Press on Environment and Wildlife
Sethusamundaram inauguration goes ahead (July Week 1 (2005)) The Sethusamudram Ship Channel project has been inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week amidst controversies as it was yet to obtain the mandatory no-objection certificate from the Tamil Nadu State Pollution Control Board. Union Shipping Minister T. R. Baalu said (The Tribune, July 02) the project would enhance India's security as Indian Navy ships would be easily able to reach the eastern coast without going around the Sri Lankan coast. He said, "The issue of no-objection certificate is old and I can say that I do not require any such certificate from the state government." He said, "Real fishermen welcome the project and I have met with them in six districts of Tamil Nadu. All they want is more fishing harbors which the project will provide." However, it remains to be clarified as to who the 'real' fisherman are and if they really want what Mr. Baalu says they want.
Coca-Cola alleged for causing cadmium pollution (July Week 1 (2005)) The Kerala State Pollution Control Board (PCB) has issued notice to the Coca-Cola's bottling plant at Plachimada in Palakkad district to explain why the `consent to operate' issued to it earlier shall not be renewed. The PCB's main objection to the company's request for the renewal of the license is the unexplained presence of the heavy metal, cadmium, in the sludge generated by the company and in the well water in a colony. The plant has been closed since March 9, 2004, when the High Court delivered its order in a case filed by the panchayat complaining that the plant's operations were causing depletion of the groundwater resources. The High Court lifted the closure order on April 7, this year, after imposing certain conditions on the company on the basis of an expert committee's report on the quantum of groundwater that can be drawn by the company without causing groundwater depletion in the area. The company, however, has not been able to resume its operations till now since the `consent to operate' order issued by the PCB earlier had expired. The PCB, in an order issued last Friday, refused to renew its `consent to operate' on the basis of the details furnished by the company in its application. The PCB's member secretary S. D. Jayaprasad noted in the order that the company had not explained how a hazardous substance like cadmium was found to be present above the permissible limits in the sludge samples collected from the factory premises and in the water samples collected from nearby wells.
Kolkata will be lit by sun even during night-time (July Week 1 (2005)) Kolkata is set to become the first Indian metro to light up its streets with solar power, joining a select league of world cities. "The solar street lights would be installed in a five-kilometer stretch in Salt Lake and Kolkata in another three months with an initial project cost of Rs 2.5 million," SP Gonchowdhuri, the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA) director, said (Hindustan times, July 02). "In rural areas, solar lights are not new. But for the first time we would install solar lights in an urban area. We hope to complete the job before Durga Puja in October" Gonchoudhuri said. Solar street lights in urban areas are in use in the US, Germany, Europe and Japan. In India, the Kolkata-Salt Lake area would be the maiden urban sector to go solar in street-lighting. "The installation cost of these lights may be high but the maintenance cost is zero for the next six years. It would ensure uninterrupted power and without any hassle of cable laying," said the WBREDA director. The West Bengal government is also seeking the assistance of WBREDA to set up a solar energy housing complex for high-end users in its upcoming Rajarhat Township near Kolkata to popularize solar energy use.
National park at the LoC (July Week 1 (2005)) After re-uniting families separated by the Line of Control, the Indo-Pak thaw is now bringing hope for eight endangered wildlife species including the near-extinct Qazinag Markhore, a majestic mammal with trademark corkscrew horns. A 211-sq km stretch along the Line of Control is going to be their protected home and Jammu and Kashmir's (J-K's) largest wildlife National Park. The National Park that is coming up right on the LoC from Uri up to Qazinag, is being set up by J-K Government with the help of the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and the World Wildlife Organization. ''We could only think of setting up this park after the ceasefire which allowed us to go deep into the forests for an elaborate survey of endangered species. This can become the country's most favorite National Park as it is located right on the LoC,'' said J-K Forest, Environment and Wildlife minister, Sofi Ghulam Mohideen (The Indian Express, July 03). The primary objective behind the creation of the park is to protect the natural habitat of the highly endangered Qazinag Markhore. For the first time February this year, the ceasefire allowed the wildlife experts of J-K Wildlife department and the WTI to conduct a survey along the LoC, who were surprised to witness an increase in the number of Qazinag Markhores. Wildlife experts claim the region also inhabits some rare mammal species, which are only found in Shivilak belts of the country. Though the park is being established on Indian side of the LoC, many animals and pheasants are easily criss-crossing Kashmir's dividing line - hope that knocks some sense into the 'intelligent' apes regarding imaginary lines.
Crocs strengthen neighborhood ties! (Issue of the week, June Week 4 (2005))

Their mouths tied with tape, 40 passengers were herded last week into the Alitalia flight to Dhaka, where ministers lined up to welcome them. For once, India and Bangladesh are seeing eye-to-eye on a group of migrants. In a cross-border conservation programme, New Delhi is helping its neighbor rebreed the tropical marsh crocodile by sending over eight males and 32 females. The scaly, cold-blooded animals were placed in well-ventilated wooden boxes that were loaded on to the aircraft's hold at Chennai airport this evening. The species has virtually become extinct in Bangladesh, said Harry V. Andrews (The Telegraph, June 24), director of the 30-year-old Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, which is conducting the "goodwill mission". The Bangladesh environment ministry had made a request for the crocodiles a few months ago, Andrews said. "We had to get clearance from the Zoo Authority of India and our environment ministry." The Bangladesh government is paying for the journey. The crocodiles will get a grand reception at Dhaka airport from the ministers there," Andrew added with a chuckle. 40 adult crocodiles were selected from a bank of 2,400 at the trust's farm, located off the highway from Chennai to Mamallapuram. The males are aged between 25 and 30 years, each a little over 3 meters in length. The females are all 18 years old and measure 2.50-2.75 meters. Eight females and two males will go straight to the Dhaka zoo while the rest will be divided among three captive breeding centers elsewhere in the country. Andrews said he would travel with his team to Bangladesh some time later to help the neighbors breed the crocodiles. India's successful Crocodile Project has drawn many of its neighbors' attention. "Nepal has also requested our trust to send marsh crocodiles but this has had to be put on hold because of the political problems there," he said. Some time ago, there had been an enquiry from Pakistan, too.

More cross border initiatives addressed towards conservation and environmental problems will hopefully not only contribute to resolving differences between countries but also provide a foundation for devising much more effective solutions to these problems.

Blackbucks wreck havoc for farmers (June Week 4 (2005)) Even as Tiger Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi tries to extricate himself from a rather difficult black buck hunting case, there is an antelope population explosion in the Kurnool district of Rayala Seema region in Andhra Pradesh. This is posing a huge problem for farmers in the region. Hordes of blackbucks have caused so much destruction of agricultural crops in the area in recent months that the State's wildlife authorities have had to intervene to bring the situation under control. Hitesh Malhotra, Chief Wildlife Warden, said that 500 blackbucks were rounded up from Golapadu, Adoni and other western parts of Kurnool. They were later shifted and released in the forest areas of Velgode and Siligiripadu in Prakasham district. Named 'Krishnajinka' by the people this antelope has religious sentiments attached to it. "People respect it highly and it is named after Lord Krishna due to its color. People do not like to kill this animal even though it is very easy to shoot it," Mr Malhotra said.
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