Monday, September 29, 2008

12 forest circles in state use wireless connectivity without licence

Shubhalakshmi Shukla
Posted: Sep 29, 2008 at 0100 hrs IST

vadodara, September 28 Thanks to the Gujarat Forest Department and the Ministry of Telecommunication failing to coordinate with each other, all 12 forest circles in the state, barring Junagadh, have been cocking a snook at the regulations to operate wireless walkie-talkie sets and base stations without a licence.

This has been going on for the past 25 years. Though the state forest vigilance department has been on an anti-encroachment overdrive and also offered toll free numbers to alert it, hardly anything has been done to regularise the use of wireless sets.

Only Junagadh forest circle, which straddles the Gir National Sanctuary has had a valid licence for operating wireless sets, since 1982, according to Bharat Pathak, Conservator of Forest (CF), Junagadh Forest Circle.

The state Forest Department has around 250 forest ranges and purchases base stations and wireless walkie-talkie sets each year, according to Rajeeva, Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF), Vigilance.

He refused to divulge the exact number of wireless walkie-talkie sets and base stations, but forest officials said their department has around 850 wireless sets and 1,900 base stations in operation in the state.

Interestingly, even as the state Forest Department continues to operate wireless facilities without a licence since 1978, the Ministry of Telecommunication (MoT) has neither raised an objection, nor taken any step against forest officials who have been using the frequency, which is common for all Forest Departments across India.

Ajit Soni, Inspecting officer of Wireless Planning and Coordination (WPC), Western Region, Ajmer, said a mandatory document signed between the WPC and the other party allowed the latter to use a specific frequency. “There are various conditions, including one that specifies the production of the purchase invoice of all wireless sets from time to time,” he said.

He added that the state forest department never cared to inform the WPC about the wireless sets being bought and used ever since the frequency was allotted to the state Forest Department.

“It is important to update the WPC about the purchase of all wireless sets, but this has not been done so far,” said M C Pandey, Assistant wireless advisor, WPC wing, New Delhi.

Incidentally, the Gujarat Forest Department has not even been paying the royalty and licence fees to WPC, and the arrears would run into a huge sum.

Rajeeva said many attempts were made by his department five years ago in a bid to legalise the process. “We even tried to appoint a nodal officer in the state to decentralise the process, but nothing really worked out,” he added.

Pradeep Khanna, Principal Chief Conservator of forest, Wildlife, Gujarat said it was the PCCF administration and the CCF vigilance, which should be looking into the problem. “I am not responsible for it,” he said.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New gene pools for GenNext lions

20 Sep 2008, 0308 hrs IST, Himanshu Kaushik,TNN

GANDHINAGAR: The GenNext of Asiatic lions at Sasan Gir sanctuary is going to be stronger and healthier. Conservation of the endangered species is set to take a giant leap forward with creation of three gene pools.

The decision has been taken by Gujarat forest department. According to conservator of forests, Bharat Pathak, the gene pools are a long-term measure and will be at Rampara Virdi, around 40 km from Rajkot, Sakkarbaug Zoo and Hingolgadh in Jasdan taluka in Rajkot district. “These pools will help conserve genetic diversity. This is captive conservation of lions,” he explained.

Officials said inbreeding has always been a concern. This could lead to deterioration in genes and rise in diseases harming the animals. “The gene pools will help us monitor and create healthy specimens,” said a senior official involved in the project.

With the entire population of Asiatic lions confined to just one area, it is highly vulnerable to any kind of biological, climatic or man-made catastrophe. A major disaster within Gir could wipe out the entire species at a stroke. So would a disease outbreak.

Officials said Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, is exploring a possible second home at Kuno-Palpur Sanctuary of Madhya Pradesh. Measures are also being taken to correct a little known biological imbalance in the species.

“There are two types of conservation — one within the environment and the other where the animal is taken out of the environment and genetic diversity conserved. Each gene pool will have 10 to 20 animals,” said another senior official.

The step is being taken to counter the Centre’s move to shift the animals to Kuno, which Gujarat government is against. Around 50 of the wild cats will be shifted to these pools. The pools would also be used as breeding grounds for 10 to 12 pairs.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Dead lion accorded last rites by Bhopal zoo authorities

September 20th, 2008 - 4:26 pm ICT by ANI -

Bhopal , Sept 20 (ANI): Officials of the ”Van Vihar” zoo in Bhopal performed the last rites of a 19-year lion.

The lion was brought to the zoo in 2006 after being rescued from a circus.

The death of the lion, ”Badal”, comes after that of Rini, the only white tigress of the zoo that died last week.

“Badal was brought to the zoo after being rescued from Rajmahal circus. It died a natural death due to old age. At present, the Van Vihar zoo has 12 tigers, 14 lions and 16 panthers,” said S.S Rajput, Director, Van Vihar.

The zoo is now planning to induct more animals, including a white tigress.

Asiatic lions are different from African lions with a characteristic skin fold on their bellies and thinner manes on the males.

Wildlife activists say the lions are also under threat from thousands of villagers living in and around the forests and want them to be relocated to save the endangered species.

India is also struggling to save its endangered tigers, as people invade their habitat and poachers kill them for body parts that fetch huge sums in the international black market. (ANI)


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Heavy rains lash Junagadh,two killed in house collapse

Sibte Husain Bukhari
Posted: Sep 17, 2008 at 0143 hrs IST
Junagadh,City areas in grip of civic woes; schools remain closed

Torrential rain threw life out of gear in Junagadh district and claimed two more lives on Tuesday.

