Asiatic Lion

Lions not fully safe in Gir

Posted by Indranil Datta on March 03, 2011

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Ten thousand years ago,their habitat ranged from the Mediterannean to the wilds of India.They now cling precariously to theirmodern habitat,an impossibly small domain Gir National Park.A rough census at the time of independence shows about 250 lions,the 2010 census quotes 411.This may sound like good news but this large number is ironically the main cause for concern.It may be odd to think of the Asiatic lion as endangered,but the truth is that Gir is way overpopulated and needs quite a few of its lions relocated urgently.Ignorance and false pride from the state goverment's part can have disastrous consequences as the sanctuary is proving to small for the big cats.With the shortage of territory to command,lions are fast moving out of the sanctuary.Some of them have even taken to the beach!.To survive the lions have to put up with factors such as acute inbreeding given that the 400 plus population has been said to have been derived from around a dozen individuals.
 

A broader look to know what inbreeding actually means-

Inbreeding is the reproduction from the mating of two genetically related parents,which can increase the chances of the offspring being affected by rrecessice traits.This generally leads to a decreased fitness of the population,which is called inbreeding depression
 
Results of inbreeding-
1.Increase in genetic disorders
2.lower birth rate
3.slower growth rate
4.Reduced fertility
5.Higher infant mortality rate
6.Loss of immune system
7.Small adult size

O'Brien,a renowned genecsist suggested that "If you do a DNA fingerprint,Asiatic lions look like identical twins because they descended from as few as a dozen individuals that was all left at the turn of the century".This makes them specially vulnerable to diseases.As it is perpetuating the species is a difficult task as the big cats have to copulate no less than 500 times to produce a litter.The most serious threat is the fear of the outbreak of a disease that could wipe out the entire population,bringing into account the fact that this has already happened once before.In 1994 canine distemper killed more than a third of Africa's serengeti lions.Lets pray our lions dont meet the same fate.


Hopes of a secure future in the Reintroduction Project Plan-

The Asiatic lion Rentroduction project plan aims to establish a second independent population of Asiatic lions at the Kuno Wildlfie santuary in the state of Madhya Pradesh,in an effort to save the lions of Gir which are living under the threat of natural disasters and epidemics.Wildlife Institute of India researchers confirmed that Palpur-Kuno WLS is the most promising location to re-establish a free ranging population and certified it ready to receive its first batch of translocated lions.Kuno WLS was selected as the reintroduction site because it is in the former range of the lions before they were hunted to near extinction.Twenty four villages which lived inside the remote core area set aside for the reintroduction of lions have been moved out with adequate compensation and promise of better facilities and provisions given to each family.However,it was still a controversial case of species preservation  via dislocation of human population.

The most shocking thing so far is that,the Chief minister of Gujrat,Narendra Modi has strictly opposed relocation plans arguing that lions were the main tourist attraction of the state saying that the lions are 'Gujrat's pride'.Perhaps he does not want Gujrat to lose its Status as the only state home to Asiatic lions.It is unclear whether there is any political agenda behind it,but so far the goverment's constant refusal has only underlined its ignorance.Modi continues to put ona resistance despite our Uninion environment and forest minister,Jairam Ramesh pressuring Gujrat to part with some of its lions with Madhya Pradesh,he has also expressed concern over the fear of inbreeding and a potential epedemic.So lets just keep our fingers crossed and hope that whatever being done is done with the lions best interests in mind.

The other less damaging but nevertheless serious threats to the lions-

1.Poisoning by farmers as an act of revenge for killing livestock
2.Natural or man made calamities such as floods,forest fires and epedemics(Drought does not count as a threat as the construction of 4 new dams and 300 water points makes sure problems related to water insuffiency for the animals do not arise.
3.Wells dug by the farmers for irrigations act as trap,leading to lions drowning
4.Farmers on the periphery of the Gir forest use crude and electrical fences which are powered from high volatage electricity deom the overhead power lines.This is primarily done to protect their crop from nilgais but are also responsibly for many lion deaths.
5.Habitat decline due to overgrazing.

Environmental Education

Biomagnification

Posted by Tulip Das on March 03, 2011

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Pollutants (or materials) in the environment are broadly of two types- a. biodegradable ones and b. Non- biodegradable ones. Biodegradables are subjected to microbial decomposition and thus with no or minimum persistence time in environment, and accordingly follow the regular cyclic material flow. While non-biodegradables are not decomposed by microbes. They have thus long persistent in environment, and are introduced in the biotic organisms along with nutrients food-stuff. They are neither metabolized nor excreted, but retained in unaltered state in higher concentration in organisms of higher trophic levels in the food-chain of an ecosystem. Thus they lead to irreversible disease and death of the organisms and misbalancing the ecosystem.

 

The process where the stable and persistent non-biodegradable pollutants (matters/ chemicals) are accumulated in tissues of biological organisms in a concentration that is much higher than its environmental concentration, which usually causes irreversible disease and death of organisms, ultimately lead to ecological imbalance is known as biomagnification.

 

Causes- Usually stable and non-biodegradable pollutants are lipophilic in nature, means they have the attraction towards lipid. For this lipophilic character, they are partitioned from surrounding water into the lipid or adipose tissues of organisms. Examples are DDT, PCBs (Poly Chlorinated Biphenyls), salts of heavy metals (mercury, lead, cadmium etc.) and so on.

Tulip Das.

National Parks

Bandhavgarh National park

Posted by Ashwin Gijare on March 01, 2011

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Had a great time in Bandhavgarh. After visting other parks like Corbett, Kanha and Ranthambore, where the tiger sightings were not great, Bandhavgarh carried lots for expectations for me. Had read, watched and heard about this jungle being the best place to spot a tiger properly and clearly it never disappointed me.

Right from the moment we entered our resort ( located right next to the boundary ), we were hopeful. Immediately met a guest in the resort who had just returned from morning safari and spotted and followed the tiger for 10 mins.

