Bird Watching

Birds of Urban areas and the need for their Conservation

Birdsof Urban areas and the need for their Conservation

-Ajay Gadikar

In the last many years, while watching birds,I have came across scenes where I can witness biodiversity loss, habitatfragmentation and land cover changes occurring across everywhere irrespective oflocal city level, state level or national level.  Everywhere one can see conversion of agricultureland for residential and commercial usage;  these projects are altering the green cover andin turn disturbing the flora and fauna of the area. These human activities arecausing adverse effects on ecology of the area and hence  disturbance to local avifauna.

An urgent need for the city based birdconservation action plan is required in many cities on the basis of whichconservation actions can be taken.

I tried to focus upon this issue and chalkdown some of the activities that one can do to keep the avifauna of the areaintact.  As new and new housing andcommercial projects will further disturb the green cover in the future, some ofthese actions can be taken to save the urban birds and their habitat.

InvolvingStakeholders:  Both the Landowners and the residents of thenew colonies should be involved in the conservation activity.

1.  TThe Builders– First of all,  the Builders should beallowed to do only minimum felling of the trees on the projected residentialsites;  as far as possible old and biggertrees must be saved from felling.  Secondly,they should not be allowed to level the small water bodies as far as possible evenif the waterbody falls on their private land.   A loss of waterbody in any area forces manywaders to move out of the area permanently. The Builders should be forced to constructcompulsory water recharging pits on the ongoing projects sites.

 The Residents-- Landowners & Residents should be encouraged to plant trees in the campusarea with more focus on planting fruit bearing trees along the roads of thecolonies. Even small flowering plants are habitat for many birds, as theseplants provide food and shelter to them. So residents should be encouraged tomaintain some minimum plantation near their houses so that the birds dependenton them can find shelter.

 

Also flowering plantsattract butterflies, honey bees and other insects in the area which in turnprovides food for many of the insectivores’ birds.  Installation of nest boxes at the mostappropriate places is the need of hour as there are less number of older andbigger trees with suitable nest cavities, so one should try to install as manyas nest boxes to provide the bird with suitable nesting places.

 

I think many commonly found backyardbirds can be retained in the area even with the newer construction by carefullymaintaining their habitat.

GoGreen Initiative: The residential societyformed in the new townships should have an approach through which a localsustainable development program can be formed and enforced. The approach can beinitiated by the local authority (Municipal Corporation) which can provideleadership and can closely cooperate between the residents, NGOs, and otherinterested agencies. Programs such as garbage management, composting, waterharvesting and plantation of trees should be done in the colonies.  By providing these sustainable developmentmodel the avifauna of the area itself can be retained and conserved.

 

AwarenessCampaign: As far as possible, residents should beencouraged to  organising events likeenvironment day, world sparrow day, bio diversity day and earth day etc. sothey can be motivated towards the protection for the biodiversity and avifauna.

Simple awareness drives like providing waterand grains for birds during summers every year, maintaining greenery in theirrespective area, planting many fruit bearing trees in the colony garden, aresimple and effective bird conservation initiatives which can be followed tosafeguard the interest of the commonly found backyard birds.  This birds also require a little bit of ourassistance in terms providing protection and a suitable place for nesting inour vicinity, so residents should be educated to leave some undisturbed area asfar as possible so that the birds can breed there.

Also besides celebrating the different ecodays, mentoring by learned and senior people should becarried out during the different social gatherings,  one should seriously need to cultivate thespirit of Vasudhaiva kutumbakam (all those born on Earth are part of a singlefamily).  To think that only human beingshave the right to live and flourish, and all other living entities are meant tobe used to achieve that goal is only shamefully selfish.  Being the most intelligent and able creatureon earth, it is rather our responsibility to take care of other living entities.

(Ajay Gadikar is an Indore based naturalist)

Burning Issues

Top score in pollution

Top score in pollution
-S.Ananthanarayanan

India is the global leader in sulphurous air pollution, says S.Ananthanarayanan.

The US held the honour through the 1970s and 80s, till it was surpassed by China. China’s performance peaked in 2006 but has been slipping since then. India, a non-starter at the time, has made rapid progress and is now ranked as number one.

