Press on Environment and Wildlife
Eco-clearance for Vallarpadam project (November Week 1 (2006)) The Union Ministry for Environment and Forests has accorded environmental clearance for the State's much-awaited international container transhipment terminal project at Vallarpadam here.
The Cochin Port Trust (CPT) had applied for necessary clearance in 2005 and the expert committee of Environment for Infrastructure Projects had held a series of meetings with the CPT officials and the India Gateway Terminal, the promoters of the project.
The last hearing of the expert committee was held at Hyderabad. The expert committee, after scrutinising the environment impact assessment and other technical reports and public hearings issued the environment clearance on Thursday, subject to certain conditions.
The conditions for environmental clearance include: The development of the project will be carried out in accordance with the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, 1991 and Coastal Zone Management Plan of the Kerala Government.
The conditions also say that a suitable green belt should be developed between the terminal project and the GIDA Road. It also stipulates that no mangrove vegetation should be affected due to the construction. The coastal protection work should be carried out after detailed hydrodynamic model studies.
Source:Pioneer News Service
Sea devours two islands in Sunderbans (November Week 1 (2006)) The rising sea has devoured two of the nearly 100 tiny islands in the Sunderbans delta and threatening submergence of a dozen others having a population of over 10,000.
"Two islands, including Lohacharra, have already sunk in the sea and could not be sighted in satellite imagery," said Sugata Hazra, Director of the School of Oceanographic studies in Jadavpur University.
Attributing it to global warming, continuous erosion and depletion of the mangroves, Hazra said the situation has been assuming alarming proportions in case of a dozen other islands in the Sunderbans delta region.
The inference was drawn after a five-year systematic study was conducted by a team of scientists of the Oceanographic department at the instance of the Union Environment ministry, he said.
"The sinking process in the delta region started since the 1940s and it has now further accentuated," he said.
All the inhabitants of Lohacharra, which has already sunk, were shifted to nearby islands earlier.

SOURCE : The Pioneer, Friday, November 10, 2006
No tigers in 47% of State’s forest area (November Week 1 (2006)) In a shocking finding, the Tiger Reserve Institute in Dehra Dun has revealed that 47 per cent of West Bengal’s total forest cover does not have any tiger. But West Bengal’s wildlife officials have some consolation to offer — the State’s leopard population has registered a quantum jump. So much so, that the growing leopard family has become a menace. An increasing number of leopards are being captured and set to different rescue centres in the State, particularly in North Bengal.
Even the captive population of leopards has crossed the 100-mark, posing serious problems regarding their upkeep and rehabilitation, said S B Mondal, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, West Bengal.
The leopard rescue centres in North Bengal are almost full, and there is little space for accommodating more. Tea plantation workers in the area often capture leopard cubs and hand them over to the forest department. The female leopards are often known to hide their new-borns under tea bushes for their safety, as the males have the habit of devouring the cubs. But during the tea plucking season, plantation workers stumble upon these hideouts.
“Once they are kept in captivity, the cubs become totally unfit for survival in the natural environment. They are unable to hunt and fend for themselves. The captive ones are really becoming a burden,” said Mondal. “In captivity, the males and females are kept in segregation so that there is no scope for mating,” he added.
Meanwhile, on the issue of the dwindling tiger population, a senior forest department official said the Union Forests and Environment Ministry has recently released some vital findings by the Tiger Reserve Institute in Dehra Dun. The institute had carried out a countrywide census of tigers in March-April this year.
A meeting has been convened to discuss the issue by senior forest officials. Buxa Tiger Reserve has alredy been in focus for its dwindling tiger population. Now, Sunderbans also comes under the scanner with the latest finding of the Dehra Dun Institute, said forest officials.
SOURCE : The Indian Express, Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Scientists develop unique landslide monitoring system (November Week 1 (2006)) Scientists at the Central Scientific Instruments Organisation (CSIO), Chandigarh, have developed equipment that will be able to monitor underground soil displacement activity and report an impending landslide. This landslide monitoring system will go a long way in taking pre-emptive steps to reduce the impact of disaster. The technology is ready for transfer from CSIO labs to certain seismically active areas.
Developed by four scientists- Navneet Singh Aulakh, J.K. Chhabra, N. Singh, and S. Jain- the Landslide Monitoring System uses a fiber optic cable as a sensor to record activity by the equipment that is buried deep inside the earth. Started as a self-funded project of the CSIO, the project has already won CSIO scientists much acclaim after they published their work in a technical paper in science journals with the title "Microbend resolution enhancing technique for fiber optic- based sensing and monitoring of landslides".
The CSIO Director, Dr Pawan Kapur, highlighted the importance of generation of seismic database in his annual report disclosing that the CSIO was already running three Seismological Observatories at Chandigarh and two in Himachal Pradesh at Sundernagar and Nauni near Solan. One of the scientists to develop the Landslide Monitoring System, Mr Aulakh said the equipment would shortly be transferred to an observatory near Hardwar.
Giving details of the project, he said the Landslide Monitoring System had capitalised on the ability of a fiber optic cable to be used as a sensor. Conventionally fiber optic cable is used for communication, but it has two inherent properties that make it a good sensor. There is a change in signal carried by a fiber optic cable if there is a change in temperature or when some pressure is applied. To explain in simple terms, the fiber optic-based equipment is buried inside the earth and the slightest of movement of the earth exerts pressure on the fiber optic sensor that gives out a signal suggesting a sub-soil movement.
