Posted by Susan Sharma on December 28, 2006

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A new report by WWF details how scientists have uncovered dozens of species of plants and animals formerly unknown to science in the jungles and coastal waters of the Indonesian island of Borneo. Scientists working under the auspices of WWF’s Heart of Borneo program report discovering 30 unique fish species, two tree frog species, 16 ginger species, three tree species and one large-leafed plant species.

"These discoveries reaffirm Borneo’s position as one of the most important centers of biodiversity in the world," says Stuart Chapman, coordinator of WWF’s Borneo program. "The more we look the more we find."

Chapman emphasizes the importance of such findings in light of the acceleration of forest clearing on the remote Indonesian island, which he considers one of the world’s final frontiers for science. Since 1996, deforestation across Indonesia has increased by an average of five million acres a year, with only about half of Borneo’s original forest cover remaining. Chapman hopes that the discoveries made by his team and other scientists will help convince the governments of Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia, which jointly administer Borneo, to institute greater checks on deforestation and resource extraction there.


Climate change and Global Warming

Mangroves, trees

Posted by Susan Sharma on December 28, 2006

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The term "greenbelt" refers to any area of undeveloped natural land that has been set aside near urban or developed land to provide open space, offer light recreational opportunities or contain development. The natural greenbelts along areas of Southeast Asia’s coastlines, including the region’s mangrove forests, served as buffers and helped to prevent even greater loss of life from the December 2004 tsunami.

Greenbelts in and around urban areas have probably not saved any lives, but they are important nonetheless to the ecological health of any given region. The various plants and trees in greenbelts serve as organic sponges for various forms of pollution, and as storehouses of carbon dioxide to help offset global warming.

Greenbelts are also important to help urban dwellers feel more connected to nature. Dr. S.C. Sharma of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in India believes that all cities should "earmark certain areas for the development of greenbelts to bring life and color to the cement concrete jungle and a healthy environment to the urbanities."

Greenbelts are also important in efforts to limit sprawl, which is the tendency for cities to spread out and encroach on rural lands and wildlife habitat.

The concept has also caught on in U.S and Canada, with cities adopting mandates for the creation of greenbelts to combat sprawl. Urban greenbelts can also be found in and around larger cities in Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The green belt concept has even spread to rural areas, such as in East Africa. Womens’ rights and environmental activist Wangari Maathai launched the Green Belt Movement in Kenya in 1977 as a grassroots tree-planting program to address the challenges of deforestation, soil erosion and lack of water there. To date, her organization has overseen the planting of 40 million trees across Africa. In 2004 Maathai was the first environmentalist to be awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. Why "peace?" "There can be no peace without equitable development and there can be no development without sustainable management of the environment in a democratic and peaceful space," said Maathai in her acceptance speech.

Source:E-the Environmental magazine


Wiping Out Lantana Weeds

Posted by Susan Sharma on December 27, 2006

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Delhi University has developed a technology to wipe out Lantana Camara, a weed which has created havoc invading millions of acres of deserted landscapes. 

The technology prescribes cutting the plant from its roots and removing the 'copppising zone', which is normally buried inside the soil and is very crucial for the weeds life.

"The plant has to be cut in a manner so that its coppising zone is removed from inside the soil.  Then the uprooted plant should be put upside down for a few days, so that it will be dead."Prof. C.R Babu, Project Director , The center for Environment Management of degraded Ecosystem(CEMDE), said.

Lantana(exotic plant introduced by the Portugese in 19th century from South America) has the potential to kill the native plants where it grows. The fruits and flowers are not eaten by animals/birds.

Tribal Bill-How it will affect our forests


Posted by Susan on December 23, 2006

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"It is absolutely true that in biodiversity rich areas, the poorest people are living. But can we say that since these people are poor (in the connotation of the modern societies), they have developed the knowledge of harnessing their sustenance from their surroundings and thereby made these areas biodiversity rich? The so called modern civilization is continuously trying to change nature and is in turn destroying the biodiversity (including agricultural biodiversity) for a so called globalized modern living. Now in India most of these biodiversity rich areas are exploited by modern man for other resources like minerals in Central India and timber in North East.


From our experience with tribal communities in Jharkhand, West Bengal and Tripura, we found that many villages are changing their livelihoods at a fast rate to catch up with the rest of modern India and in the process are forgetting their traditional knowledge of sustainable use of natural resources. The best example of this is that the social life of the tribal residing near mining areas is now entirely different from that of their relatives residing in the forest areas in far away places. Now within the tribal society, they think that persons working as a labourer for all 365 days is better off since he has more money than a person with food security (of a different kind in a biodiversity rich zone). Slowly these changes are percolating and people are forgetting their traditional knowledge with the advent of more and more infrastructure, mining and other projects.


On the other hand, in the mining areas of Birbhum, West Bengal, we found (ironically) that now after 30 years of the start of mining, they are regretting having adopted and accepted changes which made them dependent on the whims of mine owners. Most of these mines are illegal and these tribals are still poverty stricken and are also having diseases. But the damage has already been done.


I feel that without addressing livelihood issues, it is a difficult proposition to expect the community to protect traditional knowledge, as other external economic forces are forcing them to do otherwise. A continuous campaign is required to propagate the intrinsic value of these biodiversity rich areas and addressing their needs through a consultative mechanism. Detailed scientific mapping of traditional knowledge is necessary to protect biodiversity in areas where such distortions are taking place."