Our resort was nestled in 21 acres of raw forest with rooms being built on the trees. Truly marvellous experience of staying in the traquility and privacy. The resort had only 5 tree houses in the entire property and no room where visible from any of the tree houses. staff was also polite and gave us good service.

Our first safari ( evening ) wasnt great as we failed to spot any of the tigers. We didnt even come close to it. However, we were hopeful.

At night we were woken up by a loud sound of a tiger roaring very nearby. It was precedded and followed by multiple alarm calls from Sambar and Langurs.  For the first time we actually heard proper alarm calls at night. We had heard isolated alarm calls of Sambar at Kanha before. But this was different. The next morning,the resort staff informed us that it was a tigress and sound was coming right behind the boundary of our tree!!!!

Morning safari was good. Typically like in Bandhavgarh, there was a tiger show. The forest dept has elephants with mahuts who track the tigers in the jungle. Once the tigers lay on the ground, people are taken on the same elephants to see the tiger. We reached the centre point ( forest office ) inside the park and were informed about tiger show being happening on route D. We immediately rushed to the spot where the forest officer was organizing the same. Our sighting was good. Three tigers ( a mother and her grownup cubs ) were lying near a hill. Our elephant took us right next to the tiger and we took some wonderful closeup photos.

The tigers were just unconcerned by our presence and were lying at leisure. Once back at the resort we took a tour of the resort in the afternoon. Believe me, the resort had a private natural watering hole where animals could be spotted. Our guide,the resort watchman had his own version of exciting stories about the tiger. Me, my wife and even our 2 yr old kid walked the entire 3 KM stretch in dense forest. I have to say this was the best jungle resort I have stayed in.

Again during the morning safari next day, we spotted two tigers immediately as we entered the park. All the safari vehicles who had entered the park that morning got proper sighting of that male and female. However, distance was bit long. After 15 mins, the female walked away followed by the male. But everyone was satisfied.

All in all, trip to Bandhavgarh was good. I will recomment this jungle only for tiger sightings. Other animals are not in abundance and hence its all about tigers. We saw 5 tigers in two days whereas in other three jungles put together we just spotted 2 tigers only. The jungle is not beautiful like Corbett, nor is full of different species like Kanha. However, you can be rest assured about one thing. A good tiger sighting. This is a comment coming from me who has visited 3 jungles before this and had done 10 safaris and never had a good view of a tiger. Bandhavgarh was my last option and it didnt disappoint me at all!!!!!

Environment Awareness

Biological oxygen Demand(B.O.D.)

Posted by Tulip Das on February 22, 2011

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Bacteria and other micro organisms are responsible for decomposing organic waste. When organic matterials like dead plants, leaves, manure, sewage or food waste are present in water supply, bacteria started to break them. By that time, much of the available Dissolved Oxygen (D.O.) is consumed by bacteria from other aquatic organisms of the oxygen they need to live.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

Biological Oxygen Demand (B.O.D.) is one of the most common measures of the oxygen used by micro organisms to decompose the waste. If  there  is a large amount of organic waste is present in the water supply, there will also be a lot of bacteria present which decompose the waste. In this case, the demand for oxygen will be high. As a result, Biological Oxygen Demand (B.O.D.) level will be high.

 

A high B.O.D. value indicates pollution, i.e; water containing higher level of organic wastes that consumed the Dissolved oxygen (D.O.)  and is thus unsafe for human consumption.

Tulip Das

Wildlife

ENDEMIC BUTTERFLIES OF SRI LANKA

Posted by randima mahagamage on February 21, 2011

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There are 243 species of butterflies in Sri lanka.21  Species are endemic. 

                    Common Name                                       Scientific Name
                
  1.                Ceylon Birdwing                                Troides darsius
  2.                 Ceylon Forester                               Lethe dynaste
  3.                 Ceylon Palmfly                                 Elymnias singala
  4.                 Ceylon Tiger                                    Parantica taprobana
  5.                 Tree Nymph                                    Idea iosonia
  6.                 Ceylon Rose                                    Pachliopta jophon
  7.                 Blue Oakleaf                                    Kallima philarchus
  8.                 Ceylon Treebrown                            Lethe daretis
  9.                 Gladeye Bushbrown                          Nissanga patnia patnia
  10.                 Jewel Four-ring                               Ypthima singala
  11.                 Ormiston's Oakblue                           Arhopala ormistoni
  12.                 Clouded silverline                            Spindasis nubilus
  13.                 Ceylon Indigo Royal                         Tajuria arida
  14.                 Woodhouse's 4-line blue                   Nacaduba ollyetti
  15.                 Pale Ceylon 6-line blue                     Nacaduba sinhala
  16.                 Ceylon Cerulean                             Jamides soruscans
  17.                 Ceylon Hedge Blue                          Udara lanka
  18.                 Decorated Ace                               Halpe dacorata
  19.                 Rare Ace                                       Halpe(? homolea)egena....2 more....

               (See these Images : Gehan de Silva Wijerathne on facebook)    By:M.K.Randima.

General

Enzymes

Posted by Tulip Das on February 18, 2011

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Living system controls its activity through enzymes. Enzymes are biological catalysts. They increase or decrease the rate of chemical reaction in the cell, but enzymes remain unchanged after the reaction. Most cellular reaction occurs about a million time faster with the help of the enzymes rather than in the absence of it. Enzymes work on which chemical substances are known as substrate. Enzyme works on substrate to form an enzyme-substrate complex. After reaction, this complex split and produce the Product and enzyme get released. In the end of the reaction, enzyme remains unchanged and paired with another substrate. A small amunt of enzyme can work on a huge amount of substrate.

 

The term, enzyme was first used by Kuhne(1878). Buchner (1897) first collected enzymes from Yeast cell.

 

The general properties of enzymes are

1.      All enzymes are globular protein and catalyst.

2.      Their presence do not affect on characteristic and type of the Product.

3.      Enzyme reactions are bi-directional.

4.      Enzymes are selective for their substrate.

5.      Enzyme’s activity can be influenced by other molecules. Inhibitors are the molecule that decreases enzyme’s activity. Activators are molecule that increases the activity.