Can Li, Chris McLinden, Vitali Fioletov, Nickolay Krotkov, Simon Carn, Joanna Joiner, David Streets, Hao He, Xinrong, Zhanqing Li and Russell R. Dickerson, from the University of Maryland, NASA’s atmospheric chemistry and dynamics laboratory and the Air Resources Laboratory at Maryland, and from laboratories in Canada, Michigan and Illinois, explain in their paper in the journal, Scientific Reports (a Nature group publication), that the switch is because of measures China has taken, like emission controls in the generation of power.

The CO2 emission when coal and petroleum are burned is inevitable so long as we need the energy. Coal, and mineral oil, which are mainly carbon and hydrocarbons, contain sulphur and this gives rise to sulphur dioxide, or SO2. While SO2 is a greenhouse gas too, it is of concern even in low concentration because it is poisonous and a health hazard, leading to respiratory failure. SO2 was the principal pollutant that causes the infamous ‘London Fog’ which could reduce visibility to an arm’s length on cold and wet evenings. It is again the cause of the serious haze problem faced by China and India and the Scientific Reports paper says SO2 pollution leads to over a million premature deaths every year. Apart from effects on health, high levels in the atmosphere lead to ‘acid rain’, which is degrades the soil and impacts plant, insect and aquatic life, as well as steel and stone structures. The first legal action in respect of SO2, in fact, was in 1929, when the House of Lords upheld the claim of a landowner against the Barton Electricity Works of the Manchester Corporation for damages to his land because of SO2 emissions.

There are practically no natural sources of sulphur dioxide, except for volcanic eruptions. There was hence negligible average SO2 in the atmosphere before the industrial revolution. The steam engine and the burning of coal started the build-up, with rising releases from industry – for generation of electricity, the railways, to power machinery, steel making and chemical processes. And then, there has been the increase in the number of petrol and diesel driven vehicles, which emit SO2 mainly inside crowded cities. The US rapidly became the largest source, peaking at 28.3 million tonnes of SO2 every year in 1970. Steps to clean fuels of sulphur content and to wash gas emissions to reduce SO2 release, then started having their effects. The rapid industrialisation of China, mostly with coal based electricity, however, pushed up emissions and in 2006, China became emitter No1, at 23.1 million tonnes. This is where the US was in 1980. In 2006, the emissions from India were less than a fifth of that from China. The Scientific Reports paper says that while China has taken measures that have reduced emissions, those from India have doubled since 2006 and levelled with China in 2015.


There are many drivers of emissions from burning fossil fuels in a growing economy, market forces that demand energy and the rise in motor vehicles being the most important. While there is now the awareness to control generation of SO2, the Scientific Reports paper says the plurality of the sources makes it difficult to know where the emissions are coming from and to exercise control. “To predict and mitigate air pollution, air quality models require accurate information on the emissions….”, the paper says. The conventional approach has been to create inventories of the related activities and the emission factors, to arrive at estimates. The data available, however, is generally a few years old and is far from accurate. Estimates of pollution are hence highly uncertain, particularly in China and India, where the economy is changing by the hour and the mechanisms to regulate what is being done and to collect data are barely developed.

The researchers hence took recourse to satellite measurements and data that have now become available. The way SO2 acts to create fog is by first by combining with water to form sulphuric acid vapour. The vapour then condenses on particles of dust or soot. This suspension of particles, an aerosol, scatters light and is the reason for the fog in wintry mornings where there is dust in the air. SO2 aerosols can also play a useful role, albeit not enough to compensate for the harm they cause, by reflecting sunlight in the upper atmosphere to cause ‘global dimming’. This reflection, however, helps satellite sensors work out the levels of SO2 aerosols, as distinct from other particulate reflectors, in the atmosphere.

