Press on Environment and Wildlife
Himalayan Blunders (July Week #2 (2013))
In 1991, environmentalist Anil Agarwal, after months of research for the publication Flood, Flood Plains and Environmental Myths, brought to attention facts that were considered inconvenient. He wanted to understand why floods occurred with greater intensity
in the plains of India. The general perception was that deforestation in the Himalayas caused floods in the plains, and that planting trees upstream would "fix" the problem. His research showed that the Himalayas were geologically dynamic and prone to landslides,
which would in turn block rivers and create natural dams. The bursting of these dams - which were made of rubble, stone and silt - would wreak havoc downstream. He then went on to argue that we needed to consider a Himalayan policy that took into account the
fragility and vulnerability of the region. Road activity had already started to scar the hills, and landslides were increasingly becoming frequent. This, in turn, made it more dangerous for people to live in those areas.

His message was tough: stop blaming the people living in the Himalayas for the floods in the Indo-Gangetic plains. Instead, focus on building a management system to live with floods - harvest the excess water in ponds, tanks and groundwater recharge systems.
It was the wilful destruction of the flood plains through unchecked construction of buildings and drainage systems that exacerbated floods. The Himalayas, he said, would remain vulnerable to landslides and flash floods and development would not work if it
did not take into account the true nature of the region. Learn, therefore, to live with the hazards of the Himalayas. The bottom line is that we need to learn to live with nature and not have the temerity to think that we can overcome it.


Uttarakhand disaster got magnified due to heavy pilgrim rush (Issue of the week, July Week #1 (2013))
The number of tourists going to Uttarakhand, state records show, has grown by nearly 300% over a decade between 2000-2010 from 1.11 crore to 3.11 crore. The number of tourists visiting the state is projected to double again by 2017 at current growth rates.
The infrastructure to cater to the tourists has grown but disproportionately slowly and mostly 'illegally'. June is the month that sees the highest tourist footfall in the state year after year.

"Almost every time, natural calamities have hit the hill state in the months of July-September when tourists and pilgrims are not there in such high numbers. This year, the timing has led to tourists been trapped but the people of Uttarakhand have been
increasingly facing these problems over the last decade," Charu Tiwari, an activist and journalist from the state, said.


36 lakes have vanished in Bangalore-west alone (July Week #1 (2013))
In shocking findings for the water-deficient IT city, 36 lakes, tanks and ponds have vanished without a trace in three hoblis of western Bangalore since 1973. The water area has been halved in the remaining 81 bodies and 48 of them have major encroachments.

The findings are part of a year-long study conducted by state-funded Environmental Management and Policy Research Institute (EMPRI). It has only looked at a 78 sqkm area in the hoblis of Yeshwantpur, Kengeri and Tavarekere. The rest of the city has not
been covered.


Death in the Hills (July Week #1 (2013))
Bomdo village in the Upper Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh is peopled by the Adi tribe, the second most numerous tribe in the state. Further towards the north lies Tuting, the last town before the border with Tibet. The mighty Siang River flows below
the village, while the snowcapped mountains to the north provide a glimpse of the spectacular beauty of the Siang valley. It's a picturesque agrarian society, except all is not well.

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) had made its way into the mountains from the plains of Pasighat. The worst affected were the semi-domesticated mithun (Bos frontalis) that were dying out even as their owners watched helplessly. Each day, as one more animal
was found dead in the forest or beside the road, another few were seen salivating profusely from the mouth as the infection spread rapidly.

To a person unfamiliar with this region and the lifestyle of the people, it would seem to be just a minor problem. Surely, livestock die all the time across the country. So what was so different about these deaths?


No school today, elephants on campus (July Week #1 (2013))
On seeing the 13 or so wild elephants, the alarmed staff called the management, which alerted the teachers assigned to each school van about the situation on the campus. The teachers asked the vans to turn around and drop the children back home.

“We declared a holiday for school,” said Nooraine Fazal, chief executive officer and co-founder of Inventure Academy.

“The herd broke down one of the grilled fences and came in,” Mohan Kumar, school security supervisor, told The Hindu.

“The forest officials told us not to chase them away and keep them on the school property because it’s spacious enough,” Ms. Fazal said.

The forest authorities had planned to lead the elephants into the forests from there. “But people around the area started bursting crackers and chasing the elephants. If you let elephants be, they will remain peaceful. This was a great learning experience
for us,” Ms. Fazal said.


Scientists set to go on insect hunt to save the Sunderbans (July Week #1 (2013))
In a first-of-its-kind exercise, scientists would soon go scouting the tiger-infested Sunderbans forest for insects that help the mangrove plants produce seeds and help sustain the world’s largest delta.

The project, to be funded by the Union ministry of environment and forests, would principally aim at conserving the lesser-known creatures of the forests that are key to sustenance of the lush mangroves. The ministry has already sanctioned Rs. 80 lakh
for the project and the scientists are to embark on the venture this July.

“A team of about eight scientists from the Zoological Survey of India would scour numerous pockets of the 4263 sq km of mangrove forest over the next three years. The objective is to collect such insects as bees, butterflies, moths and flies among others,
which serve as pollinators for the mangrove plants. The scientists would look to identify their species and ascertain the role they play in pollination,” K Venkataraman, director of ZSI and principal investigator of the project, told HT.


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