6.      Enzyme works in definite pH, temperature and concentration.

7.      The protein parts of the enzymes are apoenzyme, and non-protein part is known as co-factors.

 

International Union of Biochemistry (IUB) and Enzyme Commissiob (EC) classify and name the various enzymes. Generally, -ase is added with the name of the substrate to form the name of an enzyme, eg; the enzymes function on arginine and urea are respectively known as arginase and urease.

Tulip Das

Little Known Destinations

Dalhousie - My First Love!

Posted by Ms Pintueli Gajjar on February 17, 2011

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Dalhousie - my first love



Dalhousie was … Love at first sight! I had never before visited this part of the Himalayas and, I fell hook, line and sinker for it! I thought it was the perfect place to gather all the pieces of my life together…It would be a good place for me to get my spiritual and emotional self back…It was a fabulous place for my children to spend their childhood in…And for all that I know, it was. I have spent 4 of the best years of my life here – teaching at the Hill Top School in Upper Bakhrota.


Dalhousie, established in 1854, is spread out on five beautiful hills and is surrounded by dense forests, deep valleys and from some point down, on a clear day, one can see the mighty river Ravi flowing down to Pakistan. It lies comfortably between 6000 to 9000 ft above sea level. There are only 3 main roads here – Garam Sadak, Thandi Sadak and, the Court road. The first two go around the first hill and the second one goes down the other smaller hill, where the Sacred Heart convent sits at the top. A fourth road goes around the convent back to Subhash chowk. It is designed as the loop of 8.


The Court road goes all the way down to the pump house and towards my friend’s house. There’s a little garden across her house where one can sit and watch the sun set and the Ravi river snaking down the valley. It’s a beautiful place where one can even forget one’s existence.


The Garam sadak starts from Subhash chowk to Gandhi chowk and is a wide, sunny motorable road. The right side is lined with shops while the left side has the hotels overlooking the valley down to Bathri and Jhandri Ghati. Gandhi chowk is the hub of the town where the GPO and most of the shops and eateries lie. It is always crowded with the locals, tourists and the taxi drivers. And occasionally, hordes of langurs! (Both the varieties – with and without tails!) A few meters away is the famous yoga institute, the Dakshina Murti.


On the other hand, the Thandi sadak is a pleasant walk around the hill. It is much quieter and cooler as it is shaded by the numerous trees lining the sides. A few hotels have sprung up recently but otherwise, it is nice to walk and one can see the old part of the town below. From Subhash chowk, one can either take the Court road or take the steps down to the Sadar bazaar in the old part of the town. The steps are lined on both sides by antiquated stone buildings and shops. People have been living here since before independence and it has a unique ambience and architecture. The 150 year old Laxmi Narayan Temple stands testimony to generations of people living here. At the other end, the road takes you back up to the Court road. Court road has some beautiful hotels amongst which is, the oldest one, Hotel Aroma-n-Claire. Unfortunately, in a recent accident, it was burnt down, and I lost my good friend, Rohit, in it. There’s also the oldest store here – B.C. Khanna. The town police station and the court are situated here too. It’s much quieter than the Garam sadak. Up on the hill is the Sacred Heart convent school which is as old as the town itself. From behind the convent is another less-used road that meets Subhash chowk. From here, one can see the Canadian settlement and some of the most awesome sunsets!


Coming back to Gandhi Chowk, take the road going down to Ram Mandir and from there, go on to the famous Panchpula. Panchpula is about 3 kms from GPO and this is where several streams meet to form a huge pool. The main source springs from the north face of Dainkund running down to Panchpula. There is a monument and a Samadhi here built in the memory of Sardar Ajit Singh, one of the great freedom fighters and uncle of Bhagat Singh. There is a bustling roadside café that serves snacks and tea. Due to a rise in tourism, this place has lost its original charm but nevertheless, it’s worth a visit. On the way back, one can quench their thirst at the Satdhar Springs, which are believed to contain medicinal properties. The water is sweet and refreshing.


There are 2 churches here…St. John's and St. Francis. St. Francis church stands prominently in Subhash Chowk and has beautiful glass and stone work inside. St. John's church is in Gandhi chowk and belongs to the Protestants. At both the churches, services are held on Sundays.


This, more or less, completes the little hill station called Dalhousie.


From Gandhi chowk, there’s a road that goes down to Karelu Khad where the Jandri Ghati palace is situated. Remember the song from the film 1942-Love Story “Kuch Na Kaho…” Well, it’s been shot at the palace! It passes through Subhash Bowli, from where it is said, Subhas Chandra Bose, while hiding from the British, meditated and held party meetings in secret and kept himself healthy by drinking fresh mineral waters of the natural spring. The spring still exists and the water tastes just as sweet. Just after the monsoons, Karelu Khad has the most beautiful waterfall and lies in the middle of nowhere, since it is not well known. There’s a motorable road all the way to the palace. The palace is out of bounds to the public but the library there is worth a visit and is open on certain days.


Another road from Gandhi chowk goes up all the way to Chamba. The road passes through some of the most interesting places to see around Dalhousie. It passes through dense deodar forests and winding roads and little gurgling brooks and streams. As soon as you take the road, you’ll first pass the famous Dalhousie Public School and get a panoramic view of its grounds and hostels. As soon as you reach the top of the incline, you’ve reached Dhupghadi, or, Upper Bakhrota. There is a beautiful walk around the hill from here that meets up at Ala. From here the road is pretty straight all the way to Ala. Just before you reach Ala, you’ll pass by another famous school, The Hill Top School. Incidentally, the school lies bang in the middle of the Khajjiar-Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary and if one is quiet or quite lucky, you can spot a Himalayan bear or a leopard, as I’ve had an opportunity to see quite a few times! It’s a beautiful road and is home to some of the most exotic birdlife of the Himalayan ranges.


