included, completely understood the Maoist? You say in the book that the adivasi is the unfortunate victim of war he hasn’t even waged. How do we then evaluate the Maoist’s position in this discourse (of which, perhaps the constitution is the most important document to refer to), and consequently the state’s?  Surely, it isn’t as simple as calling the two enemies as many would have us believe?

No one can ‘completely understand’ the Maoists, including the Maoists themselves. There are different types of Maoists — women, men, middle class Maoists who sacrificed their lives for an ideology, peasants who joined for dignity, adivasis who were driven into the movement due to severe exploitation. The movement is different in different states, and the experience of each of these categories of members is different. As I said, our research does not even begin to scratch the surface of the issues involved. People’s beliefs about themselves or a Maoist version of the Maoist movement, while important as a source, does not exhaust what can be said.

Also, I haven’t said that the adivasis are victims of a war they have not waged — I say there is a complicated relationship and overlap between Maoists and adivasis but they are not synonymous.

In Salwa Judum, the state opted for a tertiary arm (before Operation Greenhunt as you mention in the book). In that way, the treatment of the conflict in Bastar as compared to say that in Manipur or Kashmir has been different. Will the path to resolution be different as well? How do you see it? And is that down to the object of contention here — the ‘resources’? How has your interaction with the organisation been?

On the contrary, [I would say] the treatment of the conflict in Bastar has been very similar to that in Manipur or Kashmir — as I say in the book, the technology of counterinsurgency is remarkably similar across the world, even when the issues are different. In Kashmir, the state has used surrendered militants (Ikhwanis) in much the same way as surrendered Naxalites are being used in Bastar — as undisciplined storm troopers.

The path to resolution in all these cases is also similar — through political dialogue. The issues over which dialogue needs to take place are, of course, different — resources in central India, autonomy/freedom in Kashmir and so on. Another common feature or ‘confidence building measure’ that will help greatly in reducing conflict is for the state to enforce the rule of law, minimise human rights violations, acknowledge its mistakes, provide compensation and prosecute those guilty of excesses.

 While the conflict in Bastar still finds space, though scant, in print and online media, why do you think TV journalism has stayed away from the conflict? Is that indicative of how media has functions today?

TV journalism hasn’t exactly stayed away — it’s just that it has mostly adopted a statist perspective on the conflict. As I say in the book, TV’s focus on breaking news and visual effects also denies this story the kind of complex exploration it deserves.

Is the politics of co-option, which both national parties can be accused for, for the situation in Bastar, the most dangerous form of statecraft when it comes to handling your own citizenry — turning adivasi on adivasi ? What does the adivasi resort to then? Does it turn into a simple case of kill, or be killed?

You are right, this is the most dangerous form of statecraft. This is exactly what Justice Reddy and Nijjar warned against in their 2011 Supreme Court judgment banning state support for vigilante groups: “society is not a forest where one could combat an accidental forest fire by starting a counter forest fire that is allegedly controlled. …. Armed, the very same groups can turn, and often have turned, against other citizens, and the State itself”. We see this in Pakistan where state sponsored groups have engaged in terror against the Pakistani people themselves and also in the case of India’s gaurakshaks.

For ordinary people caught up in a conflict in which their own people are armed against them, the best that they can hope for is that they somehow survive this nightmare. But it’s hard when corruption and suspicion seeps down into society and even into families.

How has your interaction with other journalists and reporters who have reported from the conflict zone been like? What do you usually discuss? Malini Subramaniam, recently for example, was forced to leave the region. Is security a problem, especially for those who report regularly on the issues?

We usually discuss how many citizens have been killed and raped recently. We share notes on how we have been attacked by the police and their goons. We talk of forbidden texts like the Constitution. Sometimes, when we are in the mood for leisure, we talk about all the films we can’t see, all the things we can’t eat, and all the people we can’t love, because our patriots have forbidden us. We have secret crushes on Fawad Khan but we make do with Ajay Devgn instead, because he is shudh desi.

Finally, there is a narrative underlined here by another stroke of ‘liberalisation’ (the lessons we perhaps never learn?) — as you mention that of the mining policy in 2003. Where is the middle ground in all of this, and is Bastar the worst example of jostling for this middle ground that we city-dwellers give up the ghost on asking about? Are there any practical solutions that you can think of, particularly in regards to Bastar?

As I say in the book, especially in the epilogue, the only practical solution is peace talks. Civil society must put pressure on political parties and governments to live up to the principles of the Constitution and bring about peace with justice.

The Burning Forest: India’s War in Bastar by Nandini Sundar is available in bookstores and on the Juggernaut app

Leopard cub found in a house along Maharashtra-Gujarat border

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A resident of Khandipada area in Achad village of Palghar district was shocked to find a leopard cub in his house early Saturday morning, confused and scared he immediately alerted the forest department who rescued the cub with the help of wildlife rescuers.According to Dhaval Kansara, founder of Wildlife Conservation and Animal Welfare Association (WCAWA) whose team helped rescue the leopard cub was hiding amongst the wood stored in the mud house and looked extremely scared. “Since the cub is small we caught it and safely brought it to our animal rescue centre at Dahanu. The house where it was found is a tribal hamlet and close to the forest area and infact is on the Maharashtra-Gujarat border,” he said.Deputy Forest Officer (DFO) NS Ladkat informed that they received a call around 7 AM on Friday from a resident Sonu Thakur about the cub in their house. “It seems to be around four to five months old and is in stress as lot of people had gathered around the house but soon after it was rescued it is in a cage and is under observation,” he said.Ladkat added that there are chances that either the cub would have been separated from its mother or could be abandoned. “We have asked our staff to keep a close watch in the area so that we are aware if there is any movement of its mother,” he said.Dr Dinesh Vinherkar of WCAWA who was on his way to Dahanu on Saturday to carry out medical examination of the cub as well as chart out the plans ahead said, “We would try our best to re-unite the cub if it has been separated with its mother but it will have to be done in a proper manner to ensure that the cub is safe. It will be planned with the forest department after carrying out ground work close to the area where it was found,” he said.

India to ratify Paris climate deal today

Sun, 2 Oct 2016-11:00am , New Delhi , ANI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>India today will ratify Paris Agreement on climate change on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti.Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Anil Madhav Dave said in New Delhi that the ratification by India will help generate the political momentum necessary to bring the Agreement in force. He said that India’s decision to ratify the Agreement has come after ensuring compliance of domestic legal requirements and internal discussions with various stakeholders.Dave said India through its participation in the Agreement, will articulate the interests of the poor and vulnerable groups, under the UNFCCC process.He further said that India led from the front last year at Conference of Parties 21 to ensure the inclusion of climate justice and sustainable lifestyles, the Gandhian Lifestyle in the Paris Agreement.

Kerala: Black flags shown to CM Vijayan over fee hike in private medical colleges

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Activists of Youth Congress and Kerala Students Union, the youth and students’ outfits of the Congress party, on Saturday showed black flags to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan near the state Secretariat in Thiruvana as part of their agitation over the issue of fees and admission in private medical colleges.Police said some protesters showed black flags to the chief minister’s vehicle near the Cantonment Gate of Secretariat, the administrative hub, at the heart of the city. The protesters were immediately taken away by the police.Tension prevailed in front of the Secretariat after some protesters blocked the movement of Forest Minister K Raju’s vehicle in the morning as part of the hunger strike of Youth Congress state president Dean Kuriakose, along with another activist Mahesh, which entered the fifth day.Police chased the protesters with lathis and even used water cannons to disperse them. Reacting to the incident, Raju later said it was “quite unexpected” and should not have happened. He also claimed that the protesters banged on his car and waved black flags.In a similar incident in the northern district of Kannur, a group of Youth Congress activists showed black flags to state Health Minister KK Shylaja, police said. Meanwhile, two Congress MLAs — K Sabarinathan and M Vincent — staged a dharna in front of a police station demanding immediate release of party workers, taken into custody in connection with the incidents.Former chief minister Oommen Chandy and opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala condemned the alleged police action against the Congress activists.Chandy demanded a probe into the incident while Chennithala alleged that the police acted against the protesters “without any provocation”.The Youth Congress was demanding scrapping of the agreement between the state government and the management of private self-financing medical colleges, maintaining that the new fees structure was “very high” and alleging corruption.

Rs 9,393 cr Ken-Betwa river linking project, first of its kind, gets wildlife board approval

The phase I of the Ken-Betwa river interlinking project has received the approval of the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), according to various media reports.

The Rs 9,393 crore project was given the approval at the meeting held on 23 August, chaired by Union environment minister Anil Madhav Dave.

The interlinking of the Ken and Betwa rivers in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh is aimed at providing water to Bundelkhand, an area in Uttar Pradesh fighting continuous drought.

Around 105 sp km of tiger habitat will be lost to the project. ReutersAround 105 sp km of tiger habitat will be lost to the project. Reuters

Around 105 sp km of tiger habitat will be lost to the project. Reuters

For the project – the first of the NDA government’s ambitious mega river linking programme – the government will have to divert 5,258 hectares of forest. This will include 4,141 hectares of Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, a report in The Indian Express said.

A report in The Economic Times said as much as 105 sq km of tiger habitat will be lost.

Apart from the NBWL nod, the project now requires approvals from the Forest Advisory Committee and the Environment Ministry, said the ET report.

An IE report said in order to make good for the loss of the tiger habitat, “Nauradehi, Rani Durgavati and Ranipur wildlife sanctuaries will be integrated in Panna Tiger Reserve” and project-affected villagers will be rehabilitated.

According to the ET report, the Chhatarpur and South Panna Division will also be notified as a buffer of the protected reserve area. The report, citing the minutes of the meeting, says that Uma Bharti‘s water resources ministry has agreed to all conditions to get the approval from the wildlife board.

As per the conditions, no more mining will be given in the tiger reserve area and power generation units will only be set up outside it.

Bharti had in June termed the delay in clearance to the Ken-Betwa river-linking project a “national crime and threatened to go on hunger strike if work on it gets prolonged”.

Work on the project was expected to take off from December last year. However, it has been delayed for want of wildlife clearances.

“I consider causing delay to the project as national crime. I am not saying it’s treason, but it indeed is a national crime. Because you are denying livelihood for 70 lakh people,” Bharti had told reporters in New Delhi.

