Tibetans burning animal skins: Experts (February Week 3 (2006))
The Times of India reports that people in Tibet have started burning the skins of animals like the leopard, otter and fox following the Dalai Lama's call to stop using wildlife products in their attire, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) officials said on Monday.
"For the last five days, during the great prayer festival of Molam Quinmo, people from Huangnan Rebgong area launched a campaign to burn Tibetan garments made from animal furs," said Pasang Lhamu Bhutia, an expert with WTI.
Ashok Kumar, vice chairman of WTI, said villagers of Amdo and Rebgong launched the campaign and placed their own otter, fox and other furs on fires and encouraged hundreds of others to take similar action.
"This is certainly a nice beginning and the initiative of the Tibetans showed that it is not too late to do something for a great cause. If others start following this path, we can still save our endangered wildlife from the jaws of death," Kumar said.
Two months ago, the Dalai Lama had appealed to his Buddhists devotees at the Kalachakra (empowerment initiation) ceremony to stop using wildlife products to either make dresses or as part of their attire.
WTI has been campaigning against the use of animal parts or skins in Tibet.
Grey water recycling needs only simple technology (Issue of the week, February Week 2 (2006))
Widespread use will help cut the demand for water, say experts
• A boon for those maintaining gardens
• Even a small patch of land is enough
• NGOs want corporation to involve them
Nearly 70 per cent of water used in households for cleaning or washing can be treated using simple technology. It can be reused for gardening and groundwater recharge. An even better incentive is that it saves money, says The Hindu.
Speakers at a seminar on ``Wastewater treatment: Opportunities for Chennai's water future'' organised here on Saturday explained that several examples had proved that reusing grey water (term used for water flushed out from kitchen, laundry and bathroom) had
led to substantial cost cutting.
R. Ramani, a grey water reuse expert, said he had been recycling up to 400 litres every day over the past decade and used it for drip-irrigation of his garden. ``For those interested in maintaining gardens, these systems are a boon because one need not spend
money on water." He said he had designed a system for a friend that helped save Rs.36,000 a year that he normally used for purchasing water.
Several grey water recycling designs are available and can be implemented based on the extent of open ground available. It usually consists of a system for collecting water from washbasins and kitchen sinks and some simple filtration chambers. Different types
of filtrations are possible, from using river sand to charcoal to even tuber-plants.
More complex wastewater treatment technologies that can also treat black water (from toilets) are available for commercial establishments and residential complexes. One such system is the DEWATS (Decentralised Wastewater Treatment Systems) technology that treat
wastewater flows ranging from 1 to 100 cubic metres a day, both from domestic and industrial waste.
Indukanth S.Ragade, who has designed grey-water reuse systems for multi-storeyed apartments in the city over the past two decades, said groundwater recharge through treated grey water could substantially improve the quality of bore-well water.
``It is a myth that you need a large open space for setting up such systems. Even a small patch is enough.''
Sultan Ahmed Ismail, Vice-Principal, New College (evening) and managing director of Ecoscience Research Foundation, said used water recycling was an essential part of maintaining an eco-friendly lifestyle. ``With any doubt, the systems require some level of
maintenance on part of the resident. But one must acknowledge that eco-friendly technologies liberates. Modern technologies like reverse osmosis may be convenient but they subjugate you and leave you forever at the mercy of private companies."
Though an amendment to the Chennai City Corporation building rule in 2003 has made grey water reuse mandatory, there has not been much of awareness on various systems of recycling. Chennai Corporation had attempted grey water recycling in some of its parks
last year but NGOs feel that they could have been involved by the civic agency to widen the appeal.
Wetlands more productive than forest ecosystem (February Week 2 (2006))
The ecosystem service values provided by wetlands in the country is worth about a whopping Rs.5,60,000 crores a year, according to Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History founder Director V.S. Vijayan.
Dr. Vijayan was delivering the key-note address at the national conference on `Wetland bio-diversity' organised here on Thursday jointly by the Department of Zoology of St. Aloysius College, Elthuruthu; the Limnological Association of Kerala and the Indian
Association of Aquatic Biologists, Hyderabad.
