Press on Environment and Wildlife
Forest Rights Bill to be given final shape (May Week # (2006))
The Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, 2005, which had encountered tremendous opposition from conservationists along with some reservations expressed by the Ministry of Forest and Environment, will be finalised by the joint parliamentary committee on May 8.
The Bill will be taken up for consideration during the Budget session of Parliament which is going to meet on May 10 after a recess.
''The Bill is being given final shape and will be cleared by the JPC on May 8,'' member of the committee Brinda Karat said.
The proposed legislation recognises the forest rights of forest dwelling scheduled tribes who have been occupying the land before October, 1980. Each forest dwelling nuclear family will be entitled to the land it was occupying provided it was not more than 2.5 hectares.
Under the Draft Bill, forest- dwelling families get 12 forest rights which include the right to live in the forest, self cultivate, and use minor forest produce. However, they have been prohibited from activities like hunting and trapping.
The extent of forest rights that may be given to each eligible individual or family will be determined by the Gram Sabha.
Communities who depend on the forest for survival and livelihood, but are not forest dwellers or scheduled tribes, have been excluded from the purview of the Bill.
The land to a forest dwelling family may be allocated in all forests , including core areas of national parks and sanctuaries.
However, this right would be provisional for five years, within which period the titleholder would be relocated and compensated. If the relocation does not take place within five years, the person will get permanent right over the land.
The legislation is being brought in to give due recognition to the forest rights of tribals, not recorded while consolidating state forests, during the British rule and also after independence.
Supporters of the Bill argue that tribal communities have lived in forests for centuries, and granting them formal right over forest land, was just correcting a historical wrong.

SOURCE : The Tribune, Saturday, May 06, 2006
Massive destruction of forests in M.P. (May Week # (2006)) Survey of Narmada watershed says river undergoing changes
· `There had been progressive reduction in the flow of Narmada over the years'
· `It would be possible to walk across the river at several places in the State by 2025'
The Vice-Chairman of Madhya Pradesh Janadhikar Parishad, Anil Madhav Dave, on Monday released a report which says that there has been massive destruction of forests in the Narmada catchment area and this was leading to excessive silting and huge reduction in the river's water carrying capacity. The report was prepared by him on the basis of an aerial survey.
Mr. Dave had taken off from here on March 27, starting on his 2,056-km journey by air to conduct a survey of the entire Narmada watershed in Madhya Pradesh. He was the co-pilot along with Capt. Vijay Kumar Mishra during the flight.
Releasing the report, Mr. Dave said the Narmada river was going through rapid changes due to large-scale degradation and destruction of forests in its catchment area. "The survey findings are shocking and a cause for concern but there is no need to be excessively alarmed,'' he said, adding that urgent steps were needed to arrest the continuous and rapid degradation of forests. He also referred to the Forest Survey of India report that indicates that a huge forest cover had been lost in districts like Mandla, Dindori, and Katni.
Mr. Dave said there had been progressive reduction in the flow of Narmada over the years. On the basis of available data, he said that barring 1994-95 and 1999-2000 there had been a continuous drop in the total flow of water in the river from 1990-91 onward. "If the same trend continues, it would be possible to walk across the river at several places in the State by 2025," he said. He said the destruction of forests was most glaring in the Badwani and Nimad area of western Madhya Pradesh. "Going beyond Dewas, especially flying over Dhar and Jhabua districts, one finds that vast forest tracts have completely vanished and one gets the impression as if one was flying over the Nile Delta and there was desert all around." Mr. Dave said he had decided to release his report through the media in order to build up public awareness.