An Expert Appraisal Committee of the environment ministry had in October 2015 raised objections to the project saying it will impact the Panna Tiger Reserve “very significantly” and suggested a careful study of the project before granting approval.

The standing committee of NBWL comprises of two members of NBWL, representatives of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Wildlife Institute of India (WII), state governments and user agency who was to visit the site visit and submit a report on the impact of project on habitat and wildlife of Panna Tiger Reserve.

Apart from the Ken-Betwa linking project, the other such projects in the works are the Manas-Sankosh-Teesta-Ganga, involving Assam, West Bengal and Bihar; Par Tapi Narmada Link to transfer water from the water surplus regions of Western Ghats to the water deficit regions of Saurashtra and Kutch and Damanganga-Pinjal link, which will provide water for the Greater Mumbai.

Murbad leopard continues to evade forest dept officials

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The leopard in Murbad taluka continued to evade forest department officials on Monday. With two people being killed in the last four days, tempers have been rising in the area and heavy rains dampened the search mission.The forest department has set up five trap cages. But a senior official from Thane (territorial) said that the leopard seems to be well aware of the cages. “On several occasions, it came close to the trap cages but not even once entered them. This means that it has been trapped earlier as well,” he said. Though forest officials are armed with an order to shoot the leopard under the Wildlife Act, they are more keen on trapping the leopard than shooting it. “We have written to the superintendent of police (SP), Thane (rural), to provide sharpshooters to shoot the leopard, if required. However, our emphasis is on trapping the leopard either in a cage or by tranquilising as we don’t want to put down a wild animal,” said KP Singh, chief conservator of forest (CCF), Thane (territorial).According to sources, the forest staff, including the tranquilising team, is already moving around six villages where the leopard movement was tracked. Shooters from Thane were expected to join them by late Monday evening.However, rains made the operation difficult since Monday morning. It was after 7pm, when there was some respite, the teams started intensive search.In fact, on Monday, the forest department set up a makeshift control room in Tokawade village. “We have circulated several pamphlets with the mobile numbers of the forest staff across several villages like Singapur, Vaishakhare, Tokawade and others in about a 10-km range and have asked people to alert us if they spot the leopard,” said a forest official. Given the open landscape, it is extremely difficult to keep track of the leopard, and, hence, this was one of the best options. By Monday evening, there were several fake alerts too.On Sunday evening, it claimed the second victim, Barku Bhoir (52), who was grazing cattle in the Palu-Sonawale dam area, barely 5 km from where the leopard claimed its first victim, 54-year-old Mirabai Vare.“We are now only focusing on ensuring that no human life is lost and hence we have been asking villagers not to venture out alone and not to allow children to go to school alone. While people are extremely scared, we are telling them to take basic precautions for a few days till we trap the big cat,” said another senior forest official.

Culling Nilgai: To manage wildlife conservation and human interests, research is key

Conservationists are fond of saying India is a tolerant country for wildlife. Many of its billion plus citizens live cheek by jowl with dangerous beasts. Vegetarian animals eat their crops and predators snack on livestock. Some farmers claim compensation for their loss, but most stoically bear their burden. But this benevolent attitude is under siege.

For decades, farmers in Himachal Pradesh complained that they were unable to earn a living when hordes of rhesus macaques grabbed crops and fruits. The farmers’ distress became a political slugfest before every election in the state. Some abandoned their fields and quit farming. When sterilizing tens of thousands of macaques failed to control the problems, agriculturalists demanded culling notwithstanding the primate’s association with Hanuman. It was the last resort.

People complained about nilgai, but when given shooting rights, they weren’t prepared to do anything. The problem was the name of the animal: this antelope was conjoined with the holy cow. Just 18 months ago, managers considered changing the animal’s name to vanroz, to sever the sanctity bestowed by its common name.

Across the country, most complaints of crop damage feature large mammals, like nilgai and wild boar. Rarely do farmers complain to the forest department about rodents, perhaps the worst offenders of all. They don’t see the need to urge official action when they can deploy traps and poisons themselves. Should they pull the same stunt with larger animals, they could be prosecuted under wildlife laws. That doesn’t prevent people from trying.

Wild boar are survivors and ought to be found in every habitat. Even with legal protection, they have been quietly exterminated from most of our farmlands.

The Centre approved proposals to cull these animals in particular areas for specific periods. A sharpshooter engaged by the Bihar Forest Department shot at least 300 nilgai, even before an official name change.

Many believe culling will put an end to the daily pitched battles with wild animals. Although it is widely practiced in the US, Europe, and Africa, there is little evidence that it alleviates crop damage or loss of livestock.

The belief is: more animals eat more crops. Reducing numbers would therefore lead to less damage. However, this obvious logic doesn’t play out so well in the real world.

The Nilgai near the Parliament House. Image courtesy: ANI/TwitterThe Nilgai near the Parliament House. Image courtesy: ANI/Twitter

The Nilgai near the Parliament House. Image courtesy: ANI/Twitter

Kodagu has few elephants but its residents complain a great deal about crop damage. The Nilgiris has many more elephants but reports fewer complaints. There’s no evidence that increasing animal numbers leads to more dependence on human foods. Then how can culling alleviate the situation?

Even if numbers mattered, a short spell of culling won’t fix the problem. Once an area is cleared of animals and there are no other claimants to the food, others move in from neighbouring areas. Within months, they replace the removed animals.

If the states seek recourse in culling, they are in for the long haul. They have to keep killing indefinitely until they drastically reduce the species’ numbers or exterminate it, undoing everything India has achieved in conservation.

Perhaps more than a real fix, the states want to buy tolerance by giving in to the demands for culling.

Many conservation organizations around the world believe a state-mandated cull could prevent poaching and retaliatory killing of wildlife. In its ‘A manifesto for large carnivore conservation in Europe,’ the IUCN says:

“Legalised, well regulated hunting of large carnivores at sustainable levels can be a useful tool in responding to conflict, through slowing their increase to socially acceptable levels, engaging local populations in management, increasing their perceived local value, and decreasing illegal killing.”

In a recent article for Science, two biologists Rosie Woodroffe and Stephen Redpath argued, “Pragmatic conservationists have long recognised that allowing some predator control — whether or not it achieves its stated aims—can help to build tolerance among land managers who might otherwise block conservation efforts.”

But there’s no evidence that killing animals promotes tolerance.

In a paper published in April 2016 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, ecologists Guillaume Chapron and Adrian Treves say contrary to accepted wisdom, culling reduces tolerance and provides an incentive for poaching. When the state killed wolves in the forest-less expanses of Wisconsin and Michigan, residents perceived that the benefits of wolves had declined. The authors came to these conclusions by modelling culling policies with projected wolf population growth rate, instead of actually looking at poaching figures and assessing people’s attitudes.

Many rural Europeans and Americans have it in for wolves, and every smidgen of support for the beleaguered animals is hard-won. If a few animals have to be killed to buy acceptance for the presence of the species, wildlife managers and conservationists compromised.

While our farmers may not believe ‘the only good nilgai is a dead one,’ many clandestinely do away with animals. They use live wires, mouth bombs, poisoned or explosives-filled pumpkins, snares, and a variety of cruel and crude methods to dispatch animals. Wild boar with their lower jaws blown off wander in pain before succumbing to infection, blood loss, and starvation. Elephants are maimed or killed by exploding or poisoned pumpkins. Live wires kill indiscriminately – anything large or small that comes into contact is toast. Would such killings become more prevalent as the study on wolves indicates?

Three ingredients encourage poaching during culling periods, Treves told Firstpost — “One, the government signal should be negative, example, too many wolves and many people suffering, and culling must be widely publicised as an alleged remedy.” In addition, the species must be unpopular among those with weapons and an inclination to poach.

In India, none of the marked species draw the kind of hatred that wolves do in the West. So would people prefer to let the government do the dirty work for them?

John Linnell of the Norwegian Institute of Nature Research studied the ecology of leopards and wolves living in Maharashtrian farmlands. He says, “It (culling) is a fascinating experiment which needs to be conducted so India can gain experience with different options for managing wildlife in human-dominated landscapes. It may not work, but I think it needs to be tried. I only hope that it is being followed up so that knowledge can be gained from the process. However, I would also hope that a range of other options are being tested as well.”

We don’t know what causes conflict, why some animals of a species prefer crops to wild forage, why particular areas are more prone to crop damage, and what measures farmers should take to protect their livelihoods. There is no single universal cause that drives animals to eat crops and neither are there any silver bullet solutions. It’s impractical for biologists to investigate such situations region by region and custom-draft possible ways of deflecting animals.

A policy to deal with wildlife in farmlands would help. Wildlife policy and laws provide species-wide protection and prescribe how wildlife areas are to be managed. They say little about what managers should do when animals live in agricultural fields. The Karnataka Elephant Task Force made a start in this direction by prioritising landscapes for people and elephants and recommending appropriate actions. There’s no question that wildlife living with humans has to be managed. The question is how.

If this culling effort fails, as it is bound to, how will farmers react? Would they go back to non-lethal methods? Or would they demand the extermination of the species? Would culling in some areas instigate people in other areas to demand similar relief? We need more research in wildlife management and social scientists to assess people’s attitudes. Not only is farm economy already in crisis so is wildlife conservation.

Unless we do more to help farmers, our famed tolerance for wildlife will be shot to hell.

IAS, IPS, IFoS can now opt for seven year foreign posting, instead of five if permitted by ministers

IAS and IPS officers can now stay on foreign posting for seven-years at a stretch from existing five years with due permission from the ministers concerned.The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has relaxed rules to allow any ministry to further extend the tenure of an officer beyond seven years provided “recruitment rules for such deputation post” are amended accordingly. The move comes after various ministries approached the DoPT for relaxation of the five-year deputation tenure condition citing exigencies, officials said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It has now been decided with the approval of the competent authority that if the administrative ministries or departments and other borrowing organisations wish to retain an officer beyond five years, they may extend the tenure of deputation where absolutely necessary in the public interest, upto a period not exceeding seven years at a stretch, the new rules said.”This shall be done with the approval of the Minister of the borrowing ministry or department concerned and in respect of other organisations with the approval of the Minister of the borrowing ministry or department with which they are administratively concerned, keeping in view the exigencies and subject to fulfilment of all other requirements,” it said.In a directive to all state governments and central government ministries, the DoPT has said that no case of extension shall be referred to it. “In cases where the necessity to have deputation tenures longer than seven years is felt, the concerned administrative ministries, departments or borrowing organisations may amend the relevant recruitment rules of such deputation post accordingly, after following the requisite procedure.”No extension of deputation beyond 7 years is to be allowed unless provided in the relevant recruitment rules of such deputation post. It is reiterated that no case for extension beyond five years shall referred to DoPT,” the communique said.The new rules are applicable to the officers of all India services only–Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service (IFoS).

