Press on Environment and Wildlife
Citizens’ report on biodiversity released (Issue of the week, November Week 1 (2005)) The final technical report of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) was released recently by Kalpavriksh, an NGO, on the occasion of Wildlife Week at the A C Dutta Bhavan, Cotton College, in Assam, reports the Sentinel. The programme was organized by two nature-based NGOs — Eco-systems India and Aaranyak. Ashish Kothari of Kalpavariksh highlighted the report on the occasion.
He mentioned that though the report was supposed to be released by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, it was made public as citizens’ report due to the failure of the Government to act on it for almost two years.
After highlighting the importance of biodiversity in sustaining ecological and human security, Kothari focused on the alarming loss of Indian biodiversity and the reasons behind it.
Kothari also expressed his concern over the fact that despite some serious attempts to tackle the threats to biodiversity, huge gaps remained in areas like documentation of full range of diversity.
In the meeting, Kothari also pointed out some of the key strategies and actions recommended in the report. He stressed that people at any level, who are close to biodiversity, needs to be decision-makers on the issue.
He spoke about the harmful effect of the tendency to disregard traditional knowledge which, in turn, he added leads to bio-piracy.
Many States like Karnataka, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, etc., have already started their action as per the NBSAP.
It is worth mentioning here that the report has been released for the first time in North-east and fourth time in the country. Earlier, it was released in Delhi, Pune and Bangalore.
REGIONAL FORUM ON COMBATING ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME FORMED (November Week 1 (2005)) Experts from a range of international agencies, meeting in Bangkok, have agreed to set up a Regional Forum to be facilitated by UNEP ROAP to help curb the trade of environmentally hazardous chemicals as well as natural resources and endangered species in the region. The Forum allows access to information from leading experts in different fields from policy and law formulation to training, investigation and prosecution.
Environmental damage caused by illegal trade is growing, with local and international crime syndicates worldwide earning an estimated US$ 22-31 billion annually from hazardous waste dumping, smuggling proscribed hazardous materials, and exploiting and trafficking protected natural resources.
"International Crime Threat Assessment" (U.S. 2000) states that illegal trade in endangered species is worth US $6-10 billion a year, ODS (ozone depleting substances) US$ 1-2 billion and illegal logging US$ 1 billion.
"The illegal traffic of toxic waste negatively impacts on the environment and health of thousands in the developing world. At the same time criminal groups smuggle environmentally harmful products like ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) whose legal trade is subject to stringent international restrictions." Mr. Klaus Toëpfer, Executive Director of UNEP said. The regionalization of the Green Customs Initiative which offers information and training materials for customs officials to combat illegal trade in commodities of environmental concern was also discussed.
The establishment of this forum is seen as the first step to a stricter monitoring of environmental crime in the region.
In another significant development , the Rules and Regulation on Control of Ozone Depleting Substances has come into force as of 20 August 2005 signifying controls on the import of ODS-based equipment.
Annual limits which ensure that the levels of consumption and use of ODS are reduced by 50% by the end of 2005 have been fixed to achieve compliance with commitments to the Protocol. This will pave the way for a total phase out by 2010. Importantly a well-structured Country Program and a Refrigerant Management Plan were developed to guide compliance.
The Compliance Assistance Program of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) through its expedited assistance approach helped build capacities of key stakeholders including technicians, customs officers and importers of ODS to effectively participate in the phase out regimes. An agreement with India will see Bhutan receive technical assistance and support for capacity building to sustain phase out.
Some important initiatives in other parts of the world include the following. The closure of the Quimobasicos CFC production facilities in Mexico signifies a 12-13% drop in the global output of CFCs. The Air India, the British West Indies Air line and Air Mauritius will help create awareness about ozone layer issues in passengers on-flight considering the fact that they fly close to the stratosphere.
These represent interventions along a continuum of technical, regulatory and other support measures aimed at protecting the ozone layer. It is however important to ensure that action is sustained to comply entirely with the Protocol, guided by the bottom-line expressed by the UNEP Executive Director, Mr. Klaus Toepfer that, "The campaign to protect the ozone layer represents an extraordinary success story--but until emissions of CFCs and other ozone depleting substances are reduced to zero, saving the ozone layer will remain an unfinished business."
Planter held with leopard pelts (November Week 1 (2005)) A coffee planter, whose favourite pastime was hunting leopards, has been arrested along with his aide by the CID Forest Cell sleuths, reports the Times of India. Two leopard pelts worth Rs 4.5 lakh have been seized. The planter, Karumbaiah Sai, and his accomplice S M Jaya alias Monnappa are both residents of Ammathi Vontiangadi village in Kodagu ( Karnataka)
The two were arrested on Wednesday when they were on their way to Hunsur town to sell the pelts. IGP (CID Forest Cell) K S N Chikkerur said the leopards appear to have been killed recently. Both the pelts are of a male leopard —- while one measures 7.5 ft, the other pelt is 6.5 ft in length.
The pelts were probably meant for a rich customer, he said pointing to the embellishments around it. Preliminary investigation by the sleuths revealed that Karumbaiah, who is also a local politician, had kept these pelts in his house as trophies.
Water purification: ITRC goes the indigenous way (November Week 1 (2005)) us way
Using barks, leaves and roots of some trees, the Industrial Toxicological Research Centre (ITRC), Lucknow, has devised a unique purifying technology to remove heavy metals from water.
‘‘Under this technology, the ITRC has developed ‘indigenous adsorbents’ for removing contamination of heavy metals from water,’’ said scientist and head, Aquatic Toxicology, ITRC, Krishna Gopal. Several indigenous materials have been used for making the adsorbents, which soak the contamination of heavy metals at their surface, making water fit for consumption,’’ he added.
The water purifying technology also removes microbial agents from water. ‘‘Several health hassles are associated with contaminated water. Presence of heavy metals, like flouride, causes a debilitating condition-flourosis- adversely affecting dental and skeletal tissues. Persons consuming Arsenic contaminated water suffer from Arsenicosis which affects skin and vital organs,’’ said Gopal.
ITRC has completed the work on its part. But in which type the adsorbent formulation will be used, is still to be decided. ‘‘This would be decided by the company, to which the technology is transferred. The technology can be applied in manufacturing water purifiers or the adsorbents can directly be provided at water treatment plants for removing heavy metals,’’ feels Gopal.
The technology has been developed under a project, that has been conducted in collaboration with ITRC and a France-based company. The project got completed just a few months back. ‘‘In a few months from now, ITRC is looking forward to getting this technology patented,’’reports the Indian Express.
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.
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