In the mornings, you wake up to the melodious whistle of the whistling thrush. And just before the sun comes up, you can spot the long-tailed blue magpie, flitting from branch to branch, the babblers, barbets, hoopoes, wood peckers, nuthatches, sun birds, bush chats, tree pies, the solitary fly catcher, the paradise flycatchers and hordes of other birds, not forgetting the cacophonic parakeets. Just before the rains, one can hear the continuous humming of the cicadas. Somewhere in the distance, you’ll hear the unforgettable sound of the Great Indian barbet too. You might spy a mongoose, or a hare, or, if you are really lucky, the Himalayan pit viper, slinking away under a rock. And overhead, you’ll see the magnificent Lammergeiers, romancing the skies. There’s much to see for both the amateurs as well as the professional birders. Don’t forget to take your field glasses and your bird guides. Ala is a tiny place with just a few homes and shops. From here, the road winds up to Lakarmandi. From behind the shops is a small 'Pag-Dandi' or a path leading up to Diankund Airbase. The quietness of the trek is overwhelming and a solace to ones spirit.


Lakarmandi, as the name suggests, is a small settlement of coal making Dhogri community. It lies at an altitude of 8600 ft above sea level. The people living here burn trees and make coals which they sell down in the plains. If you haven’t had your breakfast, this is the place to relish some really filling omelettes and aloo paranthas doubled up with the local chamba chukh, actually, pickled chillies. A halt here is a must if you want to see some of the most pristine woods around. Take a walk down the rustic road to Kalatop, perched at 8000 ft, a place with fantastic views of the valley around. And all the better if you can book in advance at the Government Guest house (Booking can be done at the GFO, Wildlife, Chamba) and spend a night with candle-lit or, if the electricity is not there, a starry-studded dinner!. Spending a night here is thrilling as in the wee hours of the morning you can hear the barking deer and maybe, a grunt of a prowling bear. You may also spot the elusive jungle cat, as we did so often. In the far distance, one can see the town of Chamba, if it isn’t too foggy. The smell of the deodars and the sight of the lovely daisies in summer is worth the time spent here.


The Charcoal People


Walking along the snow-swept roads

Bent over with their heavy loads

Black charcoal filled gunnysacks

They walk with strong n’ sturdy backs!


Up and down the slope they go

With not a soul to goad them, though

Smiling and humming on their way

With not a minute to waste away!


From Lakadmandi to GPO

Back again and to n’ fro

Life is hard and a little rough

To survive, that is enough!


Neither a whimper nor a sigh

Escapes their lips and besides,

To complain or make an excuse

Does it help? Is it of any use?


To work and go calmly on

Whether it snows or shines on

They have no time to ponder…

…What strength they have, I wonder!


From Lakkarmandi, there’s another motorable road to the Airforce Base at Diankund. The road ends at the base and from here, one can trek up to the Pahalani Devi’s Temple. Interestingly, there is no idol of the devi here but some trishuls by which, it is said, the devi killed the witches. There are two beautiful lakes, one of which is situated inside the base and beyond limits for civilians. The other one lies in the valley beyond the temple. There are two 60 ft radars there and photography is strictly prohibited. Going along the same ridge past the temple, lies the ‘Jot’ pass and you get to view some really breath-taking valleys and fields along the way, not forgetting to mention the company of hundreds of butterflies on the expanses of wild white daisies and yellow buttercups! Diankund is also known as the Whispering Hill because one can hear the wind whistling through the forests and glades in a multitude of different sounds. The winds are pretty strong up here and it’s a heavenly feeling that cannot be described but has to be felt.


Back on the road to the next ‘Switzerland’ of India – Khajjiar!


Khajjiar is more than my words can describe it. The very sight of it sends ones pulse racing and when you reach there, you’ll be gasping for breath. There is a beautiful stone and wood temple that dates back to the 10th century dedicated to Khajji Naga – the Serpent-God, and has intricate carvings on its pillars and the ceiling. The two smaller temples adjoining the main temple are of Shiva and Goddess Hidimba. ‘Halal’ or, sacrificing a goat, is still carried on at the temple during some festivals. Khajjiar is shaped like a huge saucer. In the middle is a little floating island and from its position, one can judge which side the wind is blowing. Around it is acres and acres of green turf, enough to make any golfer regret carrying his tees! Early mornings are the best time to be here, before the merry-makers arrive with all their noise and din. The fresh smell of the deodar trees and mist in the air rejuvenate your spirits and you come away thinking how beautiful our world really is.


Spend a night at any one of the numerous hotels here and see the millions of stars shining down on you – make some wishes on the many falling stars that you see or catch a moonbeam in the stillness of the night. It’s an unforgettable experience.


Move on to Chamba – the land of a hundred temples!

National Parks

Solo Trek - Valley of Flowers - Uttarakhand

Posted by Ms Pintueli Gajjar on February 17, 2011

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Its late in the night as I sit in the comfortable confines of a railway compartment at the old Delhi railway station. Its a new experience traveling alone as I wait for the Mussoorie Express to chug into the inky darkness which I hope will take me to a new dawn in my life. I feel more in control of myself and while trying to absorb the atmosphere, I get an occasional strange glance… a single Indian lady with a backpack! I feel good. The train’s started on the dot at 10:15 pm, and I’m on my way. I quickly settle down for a nap and before I know it, am dreaming of flower-filled valleys and endless meadows with laughing brooks and singing rivers. Only when the train comes to a shuddering halt at Haridwar, I’m jolted back to reality! The train, for reasons beyond my understanding, halts here for 3 hours before taking off for Rhishikesh, I decide to get off here and proceed to Rhishikesh by road.


Its 6.15 as I take an auto rickshaw called ‘Vikram’ from here to Rhishikesh which costs me a mere Rs 15 on a sharing basis. They charge per passenger and can crowd in about 10 passengers at a time. It’s been drizzling for an hour now and I expect more rains as I proceed up. The clouds look ominously dark and are hanging low, a sure sign of showers along the way.