SOURCE : The Hindu, Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Blue Lady more toxic than Clemenceau: Greenpeace (May Week # (2006)) If one thought Clemenceau was carrying enough toxic wastes to make environmentalists fret and fume, make way for S.S. Norway, or Blue lady as it more popularly known as. Some more trouble can be anticipated for the Indian ship -breaking industry as the end-of-the-life passenger cruise ship has been bought by Alang-based Reagent Shipping for $17 million and environmentalist are once again gearing up to oppose the entry of one more "hazardous waste carrier" into India.
Asking the Indian Government and the industry to find a solution and develop a sustainable ship-recycling policy and facility, NGO Greenpeace today urged them to take the opportunity presented by the current situation to transform the ship-breaking industry in India.
" Our aim is not to run after every hazardous waste carrying ship that heads for ship-breaking yards of India nor are we against the ship-breaking industry.
But for clean ship breaking to become a reality, the government and ship-breakers must develop a policy and action plan to ensure an economically viable and environmentally sustainable future of the industry," Greenpeace activist Ramapati
Kumar, said.
Considering that fact that in the next five to six years as many as 2,200 single hull oil tankers will phase out (and this figure does not include passenger, cruise and other ships) and the European Union is seeking to make shipping safer, it makes business sense for developing countries like India to have environmentally sound management facilities for ship recycling.
Having taken ship-breaking issue very seriously, the EU is creating road map for a safe and sustainable way to handle end-of-life ships.
The EU is also exploring possibilities to develop a comprehensive policy on ship recycling, including setting up of pre-cleaning facilities, setting up of dismantling facilities in Europe.
"If stakeholders in India, led by the government, do not rise to the occasion now and secure Alang's place in the new evolving world order in the shipping industry, the loss will be irretrievable and India will no longer be a destination of choice for the recycling of ships," warns Mr Ramapati.
This Blue lady, a passenger cruise ship that was launched on May 11, 1960, is at present being towed to a ship-breaking yard in Alang in Gujarat where it is expected to reach on May 23.
Greenpeace says that the Blue Lady will bring with itself over 900 tonnes of asbestos and other toxic materials such as globally banned and cancer-causing chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). S.S. Norway was crippled following a boiler room explosion in Miami three years ago.
In relation to the much-controversial French warship Clemenceau, which was turned back to France, S.S. Norway has three times more toxic wastes, Mr Ramapati says.
The 11-storey high ship, originally belonging to Malaysian owners Star Cruise, is among the 50 "dirtiest" ships in the world, which was even refused entry by Bangladesh.
A letter of the Bangladesh Ship Breakers Association (BSBA), circulated by the Greenpeace, says: It has come to the noting of BSBA that one passenger ship S.S. Norway has come in the international market which is seriously contaminated and carrying dangerous hazardous material.
" I would like to indicate it very clearly that if any member of BSBA purchase that ship for scrapping purposes, his documents shall not be forwarded to the government authorities for permission," states the letter, dated January 28, 2006, signed by BSBA President Zafar Khan. Following this, the Bangladesh MoEF made a decision to take necessary action to ensure that the S.S. Norway (even if it has changed its name) does not enter Bangladesh.
Turning back of Clemenceau was a major victory for Greenpeace, Mr Ramapati says, adding that "turning back a dirty ship only raises an alarm. The attempt should be to find a clear-cut solution"

SOURCE : The Tribune , Wednesday, May 10, 2006
E-waste law to be tried out in Bangalore (Issue of the week, April Week 2 (2006)) A draft law prepared by the Centre for effective and safer management of e-waste is likely to be tried out for a year in Bangalore, which generates large quantities of e-waste.
Computer monitors, keyboards, speakers, mice, worn-out cables, computer peripherals and consumables all go to make up e-waste in Bangalore, estimated at 5,000 to 8,000 tonnes a year. The law is aimed more at waste generators and recyclers than manufacturers, unlike in the West.
The draft e-waste rules are expected to be released by early June for its trial run in Bangalore for about a year before the relevant Bill is introduced in Parliament, according to the Central Pollution Control Board.
The rules require those generating e-waste to be identified and made to obtain consent from the State Pollution Control Board under the relevant air and water pollution regulations. They will also have to obtain authorisation under the hazardous waste laws and have separate storage facilities for such waste. The rules will also deal with the occupational health of those in constant contact with e-waste and frame housekeeping regulations for organisations likely to generate waste.

