Press on Environment and Wildlife
Diverting Sutlej could spell disaster: environmentalists (February Week 1 (2006)) As Himachal Pradesh plans to tap its huge hydropower potential, environmentalists warn that diverting the fast-flowing Sutlej through tunnels could spell disaster in the event of an earthquake in the fragile Himalayan terrain, reports The Times Of India. .
The Himalayan state is planning 42 large and small projects to tap its hydropower potential of about 11,000 mw, which is more than a third of that of the entire country. If these projects were to be taken up, in about a decade's time the river could end up being diverted underground into various tunnels running over 150 km.
Most tunnels are to be built in the 'run of the river style', whereby the tunnel water is sprayed powerfully on to giant turbines to generate electricity.
While the government is excited about tapping the power potential and the huge revenue that will flow into the hill state's coffers, the greens disagree. They foresee disaster in the event of a major earthquake.
"Kinnaur and Shimla districts fall in the category 5 earthquake zone. If a powerful quake hits the area, the impact could spell flash floods in the region and downstream posing threat to millions," says Birender Singh Malhans, an expert on environment.
"Besides, once the waters of the river are diverted into tunnels, barely 15 per cent will remain in the river bed which could destroy all the marine life in the river," Malhans said.
Most of the new power projects are planned in the Sutlej basin.
The government last month floated global tenders for 14 projects and is to soon invite more bids for the remaining projects, a government official said.
For the last two years, the 1,500-mw Nathpa project is in operation in the Sutlej valley. The Nathpa project has a 27 km long underground hydel tunnel, which carries waters of the Sutlej from Nathpa to Jhakri. Work would soon start on the Shongtong, Rampur and Loori projects for which the Sutlej waters will be diverted through 50 km of tunnels.
"Other projects are to have smaller tunnels. Once all these hydro projects are built in the next decade or so, the river will have passed through 150 km of tunnels to feed these projects," said an official who did not wish to be named.
So far Himachal Pradesh has tapped less than a quarter of its hydro-power potential, more than half of it in the Sutlej basin.
The Sutlej, one of the fastest flowing rivers in the country, originates in the high mountains of Tibet and passes through India before meeting the Indus in Pakistan.
Despite ban, poachers make a killing (February Week 1 (2006)) The Pioneer reported on the flourishing illegal trade of wild birds.
A hornbill for Rs 2,000, a mango bird for Rs 500, grey crane and heron for as low as Rs 100 to Rs 200, depending on their weight.
As the Government tightens its noose under the Wildlife Act 1972, poachers are fast shifting their business, capturing rural markets in Jagatsinghpur district under the garb of medicines, religion and fashion.
From Somanath Hat in Jagatsinghpur to several rural markets across the district, wild bird trade continues to flourish. Nomadic people are stated to be behind this illegal trade for years despite the ban on such activities.
More than 20 species of wild birds are caught and traded with impunity. Thousands of birds are killed for their meat by mostly tribal and downtrodden people, who use it as food and also for black magic, medicinal purposes and religious belief.
It is also considered a status symbol for people to keep an exotic or rare bird as a pet, including parrot, mango bird, sparrow, myna. They are available in the range of Rs 200 to Rs 500 depending on their weight, said Devabrata Swain, a bird lover. Moreover, water fowls and wild birds, pond heron, gray crane, water hen, little cormorant, heron, kingfisher, duck and goose are in the list that attract poachers.
There is no dearth of purchasers for these birds that serve as cheap meat for many people.
Religion, too, plays a significant role in promoting wild bird trade. Hindus believe that releasing birds that are held in captivity can purify the soul and relieve one's sins.
While on auspicious days like Makar Sankranti, days of lunar and solar eclipses and Kartik Purnima, people buy these birds from traders and release them. One Basudev Jena said releasing a captive bird during auspicious days earns positive impact from religious point of view, according to astrology.
Some protected species like owl, kite and parrot are hunted for black magic rituals and sorcery. Wild birds in large numbers are also brought for medicinal purposes. Ayurvedic physician Bibhuti Bhusan Dash said birds like hornbill, adjutant and water hen are in focus for preparing Ayurvedic medicines for several human ailments.
Many of the rare species are also exported out of the district.
A number of tribal people and nomadic tribes living in rural areas are in this illegal trade in Jagatsinghpur. They use nets or special type of sticks or intoxicants to capture the birds.
A nomadic bird poacher living in Nuapola village said his family has been involved in this trade since generations. As illegal bird trades flourish, police said no complaint has been registered as yet. Chandramani Behera, range officer, Kujanga, promised to take stern action against the wild bird poachers if any complaint is lodged.
4 panels formed on wildlife preservation (February Week 1 (2006)) The Chandigarh Administration has formed four committees for preservation of wildlife to promote a mass movement towards respect for the wildlife, reports the Pioneer. The committees have been formed on a recommendation of the State Board for Wildlife.
One of the committees is on creation of awareness about forests, wildlife and environment among people, especially students.
The committee has been constituted under the chairmanship of the Home Secretary. Another committee has been constituted on Conservation of the Sukhna Lake and promotion of eco-tourism under the chairmanship of the Finance Secretary-cum-Secretary (Environment and Forests).
The committee on preservation of heritage trees hasthe Deputy Conservator of Forests-cum-Director Environment as chairman. The committee on the proposed Greater Shivalik National Park has been constituted under the chairmanship of the Secretary (Forests).
The committees will hold meetings and submit detailed recommendations to the Administration by April 30.
Forest Department begins raids to prevent bird poaching (February Week 1 (2006)) The Chennai Forest Department has begun conducting regular raids at several areas in the city to prevent water bird poaching, reports the New Indian Express. .
They have also kick-started an awareness campaign against eating water-bird meat as the threat of bird flu looms large because of the visit of migratory birds in the city.
