Press on Environment and Wildlife
Himachal to focus on wildlife tourism (December Week 1 (2005)) Keeping in view foreign tourists and nature lovers, the forest department of Himachal Pradesh has prepared an elaborate plan to focus on wildlife tourism.
The indigenous culture of mountain villages and wildlife offered a unique experience for visitors who had remained deprived of rare scenic beauty of these places which were isolated from urban areas for centuries.
These remote hamlets developed a highly distinctive culture, based on worship of local deities, characteristic architecture of houses and temples, impressive foldwood carving, silver jewellery and local handloom and handicraft which tourists are keen to see.
Himachal Pradesh was a rich repository of country's biggest bio-diversity which covered 7104 square km area spread over two national parks (1440 sq km) and 32 wildlife sanctuaries (5664 sk km) in altitude ranging between 200 mts and 6100 mts.
The wildlife tourism is a developing concept which encompasses eco-tourism, trekking, mountaineering, bird watching, wildlife and income generating community based tourism....
However, the protected forest areas could not be opened for tourists indiscriminately and it had to be assured that the local community and tourists not (not) indulge in poaching, or herb collection, which had caused considerable damage to forests and wildlife in the past.
The forest department officers feel the economic empowerment of people living in the vicinity of protected forest areas was imperative for protection of forests and wild life and they must be made to realise that preservation of this valuable resource could be the biggest source of livelihood for them as it would give boost to eco-tourism.
The Himachal Pradesh government had taken some decisions to put a blanket ban on poaching and felling of green trees in early eighties which went a long way in preserving forests and wildlife.
A large number of birds and animal species, which had either become extinct or declared endangered, could be saved due to efforts made by the wildlife wing and mammals like ibex, snow leopard, Himalayan thar, goral, blue sheep, Himalayan black deer, Himalayan brown bear, Himalayan red fox, vulnerable musk deer etc had been listed in the red data book... The avifauna of Himachal had been reported recently and check list of birds of Great Himalayan National Park which fell within one of globally important endemic bird areas. Identified by biodiversity project, it had 183 bird species, including 132 passerines and 51 non-passernes species.
This can be compared with 70 non-passerines and 150 passerines recorded throughout the hilly regions of Himachal Pradesh above altitude of 1500 mts, reports the Times of India.
Alibaug levies a green tax on visitors (December Week 1 (2005)) The Alibaug municipal council has begun collecting an environment fee from vehicles entering the town in order to meet the cost of cleaning up its beach and keeping the environs neat and tidy.
Cars, jeeps, mini-buses, tempos, buses and other heavy vehicles entering the zone have to pay Rs 10-50 as a daily fee.
"We receive a large number of tourists, especially on weekends. But the civic body does not have the money to provide facilities for them.
So the council has passed a resolution to introduce the tax," said Prashant Naik, a Peasants and Workers Party councillor.
The beach in Alibaug stretches over 2 km of white sand in a region dotted by farmhouses and villas built by Mumbai's rich and famous. Tourists often leave behind a debris of plastic bags, food packets and liquor bottles, say locals.
According to estimates, 500-700 picnickers visit Alibaug on weekdays and the figure doubles during weekends. The dustbins on the beach and a staff of four cleaners are largely inadequate to mop up the litter.
The new environment fee was introduced six months ago but its implementation was stayed because it had not been approved by the state. The council finally received a go-ahead and introduced the tax from November 11.
The council expects to earn Rs 2.5 lakh every month by way of fees. Local residents are exempted. "We have a beautification plan for the beach," said Umesh Kothekar, the council's chief executive officer.
"And we plan to employ more workers to keep the beach clean. We also want to instal toilets on the beach and hire regular lifeguards," councillor Naik added.
However, not everyone is pleased with the council's decision to levy a tax. "Alibaug is the district headquarters of Raigad. The collector's office, thepolice superintendent's office and the court are situated here.
Thousands of people come here for official work. They are not tourists and they do not visit the beach. But they too are being taxed," said a local resident.
Alibaug is not the first town in the state to introduce such a tax. The municipal council in Murud town in Raigad, which is famed for the Janjira fort, had introduced a levy.
The Mahabaleshwar municipal council too collects entry charges from tourist vehicles with the aim of providing better facilities for visitors.