SOURCE : The Hindu, Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Mining activities in Bhimgad (April Week 2 (2006))
The Belgaum Forest Department had submitted a proposal to the State government suggesting to acquire all the private lands located in the Bhimgad belt of Khanapur taluk to make it easy for the government to protect the forests as well as the historic Bhimgad fort.
The proposal was sent to the government in 1997. The then Belgaum DFO had appealed to the State government to acquire all the private land in the Bhimgad areas by rehabilitating the villagers of Gavali, Krishnapur and surrounding villages of Bhimgad. If the proposal was implemented, the controversies around the Bhimgad or the Western Ghat forests would not have taken place.
The historic Bhimgad fort was built by Chatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj the Maratha king, and later came under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Department.
Most of the surrounding areas is owned by private parties. Gavali, Krishnapur and villages located in the deep jungles of Khanapur taluk have no basic facilities, like schools or hospitals.
The DFO’s report stated that the total population of villages coming under Bhimgad fort area would be around 1000.
If these people are relocated, they would definitely be ready to sell their lands and the government can have complete control. Then no one would dare destroy the ecological balance of the area, the report stated.
But, the government ignored the report. The parties who were already in the mining business took interest as the ores in these areas are said to be of good quality and the proximity of Goa port to Bhimgad would make transportation easy to China.
Bhimgad is again caught in controversy as 12 powerful politicians of Belgaum district have purchased a total of 521 acres in the area and people from Khanapur as well as the green activists have launched an agitation against the sale of lands as it falls in the green belt.
The Green Brigade is worried that once mining is started in the peaceful Bhimgad area, the entire forest would lose its ecological balance. It would also pose a threat to the ecological systems of the western ghats.

SOURCE : The New India Press, Thursday, April 20, 2006
Development projects not wildlife-friendly (April Week 2 (2006)) Development projects in Uttaranchal are not wildlife friendly and are especially causing harm to elephant population of the State, environmentalists claim.
According to official figures, 90 elephants have been killed in the last five years alone, which was nearly 20 per cent of the State's pachyderm population, J.P. Dabral of the Himalayan Chipko Foundation said here, raising concern about an elephantine problem.
While seven tuskers were killed, probably by poachers, in the famous Jim Corbett National Park, 20 cows and young elephants had been killed after being hit by trains in Rajaji National Park, he said.
One tusker was killed last month in Barkot range forest in Dehra Dun district due to man-animal conflict, he added.
After the formation of Uttaranchal state in November 2000 there had been a spurt in development activities in the State, dams, roads, bridges, transmission lines, canals were being constructed, Mr Dabral said. There was a proposal to build a four-lane highway from Dehra Dun to Tanakpur through Rajaji National Park, Chilla National Park and Jim Corbett National Park, posing danger to the wildlife and ecology of the area, he added.
Though development activities could not be stopped. However, such projects must have adequate planning to make them wildlife and eco-friendly, the wildlife activist said.
He pointed out that the National Highway Authority of India, which made guidelines for the construction of highways in the country, did not have any comprehensive guidelines for making roads in wildlife, forested or mountainous areas.
The `deadly' railway track near Motichur in Uttaranchal where 20 elephants had been killed in accidents should be `elevated' to allow easy passage for the animals, he suggested.
Similarly, the water canal going from Rishikesh to Uttar Pradesh along the Chilla National Park could be covered in some stretches to enable elephants to cross it, he said.
Traditionally, wild elephant herds used to migrate across the Yamuna river to Tanakpur and beyond into Nepal.
Their movement was also a deterrent to the poachers and hunters. But today the scenario was different. Elephants of Rajaji National Park could not cross the Ganga canal because its cemented embankments trap the elephants and they get drowned, he said. Tree felling by the forest mafia had also added to the vulnerability of the elephants. In Barkot forest range near Dehra Dun where an elephant was killed last month, it was a common sight to see timber being smuggled openly by tractor trolleys without registration numbers, he claimed. -- UNI

SOURCE : The Hindu, Friday, April 21, 2006
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