Adventure

FISHING

-John-Eickert

Here, in the mountains of North America, in the springtime, many look forward to a ritual known as fishing. This is not netting, trawling, or herding, but the careful practice of using one hook to catch one fish. I have enjoyed this pastime since childhood. I remember my fishing apprenticeship under my father and uncle. In the evening, I was schooled in the ways of fish and fisherman. The next morning, I was taken to the river. Despite my youthful inattention, I managed to catch a fish. My mother was less than overjoyed at the preparation of my first catch for the table. My first fish was quite small. Nonetheless, I ate my catch. Thus, I was initiated into pastime of fishing. Though there are difficult memories, there are fond memories.

There are many methods of single hook fishing. Some are called art. One of these is known as fly-fishing. The concept within fly-fishing is to use an artificial fly and mimic the flies landing on or in the water. With luck and sometimes skill, a fish may rise to this imitation. With extraordinary luck and less skill, the fish may take the fly in its mouth. It is then upon the fly fisherman to hook the fish. If hooked the fish is played with the fishing rod until the fish succumbs and the hook removed. It is exceptional for this to transpire. This leads to another attribute of the fly fisherman, the ability to lie about ones fishing prowess, but that is another story.

Those who live in India should not take pride in their immunity to this common ailment known as fly-fishing. Cruel and unthinking men have transplanted trout to Indian waters. The trout is the preferred fresh water prey of the North American fly fisherman. In India, not too far from Delhi, is the mountain village of Pahalgam. Pahalgam is about 100 kilometers from Srinagar at the confluence of the Aru and Sheshnag rivers. The rivers are lined with willow, poplar, and mulberry. The hills above the rivers contain forests of pine and fir. The hills also provide impressive views across the Vale of Kashmir.

This is also the center for India’s premier fly-fishing. A permit can be obtained in Srinagar. The best time for catching Pahalgam trout is when the colchicuons flower yellow in April. The second best season is fall, when the leaves fall from the trees. I encourage all who have a passion for simple adventure to try their luck at fly-fishing. The visible rewards can be few, but time spent along a clear mountain river, fly-fishing for trout, is time not counted in your life calendar. Perhaps I will see you one fine day on a river near Pahalgam. I will be the older man with the big smile. Fly-fishing is a good companion activity for bird watchers and photographers. There is only one way to find out if you will enjoy fly-fishing, go and try it. Be careful, you might get hooked.

( Photograph of fishing in Kashmir is from the website http://jammukashmir.nic.in/tourism/advtrkkg.htm )

Burning Issues

DAM GOOD !!!

-Shivani Thakur

The earliest civilizations be it Harrapan, Chinese, Egyptian all had one thing in common; all settled near rivers- the Indus, Hwang-ho, or the Nile. Rivers are a source of fresh water. From early on rivers have played a major role in advancement of any society. Since then a major concentration of population is found near rivers. The Indian sub continent is interspersed with so many rivers, yet there is always crisis of water all over the country. If in urban areas there is shortage of drinking water, in rural areas the problem is mainly for irrigation.

The recent Narmada feud has brought forth the question of construction of dams. The foremost vocalist of Narmada Bachao Andolan Ms. Medha Patkar was recently on hunger strike. She is advocating rehabilitation of all the people who will be displaced (a total of 35,000) if the height of dam is raised from 110.64 m to 121.90 m. This project is actually more than a century old. The first record of proposal of dam to be built was recorded in 1863.The first plan was formulated in 1947. In 1959,after a survey a proposal for dam, Sardar Sarover Project site was prepared. Pandit Nehru laid the foundation in 1961.The project work was started in 1987 after acquiring clearances from center with necessary environmental go ahead. But in 2000 the Supreme Court halted the construction of SSP to a height of 138 meters. In 2006 the go ahead was given to raise its height to 121.90 m.

