Travel

An entreaty for the Kollengode Thrissur railway, a Green Corridor.

Posted by Madan Menon Thottasseri on July 11, 2012

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An entreaty for the Kollengode Thrissur railway, a Green Corridor.

This is ananalysis on the decades’ pending proposal for “Kollengode – Thrissur railwayline”, a green rail-corridor through the valley of Nelliyampathy Hills that enhancesthe value- addition of Tourism in two states!

(Madan MenonThottasseri    email:tmadan.menon@gmail.com)

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This is the chronicle of a once shelved proposal for  a railway line, which could have beenincluded into the ‘wish list’ of both Kerala andTamil Nadu all these years.This railway line through the valley of Neliyampathy Hills can beyond doubt facilitate for a fresh green rail-corridor from South Tamil Nadu to Thrissur,the cultural capital of Kerala, bypassing the busy Palakkad junction and it will be increasingly pertinent now for the tourism development in both states. Unfortunately the said project never enjoyed much popular demand in Kerala and had been ignored by political bastions of all fronts.

I have been advocatingfor the Kollengode – Thrissur line during the past few years and expected theKerala government to include it in the ‘wish list’ this time too, for getting itincorporated into the Railway Budget/2012-13 as the shelved project has thepotential to get it refurbished. The said project which was resurveyed justfour years’ back is once again selected for a survey under the Railway Budget2012-13. Though the project had been getting shelved, it is a blessing indisguise that the announcement of a fresh survey for the rail link could prove that the proposal had not gone astray forever!

The proposed Kollengode– Thrissur line will practically enable a Chord line between Pollachi andThrissur. The existing Pollachi –Kollengode - Palakkad section (58 k.m) iscurrently under B.G conversion,wherein the Pollachi – Kollengode is with adistance of 35 k.m. Though the proposed line connects two towns within theState of Kerala, it will pave the way for establishing a direct green corridorfrom Tiruchchi - Dindigul -Pollachi region in Central Tamil Nadu toThrissur, the Pooram city in Central Kerala. Both States will be equally benefited from this proposed railway line.

 

Kollengode– Thrissur Railway line:

The on-going gauge conversion in Palakkad – Kollengode-Pollachi – Udumalaipet - Palani - Dindigul;and Podanur – Pollachi routes will be completed in a phased manner as per theproposal to the Railway Ministry by Southern Railways. The rail traffic in the entire stretches was closed forgauge conversions for the past two years.

There is a long pending proposal for a new line between Kollengode, the erstwhile tiny realm and Thrissur, thecity of pooram festivals, which is actually very much significant for the B.G conversionproject in the Palakkad- Pollachi- Dindigul route aimed to facilitate shortest route to temple towns of south Tamil Nadu from Malabar andCochin regions ofKerala. A traffic survey for connecting Kollengode and Thrissur (B.G) was done during 1964-65 by the distinguished Padmashree P.N.Baskaran Nair (late) who simultaneously surveyed the Salem- Bangalore and Hassan – Mangalore lines. Infact this was the second survey, as the initial survey conducted during thepre-independence period in mid-forties already went unnoticed. The line was resurveyed in the year 2007.

Being a short distance of approx. 54 k.m, the Ministry of Railways can still incorporate the proposed Kollengode-Thrissur B.G line in the coming Railway Budget/February 2011 and simultaneouslyrelease adequate funds for the early implementation of the newline as well as for augmenting the completion of the gauge conversion projects in Dindigul –Udumalaipet – Palani - Pollachi - Kollengode- Palakkad/Pollachi-Podanursections. The proposal to link Kollengode lying in the Pollachi- Palakkadsection under B.G conversion, with Thrissur, the city ofpooram festivals via.Nenmmara, Ayalur Road, Chittillamcherry, Mudappallur( For Mangalam Dam),Vadakkumcherry , Kuthiran, Pattikkad ( for Peechi Reservoir) and Mannuthy was neglected and kept in the cold storage for the past four decades.

It is very noteworthy that the proposed Kollengode – Thrissur line passes through Nenmara, thegate-way of Nelliyampathy Hill- Station the upcoming tourist destination and an ideal out-door shooting location for movie makers.

The present Nenmara townis constituted bythe erstwhile twin villages which are better known from the name of popular‘vela’ festival- the Nenmara- Vallenghy Vela , held in the firstweek of Aprilevery year. This festival attracts not only people of Cochin-Malabar regions and Coimbatore - Pollachi – Tiruppur- Palani regions ofneighboring Tamil Nadu,but also tourists from bigger cities likeChennai,Bangalore,Mumbai etc. Of late foreign tourists visiting Kerala duringthe months of March- April are enticed by travel industry based in cities inthe region like Coimbatore, Kochi and Calicut  to witness the spectacular festival which is rated at par with Thrissur Pooram. The said rail link between Kollengodeand Thrissur will give a face-lift to the paddy-cultivation and trading centers covered under Chulliyar, Pothundy, Mangalam and Peechi irrigation projects.Cruise rides in Peechi and Pothundy reservoirs are popular.It will be anenchanting journey by a train that chugs through the beautiful countryside surrounded by thick lush of paddy fields, coconut – areca nut farms, rubberplantations and picturesque hills!