Kalam suggests a network of rivers in Tamil Nadu (December Week 1 (2005)) President Abdul Kalam called for creating a network of rivers in the State by interlinking the Cauvery with other rivers, reports The Hindu.
Addressing the students and teachers of the Vellore Institute of Technology here, Dr. Kalam, who departed from his prepared speech, referred to his survey of flood-hit areas and the enormous quantum of water going waste.
To ensure that not much water was let into the sea, the Cauvery could be linked with the Vaigai, Palar and Tamiraparni. Ways should be found for transferring the surplus water to new water bodies in every State.
Inaugurating the Centre for Sustainable Rural Development and Research Studies at the VIT, he said a programme of sharing the water of two rivers in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh was now in the "project report preparation mode."
Stressing the need for proper water management, Dr. Kalam said it was one of the five areas of importance that would enable the country to achieve a 10 per cent growth for a decade.
Calling upon the VIT to carry out research on desalination, he said studies should be conducted to make the process cost-effective. They should also cover the cost of solar power. Agriculture, food processing, education, health care and information and communication technology are the other areas of importance, besides self-reliance in critical technologies, he said, highlighting the concept of providing urban amenities in rural areas.
In his interaction with students, he asked them to launch small enterprises. "You should become employment generators, not employment seekers."
Call for mass movement to save lakes (December Week 1 (2005)) The Hindu covered a national seminar on `management of urban lakes' organised by Hyderabad Urban Development Authority (HUDA) in association with DHV Water (Technical Assistance Team). The Government launched a massive drive by involving local bodies and encroachments had been removed to save lakes.
The proactive approach of HUDA and judicial activism brought about a consensus among bureaucrats, policy makers and voluntary bodies about the urgent need to protect and conserve lakes, Mr. Singh, Municipal Administration Secretary, said.
Appreciating the lake restoration work taken up by HUDA under the Netherlands-aided Green Hyderabad Environment Programme, he said the engineering interventions now needed to be sustained involving the community and stakeholders. HUDA Vice-Chairman K.S. Jawahar Reddy said rapid urbanisation had resulted in extinction of lakes and rendered somehers like Hussainsagar ecologically dead due to pollution, sewage and encroachments.
Restoration work
Urban Forestry (HUDA) Executive Director K.S. Reddy said that of 400 lakes, 169 lakes were notified comprising an area of 3,000 hectares for protection and conservation. Under the Rs.172- crore GHEP programme, 87 lakes, including 18 highly-polluted lakes were taken up for protection and conservation. Of 18, three lakes -- Saroornagar, Safilguda and Langar Houz -- were fully restored while seven were under treatment and eight more would be taken up in next two years.
Delegates from Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and other states attended the seminar.
Insect world unveiled at Mysore Zoo (December Week 1 (2005)) An effort to create awareness about the utility of insects by the Mysore Zoo is reported in The Hindu.
• Insects appeared about 400 million years ago
• Over one million insect species are named and classified
• There may be 10 million to 30 million undiscovered species
For most people, insects are only pests. But the world of insects, with its mind-boggling variety, both in terms of species as well as numbers, is playing a role in recycling things, enriching the soil and destroying noxious weeds.
In an effort to minimise misunderstanding about insects, the Green Club, a trust dedicated to nature, and Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens unveiled "Keeta Prapancha 2005" (Insect World 2005), a 10-day exhibition on insects, at the Mysore Zoo premises on Thursday.
The main objective of the exhibition is to creating awareness about insect diversity and the utility of insects and popularise entomology," President of Green Club H.L. Prabhakara said.
The exhibition, which was inaugurated by Deputy Commissioner of Mysore district Selva Kumar at the zoo premises, features a wide range of specimens displayed in 104 boxes.
Although the exhibits constitute only a small percentage of the insect specimens present on earth, the Green Club seeks to "clean up a society filled with the dirt of ignorance and carelessness towards nature".
Insects appeared about 400 million years ago. According to Green Club, over one million insect species are named and classified, and there may be another 10 million to 30 more million species waiting to be noticed. "Insects represent over 50 per cent of all known life forms and 75 per cent of animals," according to the Green Club.
Most people, who regard insects as "nuisance", prefer to ignore the ecosystem services they render. "They provide service to mankind through pollination, production of honey and silk, nutrient recycling and soil aeration. These things cannot be outweighed by a small number of problems insects cause as pests and disease vectors," a Green Club volunteer argued.
