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
Overuse of pesticides increases mortality rate of peacocks (April Week 1 (2006))
Mortality rate of peacocks has witnessed a drastic increase due to overuse of pesticides by farmers of Haryana in the past
over five years. To save the seed from pests and have a good yield of their produce, farmers have been using over three to
four times the quantity of the required amount of the pesticide, thus putting an adverse affect on the human being, animals
High mortality rate of peacock has also been proving a boon for smugglers of peacock feathers in this part of the region,
claimed Mr R. D. Jakati, Chief Conservator of Forest and Wildlife (CCFW), Haryana.
While responding to a news item published in The Tribune on Wednesday, Mr Jakati claimed that no complaint had been received
from any part of the region about poaching of peacocks for feathers. The tail-feathers of a peacock could be well identified
from their tips to know whether the birds were killed for feathers or the feathers were naturally shed, said Mr Jakati.
He, however, claimed that the 'traders' of peacock feathers had been collecting naturally shed feather by the birds from
different parts of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and other states for sale. Sale of naturally shed peacock tail feathers
is exempted as per the Wildlife Protection Act, he informed.
The CCFW also claimed that treating crop seed with excess of pesticide (chlorpyriphose) than the required amount have been
proving toxic for the peacocks, sparrows and other fauna found in Haryana. The Haryana Agriculture University, Hisar, has
already conducted an indepth study over the issue and proved the facts true.
Mr Jakati also claimed that wildlife inspectors had been deployed at village level to educate the farmers of the
consequences of intensive use of the pesticides over humans and the wildlife. The inspectors have been holding meetings with
farmers of three to four villages every month since 2001, he claimed.
"To save the humans and wildlife from the side affects of pesticides, I have also written to the Director, Agriculture, for
motivating farmers to use bio-pesticides as an alternate. In the list of states that lead in pesticide consumption, Haryana
stands eighth in the country. As much as 85 per cent of the total area of the state has witnessed a sharp decline in wild
animals and birds," added Mr Jakati.
SOURCE : The Tribune, Thursday, April 13, 2006
Global warming swells Tibetan lakes (April Week 1 (2006))
Gesang Cering, a shepherd, habitually wakes up at midnight to check if his house is flooded. He often sees water oozing out
of the ground, a phenomenon researchers attribute to global warming.
He has also noticed that Lake Naigri Puencog, some eight kilometres from his home village in Nagqu Prefecture in northern
Tibet, often swells.
"The pasture near the lake is flooded from time to time; in winter, it is often covered with ice," he says.
Many herders have witnessed similar situations. In many lake areas, water springs out of formerly dry places, roads are
flooded, and alkali is found no more in what used to be alkaline lakes.
Even the oldest people in the village cannot explain the abnormal phenomenon. Some say it is inauspicious and invite lamas
(Buddhist monks) to perform rituals, hoping to dispel the evil spirits.
"It is actually caused by global warming," says Bendo, a senior engineer with Remote Sensing Application Research Centre of
the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Bendo and his colleagues have been studying the floods in Nagqu since August 2005.
They conducted site surveys of five lakes in the prefecture and analysed changes in the sizes of the lakes over the past two
decades with remote sensing mapping.
"We found rises in rainfall as well as in air and ground temperatures in lake areas but declines in water evaporation,
exposure to sunlight, and thickness of snow and frozen earth," he said. "We therefore decided global warming caused the
lakes to swell."
Bendo said the average water level in Naigri Puencog and two other inland lakes rose by 12.6 meters in the recent two
decades, flooding an average 40.8 square km of pasture, cropland and roads.
Despite the damages to the pastures and roads, many people say the local climate is milder than before as it gets warmer and
rains more often.
However, experts say the impact of global warming is not always positive in Tibet.
In Ngari Prefecture in western Tibet, for example, the warm but arid climate has had a negative effect on the local ecology,
Known as the "roof of the world", the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is very sensitive to climate changes.
Chinese scientists had earlier found that global warming had caused glaciers to melt fast at Mount Qomolangma, threatening
the balance of global water resources.
"Tibet's responses to global warming will provide valuable firsthand information to worldwide researchers on climate
changes," says Bendo.
SOURCE : Times of India, Thursday, April 13, 2006
Panel reviews wildlife list (April Week 1 (2006))
This may not impact actor Salman Khan. But a government committee is now taking a relook at all the animals, birds and
insects protected under different Schedules of the Wildlife (Protection) Act.
Some might end up losing protective cover. It's the first comprehensive review of all the schedules since the Act came into
force three decades ago. The review is to be based on guidelines set out by IUCN (World Conservation Union), says
director-general (forests) J C Kala.
It may upgrade protective cover to some species, downgrade it for others. If some species, particularly marine, are found to
be in abundance and can be a source of livelihood, the government may examine if their "exploitation" — read trade — is
possible without impacting species survival.
