Press on Environment and Wildlife
Rampant killing of sharks along east coast (Issue of the week, February Week 1 (2006)) It's a matter of delicacy. Sharks are being rampantly killed by an organised mafia for their fins in coastal Orissa. The illegal trade is estimated at a whopping Rs 100 crore a year, reports The Times of India.
In 2001 alone, the wildlife department made a seizure of shark fins worth Rs 10 lakh in Puri. Biswajit Mohanty, secretary, Wildlife Society of Orissa, says, "If one goes to any fishing base in Orissa, one will find evidence of killing of sharks.
Earlier, only a handful of fishermen were involved in the trade, but now they've gone upto 2,000. Sharks are being killed almost daily."
The fins are used for shark fin soup, a highly-priced delicacy abroad, which fetches upto $ 100 a bowl. The sharks are exported illegally to Hong Kong, Singapore and China.
The sharks are caught in specially-designed nets and their fins taken out and processed. They are trimmed into shape and dried before being exported.
"The illegal business is becoming a lucrative trade. While a kilogramme of fins is sold for Rs 10,000 by local people, the price goes up more than five times abroad," said Mohanty.
However, not all fishermen can catch the sharks as it requires special skill. The mafia, he says, is luring fishermen to join the trade and of late, coastal Orissa has become a fertile ground for them.
The largescale poaching of sharks, if unabated, will alter the ecosystem of the coastal region.
One of the species which is illegally exported is the three metre-long white spotted guitar fish, weighing about 200 kgs. It's protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Other marine products such as the sea horse are also protected under the Act but sold illegally. "However, shark fin comprises a bulk of the trade," says Mohanty.
S C Mohanty, chief wildlife warden of Orissa, says, "We try to keep a close watch on the illegal marine trade. People from other states are also involved.
A few raids have been conducted, but we can't monitor the entire coastline as the department is facing a severe staff shortage; 60% of the posts are lying vacant."
Diverting Sutlej could spell disaster: environmentalists (February Week 1 (2006)) As Himachal Pradesh plans to tap its huge hydropower potential, environmentalists warn that diverting the fast-flowing Sutlej through tunnels could spell disaster in the event of an earthquake in the fragile Himalayan terrain, reports The Times Of India. .
The Himalayan state is planning 42 large and small projects to tap its hydropower potential of about 11,000 mw, which is more than a third of that of the entire country. If these projects were to be taken up, in about a decade's time the river could end up being diverted underground into various tunnels running over 150 km.
Most tunnels are to be built in the 'run of the river style', whereby the tunnel water is sprayed powerfully on to giant turbines to generate electricity.
While the government is excited about tapping the power potential and the huge revenue that will flow into the hill state's coffers, the greens disagree. They foresee disaster in the event of a major earthquake.
"Kinnaur and Shimla districts fall in the category 5 earthquake zone. If a powerful quake hits the area, the impact could spell flash floods in the region and downstream posing threat to millions," says Birender Singh Malhans, an expert on environment.
"Besides, once the waters of the river are diverted into tunnels, barely 15 per cent will remain in the river bed which could destroy all the marine life in the river," Malhans said.
Most of the new power projects are planned in the Sutlej basin.
The government last month floated global tenders for 14 projects and is to soon invite more bids for the remaining projects, a government official said.
For the last two years, the 1,500-mw Nathpa project is in operation in the Sutlej valley. The Nathpa project has a 27 km long underground hydel tunnel, which carries waters of the Sutlej from Nathpa to Jhakri. Work would soon start on the Shongtong, Rampur and Loori projects for which the Sutlej waters will be diverted through 50 km of tunnels.
"Other projects are to have smaller tunnels. Once all these hydro projects are built in the next decade or so, the river will have passed through 150 km of tunnels to feed these projects," said an official who did not wish to be named.
So far Himachal Pradesh has tapped less than a quarter of its hydro-power potential, more than half of it in the Sutlej basin.
The Sutlej, one of the fastest flowing rivers in the country, originates in the high mountains of Tibet and passes through India before meeting the Indus in Pakistan.
Despite ban, poachers make a killing (February Week 1 (2006)) The Pioneer reported on the flourishing illegal trade of wild birds.
A hornbill for Rs 2,000, a mango bird for Rs 500, grey crane and heron for as low as Rs 100 to Rs 200, depending on their weight.
As the Government tightens its noose under the Wildlife Act 1972, poachers are fast shifting their business, capturing rural markets in Jagatsinghpur district under the garb of medicines, religion and fashion.
From Somanath Hat in Jagatsinghpur to several rural markets across the district, wild bird trade continues to flourish. Nomadic people are stated to be behind this illegal trade for years despite the ban on such activities.
More than 20 species of wild birds are caught and traded with impunity. Thousands of birds are killed for their meat by mostly tribal and downtrodden people, who use it as food and also for black magic, medicinal purposes and religious belief.
It is also considered a status symbol for people to keep an exotic or rare bird as a pet, including parrot, mango bird, sparrow, myna. They are available in the range of Rs 200 to Rs 500 depending on their weight, said Devabrata Swain, a bird lover. Moreover, water fowls and wild birds, pond heron, gray crane, water hen, little cormorant, heron, kingfisher, duck and goose are in the list that attract poachers.
There is no dearth of purchasers for these birds that serve as cheap meat for many people.
Religion, too, plays a significant role in promoting wild bird trade. Hindus believe that releasing birds that are held in captivity can purify the soul and relieve one's sins.