According to Mr Aulakh since the equipment is set up at remote places, earlier equipment with copper wire transmission often saw it being stolen for the value of the copper, but fiber optic cable is useless for a small time thief. Also, when buried in the ground, fiber optic wire is resistant to decay from rust etc. CSIO scientists are very optimistic about the results of this Land slide Monitoring System.
"Optical fiber sensors have been configured to detect and measure different physical phenomena such as strain, pressure, temperature, acceleration, magnetic and electric fields. Fiber optic sensors are being used for quantitative, non-destructive monitoring of advanced materials and structures and their deployment for the measurement of internal material changes during fabrication, embedded lifetime measurement of strain, temperature, vibration, and the eventual detection of damage or degradation. And we have used these properties for developing our system," he said.
Explaining the need for developing the equipment Mr Aulakh said
"Mountainous regions in northern India consist of rocks highly folded, faulted and with thrust. These metamorphic rocks are slowly disintegrating, thereby giving rise to an accumulation of debris on the slope.
The loose, accumulated debris loses much of its strength when saturated by rainfall and produce slides involving large masses of soils and cause damage to many hillside structures, including roads, buildings, bridges, cultivated lands and forests etc., which cause degradation of hillside ecology and loss of human 1ife".
SOURCE : The Tribune, Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Another home for the big cat in Karnataka (Issue of the week, October Week 1 (2006)) With the Centre's clearance coming through, Karnataka is all set to have its fourth tiger reserve — at Anshi in Dandeli, Uttara Kannada district.
Talking to reporters on Tuesday, Minister for Forest and
Environment Chennigappa said, "The tiger reserve project has been planned on over 600 sq km, on a budget of Rs three crore."
The Dandeli-Anshi tiger reserve comes after Nagarahole, Bandipur and Bhadra tiger reserves. Mr Chennigappa said preliminary work on the tiger reserve would be kicked off this year. The Minister said the government would allocate an annual fund of Rs 25,000 each for the formation and activities of Village Forest Committees (VFC) in Gram
Around 1,000 GPs will be brought under the plan this year, he said. The VFCs will work to build awareness on environment and afforestation. Addressing the issue of rampant illegal mining in Bellary, Kanakapura, Chamarajanagar and Chikmagalur, Mr Chennigappa said the State government would tighten curbs on miners by insisting
that the latter should also contribute to afforestation.
"We will ensure that before miners move their activities to another area, they grow plants in areas they had tapped for mining," he said.
World Delays Action to Save Tigers (Issue of the week, October Week 1 (2006)) GENEVA, Switzerland, October 11, 2006 (ENS) - The international
community last week failed to agree on how to halt the illegal trade
in tiger parts or how to curb widespread poaching of the world's
largest cat, delaying any new action until June 2007. The lack of
action comes despite new evidence that tigers are in stark decline
and face possible extinction if poaching is not severely curtailed.
Scientists estimate only 6,000 tigers remain in the wild, although
some warn the figure could be far lower. The species is has lost 40
percent of its habitat in the past decade. Wild tigers occupy only 7
percent of their historic range and their remaining habitat is
increasingly fragmented and degraded.
There are clear signs poaching has accelerated in recent years,
driven by increasing demand for tiger parts in China and Southeast
Development and roadbuilding across Indochina is further
fragmenting tiger habitat and the clear cutting of lowland
rainforests in Sumatra and Malaysia has put further pressure on
the world's largest cat.
A report to the secretariat of the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) presented at last week's
meeting of the treaty's standing committee said efforts to save the
tiger thus far "have failed."
But the committee decided to put off discussion of the tiger crisis
again until next June, when the full CITES body convenes in
The committee did decide to send a technical enforcement mission
from the CITES Secretariat to China to look into enforcement of
this trade, but conservation groups contend that falls far short
given the gravity of the situation.
"We are disappointed by the lack of leadership … and the lack of
commitment to conservation," said Susan Lieberman, director of
WWF's global species Program. "The biggest problem facing tigers
today is illegal trade between India and China, yet neither country
showed the willingness to step up efforts to tackle this urgent
problem. How bad does it need to get for tigers before governments
take the necessary action?"
The failure of India and China to enforce laws against poaching and
trade in tiger parts was documented by a new report released last
month by two environmental groups.
The report, compiled by the Environmental Investigation Agency
and the Wildlife Protection Society of India, revealed a thriving
trade in China that has decimated tiger populations in India.
In the space of just ten days, investigators met 11 traders who
offered them whole tiger and leopard skins. The environmental
groups said the traders were clearly aware of the illegality of their
operations, but were unconcerned about the threat of arrest or
disruption by local authorities - one trader even said that
enforcement had decreased in the last two years.
The groups called for a new enforcement agency be set up in India
and China to coordinate efforts to crack down on the trade before it
is too late.
According to Steven Broad, executive director of TRAFFIC, the
wildlife trade monitoring network of WWF and the World
Conservation Union, a suggestion was on the table at the standing
committee to convene "a high-level law enforcement meeting with
all of the tiger range states and to come up with a process to
measure how well recommendations made by CITES Parties in the
late 1990s were being implemented."
"Instead, the delegates decided to do nothing for nine more
months," Broad said. "The world's tigers can't wait another nine
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