Press on Environment and Wildlife
CSE report contested by scientists (June Week 2 (2005)) While samples analyzed by the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) found a "cocktail of pesticides in human blood", doctors working in the Forensic Laboratory at Patiala in a study conducted on samples of human blood and urine obtained from different sources found "nothing" alarming. The Patiala Forensic Laboratory, which also undertook about 2500 cases of viscera examination last year, found presence of organophosphorus compounds (OPC) only in 10 per cent cases. A study has also been recently conducted at the state chemical laboratory in Patiala on the possibility of insecticides used over crops interfering in the examination of viscera. Samples of vegetables and other eatables available in the market were subjected to chemical analysis for the presence of insecticides and pesticides and according to the reports no poison has been detected in the substance of any eatable or vegetable tested. Samples of blood and urine of human beings have also been tested for traces of insecticides and pesticides and none of these samples have tested positives for any poison. Interestingly, Dr Sunita Narain of CSE had said that samples of blood taken from villagers of Bathinda and Ropar districts, where incidence of cancer has been alarmingly high, pesticides were found in all samples. These samples, she had maintained, had six to 13 different pesticides. And the presence of these chemicals in blood samples was far higher than permissible levels. In some cases, it was 15 to 600 times higher than the permissible limit.
CSE report contested by industries (June Week 2 (2005)) The same aforementioned issue of the high level of pesticide residue in human blood samples taken from Punjab villages has created panic among most industries engaged in the manufacture of pesticides. Representatives of such industries have started challenging the findings of the CSE and defending their products. Mr. S. Singhal, speaking on behalf of the Agro-Chemical Production Group, which he claimed had over 200 industries as its members, said here today that the " CSE report is unscientific and irresponsible, based on its initial technical evaluation". He said pesticides, like medicines, went through detailed tests for safety before these were registered and then prescribed for use. Asked (The Tribune, 14th June) whether he or his organization had commissioned a study by any reputed agency to find out the truth about pesticides in human blood and the reported health problems caused by these, Mr. Singhal's answered in the negative.
Sparrows disappearing fast from the cities (June Week 2 (2005)) The common house sparrow, once part of every household, is fast disappearing from urban areas, including Delhi. Ornithologists and wildlife experts speculate that the population crash could be linked to a variety of factors like lack of nesting sites in modern concrete buildings, disappearing kitchen gardens, increased use of pesticides in farmlands and the non-availability of food sources. KS Gopi Sundar of the Indian Cranes and Wetlands Working Group (Times of India, 13th June) says: "Although there is no concrete evidence or study to substantiate the phenomenon, the population of house sparrows has definitely declined over the past few years." He attributes it to a number of reasons." The widespread use of chemical pesticides in farmlands has resulted in the killing of insects on which these birds depend. Seed-eating birds like sparrows have to depend on soft-bodied insects to feed their young ones," he said. The other possibility could be increased predation by crows and cats, said Gopi Sundar. "So, while crows are growing in number as a result of unchecked garbage accumulation in the city, more and more sparrows are falling prey to them," he said.
Poachers turn saviors (June Week 2 (2005)) In the Manas National Park in western Assam, once upon a time poachers have become the tiger's best friend. The park was at one time a haven for militants as well as poachers who hunted tigers, rhinos and elephants. Today the tiger is roaring again at the park. And the elephants too have got a new lease of life. Budheswar Boro, who was once a much feared poacher and admits having killed scores of animals including rhinos, elephants and a tiger, is now a transformed man. He still roams the park with a gun, but for a cause. "I now patrol the park looking for poachers. I feel sad when I look back at my past when I hunted animals," Boro says with a sense of remorse. Like Boro, there are a dozen more poachers who guard the park in their changed role as custodians of wildlife. It became possible after the park authorities launched a drive to woo poachers with financial incentives. The Manas National Park was plundered by tribal Bodo guerrillas for almost a decade which prompted UNESCO to list Manas as a World Heritage Site in Danger. However, now from the brink of collapse to a situation when the animals can breathe easy, Manas is on a comeback trail with a marked improvement in the overall situation during the past one year. This is good news for India where the tiger population has dwindled rapidly in the last few years.
Tiger task Force upsets conservationists (June Week 2 (2005)) The Tiger Task Force, constituted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to review the country's dwindling tiger population and give recommendations for its conservation, has come under scrutiny for not focusing on the very task for which it was set up. At a Tiger Task Force (TTF) meeting held in Nagpur on June 12, it is alleged, the discussion centered on how the tiger's forests can be used by the people and the tiger seemed to be missing from the agenda. Things have come to such a head that conservationists are writing to the Prime Minister that the task force is failing in its purpose. At least three conservationists, who had been invited for discussions waited for over six hours for discussions before they walked out. It is hoped that such differences of opinion between the members of task force and conservation community of India will be resolved soon and will not come in the way of efficient planning for saving tigers without sidelining the interests of people living close to the forests.
Fishermen protest against Sethusamudram project (June Week 2 (2005)) Fishermen in the south have stood up against the soon to be started Sethusamudram project. According to members of the Movement against Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project, an umbrella organization of fishermen associations and non-governmental organizations, the project will doom the fishing industry. The members said that the fish stock in the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Straits was dwindling, and the project would wipe it out. The Movement will launch agitations, including rail rako and black flag protest against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other ministers when they come for the foundation laying function. T. Mohan of the Coastal Action Network said the project, which was "unscientific and economically unviable", was being rushed through in an "undemocratic manner" to gain political advantage. He also said that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests gave environmental clearance based on an environment impact assessment (EIA) made before the tsunami December last and since post-tsunami marine life had undergone a sea change a fresh assessment should be made. He added that almost 3.55 lakh fishermen would become jobless once dredging started and those working in allied industries would also be affected.
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