The first casualty occurred when the wall of an old house collapsed at Kanaja village near Vanthali town. A 65-year-old man identified as Bachu Nathani was buried under the debris and died. In a separate incident, Ramjibhai Tida, a 55-year-old man died after he was buried under the debris of his house.

Heavy rains also led to the collapse of a two-storey abandoned house at Mendarada town. But no casualties were reported.

According to the district flood control room, Junagadh city and Visavadar received 12 inches (300 mm) of rainfall in the last 24 hours ending Tuesday evening. Other areas in the district that received rainfall are Vanthali 215mm, Talala 163mm, Bhesan 146 mm, Mendarada 133mm, Sutrapada 125mm, Keshod 117mm, Manawadar 100mm, Kodinar 95mm, Una 75mm, Veraval 73mm, Maliya 68 mm and Mangarol 23 mm.

The entire district is experiencing heavy rainfall. Almost all the rivers are flooded, with the dams and the check dams overflowing. Heavy rains in the uphill areas have also led to at least one dozen villages in Ghed being marooned. Out of 19 major dams, 10, namely, Hiran -1, Madhuwanti, Zanzeshri, Machhundri, Hasnapur, Ozat (vanthali), Ozat-2, Mota Gujariya, Aanandpur and Ozat (Shapur) are overflowing while the flood gates in five have been opened. They are Hiran-2, Aambajal, Dharaad, Shingoda and Raval.

Several complaints of water-logging were also reported in Junagadh city. According to sources, water-logging occurred at Timbawadi, Madhuram, Aaditya Nagar and Nehri Nagar society area.

Many of the educational institutions remained closed. The city's main thoroughfares also wore a deserted look as people chose to remain indoors.

Junagadh District Collector Aswini Kumar, said: “Some villages in Ghed area are isolated, but we have taken adequate action to meet any eventuality. The situation is under control and no major incidents have been reported so far anywhere in the district. Besides, the administrative machinery is on an alert now,” he said.

Torrential rain has been also reported in the Gir and Girnar Forests. But no loss of life to wildlife has been reported so far. Heavy water flow has been reported from the rivers flowing from the forest area.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Charri Dhand 'conservation' reserve to boost birds' protection

Parag Dave
Ahmedabad, Sept 11 (PTI) Gujarat government's decision to declare the Charri Dhand wetland area in Banni region of Kutch as a conservation reserve will be a major boost to the efforts of preservation of lakhs of avian species found in the area, a top wildlife official has said.

The exotic wetland of Charri Dhand falls on the international migratory route of birds coming from Siberia and Europe during winter.

It is a paradise for bird watchers and ornithologists as 74 different avian species are found in the area during the winter.

Though the state falls on the migratory route of birds, so far little was done for their conservation.

"The declaration of 22,700 hectares of the wetland and surrounding areas as conservation reserve last month by the state government will be a major boost for preservation of wildlife found there," Conservator of Forest of Kutch, R L Meena, told PTI.

"Commercial fishing activity which had increased in the wetland posing threat to the food resources for the birds will be entirely stopped now," Meena said.

The activity of hunting of these birds will also be controlled.

"Charri Dhandh has recorded 74 species of birds. There were over one lakh pelicans in the last bird count in and around the wetland," Meena said.

Apart from the birds, 55 distinct species of animals have been spotted from the areas in and around Chhari Dhandh. PTI


Schemes for tribal welfare bearing fruit, but it could have been better

Express News Service
Posted: Sep 14, 2008 at 0419 hrs IST

Ahmedabad, September 13 TRTI’s impact assessment says subsidies insufficient, land ownership records not updated

The Tribal Research and Training Institute (TRTI) at Gujarat Vidyapith in Ahmedabad has submitted a detailed impact assessment report to the Tribal Development Department, Gujarat government, after analysing the performance of the ‘Development of Forest Settlements’ (DFS) scheme being implemented in all the 199 forest villages in Gujarat.

As per the scheme, the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs issues grants as Special Central Assistance (SCA) under the Tribal Sub Plan to respective state governments. These grants are further transferred to the Forest Development Agencies (FDA) for the implementation of various welfare schemes in the forest villages.

The scheme was approved by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests in January 2005, under section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, allowing diversion of forest lands for providing the basic and essential development facilities to the tribal/forest villages.

The report prepared by three researchers of TRTI, Arun Patel, Chandrakant Patel and Ravindra Pancholi, has looked at the implications, benefits and loopholes in the scheme. According to their report, since 2005, FDAs in Gujarat have received around Rs 28 crore as SCA to be used in 72 development schemes in both community development and individual welfare programmes.

While explaining the welfare programmes, Pancholi said: “At the community level, wells, check dams and metal roads have been built. Fencing of villages is also underway at some places. As far as individual welfare programmes are concerned, housing, bank loans and Sarv Rog Nidan Camp to improve health care in forest villages have been undertaken. The seeds, fertilisers and equipments to increase the agricultural produce have also been supplied.”

Patel said: “In some areas, the Forest Department has allowed the tribals to use minor forest produce such as Timroo, Gond and Bili Patra for commercial purposes. We also found that in some villages, pipelines have been laid to supply water for irrigation purposes.”

