Press on Environment and Wildlife
Forestland handed over for Sabarimala development project (November Week 1 (2005)) 12.65 hectares of forestland in the Periyar Tiger Reserve was handed over to the Travancore Devaswom Board for creating infrastructure facilities for the Sabarimala pilgrims, reports the Hindu Business Line. .
This land at Marakoottam on the trekking path from Pampa to Sannidhanam in the Neelimala hills would be developed without disturbing the sanctity of the region, he said. The proposed `queue complex' to be created here would regulate the movement of devotees to the Sannidhanam.
Around 50,000 pilgrims can be accommodated here at a time. It would be in compartments where adequate health care facilities including cardiology units having eight beds, oxygen parlours, first aid centres, facilities for drinking water and snacks, toilets etc, would be available.
The Board is thinking of creating adequate infrastructure for providing medical assistance to the pilgrims on the lines it is provided at Tirupati. In addition, the Rs 16-crore project sanctioned by the Centre under the National River Conservation Programme would also be taken up along with the proposed projects, he said. Similar facilities would be created enroute to Sabarimala via Uppupara depending on the number of devotees arriving through this trekking path, he said.
Hunting rampant at Thattekkadu sanctuary (November Week 1 (2005)) Uncontrolled hunting of birds and small animals at the Thattekkadu bird sanctuary poses great threat to the fragile fauna there, reports the New Indian Express.
Local groups engage in hunting of fleshy birds, wild pigs and rabbits at the sanctuary.
Three wild pigs and countless birds were shot down at the sanctuary within a month, said locals. The hunting groups also enjoy the protection and support of certain forest officials and guards at the sanctuary.
“Decayed carcasses of wild pigs and birds, left over by the hunters after removing the flesh, are strewn all over the inner areas. Night hunting also is rampant at the sanctuary,” said an official at the sanctuary.
The nexus between some guards, forest officials and hunters is behind the increase in hunting, said locals.
The problem is severe at the Koottickal thekku plantation sector where the hunters can enter easily from Bhoothathan kettu area.
Labourers brought for construction works at the sanctuary also indulge in hunting.
The high demand for wild pig meat is said to be one reason behind the increase in hunting activities.
“The forest officials do not take action against the hunters. Even when we bring the matter to their notice, they try to overlook the issue,” said a local resident.
Thattekkadu bird sanctuary attracts bird watchers from all over the world.
Rs 40-crore plan for Sunderbans (November Week 1 (2005)) About 400 km of roads would be built and over a dozen bridges erected in the Sunderbans delta spanning the two 24-Parganas.
Officials said there would be at least 2.5 km of brick-paved road in over 190 panchayat areas after the Rs 40-crore project is completed in 2006.
The Sunderbans Development Board will provide Rs 18 crore for the project while Nabard (the National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development) will give the remaining amount as a loan, reports The Telegraph.
The bridges to be built include a 700-m one — the longest in the riverine region — at Dockghat in Canning. Over a lakh people travel to and from Sunderbans through Canning every day.
Chawl residents fight to save patch of green (November Week 1 (2005)) Is it a case of David versus Goliath at Tardeo? Residents of the 130-year-old Talmakiwadi chawl near Bhatia Hospital feel it is. Here is a report by Times of India.
The 20-room chawl, which since 1941 is enclosed within the Kanara Saraswat Association's housing colony (the second-oldest co-operative society in Asia) is fighting to save a small garden of trees and bushes they planted in front of the chawl over 20 years ago.
"Last month, the housing society that owns the land told us that they planned to bring down the trees and use the area for extra parking," says chawl resident Lalita Balsekar, a teacher in the colony's school.
"On October 16, one of the society's committee members came with two workmen, pointed out to my trees and said, 'These must go'," says Balsekar. Several ground-floor residents of the chawl have planted trees (there are around 12 small ones, including sitaphal, karipatta, a supari tree and parijat) and other plants in a strip measuring 15 feet.