The Nelliyampathy hills with amazing varieties of flora and fauna, around 65 km from Palakkad and 45k.m from Nenmara is situated at a height of 467 meters to 1572 meters at the highest peak.The Hill station is comprised of a chain of ridges separated by valleys ofdense, evergreen virgin forests and orange plantations. There are more than adozen hair-pin bends on the ghat road from Pothundy Dam passing through junglesof Sahyadri ranges. Nelliyampathi’s forest regions are sanctified with wild animals like elephants, leopards, hill squirrels, bisons and a wide spectrum ofbird life.

Nelliyampathy is also the perfect location for eco tourism and farm tourism. The sprawling teagardens,coffee, cardamom and orange plantation add beauty to this destination of all seasons. Studies had revealed that a rich civilization existed in Nelliyampathy during Tamil Sangam era. Certain view-points en-route to the hill station offer a splendid sight of the Palakkad Gap, which is a geographical phenomenonin the Western Ghats formation, showing the  extensive paddy fields of the Palakkad district and adjoining Coimbatore-Pollachi regions forming a verdantcarpet.

Seethakundu waterfall with a height of 100 meters is an added attraction from where tourists can have a nice valley sight. Padagiri, the highest peak situated on Nellikotta mountain ranges is the trekkers’ paradise. Trekking is possible to reach Mampara as well for beautiful valley-sight. Even Pollachi and Valparai can be seen from there.Nenmara town and Pothundy reservoir can be seen from yet another view point –Kesavanpara. There are private operators offering Night-Safari to see wildanimals, especially elephants; but must be beware of fuming elephants roaming around to charge anything on its sight!

GreenRail Corridor for Value Addition of Tourism in Nelliyampathy:

 

Probably it may be aprudent decision of Kerala State to give a thrust for Ayurveda andBack-water oriented tourism to woo maximum number of class tourists to thestate. Ofcourse Kerala, boasting with the tag of “God’s Own Country” could register asuccess story while offering resorts by the side of back-waters withfacilitiesfor cruise  boating, sail and stay in house-boats,  in-house Ayurveda health-centers in resorts etc. which are very much acclaimed by tourists from all continents.

It is desirable that thegovernment of Kerala consider launch of special campaigns at big cities within India as well as in Europe and U.S, for bringing guests to state; It can be “TeaGarden Tourism” for locations like Munnar and Nelliyampathy.  “Festival Tourism” may be feasible for attracting tourists to exclusive colorfulfestivals wherein there will be elephants’ parade, traditional drum recitals and display of fire-works at Thrissur Pooram, Nenmmara-Vallanghy Vela etc.

Tourism campaign for Nenmmara- Vallanghy Vela festival can be clubbed with that of Nelliyampathy,the hill-station with tea gardens, orange farms, cardamom estates. Nenmmara is connectedby road with Palakkad, the district headquarters through two or three routeswith distances around 20k.m. The town in the valley of the hill station is actually lying in the middle of Pollachi- Vadakkumcherry-Nenmmara-Thrissur Inter-State route merged with NH-47 at Vadakkumcherry. The distances by road from Nenmara to Pollachi towards east and to Thrissur towards west are 49 k.meach.

Pothundy Dam, just 6 k.m away from Nenmmara, which is constructed at the start off ‘Ayalur(Ayiloor)River’, a sub-tributary of Bharathapuzha is an ideal recreation location with gardens. Boat rides are offered in the vast reservoir to attract tourists. This dam is having a unique status as ‘second largest in Asia without using cement-mixture’. The Kerala government may have to plan for constructionof adequate tourist resorts and budget motels at Nelliyampathy, Pothundy, Nenmara and Kollengode. There will be a good potential to install cable carservice between the gardens in the Pothundy Dam to Nelliyampathy Hill station to boost tourism. The Kerala Tourism can avail the technology transfer from oneof the best global companies for the same.

Though the Kollengode Railway station is the nearest rail-head for Nenmmara and Nelliyampathy, due to the proximity, it had not served the purpose much by the rail connectivitythrough  Kollengode, the Palakkad – Kollengode – Pollachi M.G Line, part ofthe M.G. network in  Palakkad – Kollengode - Pollachi– Palani –Dindigul and Polachi – Podanur sections in the region. This branch line under B.G conversion has potential for linking with trunk routes at three junctions,viz. Palakkad, Podanur and Dindigul. The pending project, Kollengode– ThrissurRail link enabling linkage between major trunk routes  of  Southern Railway at Dindigul and Thrissur, will enhance the potential for traffic earnings and optimum utilisation of rolling-stocks.

Tourists campingatNelliyampathy can be brought down to the valley to see the spectacular show of elephants’ parade and colourful fire works displayed in the Nenmmara-Vallenghy Vela festival. Together with Nenmmara and Vallengy, many villages like Ayalur(Ayiloor), Chittillamcherry, Cheramangalam, Mudapallur,Vadakkumcherry, Pallavoor constitute an enclave of Vela- Kanyarkali festivalsin the months of April-May every year. Kanyarkali festivals are performed intemple premises from desk to dawn and it provides all ingredients offolk-dance-dramas that can attract intellectuals to laymen amongsttourists. 

It is not an exaggerationto say that during the festival season, in this enclave of festivals in thePalakkad district, not even a single day passes without acelebration involvingprocessions by adorned elephants accompanied by drum recitals likeChendamelams, Panchavadyams etc. and colourful fire-works at least in a coupleof temples.

