Interlinking of Rivers

Ganga River Action plan

Posted by Dr.Susan Sharma on July 10, 2010

 
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For the first time, seven Indian Institutes of Technology will prepare a comprehensive river basin management plan for Ganga.

While earlier the Union Ganga River Basin Authority was looking upon international agencies to produce the plan which would include not only a blueprint of the sewage systems along the basin but also the dams that are being planned, the joint bid by IIT swung it in favour of Indian engineers. The river basin plan will aim to have adequate provision for water and energy in the Ganga basin to accommodate the pressures of increased population, urbanization, industrialization and agriculture while ensuring the sanctity of the fundamental aspects of the river system are protected. The twin demands of perennial flow and clean waters would be the two benchmarks to be met.

Read more at
http://iitdalumni.com/NewsDetail.aspx?NewsID=97

Corporates and Environment

Restoring River systems

Posted by Susan Sharma on July 07, 2010

 
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The Nature Conservancy(US) and other conservation groups have purchased 3 dams on Maine's Penobscot River.

Their efforts are part of an environmental and cultural restoration along the river, where the Penobscot people have lived for thousands of years. The river was once the tribe’s medicine cabinet, its water supply, highway and supermarket. Despite a century of changes, the tribe hopes to revive the river’s central role in its life again.

Standing in the way of this revival, however, are several large hydroelectric dams.

While the tribe has won a series of court battles to clean up the river from decades of industrial pollution, its legal fight against the dams has made little headway.

But things began to change in August 2008, when the tribe, together with The Nature Conservancy and other partners in the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, exercised the option to purchase the dams outright for $25 million from the power company. The unprecedented deal, which is still awaiting federal approval, is a carefully negotiated win-win for all the parties involved.

Now they plan to tear down the dams to restore Atlantic salmon, shad and other fish.

The deal is a rare pragmatic victory for both conservation and industry, one that required years of painstaking work to negotiate and years more to raise funds to buy the dams. While the challenges are not over — it turns out that tearing down a series of dams is complicated and expensive work — the trust’s successes may help demonstrate the potential for restoring other rivers around the world.

Read full article at
http://www.nature.org/magazine/summer2010/features/art31630.html

Wildlife

Discovering Nauradehi WLS

Posted by Uday on July 04, 2010

 
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Situated amidst three district of Madhya Pradesh, Nauradehi is a lesser known destination that deserves more attention. Nauradehi lies between Sagar, Damoh, Narsinghpur districts and is easily accessible from Jabalpur.


The wildlife sanctuary is unique in this region the floral elements differ much from Kanha and Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserves. The forests are Southern tropical dry deciduous mix type. The forests are totally mixed and I have not seen any pure belts of teak, saaj or bamboo except those in plantation.  The river systems are Bamner and  Vyarma besides a number of lakes and water bodies exists in the sanctuary.


The species of animals seen here are not easily seen in the tiger reserves. Otter, Indian Wolf, Blue Bull, Chinkara and Marsh crocodiles are seen often some with ease. The deer species are also represented by Sambar, Spotted Deer, Four Horned Deer and Barking Deer.


The tiger once inhabited the forest in abundance but of late there is no evidence of tigers and leopards. Sporadic sighting are reported but no census records are available. The WLS promises to throw new discoveries but extensive survey is required. The tourism zone is at Cheola Lake. This place is excellent for wildlife watching and birding. Birding is exciting at Nauradehi with both wetland birds as well forest birds inhabiting the same ecosystem. See my check list of birds of Noradehi for more information on birding.   


Jabalpur is the best route to Noradehi. It is about 80 km from WLS connected by well maintained road network. Jabalpur is a large town more popular as approach to Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh. In terms of accommodation in Jabalpur city there are many hotels in all price range.  For transportation and wildlife safari a gypsy is ideal vehicle as the jungle tracts in Noradehi are rugged. 


