Mining activities in Bhimgad (April Week 2 (2006))
The Belgaum Forest Department had submitted a proposal to the State government suggesting to acquire all the private lands located in the Bhimgad belt of Khanapur taluk to make it easy for the government to protect the forests as well as the historic Bhimgad
The proposal was sent to the government in 1997. The then Belgaum DFO had appealed to the State government to acquire all the private land in the Bhimgad areas by rehabilitating the villagers of Gavali, Krishnapur and surrounding villages of Bhimgad. If the
proposal was implemented, the controversies around the Bhimgad or the Western Ghat forests would not have taken place.
The historic Bhimgad fort was built by Chatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj the Maratha king, and later came under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Department.
Most of the surrounding areas is owned by private parties. Gavali, Krishnapur and villages located in the deep jungles of Khanapur taluk have no basic facilities, like schools or hospitals.
The DFO’s report stated that the total population of villages coming under Bhimgad fort area would be around 1000.
If these people are relocated, they would definitely be ready to sell their lands and the government can have complete control. Then no one would dare destroy the ecological balance of the area, the report stated.
But, the government ignored the report. The parties who were already in the mining business took interest as the ores in these areas are said to be of good quality and the proximity of Goa port to Bhimgad would make transportation easy to China.
Bhimgad is again caught in controversy as 12 powerful politicians of Belgaum district have purchased a total of 521 acres in the area and people from Khanapur as well as the green activists have launched an agitation against the sale of lands as it falls in
the green belt.
The Green Brigade is worried that once mining is started in the peaceful Bhimgad area, the entire forest would lose its ecological balance. It would also pose a threat to the ecological systems of the western ghats.
SOURCE : The New India Press, Thursday, April 20, 2006
Development projects not wildlife-friendly (April Week 2 (2006))
Development projects in Uttaranchal are not wildlife friendly and are especially causing harm to elephant population of the State, environmentalists claim.
According to official figures, 90 elephants have been killed in the last five years alone, which was nearly 20 per cent of the State's pachyderm population, J.P. Dabral of the Himalayan Chipko Foundation said here, raising concern about an elephantine problem.
While seven tuskers were killed, probably by poachers, in the famous Jim Corbett National Park, 20 cows and young elephants had been killed after being hit by trains in Rajaji National Park, he said.
One tusker was killed last month in Barkot range forest in Dehra Dun district due to man-animal conflict, he added.
After the formation of Uttaranchal state in November 2000 there had been a spurt in development activities in the State, dams, roads, bridges, transmission lines, canals were being constructed, Mr Dabral said. There was a proposal to build a four-lane highway
from Dehra Dun to Tanakpur through Rajaji National Park, Chilla National Park and Jim Corbett National Park, posing danger to the wildlife and ecology of the area, he added.
Though development activities could not be stopped. However, such projects must have adequate planning to make them wildlife and eco-friendly, the wildlife activist said.
He pointed out that the National Highway Authority of India, which made guidelines for the construction of highways in the country, did not have any comprehensive guidelines for making roads in wildlife, forested or mountainous areas.
The `deadly' railway track near Motichur in Uttaranchal where 20 elephants had been killed in accidents should be `elevated' to allow easy passage for the animals, he suggested.
Similarly, the water canal going from Rishikesh to Uttar Pradesh along the Chilla National Park could be covered in some stretches to enable elephants to cross it, he said.
Traditionally, wild elephant herds used to migrate across the Yamuna river to Tanakpur and beyond into Nepal.
Their movement was also a deterrent to the poachers and hunters. But today the scenario was different. Elephants of Rajaji National Park could not cross the Ganga canal because its cemented embankments trap the elephants and they get drowned, he said. Tree
felling by the forest mafia had also added to the vulnerability of the elephants. In Barkot forest range near Dehra Dun where an elephant was killed last month, it was a common sight to see timber being smuggled openly by tractor trolleys without registration
numbers, he claimed. -- UNI
SOURCE : The Hindu, Friday, April 21, 2006
Govt pays Rs 1 lakh to crocodile's victim (April Week 2 (2006))
The Forest Department under the Wildlife Protection Rules has provided a compensation of Rs 1 lakh to the family of a 19-year-old-girl, who was killed by a 20-foot-long male estuarine crocodile on November 2004.
Divisional Forest Officer of Rajnagar Mangrove Forest (Wildlife) Division, AK Jena said a saltwater crocodile had dragged the girl, Snehalata Mandal, daughter of Shikhidhwaja Mandal, a resident of Silapokhari under the Bhitarkanika National Park area, into
water and killed her. The victim was grazing cattle near the crocodile-infested creek of Guptigadia.
Later, the deceased girl's father submitted all the required documents in order to get the compensation amount provided by the State Forest Department.