Apart from the plus points, the report has highlighted some loopholes in the scheme too. The biggest problem, according to TRTI, is of insufficient subsidies. Pancholi said: “While the subsidy for a cow is Rs 7,000, it is Rs 8,000 for a buffalo. However, the market price of these animals is around Rs 15,000. This shows that the whole subsidy scheme is irrelevant.”

Another major loophole in the scheme is that there has been no ‘versaii’ in these villages. This essentially means that the ownership of land in forest villages has not been transferred across generations. Patel explained: “For example, if the old land record enlists only 100 residents of a village, the grant for welfare schemes come for only 100 people, despite the fact that the population of the village may have reached 1,000. This makes the grants extremely insufficient for the villagers.”


How medicinal plants can promote agri business

2008-09-15 10:40:00

By B S Sajwan
The National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB) set up in the Department of AYUSH in November, 2000 has been responsible for supporting initiatives for conservation and cultivation of medicinal plants both in-situ and ex-situ in India.

During the 9th and 10th Plans, the Board provided assistance to State Forest Departments and voluntary agencies for conservation of medicinal plants over an area of about 30,000 hectares. Financial assistance was also provided to over 5,000 farmers for cultivation of medicinal plants over 40,000 hectares.

Besides, a number of R&D institutions and universities were provided assistance for development of agro-techniques, training of farmers, primary collectors, tribals and others. Organisation of awareness camps, workshops and creation of school and home herbal gardens have created a large amount of interest in all sections of society towards conservation of medicinal plants and their role in healthcare.

A study of demand and supply of medicinal plants in India carried out by the Board during 2007-08 brought out alarming shortages of some of the plants used by the Ayurvedic industry. The Board, thereafter, launched special drive to invite proposals for conservation and plantation of some of the rare and endangered species in high demand from states.

Of particular interest were the tree species like Sita Ashoka (Saraca asoca) – the main ingredient of Ahsokaristha (a key Ayurvedic formulation for gyaenecological disorders), Guggal (Commiphora wightii) – a thorny bush which yields gum resin and is used in more than 100 Ayurvedic preparations, and the Dashmools – used in the most widely used Ayurvedic preparation – Dashmoolarishta. The estimated demand of Sita Ashoka bark is in excess of 2,000 MT, however, the availability in the wild is extremely rare. Likewise, though more than 1,000 MT of gum resin of Guggal is used by the Ayurvedic industry, more than 90% of this is imported.

The Board, therefore, sanctioned conservation/ plantation of Guggal over 4,000 hectares of forest areas in Gujarat and Rajasthan, Sita Ashoka over 800 hectares in the States of Karnataka, Orissa and Kerala and Dashmool trees over 1,100 hectares in the States of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Tripura and Andhra Pradesh.

Special drive was also launched to conserve and propagate high altitude plants like Atees, Kuth, Kutki through the non-government organization working at the grass root level in the Himalayas. The Task Force on High Altitude Medicinal Plants, under the Chairmanship of Sh. Chandi Prakash Bhatt, set up by the Board has been the main driver behind the conservation efforts through mobilization of civil society in the hills.

Awareness programmes like the School and Home Herbal Gardens have been extremely popular in mobilizing civil society around medicinal plants conservation. The Home Herbal Garden programme lauched in Delhi by the Union Health and Family Welfare Minister in October, 2007 for implementation through Resident Welfare Associations is proposed to be up-scaled during the current year. Under the School Herbal Garden programme, more than 1,000 schools have been covered in different parts of the country creating awareness among citizens of tomorrow about the health promoting role of our bio-diversity.

The Board is making new strides during the 11th Plan. Against a 10th Plan expenditure of Rs. 142 crores, the outlay during the 11th Plan is Rs. 990 crores – a seven fold increase.

A new initiative in the form of National Mission on Medicinal Plants has been approved by the Government which seeks to promote market driven cultivation, focus on development of selected clusters with potential for inclusive growth in agri-business through medicinal plants and thereby improve the market access of growers/farmers for more remunerative prices for their produce and better quality of raw material for the Ayurvedic, Siddha and Unani industry.


Causeway collapsed,bus fell into river:3 dead-including DFO.

Junagadh, DeshGujarat, 15th of September, 2008

3 persons were dead and 19 injured after Gujarat State Transport bus fell in to the river when a causeway bridge collapased on Jetpur-Junagadh road in Saurashtra. Incident happened in the night when public bus was on it’s route from Junagadh to Unjha. Injured were admited to the hospitals in Junagadh and Jetpur.

“Bus was full and most of the total 29 passengers were sleeping at the time of the accident. First we thought there could be a bigger speed breaker but soon we realised that our bus was falling and then there was water inside the bus.” said Jagrutiben Bavishi, one of the passenger survived.

Due to heavy rain, river had enough water to make casualty worse but fortunately 26 people could come out from the bus before it was too late. District collector HC Patel reached to the place and ordered an inquiry into this matter.

Meanwhile local people said that they had earlier complained about poor state of the bridge but administration had done nothing. Deaths of 3 could be prevented if administration had listened to the complains of villagers seriously and had repaired the bridge. Victims of this accident were identified as Forest department DFO Devabhai Arsibhai Parmar, Junagadh Kesri reporter Rathodbhai Thakar and Junagadh’s Odhabhai Parbatbhai.


Informers to get incentives from forest department

13 Sep 2008, 0503 hrs IST, Himanshu Kaushik ,TNN

GANDHINAGAR: The forest department has finally woken up. To strengthen their informer network and also to get more tip-offs about illegal activities in and around various sanctuaries in the state, the department has proposed incentives for informers.