They say it was partly in response to an incident in the 1980s when a visitor reversed his car right into one of the rooms.
"We're right on the road and need protection," says Balsekar, who lives with her sister, two brothers and 79-year-old mother. The family has stayed here since her grandfather's time.
Residents say the other main issue is pollution from the increasing number of cars driving through the colony, with the colony's wedding hall being next door.
The society said they'd leave us three feet of space in front of the chawl but that still means fumes would come right into our ground floor houses," she says.
The chawl residents hope their tiny green enclave can survive. "We know the land belongs to the housing society and we are not trying to take it over. We just hope our trees can stay," says a resident.

Migratory bird deaths to be investigated (Issue of the week, October Week 4 (2005)) The West Bengal Animal Resources Development department is inquiring into reports of the death of some migratory birds, mainly fledglings, in the State's Kulik Bird Sanctuary in north Bengal to ascertain whether the cause of the deaths can be related to any avian disease including the dreaded bird flu, reports the Hindu.
"Even though the reports attribute the deaths in the Kulik sanctuary to the storm and heavy rains that have hit the region over the past few days, the local wild life authorities will be asked to send some of the dead birds as well as the serum of a few of those alive for examination", Dr. Dasgupta, Director, Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services said. Arrangements will be made for tests to be held at the High-Risk Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Bhopal that has recently been authorised by the Union Government to be the only competent authority in the country to make any announcement on diseases afflicting livestock or birds, he added.
Thousands of migratory birds flock to sanctuaries like Kulik every winter from China, Siberia and South Asian countries and the State authorities are not taking any chances in view of experts' fears that migratory birds could be carriers of diseases like bird flu and be a potential threat to the health of the local bird population. The sanctuaries have been alerted, now that the first flocks of birds have started arriving from South Asian countries, some of which have reported cases of bird flu in recent times.
Twelve States will be represented at a special training programme to be held here on October 28, where wildlife department officials will be trained in the trapping of migratory birds and collecting their blood-samples to check whether they are suffering from avian diseases like bird flu.
The wetlands of Gujarat have come alive with the arrival of more than 4,000 harriers — known to be birds of prey. The maximum numbers were spotted at Velavadar Black Buck National Park in Bhavnagar district. The birds will return to their breeding grounds in Europe, Central Asia and North America only after winter is over.
These winged guests to Gujarat are a welcome sight for farmers as they feed heavily on locusts during the crop season. According to chief conservator of forest (CCF), wildlife, Pradeep Khanna, Velavadar Black Buck National Park has the distinction of being the largest roosting site of harriers in Gujarat.
The harriers belong to genus circus of birds of prey and are commonly known as marsh harrier, pallied or pale harrier, montagu harrier, hen harrier and pied harrier. These birds are members of the family Accipitridae and are a protected species, under the Wildlife (protection) Act, 1972.
The Pioneer reports that as the first group of 16 birds arrived at Sultanpur
Bird Sancuary, Haryana, they have been put under observation, lest they be the carriers of avian flu.
“So far none of the guests at the sanctuary has been found to be infected," says a sanctuary official, who has been recently trained to observe the flu symptoms in the birds like inability to fly, bowed neck and dullness in the eyes.
The officials at the park have been instructed to take "instant action" against any bird exhibiting signs of "indifferent gait."
Instant action according to park Sub-Inspector Kanwar Pal means, "Quarrantine them lest they infect other guests and spread the infection to the large number of poultry hatcheries, which exist in the neighbourhood."
If a bird is found to have an indifferent gait, the drill is to separate it from the flock and take it to the park's veterinary hospital. But an official said, "The chances of infected guests arriving are remote as it's too much to expect an infected bird to take a 2000 mile long flight."
About 90 species of migratory birds come every year from Siberia, European countries and Middle East Asia. They include the Flamingo, Common Pochard, Spoonbill, Barheaded Goose, Common Redshank, Ruddy Shelduck, Demoiselle Crane, Yellow Wigtail, Coot, Red Crested Pochard, Shovella, Mallard and Pintail.