The DFO gave the compensation amount to Shikidhwaja Mandal. According to official sources, since last couple of years, the Forest department has enhanced the compensation amount from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh to the families of the deceased, who are killed by
saltwater crocodiles. This is the first time in the State that a victim's family got such a large amount of compensation.
But another victim's case is yet to be finalised for getting compensation as the victim's family is yet to submit the required documents in the office. Mr Jena informed that as per the official record, at least two persons were killed by crocodiles in the Bhitarkanika
National Park in last two years. But unofficially, the number of victims is more than that on the official record.
As per the reports given by the DFO, at least nine persons have been killed and 19 others seriously injured by the crocodile attack since 1999. In most of the cases, male crocodiles of the length of over 18 feet were responsible the attack. A total of 16 live
stocks involving cows, buffaloes, bullocks, and goats have fallen prey to crocodiles since last five. Most of the attacks occur during the monsoon when the riverbanks are flooded by high tide or flood-water
The Pioneer, Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Wind power capacity up 45% in 2005-06 (April Week 2 (2006))
Installed wind power capacity grew by 45 per cent during 2005-06 over the previous year, the same level of growth that was recorded in 2004-05, show preliminary figures provided by wind turbine manufacturers.
However, turbine manufacturers hope that uniformity and consistency in policy will come about across the country so that capacity addition takes place at a faster pace.
It is estimated that the total installed wind power capacity in the country will be 5,200 MW at the end of March 2006, against 3,595 MW at the end of the previous financial year - an addition of 1,605 MW.
As in the past, Tamil Nadu has contributed to a bulk of this capacity addition accounting for nearly 870 MW during last financial year.
Growth to continue
Mr Ramesh Kymal, Managing Director, NEG Micon (India) Pvt Ltd, a wind turbine manufacturer, and Chairman, Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association, is confident that the growth in capacity addition will continue this year too and accelerate in subsequent
This is mainly because of the better turbines that are available in the market now, which not only guarantee higher plant load factors - 35-38 per cent - but also are efficient in low and medium wind regimes.
Mr Kymal and other industry sources say that evacuation still continues to be a problem, especially in Tamil Nadu. The Tamil Nadu Electricity Board is trying to address this issue, they add.
Mr U.B. Reddy, General Manager - Business Development and Operations, Enercon India, another turbine manufacturer, says that the turbine manufacturers have requested the Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission to permit an independent analysis of the grid
requirement in the State.
The association has said that it is prepared to sponsor this study by the Bangalore-based Power Research & Development Consultants Pvt Ltd, which has developed a software for grid analysis.
According to him, such a study is needed to finalise the grid requirements in areas where large wind farms (about 150-200 MW installed capacity) are coming up, over the next five years.
This will help to plan ahead of the requirement so that evacuation does not become a problem.
Industry sources point out that there were local problems in Karnataka, with villagers blocking roads and interrupting work. This seems to have been sorted out to a large extent now.
The distribution companies in Karnataka have also started signing power purchase agreements now with investors in wind power, which is a positive development, according to the sources.
Wind power policy
As far as other States were concerned, the sources said wind power policy was due for a review in Maharashtra later this year and, hence, there was a rush for installations now.
Rajasthan, which is a small market for wind power, wheeling and transmission are the problem areas. There is potential for installing wind turbines in the desert region, where there is not much demand for power.
Those investing in wind power are being asked to pay Rs 17 lakh a MW for improving the grid and also construct sub-stations and connect them to the nearest high voltage evacuation point.
All this has pushed up the cost by Rs 25 lakh-30 lakh a MW, the sources said.
SOURCE : The Hindu Business Line, Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Hyacinth can widen utility of biogas plants: study (April Week 2 (2006))
A team of researchers from the Department of Renewable Energy Sources, College of Technology and Engineering, Udaipur, has announced that water hyacinth (a common polluting fresh water weed) can be used for the production of biogas. The weed can be used
either alone or along with cow dung, the most commonly used material in biogas plants.
The two researchers— Nafisa Ali and B.L Chaudhary—have announced this in an article published in the Panjab University Science Research Journal, which was released by the Vice-Chancellor here today.
The research paper ‘‘Bio-conversion of water hyacinth to fuel and fertiliser through pre treatment’’ states that anaerobic digestion of water hyacinth may reduce the nuisance and water pollution problem created by this waterweed and considerable amount of biogas
can be obtained.
The researchers add that the rate of biogas can be enhanced in a short period by giving certain fungal treatment prior to anaerobic digestion. This would solve the problem of choking in the biogas plants. In India most of the biogas plants are cow dung based
but due to the less availability of dung at some places people are unable to make full use of these plants.