Best time to visit is winters as weather is cool and comfortable. There is no hotel accommodation nearby except rest house at Mohali which has to be booked from Sagar DFO. The rest house at Cheola Lake is more of a day center as accommodation is not provided here for tourists.   


For more details on wildlife of the preserve visits wildlife resort blog on Noradehi WLS.

Urban Wildlife

The Trees Outside My Window...

Posted by Fabiola Jacob on July 01, 2010

 
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Just outside my apartment window off Santhome High Road in Chennai, are a row of trees reaching up to the 3rd floor. The trees host a variety of birds – many I’m seeing for the first time, and with the Internet, able to identify. 

For as long as I remember, there have been crows and squirrels in plenty, with a fair share of the Common Sparrow thrown in. But in recent times, the common sparrows have dwindled in number, and are rare to find. But many other birds have become frequent visitors – largely due to the upcoming Adyar Eco Park that’s just a stone throw away from here.

A small group of Coppersmith Barbets are one of the most frequent and my favourite visitors. The first time I set my eyes on one of them, I was captivated by their beauty. Only as big as the sparrow, with glossy greenish wings and plumes of red and yellow on the crown and chest – they are truly a piece of art! And their call is so unique a “tuk…tuk…tuk…” that resembles a coppersmith banging on the metal – and hence their name. And once you hear that sound – it’s almost impossible not to recognize where it comes from. Creatures of habit, they seem to be, and make themselves present on the same branches everyday at morning before the sun gets too harsh, and in the evening at dusk. The other day, I spotted a curious little fellow just outside my wind – craning his neck to listen to my daughter practicing on the Piano!

And then there are the Black Drongos, who think they own the air space! The fiercest fighters of the bird world, their aerial sorties while chasing the crows are just as thrilling as the ones we see at air shows. And that brings me to the subject of the crows who seem to be sharing India’s predicament – a population explosion. With a surge in number comes food scarcity, as the crows these days are never content with scavenging – and so they fly in and out of balconies, helping themselves to food straight from the kitchen, rummaging in other nests, eating eggs, feeding on fledglings and generally creating a ruckus.

But the crows are not really as smart as they seem. They are frequently outwitted by the Asian Koel that often usurps its nest and even fools the crow into raising its young. When the crow is away, the Koel pushes out the crow’s eggs from its nest and lays its own. And then the gullible crow sits on the eggs, hatches it and rears the young – though the fledgling looks and sounds so very different from its own young. I guess this is what that Victorian idiom “penny-wise, pound-foolish” actually means!

And just outside my balcony is this industrious little squirrel, busy building her nest – for about a week now. From dawn till dusk, she runs up and down the tree, collecting building material that includes tiny twigs, fiber, coir, cotton, foam and even sheets of plastic! Her nest looks cozy now, and I’m looking forward to seeing her little ones soon.

There are many other birds too – mynahs prowling the ground on their dainty feet and tailor birds looking for leaves to stitch up. And even as I’m blogging, there is this tiny brown fellow with a grayish chest and belly preening on one of the branches. His mate is here too, flitting among the leaves. They are so tiny, smaller than even the tailor bird – I just can't wait to google them out… now!

Wildlife

Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary!

Posted by Natasha on June 29, 2010

 
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A visit to the Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary.

Trekking in the Western Ghats!

The Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Udupi district of Karnataka, Kollur and was established in 1974 covering an area of 247 sq km. The vegetation type is a mix of evergreen, semi-evergreen and moist deciduous forests covering the steep slopes typical of the Western Ghats Mountains. This forest comes under the Medicinal Plants Conservation Areas. (Local communities are actively involved in this conservation effort. MPCAs serve as the study sites for conservation biology related research and also the source of authentic and quality planting material for propagation).

Longitudes : 13o41'25.87"E to 13o58'51.85"E
Latitudes : 74o39'8.68"N to 74o56'8.84"N.
Annual rainfall : 4,593 mm
Elevation ranges : 9-1,315 m above sea level.