People of the Thrissur-Nenmara- Kollengode and Pollachi- Udumalaipet- Palani regions have lot ofexpectations on the B.G connectivity between Palakkad and Dindigul(180 k.m) aswell as between Podanur to Pollachi (40 k.m). Further if the new line between Kollengode and Thrissur is made possible, it will establish the shortest route from Madurai/Tiruchcchi regions in Central Tamil Nadu to the Cochin regions ofKerala state. Trains between Madurai/Tiruchchi and Thrissur, Guruvayur,Ernakulam, Alleppy etc. can be operated through Pollachi –Kollengode – Thrissurroute, by-passing the traffic saturated Palakkad– Ottappalam – Shoranur/Thrissur sections. Trains towards Malabar region,Mangalore and beyond, through Konakan railways to Uduppi , Goa, Mumbai etc. canmove through Pollachi-Kollengode- Thrissur- Shoranur Jn. as well as through Pollachi-Kolengode –Palakkad - Shoranur sections. In reality the gauge conversion in the Dindigul –Palakkad sector and also the new line between Kollengode and Thrissur will facilitate Tamil Nadu to become one of the major beneficiary states of theKonkan Railways.

The distance fromMaduraito Ernakulam  via. Sengottai –Punalur - Kollam and Alappuza, (after thegauge conversion in Sengottai –Punalur sections) is 411 k.m. Once the gaugeconversion between Dindigul –Palakkad sections is over and also provide the newB.G. link between Kollengodeand Thrissur, the Madurai- Dindigul- Palani -Pollachi- Kollengode – Thrissur sections will offer a shortest route toErnakulam with only 351 k.m. Thus therewill be a reduction of 60 k.m in thedistance between the temple city of Madurai and Ernakulam (Kochi) the “Queen ofArabian Sea”.

After the B.G conversion in Palakkad- Pollachi- Palani - Dindigul sections while Southern Railways can makeit feasible to operate express trains between Alappuza(Alleppy)/Ernakulam/Guruvayur/Mangalore/Kozikkode(Calicut)/Palakkad and temple towns like Palani, Madurai, Rameswaram, Thiruchchi, Nagore, and Velankkanni inTamil Nadu, it should simultaneously operate Passenger Trains aswell. The Kollengode – Thrissur line, by-passing the traffic saturated Palakkad,if implemented will further reduce the distances between Ernakulam and all thesetemple towns by 46 k.m which is included the distance saved of 60 k.m cited above.

The distance from Tiruchchi to Thrissur,Guruvayur or Ernakulam/Cochin (via.Manappara - Dindigul – Palani – Pollachi – Kollengode - Nenmara- Vadakkumcherry-Mannuthy- Thrissur/304 k.m) will be less by69 k.m**whencompared with the present round-about Tiruchchi- Karur - Erode – Podanur-Palakkad – Ottapalam –Wadakkancherry – Thrissur (373 k.m) route.

Further in future,theThrissur- Nenmara – Kollengode - Pollachi- Podanur B.G.sections (129 k.m),willserve as an alternative route to the busy Thrissur- Palakkad Jn. – PodanurJn. (125k.m) double-lined trunk section. Thus Southern Railways can treat this route through the valley of Nelliyampathy hills, lengther by just 4 k.m  asa ‘third line’ between Podanur andThrissur, while it enables to skip the traffic saturated Palakkad Junction.

Kollengode– Thrissur railway that facilitates a chord line from Pollachi, the industrialtown inCoimbatore district of Tamil Nadu well-known for the biggest marketforvegetables, agro products, hill produce etc., to Thrissur the city incentralKerala, known for the Pooram festival, should never carry the tag ofabranch-line within the boundary of Kerala. As the line establishes Pollachi–Kollengode – Thrissur inter-state ‘chord-line’ (89 k.m). It will neverbe extraneous if Tamil Nadu comes forward initiating for this ‘Chord Line’ knowing the potential for augmenting tourism and trade, even if Kerala is notkeen on advocating for the same!

The Pollachi –Kollengode-Thrissur ‘chord’ rail-link will be advantageous for the tourismdevelopment of Nelliyampathy (Kerala), Valparai (TN), Top Slip(TN)hill-stations and many water reservoirs in the region- Pothundy, Mangalam, Peechi, Malampuzha, Chulliar,Meenkara, Aliar, Sholaiyar, Kadamparai, Nirayar and Parambikkulam. Ultimatelythis line will add value to the tourism potential of these hill-stations and nearby dams with gardens, amusement parks,boating lakes, resorts etc. that canbe easily accessible by foreign tourists landing at Kochi, Kozhikkode or Coimbatore airports.

It is a different issue that Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi who had presented the current year’s railwaybudget underwent a unique situation wherein the whole of the party to which hewas associated turned against him and threatened to sack him if the hike inpassenger fares are not rolled back. The hapless minister DineshTrivedi hadresigned even prior to the completion of debates in respect of his budget inthe Parliament. The incumbent Minister Mukul Roy (who was nominated to RajyaSabha solely as a replacement for Dinesh Trivedi) must look into the facts in respect of the decades’ long pending Kollengode – Thrissur railway line.