A proposal has already been cleared and is awaiting a notification from the government. Officials said several incidents of wood theft have been reported in the state and this incentive will be very handy to curb the menace.

Forest officials have proposed to give nearly 10 per cent of the. Incentives will also be given to informers of suspicious movement of value of the seizure as incentive to the informer people in the area, a senior official of the department said.

He said this is apart from the regular incentive announced by the government . Officials said, however, the department has left it to the government to decide incentives for information regarding any movement of people, poaching and also information related to wildlife protection.

These will be designed on the same lines as the police information network . Foresters feel these funds will become necessary since the area of forest jurisdiction will increase - like in Gir where lions were earlier confined to 1,450 sq km, but now they are found in a larger area.

The department is already facing shortage of staff in the entire state and hence such a move will be a boost conservation of wildlife. This proposal was under consideration ever since the recent poaching incident took place, the official said.


New forest zone to help protect N Gujarat wildlife

13 Sep 2008, 0503 hrs IST, Himanshu Kaushik ,TNN

AHMEDABAD: The state forest department has decided to have one more zone for effective monitoring of wild life sanctuaries in the state. This will be which will be the north Gujarat zone - fifth in the state. Wild life sanctuaries like Wild Ass Sanctuary, Nal Sarovar and Thol will come under this zone.

This move comes after the forest department set up a task force in the aftermath of lion poaching incidents in Gir. Officials in the department felt the need to adopt a focused approach , backed with technology since resources in the Gir sanctuary were over-worked .

Now, the department has carved out north Gujarat as a separate area for better forest management. Eleven new posts, including that of conservator of forests, will be created for upgrade of national parks and sanctuaries in north Gujarat area.

Forest officials say that there was a possibility that Jessore sloth bear sanctuary in Banaskantha too might be covered in this zone. Officials said that a provision of Rs 4.61 crore has been made for the use of modern technology for the conservation of wildlife in sanctuaries. It includes the cost of engaging a consultant for the development of specifications , system requirement study, development of geographical information systems (GIS) database, and control room applications along with hardware and software.

Officials further stated that while the ground staff in the Gir sanctuary will be provided with geo-communications hand-held field units, a Gir management cell will be set up for the implementation of special measures in the lion-specific areas of Saurashtra.

A senior official said that so far the control over wild life zones was not uniform such that an official in Junagadh would be covering the wild ass sanctuary over a jurisdiction extending up to Velavadar in Bhavnagar. Chief conservator of forest ML Sharma says this new zone will strengthen the administration and will also help in proper co-ordination . Moreover, it will help in closely monitoring the situation.


'Chinkaras killed for meat'

5 Sep 2008, 0640 hrs IST, Himanshu Kaushik ,TNN

AHMEDABAD: The lions in Gir may have been poached for their bones, claws and hide, but chinkaras are killed only for feasts, confirm foresters.

Forest officials also agree that although these incidents are rarely reported, they are rampant. Navin Bapat, a wildlife activist working in Kutch, says, "In the past, Kutchi community people would gather on Dhuleti day and move out in the jungle hunting whatever animal came their way. The people would later feast on the game in the evening."

However, according to Bapat, this practice has stopped for the past few years. He said that though this could be termed as the first incident of poaching using guns, poaching using sharp weapons and traps, which create less commotion, cannot be ruled out.
"Some notorious people are involved in the poaching and it is they who are handling the entire operations," says Bapat.

Officials say that a handful in the meat-eating community is involved in poaching. They recall how poaching incidents were reported when any major guest visited these areas. An official said that not many incidents of poaching come to light as they happen after dark and the carcass is disposed of.
Jugal Tiwari, another wild life activist, says, "A handful of anti-social elements are involved in poaching. These are rare instances, but when they come to light the forest officials should take them seriously and punish those guilty."

Admitting that chinkaras were killed only for eating, conservator of forest RL Meena said that "there are several communities which relish deer meat.” He clarified that contrary to rumours of eight Chinkaras being killed, only one was actually killed. Meena said that the officials have detained one person.


Indian deer 'often poached for meat at feasts'

Mon 08 September 2008 13:00 UK — Asia

Picture for article Wildlife experts from India have confirmed that while lions are generally killed only by professional poachers, there is a serious problem with local people hunting rare deer for meat.

The Times of India reported that one conservationist working in the Gir Forest National Park in Gujarat explained that rare chinkara - or Jabeer gazelle - are typically killed by local villagers preparing to celebrate important feasts.

Navin Bapat said that such killings were common but rarely reported.

"In the past, Kutchi community people would gather on Dhuleti day and move out in the jungle hunting whatever animal came their way. The people would later feast on the game in the evening," he told the paper.

Mr Bapat said that incidents of chinkara poaching had died down in recent years, suggesting that messages about strict punishments were beginning to be understood.

Indeed, Jugal Tiwari, another wild life activist, told the paper that only a "handful of anti-social elements" were now still poaching.

"These are rare instances, but when they come to light the forest officials should take them seriously and punish those guilty," he added.

Last week, two young people were arrested in India for illegally selling the skins of a number of rare deer.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Mine of protest: Workers oppose sanctuary status for Girnar forest.

Sibte Husain Bukhari
Posted: Sep 12, 2008 at 0219 hrs IST

Junagadh, September 11 Over 25,000 workers form a joint front to oppose closure of mines after govt’s July 2008 decision

Following the closure of the stone mines near Junagadh, which fall within a five km radius of Girnar, some 25,000 odd mine workers and labourers have started an agitation under the banner of the Mine Worker Interest Protection Committee (MWIPC).