The agitation by Medha Patkar is a question mark on the government agencies because a project which has been on paper for so long, has not only created an uncertain future for displaced people but also millions of farmers who could have benefited from its construction. Dams are lifelines for our country. Inspite of so many rivers crisscrossing our country yet many areas still do not get enough water for drinking or irrigation. The re- routing of water through a system of canals makes it possible for all the far-flung areas to receive water.

Dams are also a source of cheap power. Hydroelectric power is a better option than burning of fossil fuel, which are responsible for the greenhouse effect. The SSP project is set to irrigate 1.8 million hectares of land in Gujarat and 75,000 hectares in Rajasthan and generate 1450 MW of power and supply water to 23 million people in Gujarat. Madhya Pradesh along with these states will also benefit. A semi-arid region near Ahmedabad, Bhal is reaping benefits from this project. The water traveling about 280km has reached the area where wheat production has risen from 12 mounds per acre to 35. They have stopped pumping water from ground for their crops. The final implementation of this project will be by 2010.Already the project has been delayed by two years. A further delay would only hamper in development. It’s in the hands of the government to rehabilitate the people soon. The submergence of the areas is still three months away, till then there is plenty of time to move people and compensate them with land in other areas.

The government has the means to rehabilitate the people and thus making life easier for the ones displaced and the ones relying on the dam to become operational.

Common Birds of India

BLUE ROCK PIGEON- Columba livia

-Ragoo Rao

A very familiar sight around the tall minarets of Masjids and the spires of Churches, are the slate grey bird with glistening metallic green, magenta and purple sheen on their necks about the size of a crow. This is the common pigeon or the Blue Rock Pigeon as it is rightly called.

 

The pigeons have no fear of man and they dwell very much inside bustling townships as long as their nesting and foraging requirements are met with. In fact these are the cousins of the earliest known Courier service pigeons. Both sexes look alike with their grey body and two black bands on their wings and the tip of the tail. Their distribution is throughout the country and they inhabit both urban areas and the country side. The urban birds find niches and cornices of tall buildings for nesting while their country cousins prefer cliffs and rocky bluffs for nesting.

These pigeons accept any feeding troughs and water baths provided by bird lovers and start living in a semi-wild condition. The main food of these birds are grains, cereals and pulses with a great liking for peanuts.

Pigeons bond into mating pairs for a long time and during the nest building and mating periods, its a familiar sight to see the males wooing the females with their Ghoooo...ghooooo...repeated calls and quietly flapping their wings to their sides. The aggressive males can be seen around with their famous Gutrrrr...gooooo....gutrrrr....goooooo...calls with their crops fully blown up and rushing with their tails spread like fans, sweeping the floor. Nesting season is all round the year and not well defined, in the urban birds and the country side birds nest when there is abundance of field crops close to harvest.

The nest is a loosely built platform of sticks or paddy hay where available and two white elliptical eggs are laid. Both sexes share all domestic chores including incubation. Incubation is for about 19 to 21 days and the chicks are blind covered with light yellow downy feathers. The first few feeds for the hatchlings are of a gruel secretion from the parents known as the Pigeons milk. Later they are fed with grains regurgitated into their throats. The chicks are very voracious and they grow very fast. In about three weeks time they can be seen as big as their parents but still begging for food from them.

A lovely bird which still exists right in the midst of urban areas but unless we respect them and keep track of their well being it may not be long before they take the WAY OUT like the House Sparrow. Nothing can bring them back.

 

( Photgraphs-Kabootharkhana, Dadar West, Mumbai by Susan Sharma; Blue Rock Pigeon by Ragoo Rao)

Did You Know ?

Plucky parasite

-S.Ananthanarayanan

 Researchers at Montpelier, in France have discovered that some parasites just don't give up, says S.Ananthanarayanan.

When a parasite's own host is eaten by a predator, partly thanks to the parasite, one would think it is the end of the parasite too, and rightly. But the Gordian, or the horsehair worm, it seems, does not agree and finds a way to ‘worm’ out!