The sanctuary receives an annual rainfall of 4,593 mm and the elevation here ranges from 9-1,315 m above sea level. Water sources include the Chakra nadi, Kollur River, 27 perennial streams, 36 large seasonal streams, several smaller streams, two seasonal natural lakes, one spring and 20 artificial water tanks. (Source from Atree’s Website)

I hadn't heard of Mookambika WLS and didnt know what to expect. I had gone on work and was pleasantly surprised when i reached this forest. It reminded me so much of Anshi( Dandeli- Anshi Tiger Reserve). We had planned our day so we could complete 2 treks.One trek was focused on identifying the butterflies. This is being done to Educate tourist's on the different colorful species of the forest. The butterfly life was amazing and the list of butterflies seen was good. These forests can support a myriad of butterflies due to the varied plant composition and diversity. I was amazed at their numbers. This place was teaming with butterflies all hovering about. On the trek i noticed a snake up on a tree. It was a lovely ornate flying snake. We completed this trek and rested before we headed out to complete the birds trail.

A wide variety of butterflies, reptiles and birds are found here. My trek through this beautiful forest opened my eyes further on the beauty and endemism of species of flora and fauna seen in this region. I was completely amazed at the beauty of this forest. I trekked  to Arshinagundi Falls and its a wonderful place for Birding.I spotted the Mountain imperial pigeon, Black headed oriole, Pompadour green pigeon, Malabar Trogon, a lovely pair of painted bush Quail,White bellied treepie and lots more. We also noted medicinally rare trees like

Eco-tour

Birding in Northern India

Posted by Uday on June 26, 2010

 
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I was bit taken aback by the reach of urbanity as we neared Bharatpur bird sanctuary. The feel was missing but not for long. The wetlands as I discovered are a paradise for bird lovers. I was leading a group of Germans and this was my first trip to Keoladeo Ghana. 


The Sibes have gone but the sanctuary retains much of its glamor. At Bharatpur a two day trip yields a checklist of more than 150 species of wetland birds. Some of the bird we check listed here and at Bund Baretha include:


Little Heron, Black-crowned Night-heron, Glossy Ibis, Siberian ruby throat, Bar Headed Geese, Black-headed Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Asian Open-billed Stork, Red-breasted Flycatcher,  Barn Swallow, Wire-tailed Swallow, House Martin, Hume’s Warbler, Black Bittern, Cotton Teal, Northern Pintail and Eurasian Coot. Grey Francolin, Tickle’s Thrush, Brown Crake, Booted warbler,  Great white pelicans,   Spot-billed duck, Sykes Warbler,  Common Crane, Sarus Crane, Black necked stork, Dusky Fish Owl, Purple Swamphen, Wood sand piper, Spotted redshank, Green Sandpiper,  Bronze-winged Jacana, Greater Spotted Eagle, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Lesser spotted eagle,  Black-shouldered Kite, Black Kite, King Vulture, Temminck’s stint, Oriental Darter, Grey Heron, Indian Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Purple Heron, Painted Stork.


We could sight Indian skimmers at Bund Baretha but could sight whiskered tern, Ferruginous pochard, Spanish sparrow, oriental skylark, Russets sparrow and more....


Our next destination was Chambal River Sanctuary more than an hours drive from Agra. It is a pristine river parts of which are designated as river sanctuary. Chambal is a unique destination as apart from birding this is a good place to see Gangetic dolphin, Marsh crocodile and the endangered Gharial. On a boat trip we could come across Indian skimmers, sand lark, Isabelline Wheatear, Brown Crake,  Long Legged Buzzard, Variable Wheatear, Desert Wheatear, Bonelli's eagle on nest, brown fish eagle, booted hawk eagle and brownhawk owl.


