Press on Environment and Wildlife
Sher Khan roars in Naxal heartland (October Week 2 (2005)) Tigers at the Indravati Tiger Resrve, spread over 1,258 sq km in Chhatisgarh, are apparently completely safe from poachers. And this piece of good news comes from none other than forest officials.
"The whole Indravati reserve is a Maoist dominated area and guerrillas issue threats to government officials there. But we have never reported any case of poaching even by Maoists," NK Bhagat, Chhattisgarh's chief wildlife warden said.
He added that the number of tigers at the Indravati reserve, 456 km from Raipur, had increased to 39 from 29 in the past three years.
"We counted 29 tigers in 2002, 35 in 2003, 39 in 2004 and 39 in 2005. The big cats are totally safe in Indravati even though Maoists have not been allowing forest staff to take care of tigers," Bhagat stated.
The reserve forests are the catchment area of the perennial river Indravati and spread out over 56 villages where 1,440 tribal families reside. The Indravati reserve was included in Project Tiger in 1982.
Maoist activities in the Indravati tiger reserve area have been proving a major headache for the forest department.
The central government released Rs 3.49 million for 2004-05 for tiger care and just Rs 842,000 has been spent so far, reports the Hindustan Times.
Wildlife Board denotifies part of Pachmarhi Sanctuary (October Week 2 (2005)) In a move that is bound to have major implications on the preservation of natural heritage of Pachmarhi, the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife passed the proposal for de-notification of certain areas within the Pachmarhi Sanctuary (Madhya Pradesh), reports The Pioneer.
The Standing Committee, however, instilled a clause that the land use pattern would not be changed.
Section 26 A, (3) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 states that the concurrence of the National Board for Wildlife is mandatory whenever a protected area is to be de-notified.
That the issue had turned emotive became clear when a large crowd of residents had attacked the range office in Pachmarhi in June demanding the de-notification of certain areas falling within the Pachmarhi Sanctuary.
A similar attack had taken place in February last year, too. The Pachmarhi Sanctuary was notified in 1977 after which all rights over the land held by citizens was suspended.
Environmentalists on the other hand were opposed to the denotification as it would lead to misuse of land for commercial purposes threatening the biodiversity of Pachmarhi.
Commercial enterprises including hotels have been accused of polluting the area and once the land is denotified, environmentalists fear the law would have substantial lacunae for defaulters to get away.
The Forest Department on the other hand is also keen on having the area denotified because as per the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, an equal area of forest land would be notified as protected area elsewhere to offset the loss.
The Forest Department has identified a forest area near Sohagpur for the purpose that is free of any habitation.
It has suggested denotification of some areas - the Cantonment Board and 16 peripheral villages - under the Special Area Development Authority (SADA).
At least 23,000 persons would be affected by the denotification. After denotification, the owners of the land would be free to sell the land but the land use would remain unaltered.
Sources in the Forest Department suggest that the land use clause would prevent commercial exploitation by the hotelier lobby.
Sources also points out that the ratification by the board is only one step in a long drawn procedure for de-notification.
The Supreme Court in an order in 2000 had stated that all issues pertaining to the denotification of protected areas should be referred to it.
ENT surgeons plan anti-pollution drive (October Week 2 (2005)) ENT surgeons will launch a campaign against noise pollution that is causing loss of hearing and air pollution that leads to sinusitis and allergies among people. The Association of Otolaryngologists of India (AOI) State president C.V.Ramana Rao told newspersons here on Tuesday that AOI-AP would conduct a study and make recommendations to the Government. The incidence of "nerve deafness" caused by sound pollution was on the rise. Same was the case with allergies and sinusitis because of drastic increase in air pollution.
A committee would be formed to discuss with the Vice-Chancellor of the N.T.R. Health University changes in the curriculum of the ENT PG course, he said.
The association would conduct a workshop in ear microsurgery and endoscopy in Visakhapatnam shortly. Microsurgery and endoscopy experts from different parts of the country would attend the workshop, Dr. Ramana Rao said.
Cop booked for cutting trees in forest area (October Week 2 (2005)) Mr Darshan Kumar, Policeman in charge, Kup Chowki, had been booked under Section 379 of IPC for allegedly cutting and stealing Dalbergia and Acacia trees from the forest area owned by the state government. “Preliminary investigation revealed that the cop had stolen at least four massive trees from the land occupied by the state,” reports The Tribune.
Sources at Kup Kalan village, including the Sarpanch of the village, had informed the police that the in-charge, along with other associates and members of his family, had exploited his official position to steal at least four trees with the help of a tempo owner.
