Press on Environment and Wildlife
Lack of Will killing big cats (November Week 4 (2005))
Is funds crunch killing tigers. Not really. It’s lack of will, says Sunita Narain, Director, CSE. Speaking at the annual congress of the International Federation of Environmental Journalists, which opened along with “Vatavaran Film Festival in New Delhi,
she said both Sariska and Ranthambhore were spending heavily on tigers from the Government kitty, but were not able to stem the decline.
This proves that funding the forest department as a whole will not work. A strategy for each reserve has to be formulated in consultation with local residents and implemented, Narain said. Expressing concern over the increasing hostility of local villagers
towards the big cats, she said,” The largest number of tiger deaths has resulted from poisoning by local people. In spite of all the talk about relocation, only 10% of the affected villages have been shifted.”
She also said 150 of the country’s poorest districts are located in the richest forest belts-also home to tigers. As a result, the impoverished villagers often fall back on the big cats for livelihood.
Her prescription was adding teeth to the Wildlife Act. Ministry of Environment nad Forest officials said the government was in the process of constituting wildlife crime cells.
Kaziranga crammed, Manas to make room for rhinos. (November Week 4 (2005))
To give the one-horned rhino more space, the Assam Forest Department has drawn up an ambitious plan to shift many of them to other protected areas in the state, reports The Indian Express.
A training cum pilot project in this regard will begin at Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary in November next, and the first batch of 20 rhinos would be shifted to Manas National Park in the beginning of 2007. The move is in accordance with recommendations a Task
Force had made in the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 document prepared in the wake of the centenary celebrations of Kaziranga early this year.
Right now, 85% of Assam’s rhino population is literally jostling for space in 430 sq.km in Kaziranga, with environmentalist repeatedly warning of stochastic catastrophes. Manas National park has been ravaged by armed militancy for over a decade. While the last
count had recorded 80 rhinos in Manas, there is not a single rhino there now.
Since normalcy has been restored and a massive recovery programme taken up, Manas will soon have rhinos relocated from Kaziranga.
Save the Chiru (November Week 4 (2005))
THE international craze for shawls made of Shahtoosh, “the wool of kings”, will make the Chiru (Tibetan Antelope) extinct in a few years, says an editorial in The Tribune. The Supreme Court’s directive to the J&K government to ban the manufacture and trade
of Shahtoosh products has thus come not a day too soon. In effect, a ban already exists – it is a question of enforcement. The J&K government in 2002 had amended its wildlife act to include the Chiru in Schedule I, thus prohibiting hunting of the animal and
trade of its parts. The Wildlife (Protection) Act of India (1972) also protects the Chiru under Schedule I.
This week Times of India reported that 21 shawls were seized by CBI in raids conducted in Delhi. Five Kashmiri Traders were arrested.
The availability of these shawls in the market place continues, giving impetus to the trade. It is reported that the clientele in India includes the expatriate community and embassy officials besides society women.
The Chiru is mostly found in the Tibetan Plateau, often straying into Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim. Its gossamer wool, extremely fine and warm at the same time, is far superior even to the famed Pashmina. The shawls are sold at rates ranging from $1000
to $15,000. The Chiru’s wool cannot be shorn like in sheep. The animal has to be killed, and three to five animals are slaughtered to make enough wool for one shawl.
The Wildlife Trust of India, which moved the PIL in 2003 resulting in the Supreme Court directive earlier this week, has estimated that 1000 to 2000 shawls are available for sale in New Delhi on any given day. A worldwide campaign has been started to educate
people about the source of the Shahtoosh shawl, on the lines of the anti-ivory and anti-fur campaigns, so that the demand is reduced. The trade has flourished even when the Chiru is protected not only by national laws in India, China and Nepal, but by international
treaties. The J&K government should act now to cut a key link in the trade. For weavers and buyers, there is always Pashmina.
Environmentalists storm Ministry office (Issue of the week, November Week 3 (2005))
The Hindu reported in detail the demand by environmentalists for an independent evaluation of the performance of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).