The Ganges in Haridwar is magnificent. Unfortunately, my camera is deep down in the rucksack and I’m already regretting not having removed it earlier. I can see a few sadhus having an early dip in the morning chill. 


The road passes up through dense Chilla forest of bamboo, teak and cherry and, Rhishikesh comes quickly. I head straight for Chotiwala’s across the Ram-jhula. This is a famous tea/lunch stall and is so named, because a Chotiwala sits there, all pink and roly-poly, grinning at all and sundry. He looks weird with his ‘choti’ standing straight up in the air!


I have a quick breakfast and leave my rucksack at Chotiwala’s (he’s trustworthy and moreover having such a distinct hairdo he would be easy to spot anywhere) and join a group of people on a small trek to Neelkantha. The cobbled path is slippery as it’s been raining and I enjoy the way up with a group of college kids from Lucknow.. Somewhere deep from the jungle comes the trumpeting of wild elephants and we all hurry along…the pachyderms here are notorious for attacking and a series of stories start on the way up. It’s interesting to hear some of them while most of them are hearsay. We reach at 1:00 pm. I take a dip in the cool stream flowing by the temple and am feeling refreshed. The clouds are now closing in and a damp atmosphere engulfs us. We hurriedly start the trek down and this time, we are almost running as the clouds threaten to break any moment. I quickly gather my sack from the Chotiwala’s and head back to town. As I check into Hotel Uttaranchal, the heavens let loose…. I’m glad to be in my room. After a hot bath, I catch a few winks.


What a surprise when I wakeup at 5:00 pm... The sun’s shining as though it’s never rained! One of nature’s tricks!! I stroll down to the GMVN Office and meet a really nice gentleman, Mr. Allan Sharma, who not only guides me but also lends me the beautiful map of Uttaranchal that is hanging behind his desk. I feel lucky to have met him. He gives me the details of all the probable places I could have a comfortable and affordable stay while on the move. I profusely thank him and go and sit on the banks of the mighty river.


Watching the river flow, I’m lost in thoughts ~ on the creation of the earth, the bounty of nature and thank God that I’m born in such a traditionally rich, seeped in culture and breathtakingly beautiful country. What freedom! I sit pondering until the twinkling golden and silver lights start sparkling through homes across the expanse, reflecting a million reflections in the rushing waters. I choose this moment to call my daughters and my dad and share these happy moments with them. Reluctantly, I walk back to the hotel. On the way, at the market, there’s this sweetmeat shop, Saket, which has a tiny but clean restaurant at the back and serves excellent cutlets and fantastic coffee. My dinner done, I pick up a few apples and nuts for the journey tomorrow and head back to the hotel and in minutes, I’m back in the land of flowers and mountain fragrances…as I dream on.


Up and away at 2:30 am…to the bus-stand to catch the 3:15 bus for Joshimath. As I settle down, I’m half-sleepy and groggy. As the bus starts, I realize with horror that I’m the only passenger and the driver is driving like crazy….he has a terrible smoker’s cough and is continuously smoking bidis and coughing. At times I feel he might just double up any moment….and his driving is driving me nuts. I have all my fingers and toes crossed and am chanting the gayatri mantra to save my own soul! I decide to close my eyes and try to sleep, but to no avail! On the contrary, I’m holding on to all available support with my extremities …and ability!


The journey is awfully beautiful and somewhere along the way, I have managed to lose the Ganges and have no idea when the Alaknanda has joined me … keeping me company… flowing…clouds hanging really low…the mountains towering above and the yellow-vented bulbuls flying around. I can hear the whistling thrush, the low whistle of a bushchat and chirping of the other birds. We manage to arrive safely at Srinagar and as the bus halts, many Sikh pilgrims, on their way to Hemkund Sahib are now boarding the bus. I’m relieved at the company. As the bus starts once again on its journey, I try to take some pictures of the narrow bridges across the river but find it difficult to hold steady … thanks to our ‘Desi-Grand-Prix-Driver’. In fact, most of the passengers are holding on to the seats, windows, bars, each other, whatever … all for their dear lives! I know it sounds hilarious but it is sheer hell! We finally make it to Rudraprayag at 8:15 am. The driver is having another bidi and I wonder what’s going to happen next… my gayatri mantras begin…Was my dream of a new freedom going to go up in a puff of bidi smoke?


    Alaknanda

                                    

We leave Rudraprayag at 9 am. The journey is slower due to the other traffic on the road – some blessing in disguise. Also, since the bus is now crowded with the pilgrims, the driver has less opportunity of trying out his driving histrionics. I doze off until we reach Chamoli. There’s a landslide up ahead and all traffic has come to a standstill. I get off the bus and stretch my legs. The mountains are beckoning and I can’t wait to get to the valley. Just one more night…I arrive at Joshimath at 5:40 pm and have a splitting headache. I check into the GMVN tourist bungalow, which luckily, is bang on the main road. I put my rucksack into the room and order some food, pop a dispirin and doze off. I am awakened by a cacophony outside the hotel. I freshen up and decide to have a look at the town.


    Landslide at Pipalkoti


Joshimath is a small town, but a prominent one as Gobindghat (the staging point for Hemkund Sahib & the valley of flowers) up ahead does not have all facilities. As I stroll down the main market road, there’s no electricity tonight but the whole place is aglow with the soft lights of the candle-lit evening and millions and trillions of stars studded in the sky above. I suddenly realize how dependent we are on technology and how we have, in the name of progress, lost the many beautiful sights that nature has to offer. There’s a chill in the air and I feel snug in my overcoat and muffler. I walk into a small dhaba on the roadside and order some hot food. The strange glances towards me continue…but am so hungry that I just ignore them and enjoy the food. 