He said even this figure could only be a conservative estimate considering that the total area of the wetlands in the country is considered to be 7.6 million hectares. Pointing out that wetlands are the most productive ecosystem, he said studies estimate that
in terms of the values of ecosystem services they outweigh forest ecosystems by seven times. The ecosystem service value of tropical forests is estimated to be $2,007 a hectare while that of the wetlands is $14,785 a hectare.
Dr. Vijayan said the ecosystem services used in such calculations include the contribution made by the area in gas regulation, disturbance regulation such as flood control, water storage and supply including ground water recharge, habitat refuge, food production,
raw material, recreation including tourism and cultural.
Quoting from some studies, Dr. Vijayan said the extent of wetlands in Kerala is estimated at 3,28,402 hectares and its ecosystem values work out to be Rs.15,797 crores a year, which is more than State's revenue receipts for 2004-'05. ``If the ecosystem values
of the paddy fields, extending to around 3,30,00 hectares are also included, the figure will go up to Rs.23,115 crores a year. Interestingly, it is more than the combined receipts of revenue and capital during 2004-'05 of the Budget of Kerala,'' quotes The
Dr. Vijayan said there is severe lack of appreciation of the productive value of the wetlands and their critical significance as life supporting systems, across the country. In many parts such areas are often treated as wasteland.
Unsustainable exploitation and sheer lack of awareness among the developers lead to disappearance of a large extent of wetlands across the world. In India, there has been an alarming loss of 38 per cent wetlands between 1991 and 2001, he said.
State launches conservation plan for Gir lions (February Week 2 (2006))
Even as the controversy of shifting Asiatic lions from congested Gir Lion sanctuary in Junagadh to Kuno-Palpur in Madhya Pradesh is raging, the Gujarat forest department has prepared a long term conservation plan under which 100 square km of grassland
is to be developed adjacent to the sanctuary as the new home for the big cats.
The new habitat for the big cats, whose population has increased to 359, is being developed in 10,000 hectare grassland in Amreli and Bhavnagar areas bordering the sanctuary.
Despite precautionary measures taken by the state forest department, it is a fact that 90 to 95 lions "a majority of them cubs" have died due to infection and factors like poaching.
Though the state government has not yet given any reaction to the suggestion of shifting Gir lions to Madhya Pradesh, it has launched a long-term conservation plan to protect lions to prove that rare species like Asiatic lions are well protected in Gujarat.
The department, in a note on the long term conservation plan, said,"The Gir Protected Area has consistently supported the Asiatic Lion Conservation, as can be seen from the gradual increase in its population in the last four decades, from 177 in the year 1968
to about 359 (+ or - 10) in April 2005."
The forest department has over a period of time successfully facilitated the process of reclamation of the territory lost by the lion...
Lions now inhabit forests and grasslands in the region beyond Gir forests, including Girnar, Mitiyala forests and grasslands of Savarkundla taluka, Babara reserve grasslands in Maliya taluka and the coastal forests.
State chief conservator of forest Pradeep Khanna told TOI that avoiding in-breeding is required by providing corridors linking the different lion prides.
As part of this endeavour, the government in February 2004 notified Mitiyala sanctuary covering about 1,820 hectares. In addition, the forest department has identified over 10,000 hectares of grasslands in Amreli and Bhavnagar districts that are important lion
habitats. Lions now inhabit forests and grasslands in the region beyond Gir forests, including Girnar, Mitiyala forests and grasslands of Savarkundla talukaa Babara reserve grasslands in Maliya taluka and the coastal forests.
Shrinking space causing man-elephant conflict (February Week 2 (2006))
Shortage of food and water, "sexual selection strategy" of bull-elephants, encroachment of elephant corridor, physical and psychological barriers, are the reasons for increased man-elephant conflict in Kodagu, according to a team studying the problem in
the Nagarahole National Park. The Hindu reports findings of Enviroresearch, a Pune based agency.
The team took up research through the "line transect" method comprising 16 line transects, each at a distance of two km, ascertaining the biomass of grass, counting elephant dung and other methods, Mr. Kulkarni said. Each line transect was studied for six months,
after a gap of one month each.