Railway ministry must gracefully take note of the potential of the Kollengode – Thrissur railway lineand vacatethe project out of repeated and callous resurveys. It is fine if the ministry instantaneously takes forward the project that can augment traffic earnings andoptimal operation of rolling stocks of Southern Railway for implementation in the current Railway Budget itself and undo the injustice done all these years.

The Keralagovernmentmust take all preparations to get the sanction for the Kollengode-Thrissur railway line and it is desirable to seek the support from Tamil Nadu while demanding for the branch line, as Tamil Nadu will be an equal beneficiary from this line which facilitates a chord rail link from Pollachi to Thrissur instead of a round-about link through Palakkad.

Ultimately the Kollengode-Thrissur rail link will add value to the tourism potential of Nelliyampathy Hill station. If implemented, Nelliyampathy will be easily accessible to foreigntourists landing at Kochi, Kozikkode and Coimbatore airports as they can reach the entryway of the hill station - Nenmara town by a train.

On implementation of the Kollengode- Thrissur railway, pilgrims and tourists will get a  circular route – Palakkad – Podanur –Pollachi – Kollengode – Nenmmara- Thrissur- Shoranur – Ottapalam - Palakkad(255 k.m) comprising two smaller circularsections. The first one will bethe  KOLLENGODE – Nenmmara -Vadakkumcherry– Mannuthy – THRISSUR - Wadakkancherry - Shoranur – Ottapalam – PALAKKADJn.- KOLLENGODE circularsection (154 k.m) covering the erstwhile Vengunadu andValluvanadu realms touchingtwo district head quarters- Palakkad and Thrissur.The other one will be the Kollengode – Palakkad – Podanur – Kinattukkadavu– Pollachi – Kollengode (147 k.m) covering the erstwhile Kongunadu, Palakkadand Vengunadu realms.

These circularsectionswill be advantageous for the tourism development of Nelliyampathy (Kerala) andValparai ( T.N) Hill stations and many water reservoirs-Pothundy,  Mangalam, Peechi,Vazhani, Malampuzha,Chulliar, Meenkara, Aliar,Sholaiyar, Kadamparai, Nirayar and Parambikkulam.

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**Details of 'Thrissur- Tiruchchi' distance Saved (69 K.m):THRISSUR-TIRUCHCHI Jn., via. ERODE : Thrissur-Erode 232 K.m+Erode- TiruchciJn.141 k.m=373 k.m; THRISSUR-TIRUCHCHI via. KOLLENGODE, POLLACHI & DINDIGUL:Thrissur-Kollengode 54 k.m + Kollengode-Pollachi-Dindigul 157 k.m+Dindigul-Tiruchchi Jn. 93 k.m = 304 k.m. Distance saved: 373-304=69 k.m   

Notes:-

This ARTICLE is the amended version of my earlier Articles –

Will theRailway Ministry look into the prospects for a ‘chord’ rail link from Pollachito Thrissur? (http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/8265495-will-the-railway-ministry-look-into-the-prospects-for-a-chord-rail-link-from-pollachi-to-thrissur) posted in ‘Allvoices’ on on 22nd February,2011 and Kollengode – Thrissurrailway line: Tale of a neglected fresh green rail corridor from Central TamilNadu to Central Kerala

 

(http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/6429030-kollengode-thrissur-railway-line-tale-of-a-neglected-fresh-green-rail-corridor-from-central-tamil-nadu-to-central-kerala) posted in ‘Allvoices’/31st July,2010 which was based on my  own original Article already published in ‘indianexpress’; see in blogs of indianexpress.com/ expressindia.com on 16th June,2009.

(http://blogs.expressindia.com/showblogdetails.php?contentid=477356).

Can read in ‘Blogspot’ which was posted on 17th June,2009(http://kollengode-thrissur-railway.blogspot.com/2009/06/kollengode-thrissur-railway-line.html);with Malayalam Captions posted on 29th June,2009 in blogspot itself, prior to theRAILWAY BUDGET ON 3rd July,2009 by Railway Minister Ms.Mamata Banerjee. Alsoread my latest Article in Blogspot once again to endure a callous resurvey? (http://kollengode-tcr.blogspot.in/) posted on 28th March,2012

Many people have fully copied my Articles from “expressindia” without mentioning about their copying, and posted in various sites as if they havewritten the Article and few people have quoted in their blogs/ forums.

Sometimes readers may wonder why I have been writing again for theKollengode – Thrissur Railway line as the previous Articles will serve thepurpose. It is to be noted that in this latest Article I have given a thrustfor the tourism development of Nelliyampathy hill station and the need for theKerala Tourismto launch special campaigns - ‘Tea Garden Tourism” and “Festival  Tourism”. FurtherI have a reason to dream on the saidKollengode-Thrissur railway line as I have felt the need for the same rightfrom my school days at my native ‘Ayalur’ Village, just 4 k.m away from Nenmmara. There will be thousandsof people in the Pollachi – kollengode – Nenmmara – Thrissur stretch who are nursing similar dreams.

I would request readers not to copy this Article and post in any other Blogs.

