Press on Environment and Wildlife
Railways bid to enter carbon trading biz (January Week 2 (2006))
INDIAN Railways has launched an exercise to weigh its energy-saving efforts in gold or should we say carbon gold. The CLW-developed new three-phase electric locos, based on ABB technology, and now fully absorbed into the system, has set the Indian Railways on the carbon credit trail, and if successful, may turn it into the first entity in the transportation business to enter the carbon trading business successfully.
Carbon trading will earn valuable cash for the Railways to spend on viable projects starved of funds. According to international estimates, carbon finance can provide 5-15 per cent of new project costs, and can make even marginal projects investment grade.
Mr R. Sivadasan, Financial Commissioner, Indian Railways, confirmed to The Hindu Business Line that a carbon credit exercise has been set in motion, and presentations on methodology and other aspects of carbon trading have been made to the Railways on a Clean Develepment Mechanism (CDM) project by consultants such as Ernst & Young. He said even companies such as Siemens as well as some international banks have offered consultancy to carry the process forward right up to the trading stage for a fee.
Mr Sivadasan, who has had a long stint at the Chittaranjan Locomotive Works which makes three phase electric locomotives, as General Manager, said ABB locos while braking, discharge kinetic energy (energy of motion), which can be turned into electricity, helping the locomotive's motors to run the generator on board the train.
Describing the hi-tech loco as a "powerhouse on wheels", he said there was an energy-saving feature that is eligible for carbon credit. Since one of the key criteria for a CDM project was that it has to be a new project, the plan was to make ABB locos run on non-ABB locomotive corridors, and thereby effect a huge saving in energy costs.
ABB locos are far more expensive to buy than the non-ABB types, and if made to run on such corridors, substantial energy saving (some 10-12 per cent, to start with) can occur, garnering valuable carbon credit for the Railways, he pointed out.
The Railways have many areas of operations such as workshop modernisation, planting of trees on surplus land etc., all of which can qualify for carbon credits, said Mr Sivadasan. He said there was a clear opportunity here for the Indian Railways to earn valuable carbon credits, which when converted into cash, will go towards meeting projects in a big way.
The Railways, he felt, was actually sitting on a significant unrealised carbon asset, which can be utilised to provide a dollar stream. He, however, could not quantify the kind of money that may be earned through such trading at this stage.
SC ire on Yamuna pollution and misuse of parks (January Week 2 (2006)) In two separate orders pertaining to cleaning up of the highly polluted Yamuna and violation of its order restricting use of parks for holding public functions and marriage parties, the Supreme Court today took the concerned government agencies to task for their lacklustre approach on the twin issues, reports The Tribune.
While stating that the need of pure drinking water of Delhi citizens could not be made “subservient” to any other issue, a Bench of Chief Justice Y. K. Sabharwal and Mr Justice C. K. Thakker rejected an affidavit of the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) on the Yamuna Action Plan and setting up of sewage treatment plants (STPs) on all 22 drains falling in the river, saying that it was not “satisfactory” as it did not give details about the action taken so far and plans for the future.
On the question of allowing use of green parks for public and marriage functions, the court reminded the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) of its order, issued way back in 1996, in which it had directed them to curb such use gradually by constructing more community centres.
In the 1996 order, the court had permitted the use of only 50 per cent of the total parks with the MCD and the DDA for such functions till such time that the community centres were built in every colony and protect the remaining 50 per cent parks.
But instead of reducing their usage, the MCD increased the usage number to 746 out of 1400 and the DDA was allowing 70 of its parks out of 146 for such functions.
Irked by the violations, the court directed the DDA to make its stand clear in a sworn affidavit whether the use of parks for such functions did not violate the Master Plan of Delhi. Both the MCD and the DDA were further asked to explain how the number of parks for such use was increased without the court’s permission. As per the 1996 order, permission for the use of only 512 parks in the MCD area was allowed, the Bench told the corporation’s counsel.
On the issue of the Yamuna Action Plan, the court said that it would not interfere with the Delhi High Court order for removal of nearly 40,000 ‘jhuggis’ from slums that had come up illegally on either banks of the river and on the sides of various drains flowing in it. The court said the entire purpose of setting up STPs on the mouth of the drains would be defeated if the slums were not removed.
It was up to the government how they are removed and whether it had any “obligation” to provide land for those who had encroached upon the public land.
New Delhi, January 10
In two separate orders pertaining to cleaning up of the highly polluted Yamuna and violation of its order restricting use of parks for holding public functions and marriage parties, the Supreme Court today took the concerned government agencies to task for their lacklustre approach on the twin issues, reports The Tribune.
While stating that the need of pure drinking water of Delhi citizens could not be made “subservient” to any other issue, a Bench of Chief Justice Y. K. Sabharwal and Mr Justice C. K. Thakker rejected an affidavit of the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) on the Yamuna Action Plan and setting up of sewage treatment plants (STPs) on all 22 drains falling in the river, saying that it was not “satisfactory” as it did not give details about the action taken so far and plans for the future.