I have a good sleep and am up before dawn. I take the 6:40 am bus to Badrinath. The bus is a hotchpotch mix of passengers. The back is filled with the locals while there are a few Bengali tourists in the middle. There’s an antique-looking villager and he’s got a running commentary on… of his visits to Haridwar & is adding his own notions and ideas on religion. He keeps looking at all of us hoping someone would lend him ears, little knowing that we have no choice but to listen to his ramblings….a child is crying somewhere in the back and the bus is packed. The bus conductor has a whacky sense of humor: Bumbai ka fashion…Uttaranchal ka rotation aur Gadhwaal ka mausam – koi garantee nahi! I agree with him. The mountains are lush green and sheer drops of waterfalls dot the scenery. The clouds are still up there and I can see a build-up. Well, the whole valley is shrouded in fog. It’s going to be another wet day!


We reach Gobindghat at 7:15 and I get off the bus and feel my pulse quicken. I look up at the mighty mountains and breathe in the dew-laden air. It smells good. I take my time to gauge the exact time I might take to reach Ghangharia and, realise that I have no idea! I walk through Gobindghat, taking in the ambiance created by the hundreds of pilgrims… some sturdy enough to climb in a short span of time while some are so old that I wonder how’ll they make it??? While I contemplate taking a porter, one suddenly appears out of nowhere, GhanBahadur Singh. He has a kind face and I agree to hire him to carry my backpack. We agree on Rs 200. It has started raining now and I am huddled inside my raincoat.


As we cross the bridge and head towards Pulna, I’m slowing down. It takes some time getting used to walking in the mountains. The fresh air is too good for these hungry lungs of pollution-laden Mumbai and the going becomes tougher. I stop at Pulna and watch the farmers in their fields. Alongside is a tributary, Pushpawati, in a mad rush to meet Alaknanda. The clouds are closing in now and visibility drops. To add to woes a cobbled path, mixed with rain slush and horse-shit, makes it all the more difficult to walk and one has to be careful of putting one’s feet in the right place. A slip here would not only be painful but will cause much misery if not be fatal at this point in time. I make two more stops to enjoy the flavors of the villages and keep a steady pace going. We finally reach Ghangharia at 2:30 in the afternoon.


    Pulna Village


Ghangharia lies bang in the middle of a dense forest shaped in a gorgeous V shaped valley. The tall pine trees shoot skywards like rockets as if to lay a personal claim to the bright rejuvenating sunlight, while the clouds come rushing down, blanketing everything in sight. It has an ethereal feel and I suddenly get a feeling of Déjà vu. I can’t believe I’ve reached here – on my own. The tiny hamlet is bustling with pilgrims and I spot a few Japanese tourists. Just before the hamlet lies an open meadow converted into a beautiful helipad. Today, there are some children playing hopscotch and I am tempted to go join them but I know, I can’t trust my legs now. The last bit was a trifle hard. In fact, I felt like a Jack-in-the-box and my legs are so rubbery that I practically have no control over them.


    Ghangharia


    Ghangharia


I check in at the GMVN guest house and take a dorm-room – all to myself, as there are hardly any tourists. It’s a four-bed room with a bath attached. So far, so good. I dump my backpack and go out to explore. I walk into a hotel opposite and order some food and afterwards, a hot ‘chai’ and watch the people around. There are all kinds… I meet a local couple from Bhyundar village and have a good chat – about their life … and, they look so happy together. Somewhere deep inside, I envy them their blissfully simple lives and think of the madness of my own life in a metropolitan city. It is then that I realize what a loser I am! I go out and explore the small lane selling all the various paraphernalia of temple offerings and flower garlands, sweetmeats and guide books. Spotting a photography shop, I walk in and am greeted by a pony-tailed youth, all smiles and at service. I look at the marvelous photographs of the flowers of the valley. Rajnish Chauhan is an amazing person and a walking encyclopedia of Botany. A resident of the Bhyundar village, he’s been studying the flora and fauna of the valley and the upper regions of the Himalayas since the past 6 years. He’s passionate about his valley and as he talks, a glow spreads across his face as he lovingly dishes out the almost-alien names of the flowers. His shop is full of the most exotic flowers I’ve ever seen – all frozen on postcard-sized glossy photographs.


    GMVN - Ghangharia


It’s now 4:00pm but feels as though it’s 7:00 in the evening. Rajnish has invited me to come view his slide show at the library. As I come out of the library after the amazing show, I can feel my toes and fingers going numb with the cold creeping in. I walk back into the restaurant and dive into some hot tomato soup with paranthas and rush back into my room. I order for some hot water for the water bottle I carry. As I wait for the water to arrive, I pack for tomorrow’s trip to the valley. Everything in order, I jump under the blankets with my water bottle and try to sleep. Outside it is 12˚C and it is raining. The chill is too much and I find sleeping difficult. Have tried all positions and am not sure if I’ve slept even a wink the whole night.


    Rajnish Chauhan


Am up, even before the alarm goes off and drag my numb body out of bed. Have a quick change of clothes, arrange my things neatly and as I step out of the room, I get a shock of my life! I can’t see a thing as the fog has completely shrouded everything. And worse, it’s drizzling. I go to the reception area and ask for a chai. I have no choice but to enjoy the moments of a steaming cuppa. The clouds have rolled in too and except the trees closest to me, can’t see anything beyond. I wait for an hour and then, decide to move on. It has cleared a bit and the receptionist assures me that it’ll completely clear in an hour or so. He was right.



    Entrance to Valley of Flowers


I go up to the entrance of the valley and sit there twiddling my gloved fingers. My legs have taken their own sweet time to get there – after a long, sleepless night they seem out of gear. I buy a ticket at the entrance and wander inside and am greeted by clusters of asters and erigrones – all in purples and yellow, complimenting each other with their unique identities. The path is cobbled through a thick forest of birch, maple and oak. And yes, lots of ‘bhojpatra’ trees. I come upon a small waterfall and take a few pictures. I slow down here as the path now winds uphill while the Pushpawati flows downhill. After a kilometer I reach an old wooden bridge and standing on it, can feel the tremendous power of the swollen tributary. Ahead, I bump into some college kids, who have come from Delhi. They are amazed that I’m doing this trek on my own… well, so am I! As we walk together, chatting about this and that, I spy a Himalayan Pit Viper under a stone. I catch it and show it to the kids who have never seen it. After all the oohs and aahs, I let the snake slide back under the stone. We cross another log bridge and see a glacier where the Pushpawati has cut through. This whole region is now a protected forest and is named as the Nanda Devi Sanctuary. You are not allowed to carry any eatables or disposable water bottles inside the sanctuary to prevent littering.