Data has been collected since the ‘Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometers’, aboard NASA’s satellites, provided daily information of the total Ozone Column, from 1978 to 2006. In 2006, the TOMS series was replaced by the ‘Ozone Monitoring Instrument’ aboard NASA’s research satellite, Aura. The Scientific Reports paper says the superior ground resolution of the OMI has been particularly useful in observing distribution and levels of SO2 pollution. It was this data, the paper says, that uncovered the evidence that SO2 pollution was reducing in China, which had had installed devices that removed the sulphur content of flue gases in coal-based power plants. The data also showed the major reduction of emissions from power plants in the US, the paper says. It is the OMI data, along with ‘bottom-up’, field data, that has enabled assessment of the pollution levels in China and India.


The rapid industrial progress in China led to pollution and smog and haze in cities, particularly Peking, that drew attention worldwide. China itself took measures to address particulate and toxic emissions from power plants and motor vehicles and still struggles with the problem in cities. The measures taken, however, have brought the SO2 pollution levels substantially down, from 35 million tonnes a year in 2007 to below 10 million tonnes in 2016. The 2000s have also seen great industrialisation in India and power generation capacity has increased from 74 GW in 2002 to 218 GW in 2017. As for motor vehicles, against the million vehicles registered during 1993, 19 million vehicles were registered in 2014. While there has been some movement towards containing pollution, this is nowhere near what China has done and the SO2 pollution in India has now higher than the pollution in China.

A comparison of the levels of SO2 over China and India, as of 2005 and 2016, is shown in the maps in the picture. What is indicated in the maps is only SO2 levels and there are other components that China still needs to take care of. The message for India, however, is clear, to match step with China, to control the use of fossil fuels and reduce all emissions, rather than move towards levels of China and the US in years past.

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Conservation

National Wildlife Action Plan 2017-31


National Wildlife Action Plan 2017-31   
-Susan Sharma 

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has been implementing the National Wildlife Action Plan (2002-2016), as adopted by the Indian Board for Wildlife in 2002. In order to review the implementation of the said Action Plan and to suggest a new Plan of Action for Wildlife Conservation, the Ministry has constituted a Committee under the chairmanship of Shri J C Kala, Ex-DGF and Secretary to the Government of India. The Committee have drafted the National Wildlife Action Plan (2017-2031).

The new Wildlife Action Plan emphasizes landscape approach to conservation, climate change preparedness and reduction in human-wildlife conflict.  It will impact 4.89% of country’s land area, its wildlife population and the lives of millions of people living in and around forests.

The key to this well intentioned plan is its implementation.

The NWAP is the policy framework on which management plans for the protected areas (PAs) will be developed in the coming 15 years. There are 733 protected areas in the country, constituted under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 (WPA). This includes 103 national parks, 537 wildlife sanctuaries, 67 conservation reserves and 26 community reserves. The action plan launched recently is the third one for the country – the first was from 1983 to 2001, the second from 2002 to 2016.

 “The traditional approach of looking at conservation within the boundaries of PAs is not as relevant today, and hence we decided to look at landscapes in their entirety so that development and conservation can be prioritized simultaneously.”

J.C. Kala, a former director general of forests who chaired the committee that drafted the NWAP.

Also, there is an emphasis on vulnerability mapping for fires, epidemics, drought and other environmental stresses that come with the changing climate. The NWAP states that there is a need to strengthen research on adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

“We need to develop robust data to understand region-specific scenarios and how that can affect landscapes and trigger human-wildlife conflicts.  The document is only a guideline that provides the broad principles. The details have to be worked out by those working in each of the sectors".  

Raman Sukumar, elephant expert and professor at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, who was a member of the drafting committee. 

The Plan which is 113 pages in all, can be read/downloaded at 


Some of the notable observations are

1. Wildlife in the urban landscapes and otherhuman habitations as well as the marine and coastal biodiversity need more conservation attention.

2. Identify important wildlife habitats, corridors and sacred groves situated outside the administrative control of the SFDs in collaboration with suitable NGOs and Scientific Institutes and get them notified as Community Reserves.

3. Corridors for large mammals need to be secured. Elephant and tigercorridors across the country have been identified in several reports of the MOEFCC. On ground demarcation of those corridors, and restricted land use change need to be in place for those areas.  

Photo of Elephants crossing courtesy wti.org.in




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