A day is enough at Chambal River Sanctuary for birding trip during winters. Most of the bird watching is done on the boat ride but substantial number of birds can be seen on the banks. The boat ride is about three hours and covers a long distance.              


For avid birders Chambal is a must see destination. Most of the tour operators include this destination in their itineraries for birding in Northern India. 

Wildlife Poaching

Status of Indian Wildlife

Posted by Uday on June 26, 2010

 
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India had large tract of forests, extensive grasslands, deserts and wetlands all prime ecosystems that supported vast array of wild animals, birds, butterflies and reptiles. The rapid increase in population and subsequent urgency for agricultural land and fuel wood resulted in destruction of our ecosystems.  The demand for commercial wood and trophies all have contributed alongside to destroy nature and wildlife in India


Though much is still left, the wilderness now thrives in small pockets designated as protected areas -National Parks and sanctuaries. The protected areas were created to conserve keystone species like tigers and lion in India. The conservation efforts in the seventies and eighties resulted in comeback of most of the endangered species like the tiger, swamp deer, Indian rhino and Asiatic lion to mention a few.  


Project tiger is one such example which after initial success was unable to control poaching and forest destruction. The creation of tiger reserves was to accord additional protection.  Unfortunately the increase in poaching incidence especially for tiger parts in China, skin in Tibet and elsewhere took its toll and still does. The demand created a nexus of smugglers, middlemen and poachers. The lucrative demand  gave rise to poaching incidence even in the best protected tiger reserves like Sariska and Panna National Parks. In many incidences local communities are involved lured by a paltry sum.


The most threatened species is the Bengal tiger. This charismatic big cat in spite of a major conservation efforts continues to be exterminated by the poachers in India. TakingSariska and Panna into consideration the administration and the law and order machinery appears to be helpless in nabbing and booking those involved in illegal wildlife trade.          


Tiger apart from being an important part of our environment is a National Heritage. Indian wildlife is diverse and unique. India is home to many endemic species as well. The country benefits from conserving its natural wealth and hence protecting the environment. If keystone species become extinct the damage to our environment will be irrevocable.


The wildlife also attracts tourists from all over the World. The increase in eco-tourism brings in crucial funds.  These funds are employed in conservation, economic upliftment of local communities as well as the tourism industry. The need of the hours is responsible wildlife tourism and tiger safari that promotes conservation. Tourism also brings into focus the understanding of the ecosystem and wildlife there in.  


Stringent laws that prevent poaching and destruction of our ecosystems are required urgently. The protected areas are created with conservation. But tourism should not be discouraged. The activity should be restricted and monitored. Neglected areas are more susceptible to poaching since the public eye is absent. Tourists along with local communities play an important role in conservation of our National Heritage.             

Little Known Destinations

Kannoru in Sharawathi Wildlife Sanctuary

Posted by Aparna V K on June 23, 2010

 
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Sunlight penetrates in tiny patches just enough to give the seeds a chance  to sprout but not to grow, creepers as thick as my waist having spiraled  round its victim tree, blooms on touching the sunlight, on the canopy above and  gripping its victim more securely into a death embrace. Birds whose whistling and cacophony  keeps your neck stretched backwards drives you mad with the impossibility of  sighting them within the lush green layer or rather floors of leaves. Welcome  to the Evergreen forests of Sharavathi Wildlife Sanctuary!


The sanctuary covers the Sharavathi Valley Region, near the western border of  Karnataka. It is spread over an area of 431 Kms and is nourished by the  Sharavathi River.


Me, Guru and Ananth visited this amazing secret world one weekend. A rather  bumpy ride that almost broke our backs, being unfortunate to get the last 3 seats on the KSRTC bus, headed towards Linganamakki, left a red eyed tousled  trio embark at Kargal that is around 5kms from Jog. Gangadhar, our guide who had  arranged our stay, collected us and dropped us at Kanooru, a tiny village with  hardly 8-10 families. Being enthusiast Birders and wary of wild crowds from  Bangalore we kept away from the main group to explore the Kanooru forests.