Selfie with a pride of Gir lions? Ravindra Jadeja needs to see a shrink

I think Ravindra Jadeja should be put through a psychological assessment. What on earth was he thinking when he decided to pose in front of pride of Gir forest lions?

This in the week where there were two shark attacks, an alligator killed a child in Disneyland and just a few weeks back a gorilla had to be shot dead because a two-year-old fell into the enclosure. The boy was two years old, he fell into the enclosure through the railings. To the best of my knowledge Jadeja is older than two and he did not fall into the space between him and the lions.

He elected to walk there and the ignorance of the laws is not a sufficient defence. What about plain common sense? Did he not read the story of the young man who was reportedly mentally unstable who walked into the tiger’s den so to speak at the Delhi zoo?

He was not normal.

Ravinder Jadeja at the Gir National Park. Image courtesy: Instagram

Ravinder Jadeja at the Gir National Park. Image courtesy: Instagram

So, why is it okay to think that Jadeja did the smart thing and should not be assessed. Imagine if something had happened to him. The rangers would have been arrested, the Forest officers suspended and a whole frenzied media would have gone berserk. Indians would have howled in protest against the inept officials while ignoring this man’s utter stupidity.

I think it is absolutely spot on that the authorities are making an official report of this incident and once they do the man should be taken to task because he could have ruined their lives and careers with his indulgence.

When celebrities, especially sports personalities, send out the wrong message to their fans and the public at large they are twice as culpable. There was nothing heroic about this. Look at the photos. He turns his back on the lions and makes funny faces. It was so foolish.

Did he think they were tied up? Did he think they would ask for his autograph because these lions in the wild get a cricket feed? Maybe Ravindra Jadeja thought his fans would see him as a heck of a guy, gutsy and ready to risk his life.

Now if he was doing that saving somebody from a burning building one could understand it. But to try and fraternise with wild lions on their turf borders on madness. It is said he loves animals. Then he should have known better than to leap out of a jeep and put himself at risk.

You think those lions were sort of saying, cool it, dude, it’s a cricketer, let him be. He is just lucky they were fed and full and not inclined to be curious. Otherwise Mr Jadeja would not have made it back to his jeep.

I know a friend who lost his brother from an elephant who plucked him out of his jeep on the road and slammed the life out of him. You want to be a tough guy, go play your game and stop sending out wrong messages to impressionable youngsters.

Taking selfies with lions, man, you need to see a shrink.

Gujarat: 1 of 17 lions captured near Gir sanctuary identified as ‘man-eater’; shifted to Sakkarbaug Zoo

One of the 17 lions, captured last month for killing three persons near the Gir sanctuary, has been identified as a ‘man-eater’ and shifted to the Sakkarbaug Zoo in Gujarat.”A man was killed by a pride of 15 lions. We captured one and found it to be a man-eater. We have now sent the lion to Sakkarbaug Zoo. We have decided to capture the entire pride and shift them. Till now, we have captured 13 lions and kept them in a rescue centre. A scat analysis will be conducted there,” AP Singh, Chief Conservator of Forest (Junagadh division) told ANI.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He further said that out of the 17 lions captured by them last month, one was a male adult, and it turned out to be the main culprit.”We found considerable amount of human remains in that lion’s faeces, while very small amount was found from the faeces of two sub-adult females. It brought us to the conclusion that the male lion attacked, killed and ate humans, while two other sub-adults only ate some leftover body parts. These sub-adults were not involved in attacking and killing humans, as they only ate the leftover parts,” said Singh.Singh added the male lion would be kept in a cage at the zoo for its entire life on the outskirts of Junagadh city, while the two lionesses would be kept locked in any of forest department?s rescue centre.”All the three lions have to spend their lives in captivity now. The other 16 lions of the pride, including several cubs, will be released in the (Gir) sanctuary. As a precaution, they will be released in deeper pockets of the sanctuary, far away from where they were captured,” he said.The pride of 17 lions was caged last month outside the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in Dhari taluka of Amreli district, on the border of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary.A major portion of the Gir sanctuary falls in the adjoining Junagadh district and Dhari taluka lies on the border of the sanctuary.The forest department had started the drive to cage the lions after three persons – a 14-year-old boy, a woman aged around 50 and a 61-year-old man – were mauled to death by the felines in the same region in April and May.Prior to these incidents, the man-lion conflict was rare in and around Gir, the only abode of Asiatic lions where there are around 523 lions, as per the last census.These incidents sparked anger among the locals, who along with some political leaders, including former Amreli MLA Dilip Sanghani, demanded action against the man-eater lions.

Delay in Ken-Betwa project: Uma Bharti threatens to go on fast

Terming the delay in clearance to the ambitious Ken-Betwa river-linking project by some independent environmentalists a “national crime”, Union Minister Uma Bharti on Tuesday threatened to go on hunger strike if work on it gets further prolonged. Work on the project, first effort of connecting two inter-state rivers–Ken in Madhya Pradesh and Betwwa in UP– to quench parched pocket of Bundelkhand (UP), was expected to take off from December last year, however, has been delayed for want of wildlife clearances. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”I consider causing delay to the project as national crime. I am not saying it’s a treason, but it indeed is a national crime. Because you are denying livelihood for 70 lakh people,” Bharti told reporters here. The Union Minister said it agitates her that “those sitting in air condition chambers” in Delhi are objecting to the project even as those, who are going to be affected by it are welcoming it as it will benefit 70 lakh people. Calling herself “the biggest environmentalist”, Bharti asked how can her intentions be doubted when she pitches for initiating work on the project and accused environmentalists of an expert committee under Ministry of Environment and Forest, who are looking into the issue of clearance for the project. Bharti hastened to add that she has “no difference with the Environment Ministry or its Minister Prakash Javadekar” but with private enviromentalists, who are members in the committee. “If the project is delayed further at the next expert committee meeting, I will personally go on hunger strike. It is a matter of 70 lakh people. We will not sit before the Environment Minister as he is with us,” Bharti said, voicing her frustration over the delay. She also accused the environmentalists of forcing people of the region to live in miserable conditions.

Elephant tramples man in Chhattisgarh, sixth such incident in one month

Korba, Chhattisgarh: Elephant attacks continue to claim lives in Chhattisgarh’s Korba district as another villager was trampled by a wild jumbo taking the death toll to six in the region this month.

The local forest authority has sought permission to tranquilise two ‘rogue’ tuskers in order to shift those to another place or kill the pachyderms if necessary.

“Mukhiram Manjhwar (45) was attacked by the jumbo last night while he was sleeping in front of his house at Pidiya village under Kartala forest range,” Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Korba Forest Division Vivekanand Jha said.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Dori (Mahua fruit) was kept in front of the victim’s house and a jackfruit tree was also there. Prima facie it appears that pachyderm was attracted by the smell of Mahua or jackfruit, the DFO said.

So far six villagers, including two women, were killed by three rogue tuskers at separate places in Kartala and Kudmura forest ranges of Korba division this month.

An elderly woman, Samudribai Rathiya, was killed on Monday morning near Charmar village in Kartala forest range when she had gone to pick Mahua fruits.

“Of the three rogue tuskers, one has now joined its herd while two others are still venturing alone in the forests.
After monitoring the activities of the elephants for the past few days, we have become certain that the animals have gone rogue,” Jha said.

In a letter to Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (wildlife), we have sought his direction into the matter. Besides, permission has also been sought to tranquilise the two tuskers and shift them to other region or kill them if necessary keeping in view the welfare of people, he said.

“The chances of human-animal conflict increases in this season as villagers go in the forest to pluck tendu leaves and pick mahua fruits. After the recent incidents, the villagers have been advised to take precautions and stay alert,” the DFO said.

Moreover, Van Samiti (forest committees) have been asked to organise meeting with villagers to discuss the situation and take necessary precautions, Jha added.

The thickly forested northern Chhattisgarh, comprising Surguja, Korba, Raigarh, Jashpur and Korea districts, are notorious for incidents of human-elephant conflict.

The region has witnessed killings of several people and damages to houses and crops by rogue elephants in the last few years.

Massive forest fire engulfs 10 kilometer area near Vaishno Devi shrine

Massive fire has engulfed the dense pine forests near the revered Shri Mata Vaishno Devi (SMVD) shrine in Katra town of Reasi district in the Jammu division.Spread over 10 kilometres, fire started from Banganga ridge on the Trikuta hills and spread quickly to other areas prompting the authorities to shut the helipad for sometime as a precautionary measure to avoid any mishap.SMVD shrine board authorities later requisitioned the Indian Air Force for help to douse the flames. Indian Air Force has pressed two choppers into service which are fetching water from the Salal dam in Reasi to sprinkle on the affected areas in a bid to douse the flames.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Fire fighting operations were conducted by the two Mi-17V5 helicopters of the 153 Helicopter Units, Udhampur. Till 2.30 pm the helicopters conducted five sorties using Bambi Bucket. Over 18,000 litres of water was dispensed (to douse the flames)”, Colonel SD Goswami, defence spokesman at Northern Command, told dna.Police said the yatra however, remained unaffected and pilgrims had dharshan at the holy cave shrine without any hassles as the fire was controlled to a large extent.”It was a natural fire which broke out yesterday in the 10 kilometer area. Yatra, Yatries and chopper services remained unaffected. Fire has been controlled at the areas near the public places. Smoke is billowing from few places on the upper ridges. IAF choppers are sprinkling water to control the fire,” Sujit Kumar, senior superintendent of police, Reasi, told dna.Experts said the reasons for the fire could be either man made or natural given the prevailing heat wave in the area.”When pine needles fall from the trees it creates a carpet like layer on the ground. A small spark by a cigarette bit can cause massive fires. Another reason could be that in the scorching heat, the stones start rolling down which sometimes create sparks. This too ignites the forest fire,” said Mohinder Singh, deputy director of Forest Protection Force (FPF).Located at the altitude of 5,200 feet in the Tirukta hills, the shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi is one of the holiest pilgrimage places in Indian sub continent. The pilgrims have to trek around 12 kilometres from the base camp to the Holy cave.Millions of devotees visit the shrine every year to perform puja at the sanctum sanctorum. Official data reveal 77.76 pilgrims visited the shrine in 2014 against 78.03 lakh in 2014. Around 93.24 lakh pilgrims visited the shrine in 2013.”We have controlled the fire to a large extent. There has been no damage to the life or property. The chopper operations at the helipad has also resumed,” said Jagdish Singh, sub divisional magistrate at SMVD.