    The Old Wooden Bridge over Pushpavati


    Bhojpatra Tree


Just as we turn the bend, I find myself gasping for breath. The valley ahead is miles and miles of a many-hued carpet. Yellows, pinks, blues, reds, purples and whites… all clambering for attention! I feel tears roll down – out of sheer joy! It’s a dream come true. The Bhyundar glacier pass is clearly visible and I just sit there gaping! I am sure this is where the Gods live. I walk the length of the valley, marveling at each miracle of nature. I take time to visit the resting place of Joan Margaret Legge and pay my respects to the brave lady who brought recognition of the valley to the world. I am almost at the end of the valley when I see the first cloud rolling in. Reluctantly I turn back and feel certain heaviness in my step as I hasten back. By the time I reach the bridge, the clouds have overtaken me and I’m caught in the downpour. I find shelter under a birch tree. After a 20-minute pour, it suddenly stops and the skies are once again clear. I’m tempted to go back but decide otherwise and head back to Ghangharia. After a quick meal, I join a group of pilgrims, on the way to Hemkund Sahib.







I start at 2 in the afternoon and although it is a mere 6 km trek, it takes me almost 6 hours to reach up. I think this is one the most arduous trips I’ve ever managed. It is 9 pm by the time I’m through visiting the holy shrine. Undecided whether to go down or stay put, I decide to stay put at the Lakshmanji’s temple. Although I now realize how risky it was to have stayed there, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do this again tomorrow. Fighting the biting cold and fatigue, I manage to pass the night, singing songs to myself and exercising to keep the cold at bay. The mountains look beautiful in the luminance of the moonlight, not to mention the majestic Nanadadevi Parbat rising just behind the Gurudwara. I don’t feel alone and the mountains seem friendly. At the first sign of dawn, I climb up a small hill beyond the Hemkund shrine and am again down on my knees – this time crying like a baby! The expanse of Brahma Kamals and Fen Kamals are the tip of the cake!!! It is a tremendously overwhelming feeling, which still haunts me to this day! And what’s more, I am out of film!!! Sheer bad luck. But, I guess the power of memory is greater than any film roll… a life-long consolation!


    BrahmaKamal


    FenKamal


    HemKund Sahib


I head back to Ghangharia, and head straight to the restaurant for a breakfast of the local ‘Madhve ki roti’ and black tea. I go to meet Rajnish but he’s gone off with some tourists and missed meeting him. But I do meet his father, Mr. Jagdish Chauhan and promise to come back. Back at the hotel, I meet a family from Kerala who are also traveling to Joshimath. Going down was tougher than climbing up because it was slippery like hell! And by the time I reached Gobindghat, my legs were like two stumps that just wouldn’t bend. I hitch hiked the ride with the family from Kerala, till Joshimath.


    Auli


I stayed there for two days, visiting Auli. Later I went to Mussoorie and did another trek to Har-ki-Dun… but, that’s another story altogether! This visit to the valley wouldn’t have been possible without the full support and motivation of my daughters. They believed in me more than I did and I do not have enough words to thank them. My only wish is for them to visit the place for themselves and re-live all the beautiful moments and experiences that I did.


Valley of Flowers was indeed a dream come true. I have dreamt of visiting the valley ever since I first heard of it while still in school. Since this was my first solo trek, at the ripe ole age of 45, with low blood pressure and a bout of arthritis, it has been a tremendous achievement. Someday, I want to go there again and open a small school for the village children and give them vocational training.




Some advice to first-time trekkers:


• Always plan your itinerary keeping in mind the delays due to the weather and landslides. They are unpredictable.


• Always carry some fruit, chocolate, candy and nuts with you while traveling.


• A torch, batteries, candle and a matchbox are essential commodities in your kit.


• Keep the contacts of the people you know or meet on the way. It’s nice to know you have someone in case of an emergency.


• Be nice to the local villagers. If you are buying something from them, do not haggle too much over the price – probably that’s the only source of income they have. Life in the mountains is far tougher than we think or know.


• When traveling by road, keep a map, notepad and a pencil handy – it helps to jot down experiences.


• Keep your money safe – I usually travel with money in my socks!

• When packing, keep your woolies on the top – you never can tell when you may have to start layering yourself.


• Put all yr medicines in the same pocket as your water bottle for emergencies on the way and make sure it is not easily accessible.


• Especially while traveling in the mountains, carry an umbrella or a raincoat or a rainproof jacket.


• It is also advisable to carry an extra pair of shoes – in case one pair gets wet!


• One sure remedy to keep the cold at bay is to rub some Amrutanjan on the soles of your feet before wearing the socks, on hands and in the neck, just before you jump into bed.


• Never tell strangers of your plans nor let them know that you are new to the place.

• The best place to ask for directions is either the tourist office or the police station.

Photography

Jayamangali Black Buck Reserve - Mydanahalli village, Madhugiri town

Posted by Akshay.S on February 12, 2011

Forum Post
Myself and my father with his friend went to the Jayamangali Black Buck Reserve, situated near Mydenahalli, a small village about 23 kms frm Madhugiri Town. The place boasts of about 4000 to 5000 Black Bucks, 6 leopards, jackals and the famous Indian Fox and about 20 to 30 species of birds including the most endangered Montagu's Harrier , Red Necked Falcon and the Steppe Eagle. The place is totally comprised of grasslands similar to the African Savannas.

Mydanahalli is a place for Black Bucks making it the second sanctuary apart from the famous Rani Bennur Black Buck Sanctuary. Recently, The forest department sanctioned funds for the construction of two rooms near the entry gate for the sanctuary. The rooms are available at an affordable price of . Booking are to be made from the Forest Department, Tumkur( address is given in the next page ). Mydenahalli is a total grass landed area providing the Black Bucks to roam around the sanctuary .

