Press on Environment and Wildlife
Environment ministry panel flouts rules to clear mining projects within Saranda forest (May Week #3 (2013))
The environment ministry's statutory expert panel, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), has bypassed its rules and earlier orders to clear iron mining projects by three private firms in the country's best sal forest and the core zone of the elephant reserve
in the Saranda forest division of Jharkhand.

In what could threaten UPA's much-touted Saranda Development Plan to counter Left Wing Extremism, the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure (CCI) — headed by the PM — has given its stamp of approval to the two firms and now nod for the third company seems
a mere formality.

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Tribals set to decide Vedanta project’s fate (May Week #3 (2013))
The tribal affairs ministry has moved with alacrity to order the Odisha government to ensure the tribals can vote freely. It has asked the Naveen Patnaik government to ensure all villages, which express their rights in the contentious zone, are identified
and given the opportunity to decide the project's fate. 

Any curb on gram sabha powers through interpretation of the law or restricting the number of gram sabhas, who would get to vote, is perceived as a major challenge in the backdrop of heavy state 'bandobast' and the judicial monitoring that the apex court
has ordered. 

Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan had scored brownie points with the Congress leadership by deftly handling the case, using the innovative ploy of religious rights to defend the UPA's decision to block Vedanta's mining rather than the norms that
empower tribal gram sabhas to reject projects that impinge on their forests. Using the latter defense would have spelt trouble for the government, which has allowed several other projects on forestland without seeking similar gram sabha clearances. 

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Tamil Nadu to get four more wildlife sanctuaries (May Week #3 (2013))
Making a suo motu statement in the State Assembly, the Chief Minister recalled that already, her government had been implementing the Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Conservation and Greening Project at a cost of `686 crore with financial assistance from the Japan
International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Under this project, during the current financial year, two crore saplings would be planted in 1,000 revenue villages at an expenditure of `97.66 crore, she said and added that `107.96 crore from the assistance given
by the Japan International Cooperation Agency would be utilised for implementing afforestation programmes during 2013-14 and 2014-15. 


Male Mahadeshwara Wildlife Sanctuary comes into being (May Week #3 (2013))
One more wildlife sanctuary will dot Karnataka which already has 22 wildlife sanctuaries.

The State government has officially declared a part of the Kollegala Range Forest as Male Mahadeshwara Wildlife Sanctuary. Off the 1,224 sqkm of the Range forest, 906.18 sqkm (90,618.75 hectares) has been declared as sanctuary.


MAKE IT A BEE IN YOUR BONNET (Issue of the week, May Week #2 (2013))
To many people, these pollinators are simply insects that they see in the garden, but these tiny creatures carry out a vital role in keeping food on our plates. Unfortunately, bees are dying and it's because of human activities

In most cases, since there are no dead bees to examine, the theories we are left with are the usual suspects. From killer mites, to fungus, disease, pesticides, cell phone towers, genetically modified crops and the mysterious ‘colony collapse disorder’.

CCD has a devastating effect, with all the worker bees of a colony disappearing without a trace. This is not new news to us, CCD has been documented for years and it is only now within the past decade or so, the cases have increased to alarming levels,
and recently in Spain and across Europe.

A class of pesticide called neonicotinoids has become extremely controversial of late. Neonicotinoids became popular in the late 90s when they replaced older pesticides. Unlike traditional pesticides neonicotinoids were genetically embedded into seeds
before planting and were more efficient and longer lasting. A derivative of nicotine, the pesticide targeted the nervous system of insects and seemed to pass all safety and health standards and soon became widespread.

Today, one quarter of all global pesticide sales is of neonicotinoids which are now not only used in crops but also in gardens. However, over the years with more research poured into the phenomena of the colony collapse disorder, the pesticide has now
emerged as a prime suspect.

In China and Japan pollination by hand is almost the only option left. A couple of years back Australian honeybees meant for pollination accounted for about 80 per cent of imports to Japan, but with mass deaths of hives there is now a shortage even in
the ‘bee import industry’.

Pollination by hand is tedious and slow. Climbing on ladders to reach the flowers with a chicken feather at one end of a stick, pollination by hand will take many more men and many more hours to do what a single bee can do within a fraction of that time.

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The last of Kashmir’s royal stags (May Week #2 (2013))
On 16 March, Wildlife Institute of India scientist Parag Nigam tranquilized and radio-collared a hangul in the Dachigam National Park on the outskirts of Srinagar.

The enigmatic Kashmir stag has never been radio-collared before, and its nervous disposition doesn’t make it the ideal subject for tranquilization. Indeed, a plan to collar three more stags has been deferred to November, with the animals moving to the
upper reaches of the park with the onset of summer. The Hindu reported on 14 April on the radio collaring of the hangul and how it was achieved.

In early March, this writer was in Dachigam to try and catch a glimpse of the last remaining hangul, the state animal of Jammu and Kashmir. The government claims there are 218 of them, but the number has hovered in the 200s since 2004 and wildlife experts
insist the real number is likely to be in the double digits.

In order to monitor the hangul population, a collaborative project called, “Long term conservation of Hangul: Studying Movement Patterns of Hangul using Satellite Telemetry in Dachigam National Park,” was started in March 2012 by the Sher-e-Kashmir University
of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST), the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the wildlife department of the Jammu and Kashmir government.

The conservationists say grazing is responsible for the declining number of stags.

On that early March day, Malik makes a sudden move and pushes this writer down. He points through the trees. Just about 50m up the trail are four magnificent hangul. The stag closest to us is a fine specimen, with a 13-point antler and a rich chocolate

“Hangul comes from the word hang, a local name for a species of chestnut found in this forest, which the deer is fond of and which gives the deer its dark brown coat,” he says. We see five more stags as we traverse the valley.

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