Soaring temperatures reignite forest fires in Uttarakhand

Soaring temperatures in Uttarakhand reignited forest fires in the hill state on Wednesday, with nearly 180 hectares of green cover gutted in the fresh fire incidents in Uttarkashi district.Currently 180 hectares of forest land spread over 111 places in the district are in flames, Uttarkashi District Magistrate Shridhar Babu Addanki said. “Rangers and Divisional Forest Officers have been asked to rush to the spots where fires are active and extinguish the flames as soon as possible,” he said.DFO Barkot DK Singh and DFO Purola Sandeep Kumar said there is no dearth of funds and equipment and they expect to control the blazes soon.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Uttarakhand is reeling under heat wave conditions for over a week now with most places recording temperatures which are four to five degrees above normal for this time of the year, MeT director Vikram Singh said. That may be one of the factors behind the fresh forest fires in parts of the state, he said advising caution.
ALSO READ Uttarakhand forest fires spread to 13 districts; claims 5 livesForest fires this season, which began in February have so far destroyed nearly 4048 hectares of land in Uttarakhand in 1857 incidents. The rising trend in temperature is likely to continue for a few days more with the temperature of Dehradun which recorded a maximum of 40.2 degrees Celsius on Tuesday likely to hover around 41 degrees on Wednesday, he said, adding there is no respite from heat likely over the next 48 hours.

A man-made disaster is devastating Wayanad and political apathy is deepening the crisis

Mullenkolly, Wayanad – As you travel through Wayanad in Kerala, you would wonder whether there is indeed a drought at all. The region is all green and temperature is comparatively lower too.

But that is only until you reach Kolavally, in Mullenkolly Gram Panchayat, near the Karnataka border, where villagers are reeling under a severe water crisis and the Kabani river, their life-line, is fast drying.

“There is no water. Neither for us nor for our cattle. Our cattle have nothing to eat, just the mud,” says Sarasu, a resident of the Ambedkar colony, about 30 km from Mullenkolly.

The residents here were primarily pepper and coffee farmers. But with the crisis in the agriculture sector deepening, most of them have taken to cattle rearing. Now with the drought, even that is under threat.

Kabani-wayanadKabani-wayanad

The Kabani river in Wayanad that has dried up.

The Kabani river originates in the Wayanad district and flows to the east through Karnataka.

The remote colony, from where residents walk around three kilometres to catch a bus, was fully dependent on the muddied, almost stagnant, untidy water in the river for nearly one-and-half months as the street-side taps that provide clean drinking water dried up.

The crisis came to light when a few officials from the Kerala Forest Research Institute visited the area and brought their plight to the authorities’ attention. Now two tankers come to the area once in a week or two and the taps too have water intermittently.

To be sure, the situation in Wayand is much better than regions like Marathwada in Maharashtra. But what makes the drought here particularly scary is that the region has always been green and water has never been a problem. This is the first time something like this is happening here. The villagers are shocked to see the change. They never expected their fields would ever dry up and develop cracks, that their river which always flowed in abundance would ever be so thin.

Wayanad has always been a resource-rich area, covered with forest and thousands of streams and springs. The weather and the soil of the region were totally different from the rest of Kerala and conducive for cultivation of paddy and spices such as pepper. While agriculture has been the mainstay of the indigenous tribes, tourism has flourished in the recent years.

wayanad GDPwayanad GDP

“It was climate that made Wayanad. There was a time when it rained always. But it is not so now,” says Klapetta Narayanan, a political thinker and poet, who was born in the region and has seen the region deteriorating slowly.

The disaster has been in the making for the last many years, say activists and experts.

TV Sajeev, scientist, Kerala Forest Research Institute, terms the drought in Wayanad a man-made disaster and does not link it to the global warming.

According to PU Das, district soil conservation officer, it all started with the large-scale migration into the region from south Kerala towards the end of 1940s which resulted in a change in cropping pattern and encroachments into the forest. The forest cover in the district has been fast depleting.

A study titled Geospatial assessment and monitoring of historical forest cover changes (1920–2012) in Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve that assessed forest depletion in seven protected areas, Wayanad-I Wildlife Sanctuary experienced the most forest cover loss.

The study conducted by Forestry & Ecology Group of the National Remote Sensing Centre with ISRO, and Department of Environmental Sciences of the Andhra University found that in 1920 the forest cover of the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary was 318.3 sq km. In 1973, this had declined to 172.6 sq km, that is a decrease of 54 percent.

The villagers never though their fields would ever dry up and develop cracksThe villagers never though their fields would ever dry up and develop cracks

The villagers never though their fields would ever dry up and develop cracks

Leneesh K, who works with Thanal, an NGO engaged in the area of agriculture and sustainable living, says the destruction of forest has in turn resulted in a decline in the canopy. “So once the rain stops, the top soil doesn’t have the ability to retain the moisture,” he says.

According to Das, earlier the rainfall in the region used to be 3000 mm. Of this 60 percent or 96 tmc of water flowed out of the Kabani river. The balance 40 percent used to get retained in water bodies and infiltrated in the soil. But now it is estimated that 145 tmc of water flows out.

“That means 90 percent of the rain that we get flows out. Only 10 percent gets absorbed in the soil,” Das says. What this also means is that soil erosion is at an alarming 20 tonnes per hectare per year. The various factors that impact soil erosion is water run-off, slope, canopy coverage, land use, agriculture pattern, soil texture and top soil depth.

The settlers who came from other regions, changed the cropping pattern and methods of cultivation in the region. There has been a major shift to cash crops and mono crops, which are not suitable for the environmental and soil health of Wayanad. From paddy that started in the 1950s to pepper and coffee towards the 80s and then to rubber and plantain towards 90s, there has been major shift in the agriculture patterns.

“Other than paddy whatever else you plant in the field will have a negative impact on the ground water recharging. With the cropping pattern change this recharging is not taking place now,” says Leneesh.

Apart from this, the boom in construction and tourism has given rise to large-scale quarrying in the area. “Most of the quarries go deeper than the ground water level. This results in flooding of the quarry where water from nearby springs get accumulated. What this means is less water in the adjoining areas,” says Sajeev of KFRI.

As election draws near, there is a scramble to address the situation and find solutions. But, the ignorance of most of the political parties about the root cause of the crisis is palpable.

At a water conservation workshop conducted by the press club at Pulpally (Mullenkolly is about 4 km away from here), as expert Sajeev started his speech, UDF MLA IC Balakrishnan, who is a candidate from the Sulthan Bathery constituency this time too, left the stage. Probably, he is tied up with election work. But that he left the dais before the workshop began was ominous.

It is the political class who should be made aware of the situation because the solutions being suggested now are short sighted.

“The solutions that are being proposed now, like constructing check dams etc, will only deepen the crisis,” Sajeev reminded at the workshop. “Such short-term solutions will boomerang. They are sure to backfire,” he said.

“The root cause for the depletion in water resources is never addressed,” concurs Leneesh (not at the workshop).

Coffee plants dried and burnt in WayanadCoffee plants dried and burnt in Wayanad

Coffee plants dried and burnt in Wayanad

As a first step, according to Sajeev, restrictions should be put in place on quarrying. “It is ironical that whatever money being earmarked to address environmental damage is channelled into construction work, like that of tanks or pipelines,” he notes. The reason, according to him, is that construction is a sector where corruption is standardised. It is easy for the political class and construction lobby to engage each other.

Secondly, the plantations of teak wood, acacia etc should be turned into natural forest to increase the canopy.

CK Janu, a tribal leader who has lead the Adivasi struggle for land and now an NDA candidate from the Sulthan Bathery constituency, seeks a Wayanad package from the government for the farmers in the region. She says the only way out is to reverse the cropping pattern and methods of cultivation to the traditional system.

“The Wayanad package should address the financial difficulties of the farmers who are still struggling to retain the traditional methods of cultivation,” she says.

True. The story of Cheruvayal Raman (fondly called Ramettan), who is engaged in cultivation for the last 56 years and incurs huge losses only to preserve the traditional seeds and methods of cultivation, stands testimony to this.

As one speaks to experts, one thing becomes clearer – it is the change in land use pattern that has resulted in the degeneration of the region. A corollary to this issue is the alienation of the Adivasi land, their culture and their knowledge about the soil and climate of Wayanad.

It is high time various political parties, who have for years conspired to keep the Adivasis out of the mainstream political discourse, recognised their struggle for land, self-rule and political representation. That will be the first step towards Wayanad getting its abundance back. Remember, climate change has only begun to bite.

Ramettan’s story on Monday.

Rishikesh: British couple roughed up at Mahesh Yogi’s ashram

A British couple was allegedly roughed up by forest department personnel in plain clothes when they visited Mahesh Yogi’s ashram in Rishikesh.An official at Laxmanjhoola Police Station on Wednesday said that the couple had come to visit the famous ashram on Monday. They had an argument with the forest department personnel in plain clothes at the ashram, which falls in the Rajaji Tiger Reserve, when they were told that the entry fee was Rs 600, which they found too high, the official said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The couple objected to the high entry fee and entered into an argument following which they were allegedly roughed up by the forest personnel on duty at the ashram, he said citing a complaint lodged at the police station by the girl named Elisa. The forest department has made no comment on the issue.The couple has informed the British High Commission about the incident.