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Wildlife

Madhya Pradesh Wildlife

Posted by Uday on July 11, 2012

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Situated in heart of India Madhya Pradesh (MP) is well known for its magnificent tiger reserves. With large forest cover still present the wilderness is being conserved in the protected areas. Most of these are critical tiger habitats with abundant prey base survives in biodiversity rich environment.  But the fast shrinking habitats in the state is a cause for alarm. The protected areas are not enough a larger contiguous forest cover is required. This can be achieved by creating corridors and through re-plantation.   


In protected areas complete relocation has not taken place especially in wildlife sanctuaries. There is lot of hesitancy in conducting this exercise due to public pressure and political interference. Funds have been allocated to major protected areas but lesser known and remote wildlife sanctuaries have been devoid. The state has immense capacity to hold much more big cats than at present. But this would require more areas to be developed on the lines of Kuno Palpur.


Typical Central Indian wildlife constitutes tiger, leopard, gaur, sloth bear, sambar, spotted deer, barking deer, four horned deer, Indian Gazelle, jungle cat, wild boar, wild dog, Nilgai, Hanuman Gray Langur and Rehsus Macaque. The rare animals like Hard Ground Barasingha now find hold only at Kanha National Park. Recently mouse deer has been sighted at Kanha National Park while rusty spotted cat was sighted at Bandhavgarh. Indian Tree Shrew as been spotted in Barha Forests of Jabalpur all are in MP. The status of hyena and wolf is in complete darkness. There is a need to accord greater protection to the buffer zone which suffers from indiscriminate resource utilization.         


The major tiger reserves in MP have recently seen a decline is tiger population due to poaching. Panna tragedy has alarmed conservationists and their faith in administrative capacity of the sentinels has dipped low. Nevertheless tourism is growing in these reserves which is a big boon. Apart from acting has vigilance group tourists visiting these places learn about our nature and its importance. Tourism also sustains local communities with jobs and services. The tiger reserves draw substantial revenue from tourists that arrive from far and wide.


The major revenue earners are:


Kanha Tiger Reserve

Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve
Pench Tiger Reserve

Satpura Tiger Reserve    


With introduction of tigers from other parks Panna too is coming back to life. Lesser known wildlife sanctuaries like Nuaradehi and Bori find local visitors. Setting up of proper tourism infrastructure will receive rich dividend via tourist income and will be subjected to greater attention hence protection. Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary near Jabalpur is slated for Cheetah Relocation in Central India. 


Though looked by many wildlife tourism in MP has been fruitful in every way. This has been possible due to  controlled tourism by the authorities. Opening up and developing new protected areas for tourism will result in pressure coming off the major reserves. This will also accord greater protection to neglected animals like the wolf and hyena. Nauradehi has substantial wolf population besides the sloth bear, chinkara, Nilgai and fox.       

   

Nature Trails

Why birdwatchers watch birds... and other birding thoughts

Posted by Padmaja Parulkar on May 24, 2012

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"There is talk of a lion loose in Langata, so let us stick together in a groupand not stray,” warnsFleur at the start of a birding trail in Ngong Racecourse that willeventually lead into Ngong Forest. Once in a while,Nairobi wakes up to an event of a lion or a hippopotamus dropping by the township causing panic (in the neighbourhood) and amusement (to people in other areas). As an aside, listen to this: the civic authorities in their wisdom put up cages at various places in the neighbourhood to catch the cat, but reported that while no cat was found entrapped, they did bait a few hyenas!) Given that the NairobiNational Parkis close to the City Centre, as the pied crow flies, it should be newsthat these episodes do not occur often. But nothing can deter the ragtag bunch of birdwatchers of theWednesday Birder's Club or keep them from their weekly date with birds. 

What draws birdwatchers to field trips, come rain or riots, week after week over months and years, to more or less the same places? Doesn't it get monotonous viewing the same garden variety of birds of bulbuls and weavers, or that after a few outings even the uncommon birds become commonplace? Mountaineer George Mallory's classic reply on climbing mountains applies to birdwatching, too. He is known to have said: "Why climb a mountain... because it is there." Birdwatchers watch birds because they are there - all around - in our backyard, in neglected niches of our neighbourhood and in urban forests.  People go on African safaris or Indian jungles to see large mammals - the Big Five, the cats, the elephants, the hippopotamuses - but few have the patience to sweep in the smaller avifaunal species that are transitory, hyperactive and that do not wait out our cursory observation skills. That is precisely why birdwatching and its related nature-watch component of observing butterflies and insects becomes a more subtle and sublime venture. It calls for marshalling of almost all sensory faculties to the point of utter concentration bordering on meditation.

Imagine an amorphous painting with hidden images – an illusionary art – which a child has to figure out? The child spots a dog here, a car there, and suddenly million things stare at him and the painting comes alive with all its differential aspects standing out vividly. Birdwatching is something similar. The monochromatic leaves of trees of the woods assume varied shapes and characteristics and become separate species; birds blended in trees and shrubs break free becoming visible entities; and butterflies cleave from self-same-coloured flowers to fill up bare spaces. The singular green of the trees, brown of the soil and blue ofthe sky disperse into multicolour mobile mites that, at first, seem obscure.

