Scheme to develop forests to be implemented (January Week 1 (2006))
As many as 26 forest divisions have been chosen by the Karnataka State Government under the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC)-funded scheme since May for sustainable development of forests. The Rs. 780-crore project is now named "Karnataka
Sustainable Forest Management and Bio-Diversity Conservation (KSFMBC) project."
Initially, only a few divisions covering a small number of districts were involved for sustainable development under the JBIC scheme. Later, the State Government included 26 forest divisions, including Madikeri and Virajpet divisions in Kodagu district.
The scheme became operational since May last. Progress was tardy in Kodagu owing to monsoon, but works have resumed, Madikeri Deputy Conservator of Forests, Range Gowda, told The Hindu .
Accordingly, different models have been worked out to ensure implementation of the scheme. As much as 250 hectares of forests will be developed in each of the 24 territorial divisions and two wildlife divisions selected under model I.
This Model involves natural forests, and planting tree saplings will be taken up to "fill the gaps." Similarly, under model IV, 293 hectares of forests will be developed in each of the 24 territorial divisions. This model will have forests which have less vegetation
than the model I. It might require more tree saplings to be planted to fill the gaps. Only local species will be planted under the programme.
The territorial divisions are: Belgaum, Gokak, Davangere, Kollegal, Chikmagalur, Koppa, Dharwad, Gadag, Haveri, Mysore, Hunsur, Hassan, Shimoga, Bhadravati, Sagar, Madikeri, Virajpet, Karwar, Haliyal, Yellapur, Honnavara, Sirsi, Mangalore and Kundapur.
The two wildlife divisions are Chamrajnagar and Dandeli, Mr. Gowda said. In the two wildlife divisions, the model IV forest development will not be taken up as also no village forest committees (VFCs) will be involved.
The VFC 's involved in the operations will get money in the scheme of things to protect the plants.
Nine VFCs each would be involved in 12 forest divisions, eight in 10 forest divisions and six in two forest divisions, he said.
In the second phase, (Project B) 14 divisions are being covered. A total of 4,000 hectares would be covered under model I and 7,000 hectares in model IV. It involves 100 VFCs. Mr. Gowda said.
Horseshoe crab: MoEF promises prompt action (Issue of the week, December Week 4 (2005))
Breaking its silence over the future of the endangered Horseshoe crab, the Ministry of Environment and Forest has promised prompt action to protect one of the earth’s oldest survivors.
‘‘We have received communications from the S&T ministry. Unfortunately, there is no status study yet on horseshoe crabs. We will initiate work soon and, unless any other agency comes forward, will involve the Wildlife Institute of India for the purpose. Once
we have the report, we will put the horseshoe crab in an appropriate schedule,’’ Director General (Wildlife) RP Katyal said.
The Indian Express had on December 21 reported how the MoEF was sitting on a proposal by Science and technology Minister Kapil Sibal to include the crab that has survived 16 ice ages, in Schedule IV to ensure protection and research. Claiming it would involve
research along the entire coastline, Katyal initially said a status report might take anything between six months to two years. Told that the dwindling crab population of just 3,000 found at a pocket along the Orissa coast, may become critically endangered
by that time, he opened up: ‘‘It’s true we don’t have much information about horseshoe crabs yet. We can certainly benefit by the work done by the CSIR scientists at Goa and Pune. We will also like to see the film made by Mike Pandey.’’
Mike Pandey, whose landmark film - Timeless Traveller - on horseshoe crabs has won nine top international awards, expressed satisfaction. ‘‘We make these films to generate awareness and save the species. The policy-makers are welcome to watch these. But I would
be happier if these films are also shown to the masses in national television,’’ he said.
Speaking from Goa’s National Institute of Oceanography, Dr Anil Chatterjee, who is researching on horseshoe crabs for years, offered all help to the MoEF. ‘‘We will certainly help to accelerate any process that secures the future of this unique creature,’’
At Goa lab, nine patents are filed and scientists are at the threshold of some path-breaking discoveries. Though being bred in labs at Goa, the absence of legal protection and the fact that they take about 10-12 years to reach sexual maturity, the horseshoe
crabs face danger of extinction in India.
Night of the Elephants (December Week 4 (2005))
In the backyards of Assam’s tea gardens, small-time solutions are laying ground for answers to the human-animal conflict. Jay Mazoomdaar of Indian Express reports.