While on auspicious days like Makar Sankranti, days of lunar and solar eclipses and Kartik Purnima, people buy these birds from traders and release them. One Basudev Jena said releasing a captive bird during auspicious days earns positive impact from religious point of view, according to astrology.
Some protected species like owl, kite and parrot are hunted for black magic rituals and sorcery. Wild birds in large numbers are also brought for medicinal purposes. Ayurvedic physician Bibhuti Bhusan Dash said birds like hornbill, adjutant and water hen are in focus for preparing Ayurvedic medicines for several human ailments.
Many of the rare species are also exported out of the district.
A number of tribal people and nomadic tribes living in rural areas are in this illegal trade in Jagatsinghpur. They use nets or special type of sticks or intoxicants to capture the birds.
A nomadic bird poacher living in Nuapola village said his family has been involved in this trade since generations. As illegal bird trades flourish, police said no complaint has been registered as yet. Chandramani Behera, range officer, Kujanga, promised to take stern action against the wild bird poachers if any complaint is lodged.
4 panels formed on wildlife preservation (February Week 1 (2006)) The Chandigarh Administration has formed four committees for preservation of wildlife to promote a mass movement towards respect for the wildlife, reports the Pioneer. The committees have been formed on a recommendation of the State Board for Wildlife.
One of the committees is on creation of awareness about forests, wildlife and environment among people, especially students.
The committee has been constituted under the chairmanship of the Home Secretary. Another committee has been constituted on Conservation of the Sukhna Lake and promotion of eco-tourism under the chairmanship of the Finance Secretary-cum-Secretary (Environment and Forests).
The committee on preservation of heritage trees hasthe Deputy Conservator of Forests-cum-Director Environment as chairman. The committee on the proposed Greater Shivalik National Park has been constituted under the chairmanship of the Secretary (Forests).
The committees will hold meetings and submit detailed recommendations to the Administration by April 30.
Forest Department begins raids to prevent bird poaching (February Week 1 (2006)) The Chennai Forest Department has begun conducting regular raids at several areas in the city to prevent water bird poaching, reports the New Indian Express. .
They have also kick-started an awareness campaign against eating water-bird meat as the threat of bird flu looms large because of the visit of migratory birds in the city.
According to Ashish Kumar Srivastav, City Wildlife Warden, the Wildlife Department officials conduct regular raids at Pallikkaranai, Avadi, Chembarambakkam, Tambaram and Neelangarai to prevent water-bird poaching.
These areas, with their proximity to water resources, attract migratory birds.
“We have received information about water-bird poaching in areas near Avadi. We had seized some dead night herons from Narikuravas (gypsies),” Srivastav said.
“Though there have been no cases of bird flu reported in this part of the world, we cannot rule out the possibility entirely. This season, we have had a heavy inflow of migratory birds in the bird sanctuaries in and around the city.
“So, there is a chance of our resident birds contracting infection from the migratory birds and eating their meat can spread the infection to human beings,” Srivastav said.
His Department would start an awareness campaign to educate the public about the dangers of eating water-bird meat in this context.
“Moreover, killing water-birds is also a criminal offence,” he pointed out.
He also appealed that the NGOs should also take up this issue and create awareness among people. According to sources in the Forest Department, poaching of water birds has gone up this season as the city and suburbs had received a huge population of water-birds because of the excellent rains.
They said the bird meat had been sold in the local market.
“It is difficult to stop poaching of water-birds. Bird hunting has been considered as the traditional occupation of the Narikuravas and many find this as their only source of livelihood.
“It is difficult to stop them merely citing the law. However, an awareness campaign highlighting the dangers of the bird flu and chances of infection through consumption of water-bird meat can bring a change,” another official from the Department said.
Stress on organic control of pests in farming (February Week 1 (2006)) A scientist from RRL, Jorhat, Dr Poran Baruah said it has become incumbent that organic means alone are adopted for the control of pests and weeds in the farmlands. The Assam Tribune reports him saying that globally, chemical pesticides worth Rs 11,500 crore are used each year and added that this is leaving behind harmful residues, that would affect humanity’s future generations.
Dr Baruah said that the chemical pesticides include DDT, which has lost its efficacy over the years, with pests developing resistance against the drug. “Initially, DDT was effective against 600 varieties of pests and insects, now the chemical is effective against only half a dozen varieties,” he said. He stressed on integrated management of pesticides and diseases as a viable alternative.
Dr Baruah was speaking as a special invitee at a commemorative function of a local NGO, Irab Kirab. The occasion was the birthday of the NGO’s founder, Late Popi Santana Bharali, and was held at the Sahityarathi Lakshminath Bezbaroa auditorium here on January 25. He said that the market today has evolved and currently, several brands of bio-pesticides are available for use by the agricultural community.
Another bane of modern day society, polythene bags and their haphazard disposal came up for discussion at the function, at the initiative of Dr Kalpana Deka Kalita. She spoke of the non-biodegradability of polythene and harped on the four ‘R’s while using plastic bags: Refuse, Reduce, Re-use and Re-cycle. She also enlightened the audience of the harmful effects of carrying foodstuff like raw vegetables, fish and meat in polythene bags. She claimed that the heat generated heat while carried in polythene bags, making the foodstuff potentially harmful for human consumption.
Irab Kirab’s director, Dr Ananda Bormudoi hoped that the outcome of the discussions would be fruitful for society, and the people at large would take to organic pest elimination and reduce the usage of polythene bags. He said Irab Kirab has begun a campaign against polythene bags in the city.
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