On the question of allowing use of green parks for public and marriage functions, the court reminded the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) of its order, issued way back in 1996, in which it had directed them to curb such use gradually by constructing more community centres.
In the 1996 order, the court had permitted the use of only 50 per cent of the total parks with the MCD and the DDA for such functions till such time that the community centres were built in every colony and protect the remaining 50 per cent parks.
But instead of reducing their usage, the MCD increased the usage number to 746 out of 1400 and the DDA was allowing 70 of its parks out of 146 for such functions.
Irked by the violations, the court directed the DDA to make its stand clear in a sworn affidavit whether the use of parks for such functions did not violate the Master Plan of Delhi. Both the MCD and the DDA were further asked to explain how the number of parks for such use was increased without the court’s permission. As per the 1996 order, permission for the use of only 512 parks in the MCD area was allowed, the Bench told the corporation’s counsel.
On the issue of the Yamuna Action Plan, the court said that it would not interfere with the Delhi High Court order for removal of nearly 40,000 ‘jhuggis’ from slums that had come up illegally on either banks of the river and on the sides of various drains flowing in it. The court said the entire purpose of setting up STPs on the mouth of the drains would be defeated if the slums were not removed.
It was up to the government how they are removed and whether it had any “obligation” to provide land for those who had encroached upon the public land.
Terming the DJB affidavit on removal of slums, increasing the water treatment capacity and setting up of the STPs as “far from satisfactory”, the court directed it to clearly state what was its future plan and how it would be implemented in time-bound manner to free the 300-metre stretch on either side of the river from any encroachment.
Taking into account various test reports of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on testing of river water in the 26-km stretch within the national Capital’s limit, which found it to be highly polluted and not even matching the minimum ‘C’ grade standard approved for human consumption, the court noted that there was “no improvement in the quality of water. Instead, it had deteriorated over the years and several crore rupees spent by the government on the Yamuna Action Plan has virtually gone down the drain.”
All government agencies were directed to submit their affidavits within two weeks and the matter was listed for further hearing after four weeks.
Tiger, panther skins seized; three held (January Week 2 (2006)) Police seized a tiger hide, two panther hide and a hyena skin in a trap to nab suspected traders in the Omti area in Jabalpur. Three people have been arrested
In another incident, the Uttar Pradesh police on Tuesday, acting on a tip off provided by the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, seized 14 panther skins in Kanpur.
According to Jabalpur Superintendent of Police Sriniwas Rao, the police had received information that Ravinshankar Barkede, resident of Kundam, was involved in trading in animal parts. The police laid a trap and a decoy customer was sent to buy a tiger skin. Barkede arranged the skins from his contacts based in Dindori district.
On Tuesday, Jeeru Baiga and Agnu Raidas from Dindori arrived in Jabalpur and were called at the designated spot by the decoy customer. Barkede also accompanied the duo. The three accused were arrested after they handed over the skins. Interestingly, the accused were trying to pawn off a hyena skin in the name of a tiger skin.
The police are investigating if the traders have links with an organised poaching gang, reports The Pioneer.
Concern over move to open quarry near Kaziranga (Issue of the week, January Week 1 (2006)) Concern is mounting over the news that the Forest Department has invited tenders to open a quarry at a site named Mikir Chang inside a prime wildlife habitat not far from the Kaziranga National Park. People closely associated with wildlife and environmental issues have condemned the decision to allow quarrying as a serious threat that would have long lasting effects.
Padmeswar Gogoi, Member, Elephant Task Force Assam, speaking to The Assam Tribune today criticized the decision saying that it would harm a sensitive area close to one of the country’s richest wildlife habitat. “It is a move that has grave implications for some very rare and endangered wildlife,” he said.
“The site where the proposed quarry would be located is inside an old elephant habitat that also acts as a corridor for their movement. New activities inside the area would have a devastating effect on them,” he mentioned.
He pointed out that the site for the proposed quarry would also affect the tiger population of the Kaziranga National Park because newborn tigers were seen with their mothers in that habitat. Female tigers generally preferred the safety of that area after their cubs were born.
The territorial extent of the National Park was already diminishing due to erosion caused by the Brahmaputra and in such a backdrop it was wrong to give permission for a quarry so close to the Park. He said that it was high time for the State Government and the Forest department to objectively analyse their motives. “The high-ranking officials should be clear about their priorities, whether they want short term commercial gains or environmental security.”
Among those who have resented the move to set up the stone quarry, Arup Goswami, Honorary Wildlife Warden, Assam, said the site is inside a no-development zone on the outskirts of Kaziranga National Park. The no-development zone was declared in 1996 following international outcry over threats to the Park from the Numaligarh refinery.
Providing details about the area where the quarry was to be opened he said Mikir Chang was a place “through which elephants travelled between Kaziranga and Nambor Doigurong Wildlife Sanctuary, Nambor Wildlife Sanctuary and Gorompani Wildlife Sanctuary.” In his view the quarrying operations will seriously threaten the wildlife of a large area.
Talking to this reporter Dr Bibhab Talukdar of the NGO Aaranyak stated that the quarry will be of 2.5 km in length and this would totally halt the movement of elephants from Kaziranga to Golaghat putting extra pressure on the grassland ecosystems of Kaziranga National Park.