Uttarakhand forest fires caused by low moisture and heat: Prakash Javadekar

New Delhi: Low level of moisture and heat have led to forest fires in Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand, Union Environment and Forest minister Prakash Javadekar said on Tuesday.

Prakash Javadekar said the Uttarakhand forest fires were caused by heat and lack of moisture. PTI

Prakash Javadekar said the Uttarakhand forest fires were caused by heat and lack of moisture. PTI

Referring to recent instances of forest fires, he said in the Lok Sabha, that “these (fires) are not new but this time due to the heat, the moisture level has reduced, which at times leads to situation like ones in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.”

Fire incidents have been ravaging the forests of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh over the past few days.

Meanwhile, Indian Meteorological Department’s Director General Laxman Singh Rathore said rains over the hill states during the next two days will give some respite from forest fire.

A Western Disturbance phenomenon is already active, which will bring in the showers.

Firefighting operations continued on a war-footing in Uttarakhand with three IAF choppers sprinkling water on flaming forests as over 11,000 personnel fought infernos from the ground leading to further decline in the number of active fires.

Maharashtra: Leopard Safari to be built in Junnar

In what could have a far reaching impact in reducing the human-leopard conflict at Junnar, Maharashtra State forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, has asked Maharashtra State ElectricityBoard (MSEB) to supply power to farmers for irrigation during the dayinstead of night.This decision was taken in a meeting organised in Mumbai on Tuesday noon to discuss at length the mitigation measures to be taken to reduce human deaths by leopard attacks in Junnar. The meeting was called by Mungantiwar and attended by Vikas Kharge,Principal Secretary Forest, forest department staff from Junnar,local MLA Sharad Sonawane, Guardian minister for Pune – Girish Bapat as well as other government officials.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Sincethe three phase power for irrigation is supplied only at night,farmers from Junnar who walk to their fields at night are prone totheattacks as the big cat is active post sunset. Ihave asked officials from MSEB to ensure that the power is supplied during the day time to help avoid conflict,” said Mungantiwar. Hehas also directed the district administration to build toilets in allthe 79 villages at Junnar to resolve the open defecation issue, whichis also a common reason cited for attacks on humans, speciallychildren and women, accordingto the forest department.Jeet Singh, Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF)Territorial, Junnar said that both these announcements made by theforest minister would be a big step in mitigating the conflict. “Wehave informed about carrying out an estimation of the number ofleopards existing at Junnar in the sugarcane fields. Till date thereis no such data available and it will help in taking further steps.We also have a detailed awareness programme aimed at helping peopleunderstand how to adapt to big cats” he said.Meanwhile the forest department informed theMinisters that they have set up two Rapid Patrolling Teams consistingof six members each from the forest department whose job will be topatrol the sensitive areas and tranquilize or trap leopards. “Thisis a serious issue as there are several reports of humans losingtheir lives. We will take all possible measures to resolve thisconflict. The forest minister has already initiated some importantsteps starting Tuesday” added Singh.MLA Sonawane, whois also concerned about the issuesaid that while these steps will help, forest department needs to bealert and respond quickly. “We haverequestedregular patrolling ofthe special team and also for anincrease inareaof theleopard rescue center at Junnar as weare running out of space to keep trapped leopards,”he said

10,000 men engaged in dousing Uttarakhand fires, as Himachal records 519 cases since April 20

Even as nearly 10,000 people and three IAF helicopters engaged in operations to douse forest fires in Uttarakhand, the neighbouring Himachal Pradesh disclosed on Monday that it had recorded more than 500 cases of forest blaze since April 20.A four-member central team of experts was constituted on Monday to monitor the incidents. The team, comprising officials from environment ministry, National Institute of Disaster Management, Centre for Fire Explosives, and Fire Services, Delhi, has been asked to submit its report to the ministry of home affairs within one week.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier in the day, Union home minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Uttarakhand Governor K K Paul to take stock of forest fires and assured to continue assistance to the hill state for dousing the blaze.While the large manpower engaged was able to control fire in some parts of the state, officials indicated that the scale of operations will not be decreased. “Indian Air Force operations continued on Monday in Nainital and Pauri. We have lodged a total of 46 cases till now under the Indian Forest Act, and three persons have been arrested in Nainital,” said DP Gupta, chief conservator of forests.According to sources in the Indian Air Force, three helicopters, 1 ALH and 2 MI-17 with Bambi bucket were deployed and 30,000 litres of water was dropped to douse fires.Meanwhile, even Himachal Pradesh has recorded hundreds of forest fires since April 20, with the state experiencing one of the hottest summers on record. In places such as Anandpur Sahib and Bilaspur, temperatures have breached the 40 degree Celsius mark.”Till 5pm today, we have recorded 519 forest fires across 4,000 hectares but most of them have been extinguished. Like Uttarakhand, the chir pine is abundant in Himachal Pradesh spread across 1,215 square km and they are prone to forest fires. Around 700 personnel have been engaged to put out the fires,” said SP Vasudeva, principal chief conservator of forests, head of forestry force, Himachal Pradesh. Vasudeva added, “We had seen a high number of forest fires even in 2012-13 and this cycle is repeated every 3-4 years. This year, the summer, has been unusually harsh compounding the issue.”—(With inputs from Manan Kumar)

Over 20,000 forest fire cases witnessed in last 4 months: Govt

The first four months of 2016 have witnessed over 20,000 incidents of forest fire compared to nearly 16,000 such cases entire last year, Rajya Sabha was told on Monday.”Till April 21 this year, a total of 20,667 incidents of forest fires have taken place. In 2015, the total number of forest fire incidents were 15,937,” Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said in a written reply.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Javadekar said the Centre has formulated a contingency plan for dealing with such crises.The reply comes in the backdrop of raging fires in Uttarakhand forests which have destroyed 2,269 hectares of forested area across the state and claimed seven lives. Pauri, Nainital, Rudraprayag and Tehri are among the worst-hit districts.He said that this year, 291 forest fires have occurred in Uttarakhand, 2,422 in Chhattisgarh and 2,349 in Odisha. Madhya Pradesh reported 2,238 forest fires this year against 294 such incidents last year.Maharashtra reported 1,638 forest fires in 2016 while the figure stood at 1,719 for Assam. 1,416 fire forest incidents took place in Andhra Pradesh, the minister said quoting the figures of Forest Survey of India.In 2014, 19,054 forest fire incidents were reported, while 18,451 forest fire incidents took place in 2013.”Environment Ministry has formulated a contingency plan for dealing with forest fires which details the mechanism for coordination during the crisis situation of a major forest fire.”The plan provides for crisis groups at the Centre, state and local levels which take appropriate action to mitigate any crisis arising out of forest fires,” Javadekar said.He said that the government provides funds to states and union territories under the centrally-sponsored scheme ‘Intensification of Forest Management Scheme’ to supplement their efforts.”Under the scheme, various activities such as creation and maintenance of fire lines, construction of watch towers, engagement of fire watchers, assistance to joint forest management committees…””…construction of water storage structures, setting up of fire fighting cells, procurement of fire fighting equipment, fire mapping, preparation of fire management plan and training and awareness are supported,” Javadekar said.

After Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, forest fire now rages in Jammu and Kashmir

After Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, incidents of forest fires were reported from Bathuni and Gambhir areas of Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district on Sunday.The fire has been raging in the forests of Uttarakhand for several days, while the fire was reported from 12 new place in forests of Shimla today. Fire has engulfed 2270 hectare forest area in Uttarakhand and 50 hectare in Himachal Pradesh.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Over 10,000 personnel of different departments have been deployed to douse fire in Uttarakhand forests. The Centre has deployed three IAF, 17-Mi and three NDRF teams along with state police, SDRF, Forest staff, Home guards, local volunteers to battle forest fire.More than 1,900 hectares of forest land have been affected by the fire in the Kumaoun and Garwal region. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday reviewed the Uttarakhand forest fire situation during his meeting with the state?s Chief Secretary and concerned officers in his ministry.Singh has instructed his ministry officials to closely monitor the situation and provide all assistance in controlling the fire. The Home Minister had a telephonic conversation with Uttarakhand Governor K.K. Paul yesterday and assured him of providing all necessary assistance to control the fire.

Uttarakhand: IAF undertakes water sprinkling operations to control raging forest fires; seven dead

A Mi 17 chopper of the IAF began water sprinkling operations in Nainital on Sunday to control raging forest fires which have destroyed 2269 hectares of forested area across Uttarakhand, even as another chopper engaged for the same mission failed to take off due to low visibility.The chopper, which has the capacity of carrying 3000 litres of water, is collecting water from Bhimtal lake and making sorties of Almakhan, Kilbari and Nalena areas of the district to douse the fires, Principal Conservator of Forest and nodal officer BP Gupta told PTI.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>However, another IAF chopper engaged for the same purpose in Pauri has not been able to take off due to low visibility, Pauri District Magistrate Chandrasekhar Bhatt said.The chopper has collected water from Shrinagar dam but will make a sortie over areas where fires are active only when visibility improves, he said.However, with the two choppers pressed into service and all security agencies besides locals involved in fire extinguishing operations the situation is likely to be brought under control in a couple of days, the PCF said.Seven persons have been killed due to forest fires, which have spread to sparsely populated remote hill areas.Pauri, Nainital, Rudraprayag and Tehri are among the worst hit districts, Gupta said but hoped with all agencies activated the situation was bound to improve.Three companies of the NDRF, one of SDRF besides PRD and homeguard personnel are currently engaged in the operations, he said.With the MeT department predicting a significant fall in day temperatures after May 2, forest fires may get under control after a couple of days, he said but added that the administration will have to remain alert for the next 35 days to prevent fresh forest fire incidents.2269 hectares of forest land have been engulfed in flames this season which has witnessed a total of 1082 forest fire incidents.Since the beginning of forest fire season in the state in February, 922 incidents have occurred so far in which seven were injured.Worried over forest fires which are still raging in different parts of the state, Governor K K Paul had reviewed the rescue efforts underway via videoconferencing with officials in the field and asked them to speed up their efforts.IG Sanjay Gunjyal is coordinating with the NDRF, the district magistrates concerned and Principal Conservator of Forest to supervise the rescue operations.Locals are being encouraged to report a fire incident to the district magistrate concerned as soon as they sight it so that it can be controlled in time.The governor haD doubled the number of personnel deployed to control the fires from 3000 to 6000 and asked all agencies including the SDRF, district administration and the rural population to contribute their bit in the exercise.Forest fires are natural during summer but this time they have occurred on a bigger scale as the fire season which normally begins by February 15 and ends by June 15, began on February 2.Former chief minister Harish Rawat has asked the governor to declare Uttarakhand as a fire disaster struck state and involve locals as much as possible in fire extinguishing efforts.The PCF said the scale of forest fires in Uttarakhand this time has been bigger due to little or no rain during winter at most places.Pre-fire alerts listing possible fire points over the next seven days in forest areas are being made available on forest department’s website www.forest.uk.govt. an official release here said.The Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) is rushing Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) refullers to replenish IAF choppers deployed to douse the massive fire in Uttarakhand.