Agitated over the Centre’s proposed notification relating to the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and clearance for development projects, scores of environmentalists from across the country – under the banner of Campaign for Environmental Justice-India-“stormed”
the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) office. They sought an independent evaluation of the performance of EIA and environmental clearance procedures and creation of an independent authority, mandated to ensure that relevant laws were followed
to ensure conservation of environment.
“Our analysis, built on ground level experience of several hundred projects that have been cleared or are in the process of being cleared, is that procedures are already significantly flawed. The proposed changes to the existing process will bring in further
weakness,” a memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister said.
The activists included representatives of project affected communities from across the country such as the Sethusamudram ship canal and Sterlite Industries from Tamil Nadu, Polavaram Dam in Andhra Pradesh, Vedanta Alumina refinery and bauxite mining in Orissa
and those displaced due to the construction of dams in N-E states. The activists, seeking a meeting with Union Environment and Forest Secretary quoted him as saying that the changes had been made in consultation with the World Bank, and not Parliament or any
other elected body.
Project Tiger: Change in Act to give more teeth to Government (November Week 3 (2005))
The Government has proposed an amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 by introducing a chapter on tiger conservation, reports The Economic Times.
The central government is planning to set up a statutory body-National Tiger Conservation Authority-which will work in consultation with state governments to control poaching and illegal trade in the tiger and its derivatives. The statutory body would also
provide financial assistance to the states, according to sources.
The law ministry has already sent the proposal to the ministry of environment and forests for consideration. According to sources, the amendment would aim at giving more teeth to the central government, which at present does not have final authority over various
reserves which fall under the jurisdiction of state governments that oversee their administration.
The proposed amendment covers hunting in tiger reserves and altering of the boundaries of tiger reserves, unlike the present Act which deals with sanctuaries in general. Under the amendment, hunting in tiger reserves or altering their boundaries will be made
punishable with not less than three years of imprisonment extending up to seven years and a fine up to Rs 25,000.
“Forest land has been destroyed to facilitate projects like tourist resorts, mining activities, power plants, dams, high ways etc. This is taking a toll on the tiger and its habitat.” Said a Government official.
The Act as amended is
• National Tiger Conservation Authority, a statutory body, which will work in consultation with state governments to control poaching and illegal trade in the tiger and its derivatives
• Hunting in tiger reserves and altering of the boundaries of tiger reserves to be made punishable with not less than three years of imprisonment and a fine upto rs 25,000
• More power to central government, which at present does not have final authority over various reserves, under the jurisdiction of state governments that oversee their administration
Wildlife trade in Himachal Pradesh (November Week 3 (2005))
A joint operation led by the Station House Officer (SHO) Shahpur of Himachal Pradesh Police and the Enforcement Division of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) have resulted in the recovery of two bear biles, three leopard skins and a jungle cat skin from two
illegal wildlife traders in the state. A tip-off given to the police by a WTI associate resulted in the two arrests on the 6th November.
One of the traders was arrested from Dharamsala, where two bear biles were recovered from him. Following his interrogation, the police team in the Boh village of Kangra district conducted another raid, where three leopard skins and a jungle cat skin were recovered
from a trader.
Presently, the two accused are in police custody and are being interrogated. According to Amlan Dutta, Asst. Programme Officer (Enforcement) WTI, “The two accused were booked under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. The enforcement division of WTI will provide
legal assistance to the prosecution to ensure that the culprits get appropriate punishment under the Act.”
The Enforcement Division of WTI has been monitoring the bear bile trade in the state since September following information on the bear bile trade in the state. Field investigations in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh revealed that the poachers were more
active during the winter months due to lax enforcement.
Kangra valley, which is situated in the Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas experience heavy snowfall, and landslides during winters and the region becomes inaccessible from the rest of the country. Poachers take advantage of the situation when they go for the
kill. The Himalayan brown bears and the Asiatic black bears fall prey to these poachers.
Bear biles, skin, and claws are sold to prospective buyers through various clandestine routes of the region. The Enforcement Division of WTI hopes to continue their operations in other parts of the state in collaboration with the police and forest department.