November 14, 2007
Tigers and tribals
” Is it possible to reconcile the interests of what seems to be two competing groups?
Two years ago the debate was stormy. The draft forest rights bill was being worked upon by a government just sworn into power. Around this time, it was discovered—to everyone’s horror—that all tigers from what was supposed to be a protected area, the Sariska
National Park, had been poached. Opposition to the draft bill mounted; conservationists argued that this “populist” measure would be the last nail in the tiger’s coffin.
I was asked to head a task force to suggest how tigers could be safeguarded. Over three months the specialists we met believed that it was important to reserve areas for wildlife. These would need to be inviolate areas—exclusively earmarked for animals where
human interference would have to be kept at its minimum. Otherwise, they said, the tiger would not survive. They believed that if the forest rights bill gave people ownership over these lands it would be disastrous.
I approached the issue from different perspectives. I had for long understood that the future of people and forests is entwined. I also knew from experience that regeneration of forests is not possible unless local people benefit. But I was willing to listen
to the experience of those who believed in the tiger. If co-existence was not possible, we needed to find strategies to relocate people who lived in the tiger’s territory.
The issue seemed simple, but the replies shocked me. After 30 years of wildlife conservation efforts, fronted by the country’s most powerful, we had forgotten people. In these 30 years we had managed to relocate 80-odd villages from protected reserves. We estimated
that another 1,500 villages existed in just 28 tiger reserves. Worse, relocation was done in the most ham-handed and inhuman manner. We met families who had decided to return to the harassment and poverty of their homes within the sanctuary as their resettled
parcel of land was full of stones. The authorities had done just about everything to make people trespassers in their own land; everything to turn them against the tiger we want to protect. This would not work we concluded.
Our answer was two-pronged. One, we agreed that inviolate space was important for wild animals. But the people who were making space for the tiger needed to be given a good deal—not marginal forestland which would make them more destitute. Two, we said that
we needed to be realistic. We suggested the need to identify and prioritize relocation of those villages that were in the most critical of wildlife habitats. This had to be done within a time-bound schedule. In the remaining villages, which would have to live
in the reserves, we suggested a new bargain—sharing benefits of conservation with local communities—from preferential shares in tourism to collaborative management of our reserves.
This led to some developments. The government agreed to enhance the package for relocated families from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh; it agreed to conduct a census of tigers in the country, which would pinpoint their presence in different habitats. The tiger census
is the first step to identify the critical habitats that need to be protected and to list the human settlements that need to be relocated. With this done, the agenda of co-existence will need to kick in.
------------- In late 2005, the bill presented to parliament included a provision that temporary pattas (land deeds) would be given to people who were to be relocated from sanctuaries and national parks. This would ensure that their rights were protected, but
also it would ensure that government would undertake their relocation within a time-bound schedule.
Then the tribal lobby, which has the upper hand in parliament upped the ante. In late 2006, the act, finalized by a joint parliamentary committee, dropped this clause. Inside, it inserted an altogether new term, critical wildlife habitats, which would need
to be established as areas to be kept inviolate for wildlife. In the rules for the act to go into force, they have rubbed in this point. They want ministries to issue guidelines regarding the nature, process, validation and interpretation of data to be collected
and roles of expert committees who will now designate critical wildlife habitats, virtually questioning the legality of all protected areas.
This has led conservationists to react. They want all wildlife areas (some 600-odd) to be re-designated as critical wildlife habitats and removed from the ambit of the act. Now they have the upper hand. For now, the act is stalled. The next round belongs to
the tribal lobby. It is after all a wrestling match.
In all this, let us be clear, the losers are tribals and tigers. It is not tigers versus
tribals. It is everyone against them.”
November 13, 2007
Solar Power from Satellites
At some point before 2050, satellites collecting solar power and beaming it back to Earth will become a primary energy source, streaming terawatts of electricity continuously from space. That’s if you believe a recent report from the Pentagon’s
National Security Space Office, which says confidently that we will see “a basic proof-of-concept within 4-6 years and a substantial power demonstration as early as 2017-2020″.
It’s obvious in some ways: above the atmosphere, a solar cell receives about 40 times more energy per year than an equivalent site on the ground, due to the absence of atmospheric scattering and seasonal or nightly reductions in light.