Uttarakhand forest fire: Mi-17 choppers to spray water over forests; 6 deaths reported so far

With major fires blighting around 1,900 hectares of forests in Uttarakhand, the government on Saturday decided to press two MI-17 helicopters into service as NDRF, SDRF and Army personnel struggled to douse the flames which have claimed six lives till now.A total of 1890.79 hectares of green cover have been destroyed this fire season which had an early start on February 2 due to a dry winter. Chamoli, Pauri, Rudraprayag, Tehri, Uttarkashi, Almora, Pithoragarh and Nainital are the worst-affected districts.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While three NDRF teams and one SDRF company are busy dousing the flames in different parts of the state, two IAF choppers have been sent to Nainital and Pauri districts, among the worst hit, to spray water over the burning jungles, Raj Bhawan officials here said.Enough funds have been made available to all affected districts besides required personnel and equipment to deal with any situation, they said.”One MI-17 chopper has been stationed at Bhimtal near Nainital right which is being loaded with water collected from the waterbodies in the area and begin spraying water over affected areas from tomorrow,” Chief Secretary Shatrughna Singh said.Another IAF chopper sent to Pauri will operate in similar fashion, a Raj Bhawan official said. With forest fires still raging three NDRF teams have been deployed in Almora, Gauchar and Pauri and one team of SDRF in Nainital to extinguish the flames, Principal Conservator of Forest B P Gupta said.Rudraprayag forest division is also taking help from the army for fire fighting operations especially along the highway, he said.The casualties due to forest fires, which have spread to sparsely populated remote hill areas, have risen to six with another life claimed in Nainital district on Friday evening. The deceased include three women and a child.Since the beginning of forest fire season in the state in February, 922 incidents have occurred so far in which seven were injured and 1890.79 hectares of green cover being affected, Gupta told PTI.Worried over forest fires which are still raging in different parts of the state, Governor K K Paul reviewed the rescue efforts underway via videoconferencing with officials in the field and asked them to speed up their efforts.NDRF companies assisted by expert teams and locals are conducting fire extinguishing and rescue operations in affected areas of Garhwal and Kumaon regions. IG Sanjay Gunjyal is coordinating with the NDRF, the district magistrates concerned and Principal Conservator of Forest to supervise the rescue operations.Locals are being encouraged to report a fire incident to the district magistrate concerned as soon as they sight it so that it can be controlled in time.The governor has doubled the number of personnel deployed to control the fires from 3000 to 6000 and asked all agencies including the SDRF, district administration and the rural population to contribute their bit in the exercise saying the forest department alone cannot accomplish the onerous task, Gupta said.Forest fires are natural during summer but this time they have occurred on a bigger scale as the fire season which normally begins by February 15 and ends by June 15, began on February 2. Former chief minister Harish Rawat has asked the governor to declare Uttarakhand as a fire disaster struck state and involve locals as much as possible in fire extinguishing efforts.Pradesh Congress president Kishore Upadhyay also wrote to party workers asking them to work unitedly to pull the state out of the crisis. The PCF said the scale of forest fires in Uttarakhand this time has been bigger due to little or no rain during winter at most places.Pre-fire alerts listing possible fire points over the next seven days in forest areas is being made available on forest department’s website www.forest.uk.govt. an official release here said. The governor today held a meeting held via video- conferencing at the secretariat with regard to forest fires and the preparations of char dham yatra. He said the DMs must gather all resources required. The administration would provide the funds.A system should be made in which the information about forest fires is obtained immediately and action taken immediately. An incident response system should be activated. Control rooms in districts must work round the clock. DMs must ensure coordination among all departments.Mass awareness campaigns be launched and gram panchayats, yuval mangal dals, mahila mangal dals and local people should be involved to ensure the control of the fires.

Uttarakhand forest fires: Three NDRF teams deployed, Centre assures help

Dehradun: Major forest fires raged on Saturday across Uttarakhand even as three teams of NDRF were deployed in Almora, Gauchar and Pauri and one team of SDRF in Nainital to extinguish the flames.

Representational image. Getty images

Representational image. Getty images

Since the beginning of forest fire incidents in the state in early February this year, 922 incidents have occurred so far killing six people including three women and a child, in separate incidents, injuring seven and blighting 1890.79 hectares of green cover, Principal Conservator of Forest (Research) B P Gupta told PTI.

Rudraprayag forest division is taking the army’s help for fire-fighting operations especially along the highways, Gupta said.

Chamoli, Pauri, Rudraprayag, Tehri, Uttarkashi, Pithoragarh, Almora and Nainital are the worst-affected districts, he said.

The casualties due to forest fires which have spread to sparsely-populated remote hill areas, rose to six with another life lost in Nainital district on Friday evening.

1890.79 hectares of green cover have been destroyed by the fires which had an early start on February 2 this year due to a dry winter.

Governor K K Paul reviewed the rescue efforts underway via videoconferencing with officials in the field and asked them to speed up their efforts.

NDRF companies, assisted by expert teams and locals, are conducting fire-fighting and rescue operations in Garhwal and Kumaon regions.

IG Sanjay Gunjyal is cordinating with NDRF, District Magistrates concerned and the Principal Conservator of Forest to supervise the rescue operations.

Locals are being encouraged to report a fire incident to the District Magistrate concerned as soon as they see it so that it can be controlled in time.

The Governor has doubled the number of personnel deployed to control the fires from 3000 to 6000 and asked all agencies including SDRF, district administration and the rural population to contribute their bits in the exercise saying the forest department alone cannot accomplish the onerous task, Gupta said.

Forest fires are a natural phenomena in summer but this time they have occurred on a bigger scale as the fire season which normally begins by February 15 and ends by June 15 began on February 2 itself.

Former chief minister Harish Rawat has asked the Governor to declare Uttarakhand as a fire disaster struck state and involve locals as much as possible in fire-extinguishing efforts.

Pradesh Congress president Kishore Upadhyay has also written to party workers asking them to work unitedly to pull the state out of the “crisis.”

The PCF said the scale of forest fires in Uttarakhand this time has been bigger due to little or no rain during winter at most places.

Pre-fire alerts listing possible fire points over the next seven days in forest areas is being made available on forest department’s website www.forest.uk. govt, an official release here said.

Uttarakhand forest fires spread to 13 districts; claims 5 lives

Raging forest fires in Uttarakhand state have spread to 13 districts and have destroyed nearly 1900 hectares of forest land since February, and killed five people.Forest fires are natural during summer, but this time, they have occurred on a bigger scale. Dry weather, high temperatures, and windy conditions have caused the fires to spread.”The wildlife reserves across the state have also come under the fire. So far 198 hectares have been gutted in the Jim Corbett National Park, which is a part of the larger Corbett Tiger Reserve, 70 hectares in Rajaji Tiger Reserve and 60 hectares in Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary,” a Hindustan Times report said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Photo courtesy: Anup Sah/FacebookThe report also said that fires were also reported in tourist resorts of Bijrani, Sardpuli, Palen, Dhikala, Kalagarh, Maidavan, Jhirna and Sona Nadi of the reserves, but there have been no wildlife casualties so far.In an effort to douse the fire, the state administration has deployed three companies of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), which will comprise of 150 personnel. Inspector General of Police (IG) Garhwal, Sanjay Gunjyal told the Times of India, “SDRF teams were already stationed and now NDRF teams have been roped in to put out the flames. All will work together with forest and fire department to prevent the fire from spreading further.”Since early February, 922 cases of forest fire incidents in the state have occurred, killing five people, including three women and a child in separate incidents, and injuring seven, Principal Conservator of Forest (PCF) B P Gupta said.Photo courtesy: Anup Sah/FacebookPauri, Tehri and Nainital are the worst hit by these fires as they abound in Cheed and Sal trees which are highly inflammable.Locals have been told to report a fire incident to the district magistrate concerned as soon as they sight it, so that it can be controlled in time.Uttarakhand Governor KK Paul convened an important meeting of officials concerned and has doubled the number of personnel deployed from 3000 to 6000 to control the fire.(With Agency inputs)

Rhino killed with AK-47 in Kaziranga National Park during Prince William and Kate’s visit

Nearly 30 kilometres away from where Prince William and Kate Middleton were staying, a rhinoceros was killed with AK-47 and its horn taken away by poachers at the Kaziranga National Park on Wednesday night.The killing took place at 11.10 pm while the royal couple was spending the night at a riverside lodge, adjacent to the national park, said reports.The carcass of the rhino was recovered from a place under Burhapahar range of the Park.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A male adult rhino was killed and its horn taken away by armed poachers, said KNP Divisional Forest Officer Subhashis Das adding, “88 empty cases of AK-47 cartridges were found from the spot.”A rhino’s horn fetches nearly Rs 5 lakh in the local market. At least four Rhino’s have been killed this year in Kaziranga and its horn taken away by poachers. Last year 17 rhinos were killed by poachers.
ALSO READ Here’s what Prince William and Princess Kate spotted on their visit to Kaziranga National ParkDuring the visit couple was also informed about forest conservation efforts and anti-poaching measures adopted to reduce the killing of rhinos by poachers.