To distinguish between the guests and local feathered residents, the officials here are using microphones and numbered rings. 225 species of resident birds are found in the lake sanctuary.
"Since there are reports of the spread of flu in the ports of origin of these birds and transit areas like Pakistan, we have felt the need for precaution and creating a distinction between the guest birds and resident birds," the official added. Migratory birds begin arriving by the end of October and they enjoy India's hospitality till mid-March.
Park officials are conducting regular inspections in the hatcheries and piggeries in the area. According to Dr DN Grover, Deputy Director, District Animal Husbandry department, the department has taken blood sample of birds from around 12 hatcheries adjoining Sultanpur Park. The samples have been sent to the Disease Diagnostic Lab in Sonepat.
Since the flu is believed to be highly infectious, the officials have been instructed to use surgical masks, special costumes, gloves, handlers, tubes and eyeglasses.
Green nod for Andhra river-linking project (October Week 4 (2005)) One of India’s first river-linking projects, Polavaram, today received the Centre’s environmental clearance. The project’s work was stopped two months ago as it did not have the “green” clearance. Work is now expected to be resumed immediately.
Chief minister Dr YS Rajashekar Reddy, while disclosing this today, said the revised project cost was Rs 13,000 crore, of which Rs 4,000 cr was to be used exclusively to address environmental issues, apart from relief and rehabilitation of the displaced.
The project, renamed Indirasagar, aims at taking 80 TMC of water from river Godavari, the country’s second-largest river, to river Krishna. The multi-purpose project, when completed, will irrigate some three lakh hectares of farmland and generate 960 MW of power. Dr Reddy has been showcasing te project as the centrepiece of his government’s ambitious “irrigation mission” costing over Rs 45,000 crore. He said the crucial part of relief and rehabilitation for 48,000 families across 288 habitations has already begun and would be completed in time. Displaced tribal families would be compensated with equal amount of land in the same district, said the chief minister. The project has been coastal Andhra Pradesh’s farmers’ dream for over half a century. It was first conceived in 1947, six years after the first survey was undertaken at a cost of Rs 129 crore.
A day after the State Government secured the much-awaited environmental clearance for the Polavaram (Indirasagar) project, noted environmental activist Medha Patkar and the tribals facing displacement strongly opposed the Government's moves to go ahead with the project.
"What the project has secured from the Centre is only environmental clearance. But there is no forest clearance yet which is mandatory for any major dam," Ms. Medha Patkar said at an interface with the adivasis.
Asserting that the project was part of efforts to boost industrialisation at the expense of agriculture and tribal areas, she volunteered to spearhead the agitations to be launched by tribals against giving clearances to Indirasagar project in violation of the people's right to life and the right to livelihood guaranteed by the Constitution.
Well-known agricultural scientist and chairman, National Commission on Farmers, M. S. Swaminathan, has favoured construction of the Polavaram project and for that matter any big project, provided the environmental and social aspects are taken care of.
Speaking to reporters after meeting the Chief Minister, Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, on Thursday, he said such big projects were the need of the hour in the light of the Bharat Nirman programme under which 1 crore hectares of additional ayacut would be brought under the plough.
It was not the first time that big projects were taken up in the world, he said, citing the Aswan Dam in Egypt and the Three Gorges project in China.
Dr. Swaminathan, however, wanted a realistic assessment of benefits and risks before embarking upon any big project. If a particular project displaced tribals and others and affected the environment, sufficient steps must be taken up. "It's a win-win situation for people and the environment. There is no free lunch." Asked to comment on Medha Patkar's strong opposition to Polavaram project, he said, "some people are ideologically opposed to big dams and prefer smaller ones."
He said his policies "are going on right direction." During the meeting, Dr Swaminathan and the Chief Minister discussed the need for bridging the gaps between scientific knowledge and field-level needs. Dr Reddy told Dr Swaminathan that all villages in the State would get Internet connectivity by 2007.
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