Manbahadur Vishwakarma is too soft-spoken a man for his profession. Sitting next to a pile of sickles, swords and kukris, the village blacksmith of Kalamati, in upper Assam, closes his eyes and touches his forehead before breaking into a muffled monotone: ‘‘Ganesh
baba takes this alley to the village in the night. I peep through my door and pray: ‘Spare me and my hut, Ganesh baba, I never harmed you or anybody else’.’’ Till now, his prayers have been answered each night. Tomorrow is always another day.
A few yards from his hut, two village youngsters sound pragmatic. Santosh is a Bhumich and Rahul’s forefathers settled here from Nepal. ‘‘God or not, elephants should not be harmed. The (forest) department has finally put up an electric fencing. Hope it helps.’’
Otherwise, they will keep joining the villagers and create a racket with crackers and some plain shouting every night when the giants walk in. ‘‘That’s all we can do and hope the noise drives them away. We can’t fight them.’’
THEIR homes come in the way of the elephant corridor, their crop is fodder, their people easy casualty. ‘‘The problem is compounded by rapid loss or fragmentation of habitat and corridors. Elephants don’t roam about everywhere. Along the north bank of the Brahmaputra,
they use specific corridors to move from one forest pocket to another. If you encroach those corridors, conflict is bound to happen,’’ says Tariq Aziz, head of WWF-India’s Elephant and Rhino programmes.
Owner of 22 bigha paddy fields near Bhobla village, Khagen Chandra Das suffers about 50 per cent damage every year. ‘‘Do something. Anything. Farmers kill elephants in other states. And here nobody cares for us.’’
Sometimes, this anger boils over. And even gods are not immune to poison offered in the garb of delicious wheat dough. No wonder, Sonitpur district, the hotbed of human-elephant conflict in Assam, logged 32 elephant and 20 human deaths in 2003.
Last year, the count came down to 10 elephants and 15 human deaths, thanks to a WWF-sponsored project involving domesticated (kunki) elephants. This year, while 16 people died, only six elephants lost their lives. The basic strategy is simple:
• As a short-term measure, use kunkis to chase out wild herds back to forests. This minimises chances of casualty. Also experiments are on with innovative ideas like chilli fencing (with Bhut Jalokiya).
• The locals are also advised to brew away from the villages. Alcohol attracts these jumbos like nothing else and many have developed a taste for the local brew.
Bungling of funds in afforestation scheme (December Week 4 (2005))
The misappropriation in afforestation carried under the Japan bank-aided scheme in the state is not limited to the Pathankot forest range. The Tribune team visited the Mehengrowal forest range falling under the Hoshiarpur division.
Large areas in the range were brought under the Japan bank-aided afforestation scheme. The schemes were named as per the measurement of the land in which they were executed. The schemes comprised of 26 acre, 36 acre and 50 acre forest areas falling under the
Mehangrowal and other villages.
As per the norms about 5,00 sampling were planted per hectare in the said scheme. Under these parameters about 25,000 sampling were planted under 50 acre scheme, 18,300 in 36 acre schemes and 13,300 under 26 acre scheme.
However, few hundred plants were visible in the most of the schemes against thousands shown in papers. The condition was worse deep inside the forests. Deep inside the forests hardly any sampling had survived. Besides areas in which the plantations were carried
the path leading to areas was also infested by lantana. In some of the area the sapling were lying on the ground packed in plastic bags. The labourers employed had just thrown them on the ground rather sowing and taking care.
Most of the areas brought under the afforestation scheme in Mehengrowal range were fenced with cement pillars and wires to protect the saplings from animal. However, only two inch pillar stood at the spot. The wiring was missing.
Labourers employed by the Department of Forests to take care of plantation said that most of the sampling planted had perished due lack of maintenance. Nobody goes deep inside the forests to maintain the fresh sampling. So, whatever plantations were carried
out, have perished due wild growth of lantana and other shrubs.
Interestingly, the Department of Forests was supposed to take care of the plantations for five years. Budget of lakhs is spent every year for the maintenance of plantations carried out under the scheme.
The department claims the success rate of its plantations at above 90 per cent. However, the areas located deep in the forest not even 10 per cent of the plantations have survived.
56 sites identified for eco-tourism in Kerala (December Week 4 (2005))
OVER the past few years, eco-tourism has become a key focus area for Kerala's tourism authorities.
The eco-tourism wing of the Department of Tourism has identified 56 places in the State that have the potential to be developed as eco-tourism centres. While six of these sites are already functional eco-tourism projects, work on another 10 projects has been
started, said a senior official of the tourism department. Most of these projects are expected to be commissioned in the next six-seven months, he added.