-Sujit Choudhury, PAN Network, Kolkata



Barasingha and Hangul

Posted by Susan Sharma on December 23, 2006

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Barasingha in Kanha N.P and Hangul in  Dachigam N. P ( J&K)

The barasingha, the beautiful deer with twelve tined antlers, were once reduced to just 66 animals in Kanha N.P.  Management interventions like construction of a large enclosure,( main threat to brasingha are the tigers) strict control over grass burning and the augmentation of grassland areas achieved a rebound of the population of this deer. 

Today,  the Hangul or red deer in Dachigam is faced with extinction.  The 2005 census placed their numbers between 170 and 250.  Increase in predators like leopards and the omnivorous black bear who feed on young hangul does  not help matters either. Large scale grazing of sheep and encroahment in the upper reaches of the park have led to shrinking of the hangul's home range, making it easy prey for leopards in the lower reaches. The Wildlife Institute of India Are doing satellite tracking to determine the home range.  Deending on the results a decision has to be made to increase the coverage area or to relocate the predator population.

( Source: Kanha Tiger Reserve by Carrol Moulton and Ernie J. Hulsey and

The Indian Express 22 Dec 2006)

Tribal Bill-How it will affect our forests

Tribal Bill becomes Law

Posted by Susan Sharma on December 19, 2006

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Tribal rights Bill Passed

The law which gives tribals rights to forest land is expected to cover nearly ten lakh tribals and traditional forest-dwellers living in 87 districts of the country. Only those who have been residing in forests for three generations or 75 years will be eligible to claim land. Each such family would be entitled to four hectares of forest land. The total land that dwellers are estimated to get is two percent of the forest land.

But the government has retained the power to acquire forest land with tribals for the construction of schools, hospitals and to provide other basic facilities.

 Rights over land and minor produce

 The gram sabha will determine the nature and extent of individual or community forest rights. The gram sabha will then pass a resolution for conferring the rights and it will be forwarded to a Sub-Divisional level committee. The rights will be conferred by a District Level Committee to be apointed by the state government.

Source: The Hindustan Times and The Indian Express

Climate change and Global Warming

Hong Kong Pollution

Posted by Susan Sharma on December 12, 2006

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Singapore and Hong Kong have long competed for the title of Asia’s premier financial centre and favoured destination for foreign professionals. Singapore’s claim received a boost in November when Merrill Lynch, an American investment bank, declared that Hong Kong's air pollution was so bad that investors should sell shares in developers there and buy shares in their Singaporean rivals. Spencer White, the bank's analyst, also forecast that Hong Kong office rents might fall 5% in 2007.

Singapore has its own air-pollution problems, but this is usually an annual bout of so-called “haze”, caused by farmers in neighbouring Indonesia setting fire to tropical forests to clear land. Hong Kong’s problem, by contrast, is a year-round miasma churned out mainly by factories on the Chinese mainland. “About 40% of those in my social circle who work in the financial sector are looking to leave [Hong Kong] because of the pollution,” Mr White told a Singaporean newspaper. His investment advice was nothing more than “common sense”, he said, and he predicted Singapore would benefit as more people move there.


Climate change and Global Warming

A considered opinion

Posted by Susan Sharma on December 12, 2006

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"The fact is that warming of the global atmosphere is possibly the biggest and most difficult economic and political issue the world has ever needed to confront. I say this because, firstly, emissions of carbon dioxide are directly linked to economic growth. Therefore, growth as we know is on the line. We will have to reinvent what we do and how we do it. There will be costs, but as Stern says, the cost will be a fraction of what we will need to spend in the future.

Secondly, the issue is about sharing that growth between nations and between people. The fact is that global economic wealth is highly skewed. Put in climate terms, this means that global emissions are also highly skewed. The question now is whether the world will share the right to emit (or pollute) or will it freeze inequities. The question is if the rich world, which has accumulated a huge 'natural debt' overdrawing on its share of the global commons, will repay it so that the poorer world can grow, using the same ecological space?

Thirdly, climate change is about international cooperation. The fact is that climate change teaches us more than anything else that the world is one; if the rich world pumped in excessive quantities of carbon dioxide yesterday, the emerging rich world will do so today. It also tells us the only way to build controls will be to ensure there is fairness and equity, so that this biggest cooperative enterprise is possible. Think of climate change as the fallout of the feverish embracing of the market.


Ultimately, climate change is the true globaliser. It forces our world to come together not just to make short-term profits for some, but long-term economic and ecological benefits for all. Let us continue to discuss how this can be done."

Sunita Narain


Wildlife Poaching

India lives in many centuries!

Posted by Susan Sharma on December 10, 2006

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The Delhi Wildlife Department rescued seven owls belonging to the species" Indian Horned Owl", in Old Delhi. 

The seizure has brought to light a racket run in the name of black-magic. 

According to wildlife experts, the owls are not captured for their meat but to perform rituals.  The claws of the bird are thought to attract good fortune while feathers are used to ward off evil spirits.  Tantriks cash upon mythology where owl is considered the vehicle of goddess Lakshmi. 

Source: The Indian Express dated 8th Dec, 2006

Any other

Seething Singur

Posted by Susan Sharma on December 10, 2006

Forum Post

The headlines scream of a seething Singur in Calcutta, where Tatamotors are acquiring land to set up an automotive plant. The settlement to the farmers is handsome, yet farmers ask,"What use is cash?"

The echoes of these feelings are heard in a faraway consumeristic land in a different form.  America. 

Americans have increased the conservation of private lands by more than 50 percent in just five years. Currently about 37 million acres of private land has been set aside as natural areas.  Factors contributing to the increase in private lands conservation include towns wanting to preserve their quality of life, state and local open space bond initiatives, and policymakers concerned about sprawl and unchecked development.

Sources: Business Standard, 10 Dec, 2006 and

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