Press on Environment and Wildlife
Jharkhand in deep water as crisis worsens in summer (May Week #2 (2013))
Jogeshwar Mahato Rangeela of Siyar village said around two years ago the forest department sanctioned Rs 1.62 lakh under special case category for construction of well. "Due to sudden rain, the half-constructed well collapsed and now the project is incomplete.
The department has winded up the project and now we are dependent on wells in neighbouring villages," said Rangeela.

Even after repeated requests to review the project, forest department officials did not act and said since the financial year had ended, and fund had been returned. The situation in the 100 villages in Sahebgunj is no better and residents have to depend
on neighbouring villages for drinking water. Most of the hand pumps are defunct for months.

A large number of people do not have access to safe drinking water as source contains fluoride, arsenic and iron. To address the problem the department has started Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme. "We have installed attachments with hand pumps
which remove fluoride and arsenic," said Sardhendu Narayan, engineer-in-chief at the department.

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Young biologist wins Green Oscar for saving Arunachal hornbills (May Week #2 (2013))
A young wildlife biologist who converted bird hunters into their saviours in remote forests of Arunachal Pradesh was awarded the 2013 Whitley Award, also known as Green Oscar, in London on Thursday. 

“Datta leads a programme to conserve hornbills in the Indian Eastern Himalaya at the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), an NGO established in 1996 to promote science-based wildlife conservation in India,” said a statement by the Whitley Fund for Nature.

Hornbills are prominent birds of Asian tropical forests and Arunachal is home to five hornbill species. But their killing by locals for meat and habitat loss because of shifting cultivation had threatened their existence deep inside forests.

Many tribals were not aware that Due to their predominantly frugivorous diet, the brightly coloured birds with loud calls have always been considered important agents of seed dispersal in the tropical forest. A small and poor tribal group in Namdapha National
Park, called Lisu, were hunting the birds and logging for their fuel needs.

Datta established a community-based conservation program with them to reduce hunting and save wildlife by first improving the quality their lives. “We started schools; built river embankments to stop erosion and protect agricultural land; and supplied
solar panel lamps that power homes and save the enormous expense of kerosene and batteries,” she said.

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Passing on the green baton (Issue of the week, April Week #3 (2013))
An important chapter in environmental jurisprudence came to an end last week when the Supreme Court delivered three judgments that touched upon mega industries, hilltop deities and even lowly animals (as named in one of the judgments) - wild pigs, peafowl,
dugong and wild buffalo. Hereafter, the National Green Tribunal, which was set up recently, will take up such issues. The Court has 66,000 cases on its files, including 750 constitution bench matters.

The statutory bodies under the air and water laws were not set up, and there was no sense of urgency over the deteriorating environment. However, the M C Mehta cases - some 50 of them - emphasised the right to life aspect under the Constitution. Since
the right had been expanded in several judgments earlier to include dignified life and clean environment, not "mere animal existence", courts had no choice but to hear those cases.

For instance, in one of those cases, the Delhi public transport was compelled to use a comparatively clean fuel - compressed natural gas or CNG. It involved a struggle against the lobbies of traditional fuels but, ultimately, the capital's air became cleaner.
Unfortunately, the rest of the high courts have not taken the cue.

Prawn farms with huge foreign investment threatened to play havoc in the coastal region in the east, but the Court applied the "precautionary" principle, following which the project was abandoned. Coastal zone regulations were brought in and the Court
insisted on implementing them. 

Other areas where the Court's long arms reached are: solid waste management in cities, protecting Taj Mahal from air pollution (units emitting chemical fumes were relocated to distant places) and privacy of indigenous tribes in the Andamans.

Since the Supreme Court has enormous constitutional powers, it could enforce its orders in the face of executive resistance. However, the new tribunal is a quasi-judicial body, and it started with severe teething troubles. The Supreme Court had to help
it find a seat and accommodation for the members. Whether it can perform as effectively as the Court is a moot point, which activists and industrialists will watch with anxiety in the coming months.

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Bharatpur birds to benefit from new water supply project (April Week #3 (2013))
The park requires around 500 million cubic feet (mcft) of water every year. However, water from the nearby Panchna Dam could not be released to the park given the strong opposition from farmers in the Karauli area.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests has undertaken a Rs 65-crore project to supply water to the Keoladeo National Park from the Goverdhan drain. This was enabled by laying pipelines from the Santruk village to the Keoladeo National Park at a distance
of about 17.1 km. Water resource augmentation was also carried out within the National Park area, officials said.

Increase in water supply ensured a jump in vegetation and reportedly brought back different species such as the northern pintails, gadwall, and snakebird (Oriental Darter), which have been nesting in the Sanctuary for several years, though officials say
their numbers are still very low.

The sanctuary is one of the most visited in Rajasthan. The Government has also ensured that with regard to the Chambal-Dholpur drinking water project, a quantity of 310 mcft water was received in the Keoladeo National Park in the year 2012-13 up to February


How safe is the lion's new home? (April Week #3 (2013))
The Supreme Court’s decision on Monday to allow the translocation of Asiatic lions from Gir sanctuary in Gujarat to Kuno Palpur sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh is rooted in logic. The judgement takes into consideration the dangerous consequences of ‘putting
all eggs in one basket’, so to speak. The chances of extinction by a forest fire or an epidemic are very real.

Man-animal conflict in India is a burning issue with both sides — but mostly the animals — paying the price for such encounters. It remains to be seen how the authorities in Kuno Palpur sanctuary, which is an open forest, deals with it, as it may be instrumental
in deciding the fate of the relocated lords of the jungle. There is also the possibility of these lions intruding into  the territory of the two tigers in Kuno. Since there is no study advocating a peaceful co-existence of the big cats, bloody battles cannot
be ruled out.

The only silver lining is that lions are not a poacher’s delight the way tigers are.

If the government truly wants these cats to survive and thrive, it must leave the process of translocation to experts and scientists.


Rajasthan gets third tiger reserve (April Week #3 (2013))
The Rajasthan government has notified the Mukundra hills sanctuary as the third tiger reserve in the state.

The reserve area will be over 759 sq km spread between four districts of Kota, Bundi, Chittorgarh and Jhalawar near the Ranthambore tiger reserve.  

The core area of the Mukundra reserve currently has six villages, two of which are uninhabited. Eventually all these villages will have to be relocated funded by the NTCA. The sanctuary currently has wolves, sloth bear, chinkaras and leopards.

The Mukundra hill sanctuary was already declared as the satellite core area of Ranthambore reserve by the NTCA and Tigers often stray into the area. "The objective was always to link this to Ranthambore so as to let the tigers that stray from the park
come and breed here. It was the next best forest after Ranthambore for rehabilitation of tigers


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