Press on Environment and Wildlife
Latest technologies for tiger census 2006 (December Week 4 (2005)) The forthcoming tiger census in 2006 will have the latest in technologies. Apart from the use of the GPS (Global Positioning System) to monitor and map the movements of the survey teams, the 2006 census will also use a software developed by the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata for the laboratory analysis of the raw field data. The project, a UNDP scheme, was allocated funds to the tune of Rs 9 lakh, reports the Indian Express.
The census will be an elaborate process with the entire country being divided into six zones, namely, the northern zone, central zone, north eastern zone, Eastern Ghats, Western Ghats and the Sunderbans.
The Sunderbans Reserve Forest comprising the Sunderbans tiger reserve and a part of the 24 parganas (South) forest division, spans an expanse of 4,200 square kilometres.
The modus operandi in the Sunderbans Reserve Forest will be quite different from that in the other forest zones. This is mainly due to the mangrove forests in the area, which makes it a difficult terrain for the survey teams.
The area earmarked for the survey has been divided into 50 census units and five to eight teams will scan the entire region as part of the wild animals encounter survey. “The teams, each consisting of three to four members will be essentially looking for various tiger signs like pug marks, roars, scat (tiger excreta), scratch marks on tree trunks and even an actual sighting of the tiger will be noted down,” said Atanu Raha, chief conservator, forest.
All traces of the various encounter signs that the teams come across in their census units will be put down on sign survey forms.
This is the first phase of the census and is held over a four-day period from January 5 to January 8. The next phase, from January 9 to January 10, is devoted to “ungulate survey” where field data collected from the survey area will help establish a predator-prey relationship.
In this phase, the teams, travelling along the river, stop after every half hour to assess the situation on the ground. “They will take note of the quality of the vegetation that grows in that area. Our teams will also look for any signs of human disturbances like ‘chopping and lopping’ in the area,” said Raha.
The encounter signs of the herbivores like wild boars and spotted deers will be carefully taken into account. Forest officials said that the number of herbivores in a given area will help to predict whether the area is at all suitable as a tiger habitat.
“We then tally the figures with our estimates of the tiger population in that particular area. A high number of prey will mean that the area is a good habitat for tigers and if the tiger count in that particular area is found to be low, then it signals a discrepancy in our count,” explained Raha.
After field data is compiled, we demarcate the entire span of survey area into high encounter, low encounter and moderate encounter zones. Twenty per cent of total number of units in each zone are randomly selected, for a second round of intensive field-work.
The plaster casts of left hind pug marks of tigers are collected from these selected areas which are later taken for laboratory analysis by the Wildlife Institute of India. This will confirm whether the pug marks belong to separate tigers or not, quite like the finger print analysis in crime departments. It is after this that the authorities will be able to come with a probable range for the tiger count by applying the sample result to the entire area.
Poaching continues (December Week 4 (2005)) Police arrested Three persons on Wednesday for hunting the National Bird peacock in this district's Laar Banjraya forest, 17 km from here, reports the Pioneer.
Pota village residents Fhatan, Ajit and Khurcha, who killed three peacocks, were caught by Forest Guard Jagdish Dubey with the help of villagers.
The number of peacocks in the jungle has plummeted from 200-300 to a mere 15-20.
The Hindu reported that forest officials of Kerala have seized tiger skin and elephant tusks valued at Rs.50 lakhs from a three-member gang that had been allegedly operating in the Tamil Nadu area of Gudalur.
On the orders of the Joint director of the Periyar Tiger Sanctuary, a team of officials visited the border areas in the guise of traders and seized tiger skin and tusks from the gang, Department sources said here today. Investigations revealed that the gang had been selling it to tourists visiting the area.
The gang had been shifting its operations between Tamil Nadu and Kerala to escape arrest. The Kerala officials arrested the gang members who belonged to the State. — PTI
New mines on uranium map (Issue of the week, December Week 3 (2005)) Two new uranium deposits, one in Karnataka and the other in
Rajasthan, have come up on the national map.
The sites have been identified by the Atomic Mineral Division (AMD), a wing of
the department of atomic energy, reports The Telegraph.
About the two new projects that the UCIL has taken up in Meghalaya and Andhra Pradesh, Diwakar Acharya, general manager (mines), UCIL, said: "In Andhra Pradesh, mining operation will be undertaken in two districts — Nalgonda and Cuddapah while West Khasi hills in Meghalaya has been identified for mining operations there."
UCIL secretary P.V. Dubey also spoke about their projects in Jadugoda in East Singhbhum, where the company has started two new mines at Banduhurang (open cast) and Bagjata (underground), while a new processing plant is under construction at Turamdih, about 12 km from the city.
"Moreover, efforts are also being made to start underground uranium mining at Mahuldih in Seraikela-Kharsawan district for which a public hearing is slated on
December 20," the senior UCIL official added. The Mahuldih project will be the seventh such project of UCIL in Jharkhand, Dubey said.
It is understood that an environment impact assessment (EIA) report has already been prepared by Mecon, a Ranchi-based consultant firm.
UCIL officials further informed that uranium extracted from different mines in Jharkhand is utilised in 14 nuclear power reactors for generating 2,700 MW of