Mydanahalli is not difficult to be reached. Here is some info :-
 

Nearest hotel for good food       : KYATASANDRA            Distance : 38  kms

Nearest Bus Station                  : MADHUGIRI                   Distance : 23  kms

Nearest Railway                       : KYATASANDRA            Distance : 38  kms

Nearest Airport                        : BANGALORE                   Distance : 163 kms

all the above given data is in approximate calculation .

REACHING THERE

Mydanahalli can be reached from two different routes. They are :-

1) FROM BANGALORE TOWARDS TUMKUR :-  
    Bangalore -----> Nelamangala -----> Kyatasandra -----> Tumkur ----->

    After reaching Tumkur, cross 3 flyovers and then after a few yards a mud road comes to the right side of  the higway main road . Follow that road.

     After about 40 kms you will reach a village called Koratagere, continue further about 5 kms to reach a town called Madhugiri. Again Continue further 23kms

     to reach Mydanahalli and from the main road. A mud path leads to the right, follow that and there you will reach the main gate of  the  Reserve.


2) FROM BANGALORE TOWARDS DODDABALLAPUR :-

    Bangalore -----> Hebbal -----> Yelahanka -----> Doddaballapur -----> Gowribidhanur -----> Thondebavi ----->

    Kodigenahalli -----> Maidanahalli

    I don't know when and where to deviate from the main road as i forgot to note down the names of small villages though i feel this is the best route to enter the black buck reserve. I will try to note them down when i go there next time .

AVAILABLE ACCOMMODATION

When you travel to mydanahalli, i suggest you to stay the whole day in the sanctuary because you may get rare happenings in nature. Usually I would stay till 5'o clock in the evening and I would return, but now the Karnataka Forset Department has sanctioned funds in building two rooms in the sanctuary. U can stay there. The rooms are luxurious and are at an affordable price.


Cost of the rooms              : Rs. 300/- per room
Booking to be made at       : Aranya Bhavan,R.K. Nagar,Kunigal Road
                                           Tumkur
                                           Ph :- 0816 - 2201196 / 97
 

Person to contact                : RFO


WHAT YOU MAY GET TO PHOTOGRAPH

Apart from the Black Bucks , you can get a wide variety of various wildlife subjects to shoot.
Wildlife what you can sight are :-
* Indian Fox ( exception )
* Leopard ( i have not even seen once )
* Montagu's Harrier
* Red Necked Falcon
* Steppe Eagle
* Short - Toed Snake Eagle
* White Eyed Buzzard
* Marsh harrier
* Oriental Honey Buzzard
* Snakes ( If you are lucky )

The existence of Leopards in Mydanahalli is not known to me. I have just listed it because i remember my father telling me that one of the photographers team had spotted a leopard pug mark.

THE BEST SEASON FOR PHOTOGRAPHY

According to me, the best season for photography is during winter. It is because you get not only

Black Bucks, but also you will get the birds of prey as they will be available to photograph only

during the winter in whole of south India. Even the sanctuary will be green. You can also enjoy

the pleasant winter climate. Hence you can leave your place at an ideal time around 4:30 am in

the morning so that you can reach the sanctuary around 8:00 am.

 

Dont forget to have your breakfast packed or you can have it on your way to Tumkur, you will

not get to eat anything in and around the sanctuary in 5 kms of radius.

 
WILDLIFE I WITNESSED AND PHOTOGRAPHED

On my first trip to Mydanahalli I saw only the Black Bucks and the White eyed buzzard and also

the Red Necked Falcon. But my second trip was somewhat successful. I got to see 10 species of birds and 2 species of animals. As you well know that you may not be successful in all the outings you go, you maybe successful in one of the ten trips. That happens for all of us. Hence I didn't get disappointed when I first went to this sanctuary.

I also have my own website, under the name, http://www.wildlifeventures.com,
please visit the site and also please give your suggestions by writing in the guestbook

Bio-Diversity

BEEJ BACHAO ANDOLAN

Posted by Tulip Das on February 04, 2011

Forum Post

The ‘Beej Bachao Andolan’ [BBA], begun in the late 1980s, is twenty five year old, led by farmer and social activist Vijay Jardhari. The Andolan started in the village Jardhargaon of district Tehri, Uttaranchal, famous for its unique movement to save the traditional seeds of the hills.

 

The ‘Beej Bachao Andolan’ [Save the Seed Movement or BBA] is not only a crusade to conserve traditional seeds but also to promote agriculture and local tradition.

 

A farmer and social activist, Vijay Jardhari realized that modern agriculture was destroying traditional farming. Crop yields of the high-yielding varieties in the modern agriculture were actually low; soil fertility was declining leading to an increasing dependence on toxic chemicals. Along with other activities of chipco movement, Jardhari formed the BBA to promote traditional agriculture and crop varieties.

 

In the valley of Ramasirain, Uttarkashi district, Farmers were growing a distinctive variety of red rice called chardhan. The rice was nutritious and suited to local requirements and conditions. Farmers also grew indigenous varieties like thapchini, jhumkiya, rikhwa and lal basmati. Agriculture here was untouched by modern practices and good yields were obtained without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. What the farmers here were doing was avoiding monoculture in a method called baranaja [12 grains] that involves the multicropping of a no. Of cereals and legumes. This diversification is security against drought and crop failure. Different crops are harvested at different times of the year and ensure year-round supply of food. This also maintain soil fertility replenishes nitrogen.

 

Today BBA has about 150 varieties of paddy from which 100 different varieties can still be grown. BBA has also collected 170 varieties of rajma. Effective pest control is accomplished by using the leaves of the walnut and neem, and the application of the ash and cow’s urine. The use of traditional farming methods and seeds has resulted higher yields, improved health of humans and increased conservation of soil fertility and agro-biodiversity.




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