They have opposed the grant of sanctuary status to Girnar and called for the resumption of mining activities there. They have started an indefinite relay fast in front of the office of the collector and said that unless their demands are met, or an amicable solution is found to resolve the issue, they will intensify their stir.

In July 2008, the state government had declared the 200 sq km Girnar forest a sanctuary.

Earlier, it was under the reserved forest category. Girnar is the second home of the last surviving group of Asiatic lions after Gir. The forest provides shelter to some two-dozen lions, 50 leopards and hundreds of herbivores.

Haribhai Dabhi, MWIPC leader, said: “The closure of the mines has affected some 25,000 labourers and their family. We are struggling for a daily meal. If mining does not resume soon, a mass exodus cannot be ruled out.” He added that the closure of the mines has also affected the education of their children.

Lakhabhai Parmar, a mine workers’ leader and the Junagadh Municipal Corporator from ward 17, said if the government fails to resolve the issue, they will resort to a “chakkajam”.

He added that the Junagadh Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) also falls within the five km radius of the sanctuary limit. “All the factories and industrial activities function normally there. When the sanctuary rules do not affect the GIDC, then why are the mines being shut,” Parmar said.

Naranbhai Dabhi, a labour leader said: “The mines are located in a safe area outside the sanctuary limit. There is a railway line and the state highway runs parallel to the sanctuary border. The mines are located beyond this highway. No wild animal has been seen roaming around in the mining area.”

He said the resumption of mining activities will not damage wildlife or environment. “No heavy machinery is used in these mines. So the question of air, water or sound pollution does not arise,” he added.


Madhya Pradesh presses for lions’ share, but Gujarat in no mood to oblige

Posted: Sep 12, 2008 at 0227 hrs IST

Gandhinagar, September 11 MP seeks SC intervention for translocation of Gir lions to its Kuno-Palpur sanctuary

Even as the Gujarat government has initiated measures to develop the forest area in and around the world famous Gir Wildflife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh has pressed its demand to translocate some of the Gir lions to the 344 km Kuno-Palpur sanctuary in the state.

In response to a PIL, the Supreme Court had recently referred the case involving Madhya Pradesh’s demand to the National Board for Wildlife. It had also directed it to submit a detailed report on the issue.

“As directed by the SC, the National Board for Wildlife has just submitted its report to the apex court, recommending the translocation of some lions to our Kuno sanctuary. We are awaiting the court’s orders,” said P B Gangopadhyay, Madhya Pradesh Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) .

He told Newsline over the phone from Bhopal that his department has already taken up a Centre-aided Rs 24 crore Asiatic lion Introduction Project to accommodate some Gir lions, provided Gujarat agrees to transfer them to the Kuno sanctuary. “We have already relocated about 24 villages on its periphery. Besides, the department has also created enough prey-base for the Asiatic lions in case they are shifted here,” he said.

Incidentally, the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department has also plans to obtain some pairs of lions from zoos in Hyderabad, Delhi and Bhopal, for breeding in the Kuno sanctuary. Gandgopadhyay added: “We have mooted this proposal, but it will take at least three generations (15-20 years) for zoo-bred lions to be naturalised. We believe it will be easier for us to habitat Gir lions in the sanctuary rather than wait for such a long naturalising period.”

But Gujarat has resolved to resist any move to transfer some of the Gir lions to the Kuno-Palpur sanctuary.

Gujarat Forest Minister Mangubhai Patel, said: “If our neighbours pin hope on the apex court to issue orders in their favour, Gujarat will also give a legal fight and ensure that the Asiatic lions as demanded by Madhya Pradesh are not transferred to Kuno-Palpur sanctuary.”

He said the conditions in Kuno-Palpur are not congenial for the Gir lions. Besides, the presence of tigers in Kuno is bound to cause frequent clashes between the two apex predators over territories, he added.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Narendra Modi has said that the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre has been ignoring the lion conservation and habitat development programmes in Gujarat.

Last week, while chairing the Gujarat State Wildlife Advisory Board meeting at Gandhinagar, Modi demanded that the Centre take up conservation of the Asiatic lions on the lines of ‘Project Tiger’. He directed senior officials of the state Forest department to draft a comprehensive “Project Lion” plan and submit the same to the Centre.

The CM has also demanded that the Centre allocate funds for the protection and conservation of Asiatic lions, and also for an overall development of the Gir sanctuary and its surrounding forest areas. At the meeting, he asked the Board members to call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and make a strong representation for the allocation of funds. Incidentally, Modi had also raised this issue at a recent meeting of the Planning Commission in Delhi.

Pradeep Khanna, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Gujarat, said: “Last year, the state government had submitted a detailed project report to the Union Environment and Forest Ministry and sought Rs 61 crore for lion conservation and other developmental activities in and around the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary.”

He added: “We have been pursuing this with the Centre on a regular basis, but it has yet to respond to the Rs 61 crore project report.”

He added that if the Centre could announce ‘Project Tiger’ and provide funds of over Rs 200 crore for the protection and conservation of the big cat in as many as 27 tiger reserves across the country, then a “Project Lion” for Gujarat should also be implemented.

The total area of Gir sanctuary is 1,412 sq kms, and it accommodates 359 Asiatic lions.