And that brings me to the magician birder, Kevin. In my previous blog, I focused on the leading lady of the Wednesday club, Fleur, but Kevin is another of those ardent bird lovers who can unravel images and forms from illusory nature. Without binoculars Kevin spots a fish eagle almost two kilometers across the wetland that we have trouble focussing through binoculars; the white shirt front is unmistakable and though the face is obscure, the upright stance is a dead giveaway.   I have never understood how truly passionate birders are also good imitators of bird calls. Kevin takes us to see the Narina trogon in its territory inside the Ngong forest, but we are a big group treading noisily over dry leaves and twigs, a loud threat for the shy bird. Kevin imitates its call and though it does not make an appearance it responds!

He herds us next to see the nest of an African Crowned eagle. I had seen the female crowned eagle sitting by its unwieldy and twiggy nest that was empty, two years back, and after that was going there only today. Meanwhile, the birders had been checking on it on their intermittent sorties. Imagine the exhilaration of seeing a fledgling sitting like aking comfortably on its home perch; the mother was obviously away hunting for a baboon or a small antelope for the young one.  Kevin fills the gaps for me in the life of this particular eagle. It is a privilege to get a window into the isolated world of a giant aviator predator that resides far from the madding crowd of humans and to witness individual stories unfold.  

A fluty call greets us persistently as we walk back by the edge of the forest; this is the yellow-breasted apalis marking its territory. The apalis descends down from trees to a low perch when it makes that call so that it carries far. You realize then that birding is not about simply identifying birds by their appearance- that is but a first fledgling step. Birdwatching is about observing bird behaviour to understand their nature, their language -  their calls and songs, and their needs. It is befriending them to get to know them intimately, to empathize with them and love them, but from a distance. After all, all creatures, big and small, are but a part of the whole, an indispensable ingredient of the world wide web.

Chick of  an African Crowned Eagle in its nest in Ngong Forest



Wildlife

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanag in SRI LANKA

Posted by Chamara Samitha Nanayakkara on April 24, 2012

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File:Pinnawala 02.jpgPinnawala Elephant Orphanage is an orphanagenursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants located atPinnawala village, 13 km (8.1 mi) northwest of Kegalle town in Sabaragamuwa Province of Sri Lanka. Pinnawalla is notable for having the largest herd of captive elephants in the world. In 2011, there were 88 elephants, including 37 males and 51 females from 3 generations, living in Pinnawala.

The orphanage was originally founded in order to afford care and protection to many of the orphaned unweaned wild elephants found wandering in and near the forests of Sri Lanka. It was established in 1975 by the Sri Lanka Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC).

The Millennium Elephant Foundation is a separate registered private charity organization which is a retirement home for 7 elephants and a tourist attraction.

Eco-tour

Environment and Community Development

Posted by Remmy Raphael on March 23, 2012

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Environment and Community Development  

    Much is heard about the development of the Third World, however reality seldom matches the encouraging political discourses. 

 NGERIV emerged from a bottom down approach, where solutions are discussed and implemented at the local level, aiming to help the community as a whole. The main projects are located in Bwawani village and neighbouring villages, near Morogoro in Tanzania.

   The current situation in most rural areas in Tanzania makes development hard to achieve. Economic hardship, lack of knowledge and other structural difficulties lead families to act inneficiently and unaware of alternatives. This reality ensures the permanence of poverty and environmental depletion.

NGERIV aims to tackle the existing problems through collective community effort. It aims to empower individuals with the necessary capabilities to improve their livelihoods. Our area of intervention can be divided into three reciprocally inter-related areas:

  • Education;
  • Alternative means of income;
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Man Animal Conflict

Leoperd killed in conflict

Posted by Pratheush k Muraleedharan on February 29, 2012

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Leopards straying into in villages nestling along the forest fringes in the State, attacking people and their cattle have become a matter of serious concern.

The killing of a healthy female leopard that had strayed into the small hamlet of Angamoozhy in the Ranni forest division by an unruly mob on Tuesday was the latest in the series of human-leopard conflict in the State.

Three weeks ago, a five-year old boy was fatally dragged by a leopard from the company of his father and brother at Athirappally in Ernakulam district. The boy’s body was found, later, in the surrounding area and the leopard was not traced.

In another tragic incident, a four-year old boy was killed by a leopard on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border in Idukki district a year ago.

Killing of a Tiger by the villagers was also reported from the Munnar Forest division when the animal attacked a woman worker a year ago.

As many as four leopards were fatally trapped by humans in Idukki in 2011, according to Mr M.N. Jayachandran, secretary of Society for Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals in Idukki.

Animal-lovers’ concern

Tuesday’s killing of a female leopard had evoked concern and criticism from animal-lovers across the State.

The ferocious animal that had killed two domesticated dogs in the village went into hiding in the bushes adjoining a rubber plantation closeby a school. The entire village, including the local panchayat president and a former District Panchayat member, thronged the spot.

The animal that came out after a five-hour wait inside the bush was more or less overpowered by a man from Kollam, Kuttan alias Vettu Kuttan, who claimed to be an expert in trapping of leopards. However the leopard was suffocated to death when 50 to 100 enthusiastic people swooped on the animal, thrusted their weight on it, plugging its mouth and nostrils, later, leaving the nearly 50 Forest department and Police personnel mere mute spectators of the tragic episode.

The violent mob even blocked the vehicle of the Divisional Forest Officer, R. Kamalahar, and other Forest personnel, when he had directed the Range Officer to register case in connection with the killing of the wild animal.

A local granite quarry group had even granted Rs 50,000 to Vettu Kuttan and another group from Ernakulam had announced cash worth Rs 1 lakh to him in recognition of his ‘valour’, later.