All these projects are being implemented with participation from the local community and the forest department, he explained. For instance, the eco-tourism project at the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Thekkady is run by the local community and includes products
such as a jungle camp and bullock cart rides along the periphery of the sanctuary.
Another unique eco-tourism project currently being implemented is at Konni in the State's Pathanamthitta district. Inspired by the region's association with elephants and elephant-related folklore, the Konni eco-tourism project focuses on elephants. When completed,
this project is expected to include an elephant museum, elephant rides and visits to a training camp for elephants.
The tourism authorities are also developing eco-tourism projects in locations such as the Eravikulam National Park and the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. In all these locations, treks managed by the local community will be a highlight. In other eco-tourism projects
such as those at Nelliyampathy and Nilambur, the focus will include activities such as plantation and farm visits, reports the hindu Business Line.
Last tigers count days as Namdapha readies for census (December Week 4 (2005))
Tigers still survive in the Namdapha National Park, insists Field Director L.K. Pait. His hopeful words are echoed by Chakma villagers settled across Noa Dehing river along the park boundary, who suffer occasional livestock losses. “We saw one last month.
We have tigers here,” vow three forest guards in unison.
But they can’t tell how many. Nobody can. Nobody has ever set foot in many stretches of this 1,985 sq km vast tiger reserve in Arunachal Pradesh’s eastern reaches, reports The Indian Express..
Signs of the big cat’s presence are rare in the 700 sq km stretch covered during tiger census. Little wonder nobody takes the official count — 64 in 2003 — seriously. Ecologist Aparajita Dutta, who has walked 1000-plus km here, can vouch for only two. The unofficial
consensus in Deban claims a population of 5 to 15. “Let’s wait till the census result due in mid-January,” says Pait.
After Namdapha was declared a national park and tiger reserve in 1983, the only road through the forest — connecting Miao and Vijaynagar at the Myanmar border — was abandoned. Out of bound from Deban, the pristine forest would have remained reasonably safe
but people belonging to the Lisu tribe started encroaching from the Myanmar side in the late 1980s. Soon the decision to abandon the Miao-Vijaynagar (MV) road backfired.
While most tribals around Namdapha hunt for meat, the Lisu tribals, originally from Myanmar, knows the market value of tigers. A number of forest ground staff and locals hold that the Lisus have killed many tigers and smuggled them out across the Myanmar border.
Some consignments are also sent across the Chinese border to Tibet.
As the Lisus carry on with their poaching racket, forest guards mostly sit helpless at Deban. The only way they can reach the Lisu settlements deep inside the core area is on foot. It takes a few days when the weather holds.
Pait sounds helpless: “We don’t have the manpower. The police can’t help as the settlements are often inaccessible from the Miao side. There are funds problems and infrastructure is poor.”
A decision to reconstruct the MV road will first require the PWD and the forest department to resolve a longstanding dispute over who controls it.
Meanwhile, whatever be the number of surviving tigers, their future seems sealed. Consider how Project Tiger functions in Namdapha:
• There are only 18 forest personnel to patrol the 1985 sq km reserve. Leaving out the unexplored areas, it is impossible for them to man even the 700 sq km “accessible area”.
• Under the shadow of insurgency, arms and weapons are best kept under lock and key. All four vehicles are kept in Miao headquarters.
• With no bridge across the Noa Dehing flowing along the reserve boundary, the staff take turns to visit Miao regularly to maintain supply. This effectively means about 70 per cent staff presence at any given time at Deban.
• During the seven-month long monsoon, the bumpy 24-km ride to Miao is a nightmare. Desperate measures to get emergency supplies across the river have often proved to be fatal. “A couple of our staff died trying to cross the river on boat,” says Deban ranger
A.K. Dev. The promised suspension bridge has been under construction since last year.
• A number of forest and other government officials flout conservation norms openly. A former park manager was renowned for his fishing skills. Another former field director was forced to leave Namdapha for preventing some PWD officials from hunting deer. Top
officials, allege the ground staff, stay put at Miao and rarely visit Deban.
Research officer S.S. Chandramani laments the lack of interest in Namdapha: “Tigers apart, three other big cats — common, snow and clouded leopards — are also found here. Namdapha has an altitudinal variation of 200-4571 m. The flora ranges from the peninsular
to the alpine. We need better management to look after this unique biosphere.”