Press on Environment and Wildlife
Hospital uses a novel water management strategy (July Week 2 (2005)) The Aravind Eye Hospital in Thavalakuppam near Pondicherry not only treats eye ailments but also treats water that it uses. And with the treated water, it has a sprawling garden with 300 avenue trees, 250 coconut trees, 50 mango trees and 45,000 sq ft of lawns with Korean grass and lots of flowering plants. "Each day the hospital uses about 2,50,000 liters of water and of that about 2 lakh liters is treated and reused to water the gardens. When we started the hospital here, there was no drainage system so we had to do something about the water that we used and so the treatment plant came to be", says G. Venkataswamy, chairman, Aravind Eye Care System. The water, which is collected in three septic tanks, is passed through anaerobic filters and passed up and down through vertical pipes. From the filters the water is directly pumped to a buffer tank and from there the water is allowed to pass through gravel filters and then comes to a polishing pond where then the enrichment of oxygen takes place. The pond also has a fresh batch of fish swimming around and making it look all the more beautiful. The system was set up in 2003 and the garden received the Pondicherry Government's award for the best garden for the year 2004. “We like to keep the environment, our surroundings and our hospital clean, which is why we take so much care about each and everything” says the hospital staff. Commendable!
Long wait for circus animals to rehabilitated (July Week 2 (2005))

The West Bengal chief wildlife warden (CWW) these days is playing a thorn in the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) flesh by its undoing about taking 15 surrendered circus animals -- 11 tigers, 2 lions and 2 Himalayan black bears -- to its new Madarihat rescue center, near Jalpaiguri, even as the CZA sent Rs 55 lakh to it for construction of the center. To add to it, the CWW officials and the circus companies are passing bucks to each other over who will take the animals to the rescue center and bear the cost of transportation. Every other week the WB CWW is shooting letters for money either for such transportation, or cages and feeds. About 150 captivated circus animals - tigers, lions and bears - are awaiting rehabilitation at rescue centers. Three new ones - at Madarihat (North Bengal), Nandankanan (Orissa) and Bhopal are coming up for them with the Vizag center being expanded. The CZA has already released Rs 4.5 crore for the purpose. Whether this money will ever be put to its intended use remains to be seen.

CBC supports Scheduled Tribes Bill (July Week 2 (2005))

The Center for Biodiversity Center (CBC), Thiruvananthapuram, has strongly supported the Central Government's move to enact the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, as the essential first step in reforming the country's forest management regime. "The accelerating pace of forest destruction in the country could be reversed only be bringing the Adivasis, the historical custodians of our forests, back to the center stage of forest management” the CBS chief said in a media release. He also said that it was the organic affinity of the Adivasis towards the forests that had saved what little is left of forest wealth in the country today. "The amazing knowledge of Adivasis about the forests and wildlife alone is enough to qualify them as the best stewards of the forests. But the colonial Forest Act of 1927 had alienated them from the forestland and threw them into the abyss of poverty where as poverty was previously unknown in the Adivasi areas. The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, quite in line with the colonial policy, sealed the fate of 67.7 million indigenous people of India. This must be undone. The forest management, in order for it to be successful, ought to be restructured by recognizing the role of Adivasis as the critical player in sustainable forest management” he said. Mr. Chief might be right about the knowledge and affinity of the Adivasis towards the forests. However, it is one thing to involve the tribes in the management of forests and quite another to make them uncontested owners of the forests (which is what the bill proposes to do).

25 peacocks poisoned to death (July Week 2 (2005)) In a shocking incident, 25 peacocks and their young ones died of poisoning at Palikoppa village in Hubli taluk. The villagers suspected the hand of some farmers behind the act as the birds used to feed on the seeds in their fields. The villagers said that farmers had killed the peacocks by adding poison to jowar grains. Eight samples of various organs of the dead peacocks were sent to Bangalore for further investigation and autopsy that the cause of death seems to be rat poison. The samples will be sent to the Forensic Laboratory in Bangalore for further tests.
Genetically engineered plants suck up mercury from the ground (July Week 2 (2005)) Across the continent in California, researchers are using transgenic Indian mustard plants to soak up dangerously high mercury and selenium deposits caused by irrigation of the nation's breadbasket. Still others are engineering trees to retain more carbon and thus combat global warming. The gene jockeys conducting these exotic experiments envision a future in which plants can be used as an inexpensive, safer and more effective way of disposing of pollution. ”Trees are really made for this, we just have to trick them to do what we want them to do,'' said Richard Meagher from University of Georgia. Mr. Meagher uses genes from E. coli that enable the common bacterium to live amid mercury. He has spliced them into a variety of plants in the laboratory, where he says his results are dramatically positive. Mr. Meagher's team has planted about 45 engineered cottonwood trees in a polluted lot. The trees are expected to treat the mercury as a nutrient and draw the toxic element for the soil with their roots. Some of the mercury is expected to vaporize into the air while most is stored in the tree. After several years of growth, the trees will be cut down and incinerated. However, it seems that the team has overlooked the fact that upon incineration the mercury still stays in the atmosphere – it’s just a choice between ingesting mercury and breathing it – I wonder which is the lesser of the two evils?
Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) (Issue of the week, July Week 1 (2005))

This article appeared in the June 30 issue of the Hindu Business Line, and some arguments presented before the court by the Cochin Port Trust (which I have highlighted in purple and I leave it up to the readers to read within and between these lines) go to show how very environmentally unfriendly is the mind-set of people who are involved in the major trade and commerce sectors of the country. Following is the article:

The Cochin Port Trust has submitted before the Kerala High Court that the reclamation of land for setting up chemical tanks in the port area has been carried out under the guidelines of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification, for which it had obtained necessary permission from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. The port authorities, in the counter affidavit, said it had not violated the law in reclaiming land at Vathuruthy area earmarked to set up chemical storage tanks. The allegation in the writ petition that the port had reclaimed 15 acres of land under the guise of reclaiming backwaters without obtaining permission under CRZ notification is not correct. It is submitted that the storage of petroleum products is a permitted activity under CRZ notification and the area falling under the Willingdon Island is not ecologically sensitive and in the Coastal Zone Management of Kerala. The port had filed the counter affidavit in the wake of a writ petition filed by the Willingdon Island Residents' Association seeking to demolish the tanks already constructed in the reclaimed area. The port authorities pointed out that it is not for the first time that permission has been granted to construct tanks in the reclaimed area. It had earlier given permission to companies such as Indian Oil Corporation to set up tanks for storage purpose. It is also brought to the notice of the court that hazardous liquid cargo is being handled in many of the ports such as Kandla, New Mangalore and JNPT. The major objective of the port is to create facilities for import and export of different cargo and for the reception and handling of seagoing vessels. The port is bound to facilitate its users to develop port-related infrastructure and the facilities so created should be used to augment the volume of trade. According to port officials, the entire Willingdon Island where the port is functioning is reclaimed area and the erection of tanks or construction of any building has not affected any of the reclaimed area of the port. The port has been reclaiming area and leasing the same for various port related activities and, therefore, there is nothing wrong in reclaiming land and giving it to tank farms and other port users. It also pointed out in the affidavit that Kochi has grown considerably in commercial activities and the port also should keep pace to meet the situation by providing adequate facilities within the port area. Therefore, it should be necessary to strike a balance between the utilities provided and the human safety conditions. In many cases, the society has to tolerate existence of certain utility services. "If the intention of the petitioner is to seek demolition of tank farms, it will only ruin the progress of the port and the State. Maybe there are certain risks involved in all these operations and our only submission is that the society has to live with such risks, which of course, will be minimized by adequate safety measures and controls," the port said.

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