Filling up with the idlis we filed out into  the jungle. Having been cautioned with many a thrilling tale of leeches, I  fell into a state of anxiety, this being my very first experience of leeches.  I almost had exaggerated them into centipede sizes swarming all over, biting  into you and slowly leaking out your blood, while you howl with pain. (I know  I was reading too much into horror movies!).


I was laughed at my attempts to wear the shoes and socks and a tucked in cargo's into my ankle length army shoes, nothing could possibly prevent the  crawlies! Well I had my last laugh! Take my advise, Ankle length shoes with  the ends of your pants tucked into them does protect you from leech bites! So  I can safely say not even a single one could feast on my blood!



Dharma, our guide took us along a path that steadily went down until it opened  up into the stream that eventually joins Sharavathi. Having had enough of  leeches we (read Guru and Ananth :)) decided its safer to trek along the  stream. The most arduous length was when we has to climb up a vertical cliff  to get to the other side, our nimble guide swung himself up and helped us all. Ananth had a hard time climbing up ;).


The guys while  engaged in a luxurious river bath and our guide prepared fire to cook our  lunch  I went to explore upstream and catch some nap.


One of the many irritating thing about being a gal and that too a gal  engaged in wildlife conservation is that not only your team thinks twice  before taking you along and take manifold precautions and planning before  they embark on the trip, that can generally dampen the whole wild experience,  but it also means you cannot participate in things like jumping into the  river and swim wild like monkey. :( .


Anyway the time I spent upstream, was one of the highlights of my trip, it  gave me some time on my own to soak in the beauty of that place. A constantly  tumbling water in the stream. An eerie silence of no-activity that sometimes  is interrupted by a flutter of wings and sometimes a distant call of some  unknown bird. The dance of the light on the water splashing sliver of silvery  ribbons. Some wonderfully coloured butterflies and beetles hovering over the  stream lazily. A scene of content and perfect solitude.


On a glance it might seem that the Sharavathi Valley is devoid of wildlife,  that's just an illusion. The denizens of these forests above all prefer to come out during the times the sun is down. And being there at dawn or dusk still does not increase your chances of catching a glimpse of these shy creatures,  they possess another weapon - camouflage not to mention the dense foliage  that completely renders them invisible to an untrained eye. The sanctuary is  a refuge of the endangered Lion-tailed macaque. Other mammals include tiger,  leopard (black panther), wild dog, jackal, sloth bear, spotted deer, sambar,  barking deer, mouse deer, wild pig, common langur, bonnet macaque, Malabar  giant squirrel, giant flying squirrel, porcupine, otter and pangolin.

Reptiles include king cobra, python, rat snake, crocodile and monitor lizard. Some of the avian species found in the sanctuary include three species of  hornbill, paradise flycatcher,fairy blue bird, malabar whistling thrush,  blue-throated barbet and Indian lories and lorikeets. There are many  butterflies in the sanctuary.



Amidst growing concerns by Dharmanna that we might not be able to leave the  forests before dusk, Guru pointed out to the little and only torch we had amidst us and said we will bank on it. How could we hurry? when at every turn the scene grew more beautiful than the previous and dusk brought home, birds near stream and gave us the opportunity to see them. The last mile brought us to a lovely waterfall. This time again the guys had the time of their lives splashing around the fall and faithfully reminding me what a unique experience I have missed.  During this time I discovered to my dismay that mosquitoes are not the only  insects that syringe you for your blood! There are insects that are much  larger with much bigger stingers!


Night brought ten thousand fire-flies! OK some hundreds then.. All good-naturedly blinking from the trees surrounding the house, And as we fell asleep on the porch chatting about this and that I fell into a deep sleep  wondering why the fire-flies have abandoned us at cities as everything else that was a part of our childhood , like the multitude of butterflies and  sparrows, the little beauties of nature.