Conservationists fear this part. The review, mandated last year but just beginning now, comes at a time when there is muted
debate in wildlife circles on some of the species in Schedule I, the highest protection afforded under the law.
It includes the chinkara which has just impaled Salman as well as the blackbuck which is threatening to trip up the actor
and former India cricket captain Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi — in separate cases.
Some believe the blackbuck need not be in Schedule I. It's there in large numbers in states like Gujarat, AP and Rajasthan
and it damages crops. Others, however, believe there is no need to fiddle with its category.
SOURCE : Times of India, Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Managing e-waste without harming environment (April Week 1 (2006))
e-Parisara recycles old computers, other e-waste
· Bangalore generates 8,000 to 10,000 tonnes of e-waste a year
· e-waste is partly recycled, the left over is burnt or thrown away
· e-Parisara functions from an industrial estate in Dobbspet
· It has equipment to recycle up to three tonnes of waste a day
As the information technology hub of the region, Bangalore generates thousands of tonnes of electronic waste.
To this can be added almost an equal quantity of imported electronic scrap and computer parts. They are partly recycled, and
what is left is burned or thrown away causing pollution and health hazards.
A pilot project to manage e-waste without causing ecological damage has been set up close to the city by P. Parthasarathy, a
postgraduate from IIT-Madras and now a Bangalore-based entrepreneur.
e-Parisara functions from an industrial estate in Dobbspet, about 40 km from here, and has been encouraged by the Central
and State Pollution Control Boards who would like it replicated in all major cities in the country.
This initiative, the first of its kind, attempts to carefully recycle old computers, their components and other e-waste,
generated by both IT companies and electronic manufacturers into social and economically useful raw material than can be
The technology used is indigenous, according to Mr. Parthasarathy.
At e-Parisara the more hazardous components such as chromium, arsenic, mercury, nickel, cadmium, lead and zinc sulphate are
separated from the material they are contained in. Plastic and glass waste is sold to recyclers authorised by the Karnataka
State Pollutuion Control Board.
The metal content that can be safely reused is separated and the rest carefully buried without contaminating the soil or
e-Parisara has equipment to recycle up to three tonnes of waste a day, but is dealing with around one tonne right now. Many
corporates such as IBM, Tate Elxsi, ABB and Phillips are among its clients. But many major IT firms are yet to send their
e-waste or stipulate difficult conditions, Mr. Parthasarathy said.
According to industry surveys, 8,000 to 10,000 tonnes of e-waste is generated each year by IT firms and electronics
manufacturers in and around Bangalore.
While the larger companies have warehouses for storing the waste, others sell them to small-time scrap dealers.
The dealers, many concentrated around Mysore Road, often employ women and children to deal with the scrap and remove usable
What cannot be used at all is thrown into fields and channels or burned under unsafe conditions. Apart affecting the health
of the employees of the scrap dealers, air, soil and ground water get polluted.
The e-Parisara example may be one workable solution.
SOURCE : The Hindu, Monday, April 03, 2006
All about wetland birds (April Week 1 (2006))
A two-day workshop on `Wetland Birds', organised by the Kozhikode-based Malabar Natural History Society (MNHS) here on April
1 and 2, gave an opportunity to bird lovers to get an overview of the diversity and census methods adopted by ornithologists
to monitor their population, breeding patterns and the like.
Through slide shows, the participants learnt about varied aspects relating to wetland birds of Kerala. Though the State does
not have large wetlands, there are diverse species of water birds in the State, including ducks, terns, herons and egrets,
besides migratory species.
C. Sashikumar spoke about the techniques and tips on conducting a bird census. Details of recording the vast species of
water birds of Kerala, identification methods, the ideal season for conducting census, and the like were highlighted.
Satyan Meppayur spoke on `Cormorants, egrets, herons and ducks', while Mohammed Jaffer Pallot's slide show was on `Gulls and
terns'. Babu Kambrath dealt with `Photographing wetland birds' and O. Jayarajan on `Wetland Bird census — an overview.'
The participants were taken on a field trip to the Kadalundi Bird Sanctuary on Sunday.
Forest Minister A. Sujanapal, who inaugurated the workshop, emphasised on the need for a specific environment policy. "Just
as there is an IT Mission, there should be an Environment Mission too so that bureaucratic red-tape can be a avoided. He
said creating awareness about the environment through organisations such as MNHS, and people-participatory movements was
vital to preserve natural resources.
The environmentalist John C. Jacob delivered the keynote address.
A book `Mammals of Kerala' authored by Dineshan Cheruvat, C. Radhakrishnan and Mohammed Jaffer Pallot was released by Mr.Sujanapal.
SOURCE : The Hindu, Monday, April 03, 2006