The NSSO suggests that an orbiting spacecraft with solar panel arrays would be comparable to current ground-based installations spanning hectares and, eventually, a few square kilometres. Then that energy can be sent to the ground - using, the Pentagon suggests,
a giant laser or microwave beam.
The report, Space Based Solar Power as an Opportunity for Strategic Security, suggests optimistically that one application will be the beaming of “energy aid” via satellite into conflict and disaster zones, minimising the human cost of resource wars and
catastrophic events caused by global warming.
“The technology has been in development for a while,” says Joseph Rouge, associate director of the space office. “The truly hard and expensive part is going to be getting it into orbit. We’ll need regular launches and on-orbit robotic assembly systems. It’s
a $10bn [£4.8bn] programme, but by 2050 it could deliver 10% of America’s power needs.”
Source: The Guardian
November 10, 2007
Computer chips for Solar Cells
Computer maker IBM has found a way to save money, reduce waste, and contribute to the development of the solar power industry with just one smart innovation—recycling defective semiconductor chips and sending the recovered refined silicon to manufacturers
of photovoltaic solar cells.
A worldwide shortage of refined silicon, the key ingredient in both semiconductors and solar cells, has kept prices for solar power artificially high in recent years, and photovoltaic producers welcome the news of IBM’s breakthrough in processing its wasted
chips for them.
Read the full story at
November 07, 2007
The presence and health of wildlife ( birds, squirrels, fish ...) around us is often the best indicator of pollution levels in the air we breathe and the water we drink.
The disappearance of the fresh water dolphin , (a schedule I animal) in a stretch of 7 km of the Ganga where the Simbhaoli Sugar Mill discharges their effluents, is a case in point.
While bureaucratic tussles between the pollutioncontrol board and the sugar mill owners go on about treating the pollutants before discharging the waste,the river is slowly dying.
November 03, 2007
Carbon Neutral Search Engine
Google search engine on a black screen? Ji Hain, it serves a great environmental purpose.
The site http://www.carbonneutralsearch.co.uk/ utilizes Google search engine and is in fact no different. However, according to the site, the amount of energy used on each individual computer generated
from search queries equates to about one gram of carbon dioxide.
So the premise of the website is that any revenue generated from Google queries on their ’Carbon Neutral Search Engine’ will go to purchase carbon offsets. The website has openly chosen to use ClimateCare.org, a UK based company that allows people from all
over the world to purchase carbon offsets and puts the money towards funding sustainable energy projects. The idea is a great one and should be remembered by all those self proclaimed environmentalists there.
As for other environmental bloggers out there,
"We offer websites the opportunity to enhance their listings on the Carbon Neutral Search Engine by either writting about us on their website or blog (subject to Carbon Neutral Search Engine reviews). If you do please forward the details to
firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also receive a listing in our "In the Media" section of this blog."
if you write about the website and let them know you’ve done so, they will enhance your listing in there search engine. It could result in more traffic to your environmental website if you have one. Besides that, make sure you check it out the next time
you have a search, it goes to a great cause and will provide an extra boost to battling climate change.
November 02, 2007
"Our ancestors knew thousands of stars in the evening sky, but now we’re lucky if we can identify a dozen—and the culprit is the millions of watts of light we shoot up to the heavens.
Grownups today remember the starry night sky, but a whole new generation will grow up not knowing about it. It’s critical to get the message to our kids: This is a simple problem that can and needs to be fixed.
Welcome to the new world of environmentalism. We think of greens rallying to protect rainforests, coral reefs, deserts and other distant yet critical ecosystems. But that’s just one aspect of protecting the planet. Many activists are now working close to
home, too, joining up with neighbors to restore and preserve their own communities.
These new environmentalists make streets safe so children can walk to school. They lobby for sidewalks and benches and neighborhood parks. They transform outdated shopping malls into neighborhood centers complete with housing and lively public squares, sidewalk
cafés and convenient transit stops......
Thinking globally and working locally has long been a mantra for the environmental movement. To join this emerging movement, look around your neighborhood to see what places—parks, gathering spots, natural amenities, quiet nooks, play areas, walking routes,
commercial centers—could be protected or regenerated. Think about what changes could be made to reduce pollution and environmental degradation. "
Here are a few ideas for you to get started in bringing the green movement home.