The next morning after waiting for Gangadhar who was to be our guide for the day, for quite a while we decided to do with our little buddy Yogaraj.  Trekking on the outskirts of the forest we came across this one particular  tree that seem to have attracted a lot of our avian friends, I saw my first  fairy blue bird. We decided to spend our morning on the roof of the fall to  which my friends seemed to very partial and indeed it was worth all the admiration. A clear view of the valley below sheltered by a fruiting tree on  whose many branches housed several other creepers like a curtain to this  awesome world. Some where down a Malabar whistling thrush was on with its singing routine, I could just imagine him going up and down his favourite tree  whistling away to lure his lady love. You have to hear one at its performance and feel one's heart fill with joy as it goes on. You could  easily mistake him to be some amateur boy whistling away in the forests, not  without reason the Malabar whistling thrush is also called whistling school  boy!



After a long time of resting in that blessed place we returned back for a  round of breakfast. We soon again crashed into the forests, this time journeying through the open fields to visit the hornbill's nest. A hornbill has a very curious behavior about nesting. It nests in the tree holes. During  the time the female hornbill has to lay egg she sheds her feathers (pulls it out on her own!) and makes herself comfortable in the tree hole her mate has  found and which she has approved and then shuts herself in by sealing the hole with mud and grit, leaving just a tiny slit through which the male regularly drops in food.


We spent a major part of our afternoon next to a natural swimming pool, with the guys again splashing and posing and exploring upstream around while I spent  time sleeping and listening to music. Just to keep Yoga from getting bored I  challenged him on who could keep their head-down-first into water for long. Needless to say he won ! The way back was quite a bit of journey, crossing  the deep pool over a fallen tree trunk, I did that one on all hands and legs!  jumping over rocks to keep my shoes dry which I gave up on the last stretch  jumping into the pool thenceforth at every opportunity..


As we trekked back Ananth kept our lungs tickling endlessly by slipping over  the dry and wet rocks alike in spectacular fashion. Yoga kept his eyes  tuned on him just so he woudn miss the next one coming. So much for the  really costly woodland shoes and the really cheap hawaii chappals that he alternated between! My favourite one was the last fall when while wading  across the knee length water he fell on his *** with his camera and binocs  held high above his head with a very surprised look on his face! Wish I had a  snap of that! This much I must say to his credit, he took all the jokes aimed  at him good-naturedly :).



The last of our adventure in the Kanooru forest winded up on a half done bridge over a stream that was hardly a trickle that summer afternoon.


After a hasty lunch we returned back to Kargal on an auto whose driver  insisted us on showing the secret submerged tunnel that opened up into Linganmakki. For me it was the thrill of seeing the swallows mud house  underneath the bridge that made the detour worthwhile.



With a lot of time to kill before the return bus to Bangalore from Sagar at 10pm we had a pit stop at Jog Falls. Despite the disappointment of the front  view wiped clean of all trees by a concrete corridor giving a naked fall, The Jog falls by itself is still is a marvel and a beauty to behold. A vertical drop of nearly 900 ft Jog Falls still remains a spectacular sight with multitude of  swifts hovering around it. As we three sat there looking at it for a real  long time I felt a sense of companionship, like some perfect understanding  passed between us unspoken about what lay ahead of us. A commitment to do everything possible to protect the forests of this land. Although I speak  here for myself  I am sure we all are of the same opinion.

Little Known Destinations

A night at Rasimanal Watchtower

Posted by Aparna V K on June 23, 2010

 
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The last of the ground survey by KANS winded up at Rasimanal. Here is an account of the most wonderful time of my life..


Rasimanal Forest Guest house is around 2 hours drive from Anchetty. The narrow roads sneak up the hills and at one point gave a awe inspiring view of the valley. Tiny villages with hardly around 100-150 families have sprung up all along the way.