The Sangrur police chief had earlier ordered a probe into the case. The Kup Chowki in-charge was sent to the Police Lines after being placed under suspension, pending inquiry. The Forest Department authorities had issued a notice to the in-charge, asking him to deposit Rs 43,000 as cost of the stolen wood. Mr Chahal said the accused had not been arrested as he had been absconding since the registration of the case.
The police sources said the booked cop had been enjoying a special status for a long period. The officials wondered how a C-II level employee could act as an SHO of a chowki whereas junior employees were working as constables.
Jobs tangled in dense forests (Issue of the week, October Week 1 (2005)) The Telegraph wrote this report.
In a meeting of rural development ministers from all states on Tuesday, ministers from five states with dense forest cover posed a vital question: how would they justify getting environmental clearance for projects on mega scales?
The ministers were from Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
The meeting was called by the rural development ministry to initiate a dialogue with states on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the ministers that states must generate the resources they expend. He said the projects that would guarantee jobs for the rural poor should be directed towards creation of productive assets.
The Centre plans to generate employment by initiating projects aimed at water harvesting, land resource management etc.
Responding to the Centre’s suggestions, the ministers from the five states said getting environmental clearance for even minor projects was a tough job.
“There are large tracts of forest land. They have been demarcated as reserve forest or are parts of national parks, sanctuaries or tiger reserves. How will we start mega projects here?” asked a minister.
Several important tiger reserves and national parks — Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Jim Corbett, Palamau, Rajaji National Park to name a few — are located in these states. “It is not very easy to start big projects here,” said another minister.
Rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said the states had raised a “very logical” question. Ministry officials said the answer might lie in evolving a synthesis between development and environment protection.
The Hindu reported the
PM asking Ministry officials, activists environmentalists to resolve differences
• Two drafts of the Bill exist: one prepared by the Ministry of environment and Forests, another by the Tribal Affairs Ministry
• Dr. Singh wants concerns of environmentalists, activists to be addressed before the final draft
Attending a meeting of the stakeholders, including officers from the Ministries of Environment and Forest, and Tribal Affairs, environmentalists and those working for the tribal rights here on Friday evening, Dr. Singh asked them to thrash out differences over the issue as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was committed to grant rights to tribals under its national common minimum programme (NCMP).
The issues that come up during the discussion included the livelihood of displaced forest dwellers the denial of which amounted to a violation of human rights, the threat posed to tigers if they co-existed with humans and problems related to forest management.
Among those present were social activists Jean Dreze and Aruna Roy and wildlife activist Valmik Thapar.
Dr. Singh had asked the Ministry to implement seven major recommendations within three months. That period ends in October.
Will conservation of Environment ever be profitable? (October Week 1 (2005)) Or will it have to be just for environment’s sake? Most discussions about endangered ecological systems boil down to this debate. So did the presentation on the Mangreen Project - a mangrove restoration project in Tamil Nadu - by Dr Onno Gros and V Balaji at the Max Mueller Bhavan reports The New Indian Express. Dr Onno Gross, President of Deepwave, an Hamburg-based organisation, got together with V Balaji, a Ph D student at Bhartidasan University and the founder of OMCAR (Ocean Marine conservation, awareness and research). The result was a movement to protect the mangroves in Keezhathottam village in Pattukottai district. The village, situated on the Palk Bay, once had a dense mangrove population, which has thinned due to several commercial activities.
The importance of mangroves shot into limelight after some studies revealed that the areas with a thick mangrove population were least affected by the tsunami.
Dr Gross, using this as a reference point during the presentation, talked about the gradual degradation of this ecological system. Balaji explained how the activities of fishermen (using thick, cut mangroves to trap fish, farmers (letting the cattle graze on the vegetation) and illegal encroachments by aquaculturists had contributed to this.
OMCAR has been functioning in Keezhathottai since over a year and had to overcome resistance from several quarters. Balaji says, “I had to talk to the community and convince them of the relevance of mangroves, after which they have supported and worked on the project just as well.”
He has also managed to work with the Forest Department officials though there were several hitches on that front. “We are talking to the forest officials to give up on the plan of replacing the exotic plants with the casaurina plantations,” says Balaji.
He explains that the villagers can allow the cattle to graze on the exotic plant that grows wild and abundantly.
But if the intentions are clear, one learns to work around things. And that is what OMCAR has done. The habitat is more favourable for the Avicennia species but the forest department has provided seeds of the rhizophora species.
Also, the canals that the department had dug got filled in as they were unused for long. OMCAR, having redug the canals, is growing rhizophora in such a way that it gets water from the sea when the tide comes in.
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