Lions only reclaiming lost home: Experts.

4 Sep 2008, 0405 hrs IST, Himanshu Kaushik ,TNN

AHMEDABAD: Nearly five generations later, the King of the Jungle is reclaiming ancestral land!

The Asiatic lion's moving out of Sasan Gir, known as its last abode in the world, to the stretch between Porbander and Mahuva in Bhavnagar. This, say experts, is a return to its original home.

While the younger generation of foresters and wildlife observers view this as the lion "straying out" of the protected Gir sanctuary, sexagenarian experts recall how these areas in the pre-Independence days were always dominated by Asiatic lions. In the last few years, several lions have been spotted in areas inhabited by humans outside Gir, either in search of prey or water, or because their population had increased. Gir was declared protected in 1965.

Based on this, the state forest department has prepared a project called 'Greater Gir' to include areas around the protected forest. The department has declared Girnar as a sanctuary, while Mityala in Amreli district has also been notified as sanctuary.
A forest official says that several other areas would also be declared as conservation reserves. In these areas, the department will also improve human habitat and protect the lions present there.

Former chief conservator of forest GA Patel says about the phenomenon, "It is nothing new for lions who are regaining their old territory which they had lost due to increase in human habitat in the area."

Patel says earlier lions were found in the entire Saurashtra region, right from Gondal in Rajkot to Porbander, as also upto Palitana and Mahuva in Bhavnagar. He says with population increasing, the area became smaller for lions and hence they started moving out.

Former principal conservator of forest Sanat Chavan says that a 1920 census had revealed that the population of lions was over 300 covering parts of Bhavnagar, Porbander, Junagadh and others in Saurashtra.
But with the human population increasing, the land under cultivation also increased and simultaneously the population also reduced to about 260. With population decreasing the lions were confined only to Sasan and around. But now with the population increasing over 350 the beasts are regaining lost territory, says Chavan.

Conservator of forest Bharat Pathak says, "There are several reasons why the lion population was confined only to Gir region. With the human habitat increasing, the land under cultivation also increased. This hindered the movement of lions in their natural corridor. Also in the pre-independence era, the Nawabs use to permit hunting and hence the lions remained confined to one area. The lions are now moving back to their own lost territory."


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Power plant to come up on Jamnagar Marine Park land

Hiral Dave
Posted online: Thursday , September 04, 2008 at 02:32:17

Ahmedabad, September 3 A part of the Jamnagar Marine National Park and Sanctuary will now be regularised under the state government owned Western Gujarat Electricity Company (WGEC). The water cooling system — intake and outlet of a 240 MW power plant — was functioning on two hectares of the Sanctuary since 1982. Now the Gujarat Wildlife Advisory Board (WAB) has recommended to the Central government to hand over the said piece of land to the WGEC.

The WAB has termed its decision as a formal step towards land regularisation, even as the Fisheries College under the Junagadh Agriculture University has said that marine bio-diversity at the park has gone for a toss due to industrial pollution. Research officer N N Jani has said that the presence of the power plant and the nearby petrochemical units of Reliance and Essar, has led to the release of effluents and oil spills, which has had a severe impact on the biodiversity of the park.

The Marine National Park at Sikka, some 15 kilometres from Jamnagar is one of its kind in the country. Spread on the southern shores of the Gulf of Kutch, it boasts of diverse flora and fauna; complete with a coral reef ecosystem and a mangrove plantation. It is home to a variety of turtles, shrimps, sponges, eels, sea urchins, dugana — a kind of seal, blackjacks, and birds like herons, egrets, ibises, spoonbills ducks and gulls.

The decision to hand over the land was taken at a meeting held in Gandhinagar on September 2. Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who also happens to be the WAB Chairman, and Pradeep Khanna, Chief Conservator of Forest, were among those present at the meeting.

P M Sata, Divisional Forest Officer, Marine National Park, said the two hectares of land has been a part of the MNP since its formation in 1982 under the Wildlife Act.

On his part, S K Nanda, a member of the Wildlife Advisory Board, said: “It was a technical error at the time of demarcating the boundaries for the Park, as the thermal power plant already existed there. There are other petrochemical/oil units located well within the Park.

“Even if the land belonged to the thermal power plant from the very beginning, its regularisation would break another wildlife law.

“There would be negligible space between the plant site and the MNP. According to the Wildlife Act, there should be no activity within five kilometres of the Park.”

State Forest and Environment Minister Mangubhai Patel refused to comment on the issue.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Wildlife Trust of India moves SC to save big cats

2 Sep 2008, 1441 hrs IST,PTI

NEW DELHI: Opposing the proposed expansion of national highway in Madhya Pradesh's Pench Tiger Sanctuary, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) has moved Supreme Court to save the big cats from impending vehicular-traffic disaster.

In a petition filed recently, the WTI has alleged that upgrading of National Highway 7 to 4/6 lane from 627 km to 635.7 km on the periphery of Pench Mowgli Sanctuary of Pench Tiger Reserve in Seoni district would take toll on wildlife due to road hits, thus reversing the efforts undertaken to save the big cats and ecosphere in the region.

The petition has come close on the heels of opposition from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) member-secretary Rajesh Gopal who in a recent standing committee meeting of National Board for Wildlife called the move (expansion of highway) as an ‘end of the tiger reserve.’

Advocate Ritwick Dutta appearing for the WTI submitted in the apex court that forest of South Seoni and Nagpur Forest Divisions in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra forms very important corridors for wildlife from Kanha to Pench.