I tasted the most refreshing coffee and tea at a tea shop on the way that boasted a very interesting water heater, though I would say it was simply the lower part of water filter set up on a stove! The swooshing movement of mixing up the beverage with milk and water by the owner was worth filming!


 We waited at the last hamlet for the forest guard (who incidentally never turned up) for the guest house keys. When the waiting became intolerable a few of us started walking along the jungle path for birding, a few of the locals began telling me no to go any further as elephants frequented the path beyond the farm.  I would have loved to see some. As fate could have its last laugh I was again denied the elephant encounters. The heat of the afternoon gave way to the soothing evening breeze and my troop giving up the hope of the guest house keys collected the rest of the wandering gang and started moving towards RasiManal. Rasimanal belongs to the Anchetty range and here the Cauvery and Dodhalla meet up and continue their way into Tamil Nadu. With the pre-monsoon showers Cauvery had indeed swollen and was gushing away noisily.



You could feel it in the air that you were about to witness the unexpected. As is usual to me I floated away.. day dreaming wide awake. Wild Jasmine shrubs also called Kadu Mallige in Kannada littered the forest grounds profusely.. Its scent rose in spirals and set the scene of ancient Indian lore, For some reason I began to recount the tale of Shakuntala, that that lovely maiden must have sometime run around here with those wild flowers in her ear lobes..


We spotted a pair green imperial pigeon, my very first. Indeed a very beautiful bird found reportedly in the Western Ghats.The forest guard who accompanied us in the jeep prepared us for the sight of a half cooked elephant! Apparently during one of the beats last week they found a dead elephant , and had gathered dry twigs and set fire to the corpse. We found it alright, smelling it, meters away!




Finally we reached Rasimanal, my eyes all hooked at the Watchtower that guaranteed a bird's view of the valley with Cauvery just a few feet away. I accompanied the group that was hurrying to set the camera traps. We set a pair on the banks of the Cauvery around a kilometer or two from the watch tower. There were these huge trees with white bark and roots that almost seemed like skeletons hugging the loose boulders and keeping them in place reminding me of the Angkor Vat temples in Cambodia. I am guessing they were  Dhindilu or dhindal , Scientific name Anogeissus latifolia belonging to the family Combretaceae




The Camera traps are motion detectors. When an animal crosses its range of detection, it sets off the camera that normally sleeps during inactivity. If I am not wrong the camera is active only for a period of 5 seconds in a minute. After a lot of circus to hold the camera facing the stretch that seemed to have seen a lot of animal activity we rushed back to the watch tower as it was getting dark and the time for the elephants and the nocturnal animals to come to the river bed. As we crashed back we almost lost our way. Its really a wonder how the forests guards can make out the way even during night. I can easily get lost on the back streets of my house! We were still discussing the camera traps when flash-flash something eerily silver seems to  have floated past and my heart simply jumped into my mouth.. On a closer look however they turned out to be trees whose bark had a lustrous silver sheen, I am not sure what they are called though.


Night fall brought a  lot of surprises including Mr. Thillai god-bless-him who brought food and beverages (U know ...) During the time the whole troop devoured the fish curry and idlis I sat at the foot of the tower facing the river and the forests listening to light music and watching the greatest drama ever unroll, Nature unleashing its power.


As minutes trickled by dark clouds began gathering at the horizon that until now did not even have the white clouds , wind that ever so gently lifted tufts of my hair began to blow in real earnest almost pinning me to my side. The entire forests quivered in unease as the unrelenting winds grew in strength and a thunderstorm began to brew and very soon lightning forked the skies and a series of ear-splitting thunders rolled almost making you shiver at its intensity and cower in fear. For almost a hour this continued with no sign of relenting and giving way to rain, and we gathered on the watchtower's roof almost scared to stand at full height for fearing the lightning strike us!