Significantly, he pointed out that elephants would not be the only species to be seriously affected. Other endangered species found in the habitat include Tiger, Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Himayalan Black Bear, Hoolock Gibbon, Capped Langur, Indian Bison, King Cobra, Slow Loris, Chinese Pangolin, Greater Pied Hornbill, Pallas’s Fishing Eagle, and the elusive Winged Wood Duck.
When asked for the version of the Forest department, the Chief Conservator of Forests (Territorial), Suresh Chand said the decision to allow quarrying was at present kept in abeyance following representations from NGOs and critical news reports that appeared in the media.
He denied that there were any pressures on his office to allow quarrying inside an environmentally sensitive zone and added that he acted only after receiving a request from the State PWD suggesting the Forest Department must help in locating quarrying materials.
When asked to comment on the controversy over Mikir Chang, the spokesperson of the Forest Department, MC Malakar, who is also the Chief Wildlife Warden of the State, said that he was yet to receive any official intimation about the proposed quarry from the Territorial wing that was responsible in giving the green signal to the project.
The new quarry would see the extraction of 10,000 cubic metres of stones from Mikir Chang to be used primarily in the Bogibeel project. Those who are keeping a watch on the situation agree that the site was not the only one from which stones could be procured. They favour quarrying in other areas, which are far removed from sensitive environmental zones like the one at Mikir Chang.
Environment Ministry to soon declare Agastyamalai a biosphere reserve (January Week 1 (2006)) The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has decided to notify the ecologically fragile Agastyamalai range in the Western Ghats as the country's newest biosphere reserve (BR).
With a notification expected soon, Agastyamalai (which includes the forest ranges of both Tirunelveli/Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and Kollam/Trivandrum in Kerala) will join the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve and the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve as the third BR in the State. It will also be the second inter-State reserve after the Nilgiris. Two more BRs — one each in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — will also be notified soon, taking the total number in the country to 14, according to a Ministry official.
Agastyamalai, spread over a 1,300 sqkm at 1,868 metres above the sea level on the Western Ghats, is a classified biodiversity hotspot as its natural vegetation (ranging from scrub to evergreen rain forests) includes a number of endemic plants.
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has decided to notify the ecologically fragile Agastyamalai range in the Western Ghats as the country's newest biosphere reserve (BR).
With a notification expected soon, Agastyamalai (which includes the forest ranges of both Tirunelveli/Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu and Kollam/Trivandrum in Kerala) will join the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve and the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve as the third BR in the State. It will also be the second inter-State reserve after the Nilgiris. Two more BRs — one each in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — will also be notified soon, taking the total number in the country to 14, according to a Ministry official.
Agastyamalai, spread over a 1,300 sqkm at 1,868 metres above the sea level on the Western Ghats, is a classified biodiversity hotspot as its natural vegetation (ranging from scrub to evergreen rain forests) includes a number of endemic plants.
A certified faunal gene pool sanctuary, it is a natural greenhouse for 2,000 varieties medicinal plants out of which at least 50 are rare and endangered species, including orchids. Agastyamalai is also home to the Kanis, one of the oldest surviving ancient tribes in the world.
The area already hosts the wildlife sanctuaries of Neyyar, Peppara, Chenthuruny, and the Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. Repeated anthropogenic stress and lack of adequate documentation and preservation of rare plant varieties have severely compromised the biodiversity of the region, said to be even older than that of the Himalayas, conservationists say.
According to The Hindu, the BR status is expected to bring in better infrastructure support and more Central funding for conservation.
"The call to declare Agastyamalai a BR was raised as early as 1992 when researchers found many endemic fauna were on the brink of extinction. The notification, though belated, will help conserve what remains," observes a biodiversity expert.
The State Forest department, which forwarded the proposal to the Centre, is mapping the geographical boundaries of the BR, says C.K. Sridharan, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden.
70 eagles killed in 3 days at dumping site near Ranikhet (January Week 1 (2006))
The Indian Express reported the mysterious death of over 70 eagles in the past three days in Ghinghalikhal area near Ranikhet has forced the Uttaranchal wildlife authorities to put up a cordon around the site and send the carcasses for lab tests. According to the wildlife officials, more than 70 eagles were found dead at a garbage dump near Ranikhet.
Almora District Veterinary officials, after conducting a post-mortem of the birds, have sent some samples to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Bareilly, Pantnagar University, Bhopal to know the exact cause of the deaths.
Uttaranchal Chief Wildlife Warden Srikant Chandola said that the entire area has been cordoned off. ‘‘Probably, the eagles died after consuming some poisonous substance in the garbage. But the exact cause can only be known from the laboratory reports,’’ Chandola added.
Locals believe the eagles died after consuming poisonous meat. ‘‘We have found traces of poultry in the birds,’’ Dr Ashok Bisht, Veterinary Officer, Ranikhet, said.
Innards of poultry and meat residue from the nearby Kumoan Regimental Centre (KRC) of the Army and Ranikhet town is dumped at the site, along with garbage.
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