The Hindu also reported protests against proposed uranium mine

THE VILLAGERS in Gamharia Block of Jharkhand's Saraikela-Kharsawan district are up in arms over plans to mine uranium at Mohuldih. They have vehemently
opposed to the public hearing to be conducted by the Jharkhand Pollution Control Board (PCB) and the Uranium Corporation of India Limited this week on the
proposed mines. In August, an attempt by the PCB and the UCIL to hold a public hearing was thwarted by the residents of more than a dozen villages around
The villagers said they neither needed a hearing nor a uranium mine. The hearing was meant to discuss the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report
prepared by UCIL's consultants. Of the proposed 116.68 hectares of leasehold area, 52.41 hectares is agricultural land and 3.83 hectares is grazing land. The rest consists of forestland and surface water bodies.
The EIA report is riddled with inconsistencies. To begin with, it does not qualify as a full EIA baseline data measurement as it is limited to the summer season. An EIA requires all three seasons to be taken into account. The report, which can at best be considered a `Rapid EIA,' omits the other two mining projects in the `core zone' (within a 3 km radius) of the project from assessment. The report is also ambiguous about the number of persons to be displaced or the extent of loss of livelihood to local farmers and agricultural labour.
The UCIL management was aware of a survey conducted by a team led by nuclear physicist Surendra Gadekar that showed a sharp rise in the number of congenital deformities in children in villages around Jadugoda, where the UCIL's uranium mines have been functioning since 1968. The EIA report for the Mohuldih project does not mention that families and workers in the neighbourhood face the risk of
developing health problems. It also does not specify the measures that will be taken to protect workers in the plant from hazards such as exposure to radioactive dust or high levels of noise and vibration.
Canara Bank to help solar water heater users sell carbon (December Week 3 (2005)) A body will be set up to negotiate with foreign buyers
• Loans will be offered to buy solar water heaters at concessional interest rates
• The bank will facilitate aggregation of users of solar water heaters
Canara Bank is bringing together a group of entities buying energy-efficient solar water heaters through a soft loan and help them trade carbon credits or certified emission reductions (CERs) prescribed under the Kyoto Protocol.
CER stands for one tonne equivalent of carbon dioxide reduction and can be traded. In effect, users of solar water heaters will be able to encash the lower emissions through energy saved when entities from any of the 37 developed countries that buy carbon credits from developing nations, including India, to reduce their emissions of six harmful green-house gases. The bank will provide loans to buy solar water heaters at concessional interest rates to individuals at 2 per cent per annum. For institutional users such as colleges and hostels, the interest will be 3 per cent and for commercial and industrial users, including small and medium enterprises, it will be 5 per cent. The bank will facilitate collection and aggregation of users of solar water heaters and form an agency or body that will negotiate with foreign buyers of carbon credits from India.

"We are in talks with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to get technical assistance for a mechanism to bundle this and tag it on to the Clean Development Mechanism projects. Revenue from the sale of carbon credits can flow to the bank, which, in turn, will be passed on to the users of solar water heaters. This creates an additional stream of benefits/incentives to the users," General Manager in-charge of priority sector lending, Canara Bank R. Prabha told The Hindu .
The bank has proposed to the UNEP that a body can negotiate with buyers of carbon credits on behalf of users of the heaters. As part of the bank's `basket of green loan products to popularise use of renewable energy, finance will be given to buy heaters up to 85 per cent of the project cost, including cost of accessories and installation with no upper ceiling.
"In the first year, the bank proposes to finance loans worth Rs. 50 crores, saving energy to the extent of 12-15 MW," he said.
Green bodies planned for national parks (December Week 3 (2005)) parks
The Rajasthan Government is considering appointment of ecological development committees in areas adjacent to national parks and wildlife sanctuaries to ensure participation of local people in conservation of forests and wildlife and provide adequate livelihood opportunities to them.
The Minister for Forests and Environment, Laxminarain Dave said connecting common people with the conservation activities would not only lead to their participation, but would also inculcate a sense of belonging to the natural heritage of the State. Mr. Dave, addressing the participants in a long march from the Ranthambhore wildlife sanctuary to Jaipur, said an experiment for associating the tribal population with the arrangements for boarding of tourists through the Nature Club had been launched in Udaipur. Similar initiatives could be taken in the forest areas, he added.
Referring to the disappearance of tigers from the Sariska wildlife sanctuary, Mr. Dave said the role of a bunch of criminals working for a gang had been exposed in this regard. He said the march would send across a positive message motivating the people at large to join the movement for environment conservation.
The rally was organised by Sawai Madhopur-based Mahatma Ishwarnath Seva Samiti, reports the Hindu.
Butterflies need conservation (December Week 3 (2005)) Like other species, their habitat is also declining. As City Beautiful is rapidly converting into a concrete jungle, there is a decline in host shrubs like lantana, ak and hibiscus and trees like amaltas, pipal and bor.
There is a need to improve the number by setting up a butterfly park on the pattern of parks in foreign countries, says Dr V.K. Walia, an entomologist at the Department of Zoology, Panjab University, Chandigarh. He has been studying butterflies for the past 25 years.
He says the park will not only improve their number of butterflies but also bring residents closer to nature.
“The park will give children an opportunity to understand the importance of these bio-indicators. It will also serve as a laboratory for studying lepidoptera and its conservation,” believes Dr Walia, who is writing a book on butterflies of north-west of India.
Of the 1,439 species of butterflies that have been reported in India, 78 have been recorded by Dr Walia in and around the city. Most of these species live at average altitudes. These can be seen in good numbers in foothills and plains close to hills.
Area near Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary is an ideal spot for setting up the park as it is botanically richest area. A museum will also go a long way in creating awareness about these beautiful creatures.
Butterflies can be reared in parks under controlled conditions and these can be later released in surrounding areas, he says. For this, plantation of their host plants and closed chambers will be required.
“The department has a large collection of specimens of different species of butterflies and moths that can be displayed in the museum,” says the entomologist. The Tribune also reports that
butterfly farming, popular in the UK, the USA and Australia, has played an important role not only in its conservation but also in providing employment as a cottage industry.
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