Press on Environment and Wildlife
Dams may dry up Ganga, warns ministerial group (April Week #3 (2013))
Recognizing that the plethora of dams built and planned in the Ganga basin could almost empty the river of its waters in the winter season, an inter-ministerial group has recommended that the projects be re-engineered to maintain 30-50% of water flow in
the lean period of December-March. 

While keeping the ecological flow in the river at these levels, the government could permit the dams already working or in the pipeline to continue after re-designing to ensure the recommended flow of water in the river. The move would require adjusting
the tariff and power production levels marginally. The committee has also recommended that 17 proposed projects adding up to 2,633 mw capacity be reviewed after the Ganga basin study by the IIT consortium.

Sixty-nine projects are proposed or running on Bhagirathi and Alaknanda -- the two main tributaries of the Ganga river basin. These add up to a capacity of 9,020.30 mw. Of these, 17 projects are operational at the moment and 26 are under construction.


Govt panel finds fault with green clearances granted to Posco (April Week #3 (2013))
In March 2012, the tribunal quashed the 2011 clearance given to the steel company by the environment ministry noting, besides other lapses, that the nod had been given for only a 4 million tonne per annum (mtpa) plant while a 12 mtpa plant was envisaged.
It ordered the setting up of a panel to review the project and a fresh evaluation of conditions to be enforced on the plant.

The Roy Paul committee had submitted its report in October 2012 but it has been made public only now through RTI. What further action the environment ministry has since taken on the report could not be ascertained.

The panel noted that the project developers did not carry out the studies they were required to as part of the environment clearance which includes one on impacts on fishing and livelihood and sourcing of water and possible damage to marine life.

While such studies are required to be carried out prior to the clearance and mandatory public hearings, the panel has asked them to be conducted now. The committee has also asked for long-term monitoring and studies on the impacts due to erosion of creeks/banks,
deepening of the creek and widening of the river mouth and all ecological changes occurring due to the construction of the project. It said the impact of dredging and disposal of dredged material by the port also needed to be studied.


More forests burning in Jharkhand (Issue of the week, April Week #2 (2013))
Wildfires in the forests of Hazaribagh, Jamshedpur, Palamu, Bokaro and a few other areas adding up to almost 23,605 sq km forest area of the state, often take a devastating form giving sleepless nights to the foresters.

At eight places in the state forest fire was reported on last Wednesday itself. According to reports available with the forest department, wildfire was reported at one spot in Hazaribagh, Palamu respectively and at six places in West Singhbhum district
which has several small hilly forests. Cases of major wildfires have been reported from 268 places in the state in April, this year.

A report available at the website of the Forest Survey of India says Jharkhand has reported forest fire at a total of 467 spots across various districts in the state. West Singhbhum district tops the list of districts affected by forest fires in terms
of the number of such incidents and their magnitude.

A budget of Rs 3 crore has been sanctioned for dousing flames. The department has roped in hundreds of villagers across the state to deal with it. In almost all districts which frequently report forest fires, the Village Forest Management & Protection
Committee (VFMPC) and in some districts Eco Development Committees are working. The department has hired fire watchers (villagers who are kept on daily wages) who work as informers for the department and join the officials in extinguishing fire.


No green light for Nilgiris ‘elephant corridor’ (April Week #2 (2013))
However, following a notification by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2006, the State Government was asked to identify the various elephant corridors in Tamil Nadu to protect and manage the wild Asian animals and restore their traditional migratory

A committee was subsequently formed to explore the possibility of acquiring private patta lands for the purpose. The department, in due course, also published the corridor map, which included the land of the trust on which the trust’s school in functioning.


Forest department short of hands to protect, augment city’s greens (April Week #2 (2013))
“There is growing focus on protection and addition of greenery because of rising levels of pollution and greater public awareness and consequent litigations. We need not just to fill vacancies but to create additional posts,” said a top forest department

In reply to a RTI application, the north division, which covers north, northeast and east Delhi, admitted it has 268 sanctioned posts of which 99 are vacant. Against the sanctioned strength of 15 forest guards, responsible for protection of trees, only
five are working. The division is supposed to have 268 labourers to plant saplings and maintain them. But as many as 85 posts are vacant.


Study shows serious threat to coral reef colonies, mangrove forests in Palk Bay (April Week #2 (2013))
A recent study taken up by a team of researchers from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Chennai, brought to light the serious threat of extinction the coral reef colonies and mangrove forests in the Palk Bay are facing. At present, only two per cent
of the coral reefs survive in the area.

In an attempt to restore the dying coral colonies, the ZSI researchers are attempting to transplant live coral colonies from other parts of the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve and plant them at Palk Bay. This work is done with support and assistance from
various funding agencies, Dr Venkataraman said.


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