"It is extremely ecologically sensitive as to maintain the genetic diversity of the highly endangered species like Tigers and Gaur," the lawyer pleaded alleging that the widening of the road connecting Nagpur to Jabalpur will create lot of disturbance and fragmentation in the area.

It may lead to the permanent change in the movement pattern and the behaviour in the animals, he said and sought the concerned authorities to be restrained from further construction in the area.

There have been at least 91 road hit cases which include death of Tiger, Chinkara, spotted deer, barking deer and black buck from 1996-2005, Dutta said implying that further expansion of the road will result into increased speeding vehicles at the cost of wildlife.

Ashok Kumar, a wildlife expert from WTI cited the report "Status of Tigers, Co-predators and prey in India, 2008" published by Wildlife Institute of India and NTCA which stated that, "Kanha-Pench Landscape is one of the best landscapes sprawling over 16,000 km squire area with good tiger population and needs to be protected."

This (area) would ensure the linkage between the big cat movements and foster prey-base population, the report said adding that an inviolate space of 800-1000 sq km is required to maintain a viable population of 80-100 tigers.

The petitioner has sought court direction to the concerned authorities to opt the proposed alternate road alignment or any other road alignment which poses minimum threat to the wildlife corridor linking Kanha National Park and Pench Tiger Reserve.


Modi seeks funds from Centre for lions.

2 Sep 2008, 0536 hrs IST,TNN

GANDHINAGAR: Gujarat Wild Life Advisory Board has in a unanimous resolution demanded funds from the Central government for lion conservation. The resolution, taken in a meeting on Monday, demanded that the Centre should take up lion conservation on the lines of Project Tiger.

The board in the resolution also said the Centre has been neglecting the lion conservation programme. Chief Minister Narendra Modi also called on the board members to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and make a representation to allocate funds for lion conservation.

The board has also decided to form Gujarat Wildlife Internet Society and to organize programmes to educate tourists coming to the state. It has decided to use various channels to create awareness about various birds and animal species spotted in various sanctuaries of the state. T he board cleared the Greater Gir project which will be a comprehensive project for conservation of rare Asiatic lions in the area outside the Gir Sanctuary. Officials said that under this project, various areas where there is a sizeable lion population will be declared as sanctuaries.
SK Nanda, principal secretary, forest, said the board, which met after nearly 18 months, discussed various programmes and the second sanctuary of Barda which was under development for lions. He said that they have also decided to take up activities in and around the sanctuaries throughout the year.

Board members have also decided to provide road connectivity to villages within the sanctuary. Nanda said that the villages near Ambaji and Danta will be connected to the surrounding areas such that they are more accessible to people.

Officials said that all the proposals will be sent to National Wildlife Board for final clearance.

Old route to Dholavira to be revived

Wild Life Advisory Board has decided to revive the old route to Dholavira. Tourists have been using an alternative longer route via Rapar because of lack of connectivity between Dhamanka and Dholaviram to reach Dholavira. The board on Monday proposed to revive the Dhamanka-Dholariva route which was used by tourists in the past.


Getting out of hand?

Kirtiman Awasthi, Supriya Singh & Maureen Nandini Mitra,

In Junagarh, Gujarat, the Maldharis are extremely tolerant of lions. But the nomadic community, indigenous to the area, are alienated now. They were comfortable with the lions ways: now they are unsettled. On the other hand, tiger attacks on humans are not uncommon in Sunderban villages. But increasing human population is pitting man against beast. East or West, the issue of animal- human conflict is basic to conservation research and practice in India.

July 24, 2007, Amirul Naiya, was attacked by a tiger as he, his brothers and three other fishermen were pulling up their boat into a creek in the dense Sunderbans mangroves. Naiya lay on the deck, bleeding.

Just three days later, Pratul Naskar, got grabbed by the throat and dragged into the Benipheli forest in the Sunderbans’ Kultali area, while hunting for crabs in a creek. His body hasn’t been found.

The attack on Naskar was the fifth tiger strike in the Sunderbans in less than a month. Since April 2007, tigers have killed at least nine fisherfolk; 16 times, they have strayed into villages near forests, say the state forest department records.

“An average 16 tiger killings are reported every year, but the actual number is much more,” informs Sunderban Biosphere Reserve director Pradip Shukla. Villagers and local wildlife experts say the actual tally is closer to 50. Many killings go unrecorded.

Almost all killings take place in forest areas. In the past decade, only one person has been killed by a straying tiger. But numbers aside, it is clear the human-animal conflict here remains unresolved. Humans as prey are an aberration, but about 5 per cent of Sunderbans tigers are man-eaters.

According to Pranabes Sanyal, former field director of Sunderbans Tiger Reserve and a renowned authority on the Royal Bengal Tiger, April and May is the honey-collecting season in the Sunderbans. But this is also littering season for tigresses; protective mothers often pounce on men near their hideouts. “In most cases they kill the man, but don’t eat the body,” says Sanyal. “But after repeated killings, when the tiger realizes humans don’t have as much resistance as other prey like deer or wild boar, they include humans in their prey base. If a tigress turns man-eater, she will teach her cubs to be the same. That’s how you find healthy tigers and tigresses turning man-eaters here.”

Currently, much of the tiger strikes occur in the northern and north-western mangrove jungle. This, Sanyal believes, is because most of this area falls within the 1,255 sq km buffer zone of the tiger reserve, where permit holders are allowed to fish and collect forest produce. Every year, about 40,000 people enter the forest with permits.