The movement patterns of the animals, areas frequented by them for crop raids, their location and migratory routes and habitat utilisation were studied. The study work was sponsored by the Forest Department under the World Bank-sponsored Eco-Development Project.
Later, the assistance of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was obtained to continue the project, Mr. Kulkarni told the meeting.
The compensation provided by the State Government in the last five years for deaths amounted to Rs. 30 lakhs in 30 cases.
Kattepura, Devamachi and Dubare areas in the eastern belts of the district were most prone to depredations by elephants, Mr. Kulkarni said.
Crop raids were frequent in August. November was the second peak season when paddy was ready for harvest. Hammiyala, Kalur and Mukkodlu were affected in the western belt of the district. Elephant densities were more in Banavara area, followed by Dubare, Nagarahole
National Park and Kallalla.
Dr. Mehta, in her presentation, said more crops were raided by bull elephants. This could be related to the "sexual selection strategy" in which male elephants want to retain supremacy.
Physical barriers such as elephant proof trenches and solar fencing, psychological barriers such as sound of firecrackers and gunshots could also cause abnormal behaviour, she said.
Depletion of forest cover, biotic pressures and "local overabundance" of elephants had aggravated the man-elephant conflict, she said. Kodagu lost 18 per cent of the forest cover in the last 20 years according to statistics available, Dr. Mehta said.
Extinction threatens red jungle fowls (February Week 2 (2006))
The species has been called the Adam and Eve of modern poultry. And conservation efforts notwithstanding, it could also become a part of mythology. In almost all its habitats the Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus) finds itself in a fight for survival.
It is a fowl that has a distinctive, almost showy appearance. The habitat range is quite diverse and it is inclined to stay in areas having abundant sunshine and soil conditions conducive to worms and insects. In behaviour they are, however, more robust than
domestic poultry, which evolved from them.
“A distinctive trait of the jungle fowl is the presence of an eclipse moult in males. Among females, the absence of the comb helps to distinguish it from the domestic breed. Other physical characteristics of the colour of the legs, carriage of tail, spur length
in males etc are demonstrated depending upon their geographical locations. The red comb and colourful plumes are common to both domestic and those found in the wild,” said an ornithologist.
The species has its origins in Asia along with four other jungle fowls of the genus Gallus. The three others are grey (Gallus sonnerati), green (Gallus varius) and Ceylon (Gallus lafayettei). Colonies of the Red Jungle Fowl were seen in abundance in Assam along
with some parts of India and a few neighbouring countries.
The species, according to experts, is listed in the schedule IV of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, and also and the Red Data Book of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) places it in the threat category of ‘least concern’.
But the emerging situation in and around its various habitats in Assam is worrying and there are reports suggesting that their numbers are fast on the decline. Defragmentation of forests in the face of growing anthropogenic pressures has posed a serious problem
for the species. At many places, colonies of the species no longer exist.
Speaking to The Assam Tribune, Prasanta Saikia of Gauhati University’s Zoology Department commented that population of the species is dwindling across the State. “Even a decade ago Red Jungle Fowl was frequently visible in grasslands and forests, now its presence
is almost restricted to the protected areas. It is time to give them a more important conservation status.”
Scientists also fear that frequent inter-breeding with domestic breed could push the Red Jungle Fowl to extinction. Eminent bird expert and Director of the Wild Species Programme of Wildlife Trust of India, Dr Rahul Kaul said, “the status of pure jungle fowl
may be threatened as a result of hybridization with domestic chicken…wild populations need to be studied for any genetic contamination.”
Others worried over threats to the species point out that the Red Jungle Fowl must be saved for a range of reasons. They have a definite role in some ecological spaces and in their absence some plants might find it difficult to propagate. Another significant
reason is that its survival would be a blessing to the poultry industry. Its genes could be the key to developing disease resistant domestic poultry.
Unfortunately studies and research on the Red Jungle Fowl have been scanty. As a result, in a region like the North East, no one can speculate on the size of its population. “We all say that the numbers are falling, but no one can tell how many are living in
the wild!” said an ornithologist of Assam.