Press on Environment and Wildlife
Excessive mining leads to declining coral reefs in Lakshadweep (June Week #4 (2013))
A drastic decline in the live coral cover in Lakshadweep has been reported, causing serious concern among researchers and naturalists.

K. Venkataraman, Director, Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), told The Hindu that the development came to light recently during a study. In the summer of 2010, bleaching took place in coral reefs areas in the country. But, those
in the Kavaratti islands in Lakshadweep were badly affected by bleaching. This could be due to increased heat conditions, which was an indication of climate change, he said.

Till 2010, the live coral reef cover in the island was recorded at 27 per cent, which dropped to 11 per cent in the subsequent year because of the May 2010 bleaching.

Similarly, the dead coral rock population was estimated to be 21 per cent before the bleaching, which rose to 67 per cent after the incident, he said.

Dr. Venkataraman said: “Declining coral reef will result in fishermen’s catch going down drastically.


Banking on vacant land for green cover (June Week #4 (2013))
Cutting down green trees for any development activity requires permission of the Forest department. The land is transferred to the agency which has sought permission for deforestation in the area. While the rule says Forest department should plant trees
on double the land area for which it has given permission to cut trees, most of the times, department could not render compensatory afforestation as there is no alternate land available, or there is no information about vacant land in the district.

"With land bank coming into existence, district magistrates would be able to provide information about vacant land instantly," said sources in the planning department. The bank has information about vacant land of varying sizes.
So far, the information has been provided by Barabanki, Bahraich, Lalitpur, Farrukhabad, Sitapur, Ferozabad and Faizabad have provided the information about vacant land.

The vacant land has also been categorised. There are 3,888 chunks of 1 to 5 hectares land, 225 chunks of 5 to 10 hectare land, 96 chunks of 10 to 25 hectare land, 18 chunks of 25 to 50 hectare land and a single chunk of a 100
hectare land. Some 1,200 hectare gram sabha land is also vacant.


60,000 sq km of Western Ghats to be green zone (June Week #4 (2013))
The Kasturirangan panel had also recommended against bringing farmlands, plantations and habitations under the restrictive regime, or Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) of the Environment Protection Act, 1976. It has instead suggested that 90% of the natural
forests in the Western Ghats complex - adding up to 60,000 sq kilometers and constituting 37% of the entire hilly belt — be conserved under the ESA provisions of the green law. The forest area falling within the ESA would also cover 4,156 villages across six
states. The panel has said, "The villages falling under ESA will be involved in decision making on the future projects. All projects will require prior-informed consent and no-objection from the gram sabha (village council) of the village."

While the Kasturirangan panel may have taken a more moderate stand as compared to the Gadgil committee, the Centre is unlikely to have an easy time convincing the state governments even now.

The second panel report has recommended that there should be a complete ban on mining activity in this zone and current mining activities should be phased out within five years, or at the time of expiry of the mining lease.
It has banned development of any township or construction over the size of 20,000 square metres in the ESA zone. It has not recommended a ban on hydroelectric projects in the zone, but put a regime of stricter clearances for dams and other projects. For dams
it has demanded an uninterrupted ecological flow of at least 30% level of the rivers flow till individual baselines for dams are set. Cumulative studies to assess impact of dams on a river and ensuring that the minimum distance between projects is maintained
at 3km, and that not more than 50% of the river basin is affected at any time.


Tale of two snakes, hissing at superstition (June Week #4 (2013))
It happened some decades ago in our neighbourhood. A small girl was bitten by a snake one morning. Her frantic cries alerted all, as relatives came running down and besides calming her down, they somehow subdued the snake also. Taking extreme risks, they
managed to put it alive in a small metal box that was also carried to the hospital along with girl.

The chief physician came, examined the girl and asked to see the snake since they had brought it. But the snake was alive and could be let loose inside the hospital. There was no other option but to kill it. “No chance, we
will not kill or let anyone kill the snake. We will just open the box slightly and show the snake to the doctor,” the relatives said.

A commotion ensued. If anything was going to be killed, it would be the doctor and not the snake, they threatened in unison. Please don’t think that the relatives were drunk or ardent snake lovers or were afraid of some wildlife
protection Act. (This story had happened well before the act came into force in 1972) Like many people in those days, they just had this superstitious belief that if they killed the snake, the patient will also die. Somehow the good doctor convinced them that
nothing of the sort would happen to the child and the situation was brought under control. This story had a happy ending except for the poor venomous viper, which by the time they opened the small metal box with sticks ready, was already dead.


Insecticide used to kill tigers at Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park (Issue of the week, June Week #2 (2013))
The authorities of Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park, about 150 km from here, said a highly toxic insecticide called "organophosphorous" was used in killing three tigers in February this year. The carcasses of the animals were found on the banks of the
Panchnoi river inside the park on February 9, 11 and 26.

Park authorities sent samples from the carcasses to the Directorate of Forensic Science, Assam (DFSA). "We have received the forensic test report recently and it says organophosphorous was used to kill three tigers. The insecticide, laced with meat, might
have been used as a bait to kill the tigers," said Mangaldoi wildlife divisional officer Sushil Kumar Daila.


Action plan for conservation of Great Indian Bustard gets Rajasthan chief minister's nod (June Week #2 (2013))
The action plan envisages increasing the population of these birds by addressing primary factors of habitat improvement and habitat protection. While the GIB population at present has been estimated around 250 in five states where they are found, the numbers
in Rajasthan are estimated around 100. "The species, known as ardeotis nigriceps, is critically endangered because it has an extremely small population that has undergone a rapid decline owing to a multitude of threats including habitat loss and degradation,
hunting and direct disturbance.

"This will be an important step towards conservation of the GIB. An enclosure of 2500 hectare, creating a clear space of 2000 ha, creating water holes and adequate security supervision of the birds will be taken care of under the project. Besides, cases
of poaching will be dealt with strictly," said Kak.


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