The insects displayed at the Keeta Prapancha 2005 have been classified into scavenging insects, predators, pollinators, venomous insects, social insects, medicinal insects, food insects, athletic insects, musical insects, aquatic insects and household pests.
The exhibits include rhinoceroses beetle, stag beetles, jewel beetles, weevils, dung rollers, root grubs, tiger beetle, diving beetle, rove beetle, longhorn beetle, coleopterans, homopterous, grass hoppers, crickets, mole crickets, preying mantis, leaf insects, stick insects, dragon fly, damsel fly, bees, wasps, mosquitoes, cockroaches, ants, robber fly, cicadas, butterflies and moths.
Unease over environment clearances (Issue of the week, November Week 4 (2005)) This news analysis report appeared in The Hindu.
THE MINISTRY of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has for some time now been under attack, accused of a lack of commitment to what it is supposed to safeguard. On Monday, November 14, about 150 environmental activists managed to enter the Ministry premises in New Delhi and stage a sit-in, protesting against its draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification. That day was also the deadline for objections to the draft notification.
The draft, released on September 15, was a dilution of the original 1994 EIA notification, activists said. The protest action followed a public hearing a day earlier in the capital where about 25 affected groups from across the country made representations. A "death certificate" to the EIA was issued during the protest action.
The yet-to-be-released National Environment Policy has been criticised for its lack of consultation with communities and as being economic growth driven, with the idea of promoting private-public partnerships. The draft EIA notification seeks further dilutions.
In the past 11 years, there had been 13 amendments to the EIA notification of 1994. The 13th amendment of July 4, 2005, relaxes the requirement for major projects to get prior environmental clearance. Instead, it says that the MoEF may, after satisfying itself, grant temporary working permission to major projects. This effectively does away with the main reason for environmental clearance, which is to ensure that projects do not result in ecological disasters.
The Govindrajan committee on reforming investment approval and implementation procedures (October 2004) observed that environmental clearance perhaps takes the longest time and causes maximum delays to projects. It seems that its observations have found their way into the draft EIA notification as it proposes that environmental clearance can be given without public hearings, if it is justified, "depending on local conditions." Also, the validity of environment clearance has been extended to 15 and 10 years in case of river valley and other projects respectively, (earlier it was five years from commencement of the project).
Kalpavriksh, the Environmental Action Group that coordinated the three-year biodiversity action plan supported by the MoEF, was reduced to releasing "Securing India's Future," the final technical report of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP), on its own last month. The MoEF is critical of the report for various reasons. In a press release on October 5, the Ministry said the NBSAP submitted by Kalpavriksh was rejected. The NBSAP was reviewed by a group of scientists appointed by the Ministry, the note explained. They concluded that the report was, for the major part, scientifically invalid. Hence, the Ministry also said that it had started the process of developing the National Bio-diversity Action Plan afresh. Ashish Kothari of Kalpavriksh claims what may be irking the MoEF is not the 15 or 20 so-called factual errors or the scientific flaws that were detected by a three-member committee appointed last year, but the recommendations of the Plan, which are quite radical.
It has to be emphasised that it was the MoEF that initiated the three-year process of preparing the NBSAP from 2000 onwards and 50,000 people all over the country were involved in it in a massive consultative process. Over 100 documents were produced in the process and the final report was submitted to the Ministry in 2003. Many scientific institutions were also involved in the process, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The report has a wealth of information and action plans, which many States such as Maharashtra, Sikkim, and Karnataka have already started to implement.
The NBSAP report comes at a time when the country is losing nearly half its forests, 40 per cent of mangroves and substantial portions of its wetlands. Agricultural biodiversity was also under threat and this directly impinged on the nutrition levels of people. Mr. Kothari said the biggest threat to areas rich in biodiversity was the threat of development projects. One of the major recommendations the NBSAP makes is to re-orient the development process. Projects will have to conduct what impact they will have on biodiversity in future, before they are approved. It also recommended a National Land Use plan that would ensure that development processes respect the sanctity of regions rich in biodiversity. Apart from this, the report also demands localised planning and governance.
India's richness in biodiversity needs to be protected at all costs, not merely to satisfy the requirements of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), under which the country has to have a national biodiversity action plan ready by 2006.
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