Subdarbans home to 182 tigers, joint India-Bangladesh study reveals

Tigers thriving in Sundarbans, finds joint studyIndia has 76 tigers while Bangladesh has 106More than human interference, it is climate change that poses potent threat to themThe Sundarban mangrove forests, a UNESCO World Heritage Site spanning India and Bangladesh, are home to 182 tigers, a first joint population estimation exercise of the two nations has revealed.While India has 76 tigers, the Bangladesh Sundarbans are home to 106 tigers. The estimation was carried out by National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Bangladesh Forest Department.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sundarban is the only exclusive mangrove habitat where tiger exists giving it the status of Level I Tiger Conservation Unit. These tigers differ morphologically from the mainland tigers, and are also genetically one of the most divergent groups among Royal Bengal tigers.Both agencies used the modern camera trapping methodology to count tigers in the marshy mangrove forests, which is a tough terrain to cover. Back in 2004, the last census of tigers in the forest had pegged their numbers at 790 with 440 in Bangladesh and 350 in India. The camera trapping method has replaced the pugmark technique as it is more accurate and provides visual evidence of the tigers with pictures of their unique stripes.The agencies captured 105 individual tigers on their cameras and based on the photographs, their density, habitat and prey base, it was estimated that 182 tigers are present in the Sundarbans.According to the study, an area of 2,912 square km was assessed by camera traps.Camera trapping was carried out in eight blocks located in Sarankhola, Satkhira, Khulna, Basirhat, Ramganga East, West and Sajnekhali Ranges. Of these eight, three are in Bangladesh and five in India. camera trap locations were chosen carefully.Considering factors such as tidal interruptions, human disturbance and width of river channels.”Wide water channels of more one km on most sides were selected to set up cameras as tigers avoid them. The cameras were also fixed near brackish water, in elevated places, river bends, regular channel crossing paths frequented by tigers based on local knowledge,” the report said. Across the studied blocks in Bangladesh and India, the tiger density was 2.85 per sq.km.During the study, it was observed that constant movement of vessels is an everyday threat. “The constant movement of boats can become potential barriers to dispersal of tigers between islands leading to fragmented and isolated tiger populations within Sundarban,” the report said.The report has highlighted than more than human interference, it is climate change and resultant rising sea levels that is a more potent and direct threat to the landscape. Between 1973 and 2010, 170 sqkm of coastal land was lost in the Sundarbans.Total number of camera trap locations: 528Individual tigers captured on camera: 105Data from radio-collared tiger suggests that tigers in general show avoidance in crossing channels wider than 600m and also they are most active from 5am to 10am.Threats to Sundarbans: Pollution is a big threat to the large mangrove forest along with the commercial vessels and boats carrying passengers. The vessels plying in Sundarbans often carry cargo like oil, fly-ash, cement and fertilizer.Indian Sundarban cover an area of 4267 sq.km of mangrove forest which is within the two districts 24 Paraganas South and North of the state of West Bengal.The Indian Sundarban has been declared as ‘Sundarban Biosphere Reserve’ under the UNESCO and Man and Biosphere Reserve.A part of the biosphere reserve is the Sundarban tiger reserve spread across 2585 square kms which is further divided into Sundarban national park, Sajnekhali wildlife sanctuary and the Basirhat buffer zone.

Sit-in ‘Satyagraha’ by farmers enters second day in Maharashtra

The farmers are demanding stringent implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), and forest land, pasture land and temple land. The sit-in ‘Satyagraha’ here by thousands of farmers, on various agrarian issues including loan waiver, entered the second day on Thursday.LIVE England vs New Zealand 1st Semi-Final T20, ICC World T20 2016, March 30, 2016The agitation was going on in a peaceful manner, an official of the city police control room said. The farmers under the banner of Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha (affiliated to the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS)). yesterday launched an indefinite sit-in protest on various agrarian issues including loan waiver, fair and remunerative price, drought relief, electricity bills etc, at Anant Kanhere ground in the city. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The farmers are demanding stringent implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), and forest land, pasture land and temple land to be vested in the name of the actual tillers (owners).

Issue of IIT in Jammu under NGT scanner; the tribunal issues notice to HRD ministry, J&K govt

New Delhi: The transfer of 159 hectares of land to establish an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Jammu district has come under the scanner of National Green Tribunal’s scanner which has sought the government’s response on a plea claiming it was forest land.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar issued notices to the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Environment Ministry, Jammu and Kashmir government and others while seeking their reply by 31 March.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The direction while hearing a plea by a Jammu native, Nigam Priye Saroop, who has challenged the transfer of 159
hectares of forest land to the Higher Education Department of the state government on the ground that it would damage the environment and ecology of the area.

Saroop, a law student, has contended that the transfer of the forest land is not “justified” when other vast stretches of waste and unproductive lands are available in abundance in Jammu and other districts like Rajouri, Udhampur and Samba for establishment of IIT.

Saroop has further claimed that the transfer of forest land will adversely affect the eco-sensitive zone of Ramnagar Wildlife Sanctuary which is natural wildlife habitat.

“The authorities have started mercilessly felling and axing thick forest without count which is not less than a
disaster for the entire flora and fauna. It is likely to cause environmental and ecological damage beyond repair if the respondents are not prevented and injuncted to stop work in the forest land immediately…

“The Jammu Higher Education Department through its agents and contractors has started mercilessly felling the Green Gold forest trees and started destroying the habitat of wildlife even without any formal orders by any competent authority.. It requires immediate stoppage otherwise the entire forest belt of the area will be destroyed,” the plea alleged.

PTI

Europe’s most wanted held in Brussels for Paris attacks | Reuters

BRUSSELS Europe’s most wanted man was captured after a shootout in Brussels on Friday in a major coup for authorities investigating November’s Islamic State attacks on Paris.

Salah Abdeslam, 26, the first suspected active participant taken alive, was being held in hospital with a slight leg wound, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel announced at a news conference alongside French President Francois Hollande.

“This is an important result in the battle for democracy,” said Michel, adding that U.S. President Barack Obama had called to congratulate the Belgian and French leaders.

A Belgian minister broke the news by tweeting: “We got him.”

Prosecutors said a second wanted man, who used the false name of Amine Choukri, was also wounded and captured in the raid on the apartment in Abdeslam’s home neighbourhood of Molenbeek.

The operation, planned after fingerprints and passports were found in a bloody raid three days earlier, was staged in a rush after media leaked word that police had found Abdeslam’s trail.

Hollande, who was visiting Brussels for a European summit, confirmed France would seek extradition for the Brussels-based Frenchman who, he said, was definitely in Paris on the bloody night of Friday, Nov. 13 when 130 people were killed.

Abdeslam’s elder brother, a Brussels barkeeper who shared a chequered history of drugs and petty crime, blew himself up outside a Parisian cafe that night. Hollande said the younger man’s role in the killings was unclear but investigators were sure he helped plan the operation for the Syria-based group.

Since all the identified attackers were killed, Abdeslam offers France a major new chance to understand what happened.

It was now clear, Hollande said, that many more people had been involved in the Paris attacks on a sports stadium, bars and cafes and concert hall than was first thought. Security concerns remain, he added: “The threat level is very high.”

FINGERPRINTS

Television footage showed armed security forces dragging a man with his head covered out of a building and into a car.

Several bursts of gunfire rang out earlier in Molenbeek, a down-at-heel borough that is home to many Muslim immigrants, notably of Moroccan descent like Abdeslam’s family. Two explosions were heard after the arrest, though it was unclear whether they were part of a new operation or the clear-up.

Some four hours later, the main police presence had stood down but crime scene investigators were still at work.

There had long been speculation about whether Abdeslam had stayed in Belgium or managed to flee to Syria.

Security services will be seeking information from Abdeslam on Islamic State plans and structures, his contacts in Europe and Syria and support networks and finance. Over the past four months, France and Belgium have detained several people linked to the prime suspects but none they suspect of a major role.

Three people were detained in the apartment with the two wanted men and will be questioned over harbouring the fugitives. Local media said one was the mother of a friend of Abdeslam.

A four-month inquiry that had seemed to go cold, heated up this week when French and Belgium officers went to an apartment in the southern Brussels suburb of Forest on Tuesday, thinking they were simply looking for physical evidence in the case.

Instead, at least two people sprayed automatic gunfire at them as the opened the door, wounding three officers. An Algerian called Mohamed Belkaid was shot dead after a siege but two people were believed to have got away. Prosecutors said on Friday these may have been Abdeslam and the man called Choukri.

They also said the Algerian was wanted, under the false name Samir Bouzid, since he appeared on CCTV wiring cash to a woman just after the Paris attacks. She was a cousin of Abdelhamid Abbaoud, a Belgian who fought in Syria and is believed to have been a local organiser for Belgian and French militants. Abbaoud and his cousin died in a gunbattle in a Paris suburb on Nov. 18.

Crucially, police also found Abdeslam’s fingerprints as well as fake Syrian and Belgian identity documents they associated with Choukri, who had been fingerprinted by German police when stopped in a car with Abdeslam in October.

On Friday, local media said, a tapped telephone confirmed that Abdeslam was in the house in rue des Quatre-Vents — Four Winds Street — in Molenbeek. After French media broke word of Adbeslam’s fingerprint being found in the Forest flat, police moved in within three hours and seized the pair in minutes.

PARIS TRAIL

After his elder brother Brahim blew himself up, Salah Abdeslam was driven back to Brussels from Paris overnight by two men who admitted doing so and are now in custody on terrorism charges, along with eight other suspects in Belgium.

Investigators believe much of the planning and preparation for the November bombing and shooting rampage in Paris was conducted in Brussels by young French and Belgian nationals, some of whom fought in Syria for Islamic State.

The attack strained relations between Brussels and Paris, with French officials suggesting Belgium was lax in monitoring the activities of hundreds of militants returned from Syria.

Hollande and Michel took pains to exchange compliments to their security services and warm cross-border cooperation.

Brussels, headquarters of the European Union as well as Western military alliance NATO, was entirely locked down for days after the Paris attacks for fear of a major incident there. Brussels has maintained a high state of security alert since then, with military patrols a regular sight.

(Additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio and Jan Strupczewski; Writing by Alastair Macdonald and Andrew Heavens; Editing by Ralph Boulton and Alastair Macdonald)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Bureaucratic reshuffle: 11 new Joint Secretary appointed to various ministries

Senior IAS officer Nikunj Kumar Srivastava has been appointed as Joint Secretary in Personnel Ministry as part of a mid-level bureaucratic reshuffle, effected today on Thursday by the government.As many as 11 new Joint Secretaries have been appointed to various ministries who include eight IAS officers and three from other services. Srivastava, a 1998-batch IAS officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre, is presently working as Private Secretary to Steel Minister Narendra Singh Tomar. He has been appointed as JS in Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) for the balance period of his five year central deputation tenure up to June 2, 2018, an official order said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Indian Forest Service officer Vikram Singh Gaur has been appointed as JS in NITI Aayog. IAS officers Gyanesh Bharti and Vivek Joshi have been appointed as JS in Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and Department of Expenditure, respectively, it said. S K Dev Verman is new JS in Ministry of Minority Affairs and R K Sudhanshu has been made Joint Secretary, Department of Electronics & Information Technology, the order issued by DoPT said.Santosh D Vaidya, a 1998-batch IAS officer of union territories cadre, has been appointed as JS, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. Forest Service officer O P Chaudhary is JS in Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries. Indian Postal Service officer S C Barmma is new JS in Department of Justice, while Rakesh Kumar has been appointed as Senior Deputy Director General (Joint Secretary-level) in Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), it said.IAS officer K Rajeshwar Rao has been made Joint Secretary in Department of Health & Family Welfare.

Anar Patel row: Allegations of wrongdoing in sale of land are ‘figment of imagination’, said HC

Ahmedabad: Gujarat government, in an affidavit filed before the Ahmedabad High Court on Wednesday, rejected allegations of wrongdoings in sale of land to a private company reportedly linked to Chief Minister Anandiben Patel’s daughter Anar, saying it was the petitioner’s “figment of imagination.”

The affidavit, filed by Joint Secretary in Revenue Department Bharat Trivedi, said the decision taken by the state government is bona-fide and in tune with the policies of the state government for promoting the tourism industry of the state.

File photo of Anandiben Patel. ReutersFile photo of Anandiben Patel. Reuters

File photo of Anandiben Patel. Reuters

The affidavit was filed by Gujarat government before a division bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice Anant Dave in response to a PIL by NGO RTI Activists Sangathan through its head Razak Baloch.

The affidavit said the allotment of 99 hectare land was done by “strictly adhering to the prevailing policies of the various departments of the state government. It is a figment of imagination of the petitioner that the officers of the respondent departments have perpetrated fraud in the allotment of land.”

The petitioner sought two-week time to file a rejoinder to the affidavit, which was granted by the court.

The government land at Patla village in Amreli district was allotted to one Wildwoods Resort & Reallties Pvt. Ltd
(WRR), owned by the alleged business partners of Anar Patel, at a concession rate of Rs 15 per square metre as against the actual valuation of Rs 180 per square metre, the PIL had said.

The PIL demanded a probe by a judicial committee and setting aside of the order of the state government to allot
land to WRR.

“A three-tier system for determination of the real market value of the land was followed in the present case before the cabinet considered and finalised the same owing to the fact that the valuation of the land in question was more than Rs 1 crore,” the affidavit said.

It stated that while determining the allotment of the land, reports from Mamlatdar and Collector were sought apart
from opinion from the Department of Tourism and an NoC from the Forest Department.

PTI

Maharashtra: Mitigations plan on leopards in Junnar forest

Shambhaji Waghmare (35) still shudders while recalling the evening of January 11. On the fateful day, a piercing scream had made the farmer rush outside his home in Junnar’s Ranmala village. What he witnessed in the farm was the spine-chilling scene of a leopard dragging a woman. First he shouted in hope of scaring the leopard, but it got further agitated. The damage was done. Kalpana Gunjal had died. Waghmare had to retreat.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Barely a km from Waghmare’s house, another farmer, Peraji Gunjal (65), sips fresh lemonade at his home, surrounded by family members and a couple of forest guards. The group is discussing leopard attacks – three this year – that have left the villagers shaken. In fact since January, Gunjal’s home has started resembling a forest chowky, with the Junnar forest department setting up their base here. The department is staring at a difficult summer ahead, with the land of sugarcane farms embroiled in the man-leopard conflict, yet again.dna special correspondent Virat A Singh visits Junnar to understand the proposed mitigation plan, sentiments of the locals and measures that need to be taken to help man and leopard co-exist.JunnarJunnar taluka in Khed subdivision of district Pune is roughly around 200km from Mumbai. Apart from being known for its constant conflict with leopards, Junnar is famous for Shivneri fort – the birthplace of Shivaji Maharaj – as well as Lenadri and Ozar Ganesh temples and the Vikram Sarabhai Earth Station. With sugarcane being extensively cultivated in the farms of Junnar, these fields have long become the preferred homes for several leopards over decades. In fact, the leopards have not only adapted to living in the fields but they also breed there. The big cats survive by hunting animals such as stray dogs and livestock.As one enters Ranmala, now marked red due to leopard scare in the Junnar taluka, a banner of a leopard with its canines drawn out greets people. It also lists out precautions to be taken to avoid conflict. Even as a curious group reads the pointers, one of them mocks, “Hope the leopard, too, has read this banner.”In several villages of the taluka, leopard stories are part of the folklore and an important part of the daily discussions in homes. Even market places do not present discussions on prices of onion and sugarcane.“We don’t hate leopards, as sometimes portrayed by the media. It’s just that if a human is killed or seriously injured, people panic for their children and family members who work on farms. That’s when the equation between people of Junnar and the leopards changes,” says Sambhaji Waghmare, who owns a 1.5-acre farm in Ranmala, and was the sole witness of a leopard killing Kalpana Gunjal on January 11 this year.He quickly adds that the incident left his family, including his parents, wife, children and brother’s family, scared. “We do not allow the children to even leave the house once its dark. In fact, if we have to go out late in the night, we ensure that someone is accompanying us. It’s not just my family, but several people across the villages are following this,” he shares. Waghmare points out a walking stick fitted with bells, that his mother Yamuna is holding. “If we have to go out in dark, we use this stick. So that the tinkling sound alerts the leopards to our presence. A forest team, which came to our house to create awareness, told this,” he says.“We are being constantly alert while working on the farms. Even if we have to only cut grass, we ensure that one person is standing a watch,” saus Peraji Gunjal, another farmer from Ranmala village. He adds that at all times in the day, people walk with music blaring on their mobile phones, as this was also suggested by the Forest department as a measure to avoid conflict.His neighbour Shivaji Chaudhari, another farmer, is quick to add that once it is dark, people returning on their motorcycles wait for each other. They head back to the village only when a small group has formed. “Most of these things are done a few months following an attack. Once the situation normalises, people get back to their normal routine,” Chaudhari shares with a smile.“Junnar could be one of those rare places in the country that has such a unique bond with the leopards. The entire village gathers to help a leopard that has fallen in a well or if the cubs are found stranded in sugarcane fields. But just one attack on a human changes everything,” shares Dr Ajay Deshmukh, veterinarian at Wildlife SOS Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Centre. He adds that is why he, the forest officials and wildlife biologists, are trying to ensure that Junnar learns to live with the leopards.

Bengaluru: Man hurls ‘packet’ at Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah; claims it was bomb

In a security scare, a man on Sunday hurled a packet, claiming it was a bomb, at a stage when Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Union Minister Ananth Kumar and former Chief Justice M N Venkatachaliah were present there.A man seated on the balcony of Ravindra Kalakshetra auditorium in Bengaluru suddenly stood up as Siddaramaih started to speak and shouted, “What have you done to our community? Tell that first.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He then threw the “plastic packet” on to the stage which fell short of the chief minister and lay close to where Kumar and Venkatachaliah were seated, police said.Security personnel present on stage soon cleared the packet and the man was whisked away from the auditorium by police even as he continued questioning the CM. Police said the packet contained chocolate wrappers and the man was being questioned.”According to preliminary information, the man has been identified as B S Prasad and works with the Forest Division of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP),” said Sandeep Patil, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central Division) Bengaluru City.Stating that police are in the process of collecting information about him from BBMP and also his family members, Patil added the man’s responses to police questions were peculiar.”He is saying that he wants to become Member of Rajya Sabha so he had come there. We are gathering information about him and his activities,” Patil said.Speaking to reporters after the function, Siddaramaiah denied that the incident was a security breach, saying “such incidents are common in a democracy.””I don’t know which caste he belongs to, whichever caste is depressed and oppressed we are working for them… Such things are common in a democracy. I have seen such things several times,” Siddaramaiah said.The chief minister said he felt there might be someone who instigated the man as otherwise he did not see the need for him to behave in such a manner.Asked whether it was a security breach, he said, “who will know when so many people have come here? What can be done if someone comes as a citizen? Such things are common in democracy or else how can it be democracy?”

India school mauling leopard escapes

A leopard that strayed into a school in Bangalore, injuring several people before it was captured, has escaped its enclosure, officials say.

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.

Assam: Third rhino found killed in Kaziranga this year

Third rhino has been killed by poachers in last 40 days in Kaziranga National Park of Assam, a senior Forest official said on Wednesday.The poachers killed the female adult rhino in the early hours yesterday on the westernmost side of Bagori, Divisional Forest Officer of the UNESCO declared World Heritage Site SK Seal Sharma said. The carcass was recovered with its horn removed and other body parts missing from a pit, Seal Sharma said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Soon after hearing gunshots, Forest Department patrol teams rushed towards the bank of the river from where the the animal thieves were suspected to have entered the Bagori range. The horn is estimated to be 500 gram in weight as the rhino was a ‘sub-adult’, the DFO said, adding, several cartridge shells of .303 rifle were recovered from between Daflang and Borbeel Forest Camps in Bagori Range.Though a massive search has been launched since Sunday morning, the carcass could not be located till today as it had fallen into a ditch and was covered by tall grass and water hyacinth, Pradip Phukan, forest beat officer of Borbil-Daflang Beat of KNP said. Meanwhile, KNP authorities intensified the security of the Park as the poachers have changed their movement pattern taking the waterways from the westernmost side of the Brahmaputra to enter Bagori and Agaratoli ranges as indicated by the recovery of the carcass, nearly 12 km away from Bagori Range Office.On January 27 last, an adult male rhino was killed in Kaziranga and its horn taken away by poachers. Last year 17 rhinos were killed by poachers.

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