According to Ashish Kumar Srivastav, City Wildlife Warden, the Wildlife Department officials conduct regular raids at Pallikkaranai, Avadi, Chembarambakkam, Tambaram and Neelangarai to prevent water-bird poaching.
These areas, with their proximity to water resources, attract migratory birds.
“We have received information about water-bird poaching in areas near Avadi. We had seized some dead night herons from Narikuravas (gypsies),” Srivastav said.
“Though there have been no cases of bird flu reported in this part of the world, we cannot rule out the possibility entirely. This season, we have had a heavy inflow of migratory birds in the bird sanctuaries in and around the city.
“So, there is a chance of our resident birds contracting infection from the migratory birds and eating their meat can spread the infection to human beings,” Srivastav said.
His Department would start an awareness campaign to educate the public about the dangers of eating water-bird meat in this context.
“Moreover, killing water-birds is also a criminal offence,” he pointed out.
He also appealed that the NGOs should also take up this issue and create awareness among people. According to sources in the Forest Department, poaching of water birds has gone up this season as the city and suburbs had received a huge population of water-birds because of the excellent rains.
They said the bird meat had been sold in the local market.
“It is difficult to stop poaching of water-birds. Bird hunting has been considered as the traditional occupation of the Narikuravas and many find this as their only source of livelihood.
“It is difficult to stop them merely citing the law. However, an awareness campaign highlighting the dangers of the bird flu and chances of infection through consumption of water-bird meat can bring a change,” another official from the Department said.
Power Delhi from waste, President tells Govt (Issue of the week, January Week 3 (2006)) The Pioneer reports that President APJ Abdul Kalam has called on the Delhi Government to consider generating power from municipal waste, which will not only supplement the city's power supply, but also curb pollution.
Speaking at the inauguration of the two-day international conference on Environment-Awareness-Enforcement held under the aegis of the Asia Pacific Jurist Association (APJA), President Kalam said, "Higher growth in society proportionally increases pressure on environment."
Recounting the country's economic growth, he expressed concern over the depleting natural resources and increased dependence on non-renewable resources like coal, oil and gas. "I am encouraging the Delhi Government to produce energy from municipal solid waste."
"In 10-15 years from now," he said, "we can visualise that India and China's population may become half of that on the planet." Terming this as a moment of "colossal environmental challenge", the President expressed fears that hazardous gases and effluents released by industries would possibly be more than the cumulative estimate of poisonous gases released from all developing and developed world.
Such an alarming situation could only be countered if we begin to increasingly depend on renewable sources in the present moment.
Giving examples from various states, President Kalam emphasised on the importance of creating awareness and educating masses on serious environmental issues. "We have a collective responsibility towards nature and through our integrated participation we can help our institutions," he said.
Chief Justice YK Sabharwal, who spoke on the occasion, echoed the same sentiments. Stating that despite laws framed to protect environment there is a little thought given to preserving the nature and its resources for the future generations.
"While Article 21 of our Constitution grants Right to Life, the courts have interpreted within its ambit Right to Healthy Living and this includes ensuring a clean, green environment for every citizen," he said
"The judiciary is conscious of this aspect and bears this in mind. Every Friday, a special bench hears pressing matters pertaining to environment," he said.
UP wildlife authorities wake up to vanishing gharials (January Week 3 (2006)) The ecological balance of a river is largely dependent on the presence of predator and scavengers like crocodiles and other similar creatures. While crocodiles are largely found in the rivers of South India, the northern and eastern rivers in the country are solely dependent on gharials, a long-nosed relative of crocodiles that is purely riverine in its habitat, reports The Pioneer..
Lately, with an increase in pollution in the Ganga and the Yamuna rivers, the gharials have completely vanished from these rivers, which has made these rivers full of decomposing fishes and rotting bodies of animals and humans to further pollute these rivers.
Now, in an effort to restore the ecological balance of the rivers in Uttar Pradesh, the Wildlife Authorities of the State are planning to introduce gharials, also called Gavialis Gangeticus, in the rivers.
A group of 56 gharials, brought from the Kukrail wildlife park in Lucknow were released by the wildlife authorities in the Chambal river near Pinahat in Agra on Friday as a step towards the rehabilitation of gharials in the river and to promote breeding of this reptilian creature in the river.
Talking to The Pioneer, KK Singh, Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife), Chambal Range said that the Chambal wildlife sanctuary was a 180 km stretch of river passing through Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and being an unpolluted river flowing away from the urban population, it was the best location for the crocodilian species to breed and a number of other aquatic creatures like Gangetic dolphins and turtles, of which, atleast eight species were living in the river, almost all of whom were carnivorous, that helped in preservation of aqu-atic equilibrium in the river.
He said that the population of crocodiles in almost all the rivers of UP had decreased in the past few decades but in contrast to the other rivers, Chambal had a high concentration of crocodiles and adding more of this species in the river would ensure that some of these species move over to the Yamuna and other rivers connected to the Chambal river. He said that the gharials that had been released in the Chambal had been collected from the Chambal river in the form of eggs that were later hatched in the Kukrail Park at Lucknow and raised till the age of 4-6 years before they were finally rehabilitated.
He said that at present, there were atleast 3,000 gharials and almost 1,000 "Muggers" (Crocodylus Palustris) living in the Chambal river that had reproduced rapidly after the beginning of the Chambal National Park project in 1979. He said that the reason for collecting eggs of crocodiles from the river was to ensure the maximum hatching of the eggs through artificial incubation at the Kukrail Park in Lucknow as the crocodiles were listed in the first schedule of Wildlife Conservation Act 1972, as an endangered species and it was only through human interference in their breeding cycle that they had been able to regain their numbers in the polluted rivers of North India.
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