Apart than this 28 other research papers form a part of the Journal’s 55th volume. In order to celebrate the 55th year of its uninterrupted publication the volume has aptly been named ‘‘Emerald’’ volume.
SOURCE : The Tribune, Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Partnership on forests (Issue of the week, April Week 1 (2006))
Everybody knows one hand of the government does not know what the other is up to. But it does make a difference when a
proposed programme of the government contradicts and, perhaps, even fatally undermines a flagship initiative.
This is the case with the proposed programme of the Union ministry of environment and forests - euphemistically called the
multi-stakeholder partnership on forests - and its impact on the Prime Minister's pet projects of employment generation like
the Bharat Nirman project. If this is the case, then surely it is not acceptable that government continues to bludgeon on,
irrespective of the implications. Surely, the priorities of the government as a whole must become the priorities and
purposes of its ministries.
But let me clarify these riddles. In a nutshell, the multi-stakeholder partnership is a programme to involve sponsors
(corporate houses) in planting trees on forest lands. It caters to an old and incessant demand of the pulp and paper
industry that wants captive plantations to grow wood for its products. On the face of it, there seems to be nothing wrong
with the idea. After all, we need to plant trees. The country has set itself a target of 33 per cent of forest area. It is
another matter that nobody is clear how, when and why this target was set. But only 22 per cent of our land area is
classified as forest. The plantation challenge is enormous. On the one hand, we need to plant and afforest degraded forest
lands, which are massive. And on the other hand, we need to plant trees on lands outside these classified forest lands. The
government says it needs help in this job. It has a fund crunch. Industry says it has money. It also needs raw material.
Here is a partnership made in heaven.
These are the 'wastelands' that industry will do us a big favour to plant and protect.
The only problem is with the English language. It defines wasteland as land which is degraded and lying waste and unused.
The term wasteland is a misnomer. These lands are degraded not because they are unused, but because they are overused. In
other words, these degraded lands are intensely used and if these lands are allocated to industry, its users - illegal but
de facto - will be affected. Their key source of livelihood and sustenance would be taken away. This will further
marginalise the poor, and all the Prime Minister's men with their poverty packages will be able to do little.
But let me make one thing clear. I am in favour of growing trees on these lands (and outside) for industrial use. I do
strongly endorse the agenda of increasing raw material supply to industries like paper and pulp, and even to make biodiesel
from plants. The question is not whether we should make money from trees. The question is who will make the money. There is
a right way, which will lead to massive employment and put money directly in the hands of large numbers of poor rural
communities. Then there is a wrong way, which will lead to limited employment and wealth for some.
The facts are clear. Industry wants forest land because when it grows trees on its captive plantations, it can bring down
the cost of production and increase its profits. As against the Rs 2,800 per tonne it will have to pay to farmers or tribals
when they sell it wood, it can grow it at Rs 1,000 per tonne. The land it gets then is the biggest subsidy, ironically given
at a time when this government is talking about reform and removal of freebies from poor farmers and others.
But leave the moral issues aside. The concerns are economic. The fact also is that this grant of land for captive
plantations, will seriously impair the market for privately and community-grown wood in the country. It is not a coincidence
that in the 1990s India has seen the most outstanding work by some industries to source raw material from farmers. This work
has happened because the industry did not get access to free and cheap land - or easy options. It had to make the hard
option work. And it did.
By 2002, almost one million tonnes of wood were grown by farmers and tribals for the industry. No small figure that. It is
30 per cent of industry's annual wood and bamboo consumption. In addition, another 30 per cent is sourced from the market -
this, too, is mainly grown by farmers. To do this, industry has actively encouraged the development of high quality saplings
and extension work. It is downward integration with suppliers, which directly links it to the poorest in the country. It
annually pays over Rs 500 to the rural economy to grow trees, more money than what is invested in the national afforestation
scheme. More importantly, this money goes directly to people, without all the leakages and losses in government delivery
systems. The employment potential is phenomenal.
But can't both survive? Industry can grow some wood, farmers can supplement. Unfortunately not. The economics are such that
the cheap and discounted wood grown by industry in captive plantations will destroy this farmer grown wood market
completely. It has happened before. It will happen again.
Let us be clear. The cost of raw material for this industry is roughly 11 per cent to 15 per cent of the turnover if it
grows its wood on captive plantations. It is 18 per cent of its turnover if farmers sell it wood. In other words, in one
case it will maximise its profits and in the other it will share its profits - not too much - with farmers and tribals. But
the choice is not small. It will make or break India.
The government has to make a choice.
There is one small problem: people live on these lands. They are de facto users of the land.
The writer is Director, Centre for Science and Environment
SOURCE : Central Chronicle, Thursday, April 6, 2006