1) Team up with your neighbors
2) Think globally, eat locally
3) Become a guerrilla gardener
4) Transform your neighborhood into a village
5) Imagine your neighborhood with half the traffic
6) Cut down on your driving
7) Save the Earth by enlivening your neighborhood
SAVE THE PLANET IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD
November 01, 2007
".......... it makes a lot of sense for conservation movements to use the
public health angle rather than the environment angle, as this has a
direct bearing on people. In a nation, where human lives themselves
are so ’cheap’, animals are perhaps, a ’collateral damage’!........many diseases have been directly linked to deforestation
and bad management of ’development projects’! Some diseases like
Kyasanur Forest Disease, Malaria (especially in NE India) and West
Nile Encephalitis are directly tracable.
MB Krishna (of bngbirds) pointed out about how Ronald Ross worked on
avian malaria. In fact, the role of swamp
malaria has been better worked on in Africa than in India. Many of the
swamps were earlier located deep in forest areas and were hardly
accessible to humans. However, due to rapid deforestation and sudden
exposure to human beings, lethal forms of Malaria are being seen.
I have been regularly going to Arunachal Pradesh over the last few
years, and had the opportunity to see first hand in some of the tribal
communities, the high mortality of Malaria. Most of these are what are
categorized as "Forest Malarias". These are generally acquired in
transit through forests! Also, what is surprising is that the vector,
in this case, Plasmodium fluviatilis, I think) is adapted to breeding
on ’fast breeding streams’, and so the classical public health
measures of covering all stagnant water/kerosenese etc are useless!
This mosquito is probably a forest mosquito, for which humans are
’just another mammal’!
October 30, 2007
Three out of 34 biodiversity hotspots identified globally -Himalayas, Indo-Burma and Western Ghats cover parts of India. The Northeast of India is traversed by the first two. Northeast also houses 21% of Important bird Areas identified nationally.
In recent years biologists have discovered new species of mammals and smaller life forms in this region which is waiting to be fully explored yet.
The region has also been identified as India’s future "powerhouse" and 168 large hydroelectric projects totalling 63,328 MW are planned. The Envronment Impact Assessments done hurriedly and casually ignores the rich wildlife of the area.
Areas known to be having 300 bird species have been dismissed with five species; A river with 135 recorded species finds mention with just 55 species.
The EIA report for the Teesta III project in Sikkim does not have a single mention of the Khanjhenjunga National Park or the biosphere Reserve after a year-long study, even though the project is within a kilometer of the former and is within the latter!
October 29, 2007
"...without bringing America’s underclass into the green movement, it’s going to get nowhere...
The leaders of the climate establishment came in through one door and now they want to squeeze everyone through that same door. It’s not going to work. If we want to have a broad -based environmental movement, we need more entry points.
The green economy has the power to deliver new sources of work, wealth and health to low income people-while honouring the Earth."
-Van Jones, Social Activist, Oakland, Caifornia
October 25, 2007
Solar power could be the world’s number one electricity source by the end of the century, but until now its role has been negligible as producers wait for price parity with fossil fuels, industry leaders say.
Once the choice only of idealists who put the environment before economics, production of solar panels will double both next year and in 2009, according to U.S. investment bank Jefferies Group Inc, driven by government support especially in Germany and Japan.
Similar support in Spain, Italy and Greece is now driving growth in southern Europe as governments turn to the sun as a weapon both against climate change and energy dependence.
Subsidies are needed because solar is still more expensive than conventional power sources like coal, but costs are dropping by around 5 percent a year and "grid parity," without subsidies, is already a reality in parts of California.
Very sunny countries could reach that breakeven in five years or so, and even cloudy Britain by 2020.
"At that point you can expect pretty much unbounded growth," General Electric Co’s Chief Engineer Jim Lyons told the Jefferies conference in London on Thursday, referring to price parity in sunny parts of the United States by around 2015.
"The solar industry will eventually be bigger than wind."
The United States’ second largest company, GE is a big manufacturer of wind turbines and wants to catch up in solar, said Lyons.