Mr M.S. Rajendran, former District Panchayat member, told The Hindu that incidents of leopards attacking cattle and people were on the rise in Angamoozhy, Seethathode and Chittar villages. The local people were left with little option other than taking their own measures for protecting themselves from the wild animal attacks as the Forest department failed to ensure their safety, he said.

Dr Gopakumar, veterinary surgeon, said the leopard was a healthy one and the death was due to suffocation.

Interlinking of Rivers

Panel on linking of rivers

Posted by Susan Sharma on February 28, 2012

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The Supreme Court on Mondaydirected the Centre to constitute a ‘special committee' forthwith for inter-linking of rivers for the benefit of the entire nation.

It said: “The NCAER report clearly opines that the interlinking of river projects will prove fruitful for the nation as a whole and would serve a greater purpose by allowing higher returns from the agricultural sector for the benefit of the entire economy. This would also result in providing varied benefits like control of floods, providing water to [the] drought-prone States, providing water to a larger part of agricultural land and even power generation. Besides … benefits to the country, it will help the countries like Nepal etc., uplifting India's international role. Importantly, they also point to a very important facet of interlinking of rivers, i.e., it may result in reduction of some diseases due to the supply of safe drinking water, and thus serve a greater purpose for humanity.”

Read more at
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2937800.ece

Wildlife

baiju krishnan

Posted by baiju krishnan on February 22, 2012

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APPLICATION OF GENETIC TECHNIQUES IN WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT

                                  The use of molecular genetic techniques in conservation biology and wildlife management has become increasingly important during the last decade.  This is mainly catalyzed by the development of the Polymerase chain Reaction (PCR) which requires only minute amounts of DNA for genetic analysis and the possible sources of DNA can be hair, scale ,feaces, feather, urine, buccal cells, egg shells and even foot prints.  Thus it is no longer necessary to obtain blood or tissue samples to study population genetics in animals.  Analyzing ad comparing , the genetic make up of plants and animals, not only improves assessments made using traditional methods, but also yields information otherwise inaccessible.  Even though molecular techniques are too labour intensive and expensive for regular use, they have been made more widely available in recent years due to retirements in laboratory techniques, improvements in computer power and lower equipment cost.  The major challenge for the developing nations to conduct genetic research is of economical one, while for under developed nations is the non availability of technology.

 Techniques
  
      Deoxy Ribo Nucleic acid(DNA) is the principal constitute of genes, and is found in the cells of living organisms including components of blood, skin , hair, nails etc.  DNA molecules are made up of a linear sequences of compounds called nucleotides, and form a long, continuous strand inside a structure called chromosome.  The unique sequence of the nucleotide in a chromosome determines the hereditary characteristics of an individual from its species, sex and to traits such as eye colour.  Each gene occupies a particular location on the DNA strand  making it possible to compare the same gene in a number of different samples.

    Many genetic techniques involve a process in which short segments of a DNA strand are replicated to produce a sufficient quantity of material for analysis.  These segments can then be examined for differences in size between individuals or for differences in the actual nucleotide sequence of the segments.  In contrast, other techniques cut DNA into segments using enzymes and certain of these segments are radio actively tagged to create a visual pattern on x-ray film.  DNA finger printing is the most popularly known of these techniques.  The finger print of one individual can be compared with other fingerprints to determine if two or more samples originated from the same individuals or to identify close relatives such as parent and sibling.

Applications

    Molecular genetics provides powerful tools for wildlife conservation and can similarly play an important role in wildlife management.  First an understanding of genetic population structure of a particular species may aid in the identification of management units and the development of management strategies.  The practical application would be the ability to determine the geographical sources of individuals during certain time periods or in certain locations.  It is a powerful tool in all demographic surveys as well as experiments .  Habitat fragmentation is a threat to survival of wildlife populations in human dominated landscapes.  Connectivity among populations is distinct fragments may play an important role in population dynamics and resistance.  New genetic techniques are used to assess the connectivity in spatially structured and population of threatened species

 Cloning and Biodiversity conservation: 
                         Nuclear transfer technology, popularly known as cloning , where new      “ true to type” individuals are created in the laboratory from the nuclear DNA of other individuals.  Reproductive cloning or the production of offspring by nuclear transfer is often regarded as having potential for conserving endangered species of wildlife.  Factor that govern the desirability, feasibility and practicality of cloning vary among different class of vertebrates, depend upon the peculiarities of the biological systems, the type of species under threat and even the chances  of obtaining suitable funding since the research is very expensive.  Cloning is one of the several ways of increasing the number of individuals within a population.  When populations of free living species are found to be in decline, conservation biology begins to seek methods of showing or reversing the threatening process, many such threats exists including habitat loss through human activity, hunting or over fishing, effects of pollution on fertility and fecundity, predation by introduced species or indeed poor diet through loss of prey species.  In  a few cases these threats can be allevated but this may require the development of nation and international policies that support the conservation goals.  Reproductive technologies may then provide support the conservation goals.  Reproductive technlogies may the provide support usually by assisting genetic management.  An important common aim of conservation breeding programmes with or without the use of assisted reproduction, is the avoidance of inbreeding depression.
    Nuclear Transfer Technology can play  a significant role in the conservation of species, which are on the edge of extinction.  Now captive breeding techniques are adopted for saving such species . For example the population of Mauritius Kestrel declined to about nine individuals in the early 1970’s , four were reintroduced to the island of Mauritius later, and the population is now estimated as 700-800.  In such cases we can seek the help of nuclear transfer technology.  However the population of the species facing extinction is very less and they possess minimal genetic variation.  it is therefore desirable to avoid further loss of diversity.  A subsequent generation resulting from natural breeding or artificial insemination would contain some, but no all of genetic variability of its parents.  Loss would occur if any of the individuals failed to breed, which is a strong possibility with small populations.  If cloning is guaranteed to be 100% successful, a good strategy might be to clone every individual, then allow the off spring to mature and breed naturally.  The probability of losing genetic diversity would then  be reduced especially if each parent gives rise to more than two identical copies of itself.  Thus an interesting and novel theoretical principle in animal conservation emerges; where individuals are effectively induced to reproduce asexually something similar to some plants there by improving the long term fitness of the species through the retention of genetic diversity.



