Press on Environment and Wildlife
Apple latest victim of nature (November Week 4 (2005)) Despite a bumper apple crop ahead, the apple-cart has been upset by nature, reports The Economic times. With apples dropping to the ground on a large scale from tall trees, the damages have been huge. Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir account for over 90% of the country’s total apple crop. Like last year this year too the country is headed for a bumper production. But luscious apples in large quantities drop from trees and get damaged on the ground.
Although the reason behind the large scale dropping is still unknown, experts feel this could be due to a fungal disease that spread in early July when Himachal Pradesh witnessed heavy showers. The state has witnessed the wettest July in many years.
Lack of Will killing big cats (November Week 4 (2005)) Is funds crunch killing tigers. Not really. It’s lack of will, says Sunita Narain, Director, CSE. Speaking at the annual congress of the International Federation of Environmental Journalists, which opened along with “Vatavaran Film Festival in New Delhi, she said both Sariska and Ranthambhore were spending heavily on tigers from the Government kitty, but were not able to stem the decline.
This proves that funding the forest department as a whole will not work. A strategy for each reserve has to be formulated in consultation with local residents and implemented, Narain said. Expressing concern over the increasing hostility of local villagers towards the big cats, she said,” The largest number of tiger deaths has resulted from poisoning by local people. In spite of all the talk about relocation, only 10% of the affected villages have been shifted.”
She also said 150 of the country’s poorest districts are located in the richest forest belts-also home to tigers. As a result, the impoverished villagers often fall back on the big cats for livelihood.
Her prescription was adding teeth to the Wildlife Act. Ministry of Environment nad Forest officials said the government was in the process of constituting wildlife crime cells.
Kaziranga crammed, Manas to make room for rhinos. (November Week 4 (2005)) To give the one-horned rhino more space, the Assam Forest Department has drawn up an ambitious plan to shift many of them to other protected areas in the state, reports The Indian Express.
A training cum pilot project in this regard will begin at Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary in November next, and the first batch of 20 rhinos would be shifted to Manas National Park in the beginning of 2007. The move is in accordance with recommendations a Task Force had made in the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 document prepared in the wake of the centenary celebrations of Kaziranga early this year.
Right now, 85% of Assam’s rhino population is literally jostling for space in 430 sq.km in Kaziranga, with environmentalist repeatedly warning of stochastic catastrophes. Manas National park has been ravaged by armed militancy for over a decade. While the last count had recorded 80 rhinos in Manas, there is not a single rhino there now.
Since normalcy has been restored and a massive recovery programme taken up, Manas will soon have rhinos relocated from Kaziranga.
Save the Chiru (November Week 4 (2005)) THE international craze for shawls made of Shahtoosh, “the wool of kings”, will make the Chiru (Tibetan Antelope) extinct in a few years, says an editorial in The Tribune. The Supreme Court’s directive to the J&K government to ban the manufacture and trade of Shahtoosh products has thus come not a day too soon. In effect, a ban already exists – it is a question of enforcement. The J&K government in 2002 had amended its wildlife act to include the Chiru in Schedule I, thus prohibiting hunting of the animal and trade of its parts. The Wildlife (Protection) Act of India (1972) also protects the Chiru under Schedule I.
This week Times of India reported that 21 shawls were seized by CBI in raids conducted in Delhi. Five Kashmiri Traders were arrested.
The availability of these shawls in the market place continues, giving impetus to the trade. It is reported that the clientele in India includes the expatriate community and embassy officials besides society women.
The Chiru is mostly found in the Tibetan Plateau, often straying into Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim. Its gossamer wool, extremely fine and warm at the same time, is far superior even to the famed Pashmina. The shawls are sold at rates ranging from $1000 to $15,000. The Chiru’s wool cannot be shorn like in sheep. The animal has to be killed, and three to five animals are slaughtered to make enough wool for one shawl.
The Wildlife Trust of India, which moved the PIL in 2003 resulting in the Supreme Court directive earlier this week, has estimated that 1000 to 2000 shawls are available for sale in New Delhi on any given day. A worldwide campaign has been started to educate people about the source of the Shahtoosh shawl, on the lines of the anti-ivory and anti-fur campaigns, so that the demand is reduced. The trade has flourished even when the Chiru is protected not only by national laws in India, China and Nepal, but by international treaties. The J&K government should act now to cut a key link in the trade. For weavers and buyers, there is always Pashmina.
Environmentalists storm Ministry office (Issue of the week, November Week 3 (2005)) The Hindu reported in detail the demand by environmentalists for an independent evaluation of the performance of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).
Agitated over the Centre’s proposed notification relating to the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and clearance for development projects, scores of environmentalists from across the country – under the banner of Campaign for Environmental Justice-India-“stormed” the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) office. They sought an independent evaluation of the performance of EIA and environmental clearance procedures and creation of an independent authority, mandated to ensure that relevant laws were followed to ensure conservation of environment.
“Our analysis, built on ground level experience of several hundred projects that have been cleared or are in the process of being cleared, is that procedures are already significantly flawed. The proposed changes to the existing process will bring in further weakness,” a memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister said.
The activists included representatives of project affected communities from across the country such as the Sethusamudram ship canal and Sterlite Industries from Tamil Nadu, Polavaram Dam in Andhra Pradesh, Vedanta Alumina refinery and bauxite mining in Orissa and those displaced due to the construction of dams in N-E states. The activists, seeking a meeting with Union Environment and Forest Secretary quoted him as saying that the changes had been made in consultation with the World Bank, and not Parliament or any other elected body.
Project Tiger: Change in Act to give more teeth to Government (November Week 3 (2005)) The Government has proposed an amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 by introducing a chapter on tiger conservation, reports The Economic Times.
The central government is planning to set up a statutory body-National Tiger Conservation Authority-which will work in consultation with state governments to control poaching and illegal trade in the tiger and its derivatives. The statutory body would also provide financial assistance to the states, according to sources.
The law ministry has already sent the proposal to the ministry of environment and forests for consideration. According to sources, the amendment would aim at giving more teeth to the central government, which at present does not have final authority over various reserves which fall under the jurisdiction of state governments that oversee their administration.
The proposed amendment covers hunting in tiger reserves and altering of the boundaries of tiger reserves, unlike the present Act which deals with sanctuaries in general. Under the amendment, hunting in tiger reserves or altering their boundaries will be made punishable with not less than three years of imprisonment extending up to seven years and a fine up to Rs 25,000.
“Forest land has been destroyed to facilitate projects like tourist resorts, mining activities, power plants, dams, high ways etc. This is taking a toll on the tiger and its habitat.” Said a Government official.
The Act as amended is
• National Tiger Conservation Authority, a statutory body, which will work in consultation with state governments to control poaching and illegal trade in the tiger and its derivatives
• Hunting in tiger reserves and altering of the boundaries of tiger reserves to be made punishable with not less than three years of imprisonment and a fine upto rs 25,000
• More power to central government, which at present does not have final authority over various reserves, under the jurisdiction of state governments that oversee their administration
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