The Gordian Worm

The horsehair worm, so called because it resembles a horse’s hair, lives free in stagnant water, in garden soil and in the body cavity of pests like grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, cockroaches, centipedes, snails, slugs. But they do not harm humans, animals or plants. The horsehair finds others of its kind and they wind themselves, sometimes hundreds together, into a large knot, the legendary Gordian knot, and hence its other name.

The purpose of the horsehair ‘knots', in water or mud is mating and soon after, the female lays several million eggs in fresh water. In a few weeks the larvae, just a hundredth of an inch long, emerge and attach to vegetation near the water's edge. When the water level drops, the vegetation, larvae and all, are eaten by a grasshopper or cricket. The baby worms then bore through the unhappy insect's gut wall and into its body cavity. And from the rich body juices of the host, the worms, which have no alimentary system, absorb nutrients through their own body walls.

In a few months the worm could grow to full size, of 4 to 14 inches when stretched out, occupying much of the host's body. Sometimes a smaller host, like a mayfly, may be eaten by a predator, like a grasshopper. Now the worm bores out of the mayfly, and through the grasshopper's gut and resumes its growth in the body cavity of the new host.

Affects hosts' behaviour

There is evidence that a number of parasites influence the needs and motivation of their hosts in a way that suits the parasites' own chances of survival. For instance, some parasites alter the behaviour of their intermediated hosts in such a way that they fall prey to the predator that is the parasites' final host. Several fungal species, known as 'enslaver' parasites, make their insect hosts die perched in such a position that the fungus spores are best dispersed by the wind.

In the case the horsehair worm, the worms often grow to more than the full size of the hosts and then need to escape into fresh water, to collect into 'knots' and reproduce. Researchers at the Centre d'Etude sur le Polymorphisme des Micro-organismes in Montpelier, France report that infection by the horsehair makes crickets significantly more likely to enter ponds or streams than crickets not infected. Once in contact with water, the horsehair emerges from the host and swims free. The host-insect generally perishes.

If the insect is eaten

 Crickets, unless infected, usually do not venture on to the water surface, a vulnerable place to be, at best. The worm-infested cricket, which does take to the water, is thus often found as welcome prey, by frogs and fish, and eaten even while the worm is not out of its body. Is it the end of the worm too, in such a case?

Another group of scientists at the same institute in France have found that the plucky Gordian worm does not give up that easily. It bores its way clear out of the cricket and then out of the frog or fish's gut, and then goes on, to emerge from the frog's mouth or eyes, or the fish's gills! This is the first parasite that has been found to show this ability, say Fleur Ponton and colleagues, in a communication that appeared, with pictures, in last week's Nature.

[The author can be contacted at simplescience@gmail.com]

Eco-travel

A visit to Kutch Marine National Park ( Part II)

- Chaitanya Nimavat

 At night, a sky, full of stars, was just an open treasure for us. Because of no lights surrounding, the visibility was clearer and we saw three times more stars then we can see from city.

The morning was amazing! The Sun was rising from the glowing water. And we were ready to go for another treasure trek in knee deep water. We saw many things, creatures. worms and vegetation.

Colorful corals of various sizes and shapes namely, Fevia, Gonoria, Star coral, brain coral etc...We saw octopus, puffer fish, which puffs its body if u catch it and releases soon and swims away rapidly. It’s so poisonous that nobody eats it.

We also saw sea hare, tube worm, sea anemone, sand dollar, algae, chunks, mollusks. We were looking for a Bonelia worm which was not found. It’s a very typical kind of worm. It’s gender is not confined by it’s birth. but when it’s in larvae form, it floats in water, if it finds any female Bonelia, it sticks to it and becomes a male but if it doesn’t find a female, it becomes a female. In the whole world, two kind of Bonelia are found. The first one, Ikedella misakiensis, which is found at three places in the world, including Pirotan. The second one , Ikedosoma Pirotanesis, is found only at Pirotan in the whole world.