And then with a whispering that grew louder than the howling wind it began to rain. Some of us staggered into the jeep some into the safe sanctuary of the watch tower and the rest of us filed on the side of the watch tower that provided at least little bit of shade from the onslaught of the rain. We shivered and laughed enjoying the whole scene like little children enjoying ice-cream.. We talked into sleeping all the adventures we have had every time peeking at the river bed for the sight of the crocs. The over crowded watch tower that day welcome eight of us tightly packed with me, the only girl in the group asleep facing everyone's feet!



Just imagine a perfect morning, a vast blue flushed sky , a mighty river with sandy bed and dark smooth stones jutting into her and you bend down to wash your face with the cool water. I wished my every morning would start that way! Me, Guru and Somyajit walked across for about 2 hours birding and we were lucky to see the Crested Hawk Eagle, a pair of otters who almost sauntered very close by finally beating a hasty retreat realizing our presence.



I almost ran back to the watchtower remembering Thillai's promise for a tasty Maggie for breakfast. Guru made a watery albeit tasty maggie noodles scorching Thillai's shiny vessel with black soot from the make-shift stove we made using half dry twigs and some bricks.


And there ends my most memorable day so far, rested between those soft hills and those dark angry clouds for ever.

Environment Awareness

Forest Fires

Posted by Aparna V K on June 23, 2010

 
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The first learning during my stay at Bandipur during the 3rd week of March was Forest Fires. I was under the impression  that Forest fires were caused mainly due to dry boughs rubbing  against each other (taking into consideration a large amount of  dry dead leaves littering the forest floor) , due to  lightning during storms and sometimes by man. I was in for a  rude shock when I came to know that all forest fires in India  were caused by Man!


We are so much influenced by American way of life through the  medium of television, that we know a lot more about their wildlife  than our native species, we know the emu and the ostrich than  the Bustard, we know about the cougar more than we know about  our panthers, we know a lot more about African elephants than  about their Asian cousins and so also I was under the impression  about forest fires through natural causes through the widely  televised events shown in TVs about the fires in US.


Indian forests are mostly deciduous type . Even  during the driest season they contain enough moisture to rule  out fire due to natural causes. Unfortunately the same cannot be  told about the invasive species -lantana, eucalyptus and the Australian wattle which the government has planted everywhere to  suck out the underground water, to wipe out the native species  and thus deny the herbivores that depend on them for food, and  hence to go extinction ( the introduced species neither provide  good shelter nor do they provide fodder) and to support fire to  spread easily  (these trees are so dry and the leaves litter do  not decompose fast and contain oil thus encouraging fire). Of  course that wasn't their idea, their logic seemed to simply rotate  around the fast growing nature of these trees. How could the  govt without a scientific analysis on the impact from these  trees to the native environment do mass planting everywhere ? why  do they still continue doing so even after the impact is so  visible and screamed out loud by the scientific community?


Our forests are fragile. Every successive fires caused  accidentally or deliberately by people living within and the  fringes of the forest areas inadvertently causes irreversible  damages to the ecosystem. Fires bring down century old trees  that are destroyed beyond repair and encourage rampant lantana  growth in the successive rainy season. Not to mention the  animals that perish in the fires. Bandipur this Summer saw fires  breaking out all around. The concerned forest authorities were  helpless. They lack resources to control and prevent fires. They  lack man-power and motivation. True they don't take steps to  secure but dare I point at them? Isn't it true that the number  of forest watchers and guards are at their record low? That  there haven been any new permanent posting, the govt happy to  appoint guards on contract basis and pay them poorly.


So, what is the solution? Encourage forestation with native  species. Check the growth of lantanas. Educate the tribal and  villages encircling the forests about the menace of forest fires  and steps they must take to prevent accidental fires. Educate  tourists on the same lines. Post more guards and watchers. Raise  their salaries to the level of hawaldars in the civil dept.  Provide them with equipments to control fire in case of forest  fires. Its a big task ahead of us. Educating the masses ,  mobilizing them to protect this rare treasure that's in our  hands.

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