Press on Environment and Wildlife
In search of the missing Himalayan Quail (October Week #3 (2013))
But why the sudden interest in the bird? "The first week of October is usually celebrated in India as Wild Week. We thought the time was ripe to try and rediscover the bird," says Paramjit Singh, chief conservator of forests, Kumaon Division.

The Himalayan Quail, also called the Mountain Quail, was a medium-sized species from the pheasant family. The male of the species was dark grey with black speckles and white forehead. The female was brownish, with dark streaks and greyish brow. The red-coloured
bill and legs distinguished it from other quail species. Its 10-feathered tail was longer, nearly as long as the wing, than in most quails. It lived in coveys of five or six and favoured steep hillsides covered by long grass. Ornithologists have recorded that
the Himalayan Quail was very rarely seen in the open, except at dawn or dust. It would rather run than fly when escaping danger, and its wings did not seem designed for flying long distances.

The quail was seen in the mid-19th century, primarily in the vicinity of Nainital, Mussourie and Jharipani. It is not known to have inhabited other forests of the country.

It was a popular game bird. It was sought out by British officers for their leisure hunting. Mass killing of the bird probably led to its extinction around the 1870s. Around five preserved specimens of the bird can be seen in London's Natural History Museum.
There are 11 preserved bodies of the bird in India.

The forest department's hopes of rediscovering the quail rest on the numerous unconfirmed sightings over the years. Fuelling the Uttarakhand foresters' hopes is also the fact that the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, has not formally
declared the Himalayan Quail extinct.


Estuarine mangrove forest under reclamation threat (October Week #3 (2013))
The yellow mangrove, long thought to be extinct, was discovered on Vincent Island by mangrove enthusiasts in 2011. Experts also found another species of mangrove on the island recently. The yet-to-be-identified species has
the combined characteristics of the critically endangered Brugulera sexangula and Brugulera gymnorrhiza species, experts say. This species was also noticed by the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies team during its visit.

The island is a prime destination for several marine fish species to spawn. A large concentration of juvenile fish can always be found within the mangrove protection of the island.

The destruction of the mangroves will lead to the coastal areas getting exposed to erosion, flooding, and storm damage; altered natural drainage patterns; increased salt intrusion; and destruction of critical habitats for many aquatic and terrestrial species,
with serious implications for biodiversity, conservation, and food security.


Reptiles' existence threatened by superstitions: Researcher (October Week #3 (2013))
Hoshing said that though it is well known that none of the lizards found in India are venomous, the superstitions about geckos being poisonous persists. "Another common misconception about reptiles is that bright coloured snakes are always venomous, but
there are several snakes such as the Royal snake, which has brilliant colours, but is non-venomous. Some superstitions about these creatures now threaten their very existence," he said.

"There is a belief that if spiny-tailed lizards are boiled in oil, it can be applied on joints to cure arthritis. There is no basis for this belief, but it persists. As a result these lizards are caught, their spines removed and then boiled alive in oil
and peddled as a medicinal mixture," Hoshing said.

Hoshing's lecture was interspersed with information about curious phenomenon such as how snakes utilize their tongues and the Jacobson's organ "to smell" their prey or the process of moulting - the shedding of skins that is done by nearly all reptiles.
"There is a need to spread awareness about reptiles and snakes," he said.

In the past snakes used to be extensively hunted for their skin. Today, the trade in exotic snake skin has gone down but the number of these reptiles continues to decline because of habitat loss, he said.

Hoshing rued that research on reptiles and amphibians in India is limited with most of the studies concentrated on birds and mammals


Can’t destroy mangroves for coal plant (Issue of the week, October Week #1 (2013))
The Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority has rejected a proposal from Tata Power to relocate 520 mangroves from the Mahul creek as part of a plan to turn one of its Trombay power plants into a fully coal-powered unit. 

Placing its proposal before the MCZMA, Tata Power said it will set up a Flue Gas Desulphurisation plant to control sulphur dioxide emissions. In order to construct a cooling channel for the FGD, the company sought permission to remove 520 mangroves in
the Mahul Creek that were in the way. In return, the company promised to plant mangroves on 25 hectares of land at Sarsole, Navi Mumbai, with the help of the forest department. The MCZMA was not in favour of this proposal and has asked the company to look
for better alternatives. 

The state environment department is of the view that Tata should consult a hydraulic engineer to design a plan to remove silt without disturbing the mangrove vegetation. 


Save Ganga' activist's fast enters 102nd day (October Week #1 (2013))
Environmentalist and former IIT professor GD Agrawal started his fast-unto-death to save the Ganga but the event has been completely ignored by the powers that be, including the UPA government at the Centre.

The octogenarian has now stopped taking water. Agrawal has been pleading with the central government to take strong measures to protect the Ganga river and its ecology and keep its flow uninterrupted.

Water rights activist Rajendra Singh, Ravi Chopra and Professor  Rashid Siddiqui – resigned, for the second time, from the  membership of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) on Friday.


Survey finds realtors violating norms near Okhla sanctuary (October Week #1 (2013))
In a joint effort involving Noida Authority and Noida Police, a survey was conducted to identify realty projects being developed within a 10 kilometer radius of the Okhla Bird Sanctuary. The team found that around 40 developers were carrying on construction
without any environmental clearance. The National Green Tribunal, in its August 14 order, had ordered for such surveys.

Gautam Buddh Nagar forest department said the realty projects of more than 50 developers are falling within 10 km radius


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