Then the water started to rise because it was tide time again. We had to walk back hurriedly because we were 3 kilo meter’s away from the shore. We reached the Light house. It is run by solar energy. Pirotan Island is a real treasure to see the marine life. And we must try diligently to save our kind of rich treasure to survive.

It was really an exciting and unforgettable experience of our life. We’ll remember it for lifetime.

( Photographs of sand dollar, puffer and sea hare by Chaitanya Nimavat)

Story Of The Month

Human Elephant Conflict - An environmental Tragedy –Part I

-Ankur Chaturvedi

The elephants are an integral part of Indian culture. They are generally referred to as Ganesh , the elephant Headed Hindu God. As per Hindu mythology, obeisance to Ganesh is obligatory before paying reverence to any other God. The elephants have been an influence on every aspect of life in India . Unfortunately however we have today created a situation where this courtly Giant has come into conflict with us.

Human Elephant Conflict or HEC is the biggest environmental challenge in the elephant habitat in India .

On a cold winter morning in early 1997 I had my first encounter with wild elephants outside a wildlife sanctuary. A small herd of about 20 elephants was crossing through the Tea Estate. It was indeed an awesome sight with the babies carefully herded in the middle by the adults, as the herd made its way through the tea gardens. The calm of the morning was shattered by a loud bang of a firecracker followed by clamour from the Labour lines nearby. The elephants panicked and changed direction and within minutes were herded once again as the approached another habitation. By the time I started feeling the bright morning sun; the herd had probably lost its bearings and had assembled in a shaded area within the Tea Garden. The Adults had formed a circle around the young calves. A big Tusker stood outside the protective cordon and charged at any human movement towards them. Even though I would have loved to stay put and observe these beautiful beasts, I had to return to cater to my professional responsibilities.

At noon I managed to squeeze in a visit to my friends and immediately regretted the sight. The handsome Tusker was visibly at his wit's end. The fatigue was evident. His charge was now more of a stagger. The rest of the heard was in no better state, their skin parched as they were bearing the brunt of the most uncivilised actions of the social animal. A crowd of over a few hundred onlookers had gathered at the sight. A constant volley of stones with an occasional firecracker was being hurled at the bewildered herd. My protest went unheeded. I was aghast as to how people can be so cruel to this Gentle Giant.

Not very long back on the 22 nd of May 2005 , a day after my daughter's first birthday, I was planning on an extended nap well into the morning when I was informed at 6 AM that an elephant had fallen into a pit. A hideous sight greeted me. An elephant not more that a few years old had slipped into an open well. Only his trunk and forelimbs were above the ground. He was stuck in the mouth of the well around its waist. What made this gruesome sight ghastly was that people were hammering away at this incapacitated beast with rods and sticks. Some were even trying to jab his eyes with bamboo sticks. Thanks to the help of the committed team of volunteers from Dam Dim Tea Estate, we not only managed to ward the ominous crowd but also managed to safely rescue the trapped elephant.

The incidents narrated above are not uncommon in the Tea Growing areas of North Bengal . I have been a witness to widespread devastation caused by the elephants. It is impossible to explain the virtues of conservation to a poor family who has just lost its entire crop of Paddy to a maundering herd of wild elephants. I definitely do not condone the acts of cruelty against the elephants but after spending a decade studying the problem cannot affix the blame on the poor population of the area.

Human Elephant Conflict or HEC is the biggest environmental tragedy of both the Elephant and Human Population of this area. The Forests in Dooars comprising Buxa Tiger Reserve, Teesta and Torsa river areas, Baikumthapur, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri and Coochbehar forest divisions have an estimated Elephant Population of about 500. The vegetative degeneration in addition to innumerable human habitations inside the forests has rendered the existing habitats redundant. The elephants are forced move out of the forests in search of food. Paddy and Maize, the major crops of the area are ideal fodder for the hungry herds. The locals use spears, arrows, firecrackers and even firearms to drive away the elephants. Invariably the Elephant gets injured and unable to bear the pain goes berserk, causing even more damage.

( To be continued)




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