Concept of Environmental Genomics
           Environmental genomics bridges the gap between genetics, physiology and ecology.   It involves utilization of abroad range of modern molecular techniques such as gene arrays and single nucleotide polymorphins (SNP) screen to monitor variation in gene structure and expression.  It can pinpoint potentially novel interactions between environmental stresses and expression of specific human, animal and plant genes.  Environmental  genomics is the application of the knowledge gained on gene identification, structure and expression to environmental protection and management.  It can demonstrate deleterious effects at molecular level before organisms level effects are shown.

Importance of Environmental Genomics.:
                Genomics build upon and enhance traditional approaches to environmental toxicology determination.  It is a key objective for environmental science for improved understanding, identification and prevention of  environmental problems.  It can provide the next generation tools to help protect and manage the environment.  It would be very critical in examining biotechnology’s potential impact on the environment.

Biotechnology and Tree improvement:
                Tree improvement and forest biotechnology offer related scientific means to increase forest productivity , achieve sustained timber yields and perhaps enhance forest biodiversity and conservation of multiple values.  Tree improvement provides classical approaches to achieve better timber production.  It has achieved sustainable gain through generation of tree selection and breeding .  Tree important seeks to identify and improves several important tree attributes including growth rates, disease and pest resistance, adaptability to climatic changes, tree form and wood fiber quality, straightness and taper

Conclusion
  The practical application of bio techniques has many difficulties.  Current success rates with nuclear transfer in mammals are very low.  More over 20 to 1000 nuclear transfers would need to be performed to achieve one viable off spring.  There are so many issues like legal, moral and technical in conducting genetic researches.  Sophisticated labs doing genetic research are less in number and the coordination is also less.  But the potential of genetic techniques in wildlife conservation and management shall not be ignored.  They can help many species to keep their foot prints on this green earth.
(Author was a Research scholar in Bio Inorganic Chemistry at Dept. of Chemistry, University of kerala  and now working as Forest Range Officer, Kerala)

Bio-Diversity

Melissa officinalis-Leman Balm

Posted by Sheikh GULZAAR on February 20, 2012

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Environmental Education

Strawberry cultivation in forest villages of north bengal

Posted by BABIT GURUNG on February 04, 2012

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Among our several plans for the ecological and economical development of the forest villages for their sustainable livelihood to encourage their role in saving the natural resources, Our organisation ( Samsing Chauthary) has now started promoting the cultivation of strawberry plant starting with two forest villages of Kalimpong sub-division of north Bengal , Samsing and Mouray . For market research and demand analysis this year we have planned just to sow 8500 saplings of sweet charlie and Cameroza breed of strawberry, with the involvement of community of the forest villages. The best part of environmental awareness is given by strictly following the natural and organic methods of farming without contaminating the virginity of the soil.






Among the several plans and initiatives taken by the Chauthary organisation under the scheme of sustainable livelihood project to supply, this is the one more efficient step. The project aims to develop the livelihood of the forest villages which will promote their approach towards saving the environment by reducing their reliability on the natural resources.  

It also acts as an environment awareness campaign for the villages as the cultivation strictly follows the natural and organic method of farming, with a pre -cautious step to ban the introduction of chemical fertilizers and save the virginity of the soil from getting contaminated. The unique selling point (USP)of the product can be proclaimed as the naturally and organically grown strawberries.



The vision of the project in its own practical version will be to develop a huge market of organic strawberries in North Bengal with the ultimate utilization of the resources whatever available with the forest villagers so they can come forward to save the environment atleast their own surroundings.







The planting though happened lately, started in the first week of December, the fruiting time is expected to start from the last week of January and will continue till the end of March. A complete project report will be prepared to measure the yield per plan comparing both the villages who have slightly different climatic conditions . According to the report the sapling will be again distributed to all the interested forest villagers and therefore the marketing part will be done by the organisation.







To order garden fresh organic strawberries please contact the undersigned:





SAMSING CHAUTHARY

A SOCIAL WELFARE GROUP OF NATURE CONSERVATIONIST

SAMSING FARI, NEAR SUNTALEY KHOLA, DISTT. DARJEELING

Phone: 9475332231, 7384083137

Landline: 03562200395

                                                                 Regn.No S/1L/79108




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