In spite of a dense 1,330.12 sq km core mangrove area left inviolate and a sound prey base, Sunderbans tigers also routinely stray into transition zone areas like Kalitala, Kultali and Jharkhali.

First, the Sunderbans tiger can't mark out its territory with its urine, as all cats do, because markings get washed away by the tides. So it roams around pretty much unrestricted. And when it spots a village across a waterway, it mistakes it for forest and crosses over. Once past the trees, it finds cattle and livestock, a perfect reason to repeat visits. Second, a tiger strays due to age, injury or pregnancy, which impairs its ability to hunt.

Sanyal cites a third cause — global warming. Rapidly rising sea levels, a combined effect of climate change and subsidence, have increased the salinity of surface water near the coastal mangrove forests on the southern side of the Sunderbans. Kolkata-based oceanographer Sugata Hazra, who’s studying change in salinity levels in the region, corroborates this fact through circumstantial evidence like a fall in the population of the freshwater-loving Sundari tree and dwindling freshwater sources. The northerly migration is also accentuated by loss of forest cover in core areas in the southern islands due to rising water and erosion.

To prevent straying, foresters have put up 64 km of nylon net fencing along forest-village interfaces. This has helped, says Anjan Guha, Sunderbans Tiger Reserve deputy field director, but it isn’t foolproof. Nets serve mainly as a psychological deterrent for tigers, but they can easily bring them down.

Across the country, towards the west coast, the Asiatic lion is also vulnerable. “The Gir population is insecure for two reasons,” says A J T Johnsingh, a wildlife expert with the Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore. Firstly, “the population has risen from a very low number leading to inbreeding and a genetically homozygous population. Reduced genetic diversity affects reproductive health of the species and increases mortality of the young”.

Secondly, “an epidemic could wipe out the population.”

Gir’s lion population is, beyond the protected area’s (PA’s) carrying capacity. As far back as 1990, a census counted some 221 adults living within the PA, and a further 30-40 lions outside. Since 2002, wildlife scientist Y V Jhala has radio-collared 16-18 lions, to track their movement. “Radio collaring has shown,” he says, “lions have set up ‘meta-populations’ outside Gir for want of space, or food.” Adds Pathak: “These are young males moving out in search of new territories.” Kaushik Banerjee, a Wildlife Institute of India (WII) researcher, terms it a ‘dispersal’ to earlier habitats. Fact is the ground reality of lion conservation has changed beyond recognition, placing it in far greater danger than ever before.

The land-use pattern around the park is completely different today. Farmers grow mango, groundnut and sugarcane. This has resulted in high private land values; grazing lands have been encroached and privatised, while excessive use of groundwater has depleted the water table to dark zone, placing, in all, more pressure on Gir forest.

Commercial agriculture has hit the lion hard, too. On an average, 25-30 lion deaths have been reported, every year, for the past three to four years.

But lions do follow the ungulates outside. So do leopards, bringing in yet another dimension to animal-human conflicts here. Poaching, too, was never a big issue in Gir. But today, people say incidents of claws missing from lion carcasses are common.

These changes foreground the need for lion conservation to grow towards creating separate lion populations. As a response to lion movement beyond the PA, the Gujarat forest department is working on the idea of ‘Greater Gir’.

Now, the Central Zoo Authority and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) have prepared a blueprint, according to which pure-bred first generation Asiatic lions will be selected from different zoos. These will breed in a big natural enclosure at Kuno. Herbivores will be released so that second generation lions can develop hunting skills. "The third generation lions should be fit to be released in the wild outside the enclosure," says Rajesh Gopal, Member Secretary, NTCA.

The root of the problem remains unsolved. Will the Asiatic lion ever go off the IUCN critically endangered species list?


Plans for second population of Asiatic lions to be released in Madhya Pradesh

Credit Kishore Kotecha
August 2008. Madhya Pradesh plans to create a new population of Asiatic lions, the first outside of Gir forest and Gujarat. Two pairs of Asiatic lions that have been obtained from zoos will be used as a breeding population in the hope that their decendants will be let loose in the Kuno Palpur sanctuary to start a new population.

It is hoped that once their numbers grow in the coming years, they will establish a secure breeding population. However, Wildlife Extra has major doubts as to the potential of this initiative, as releasing captive lions into the wild is very likely to fail. Madhya Pradesh plans to open the sanctuary to tourists if the release is a success, but Wildlife Extra questions the motives behind the release, commercial or scientific?

It is believed that zoos in Bhopal, New Delhi and Hyderabad have agreed to provide lions for breeding in Kuno, after the state of Gujarat refused to provide wild lions allowing Kuno to become an alternate habitat for the Asiatic lion. Gujarat prides itself on being the only home of the Asiatic lion which is a draw for tourists. However, Madhya Pradesh hopes to steal a march over Gujarat by releasing the lions.

Kuno breeding centre
Kuno would begin as a breeding centre. But as the breeding succeeds, the plan is to release the third generation of lions into the forest. It is hoped that this will provide 5 pairs of lions to be released into Kuno within about 10 years.


Kankaria zoo asks for Asiatic lion pair.

31 Aug 2008, 0412 hrs IST, Kumar Manish,TNN

AHMEDABAD: After losing two Asiatic lions in the last six months due to age and medical complications, a pall of gloom had descended over Kamla Nehru Zoological Garden in the city. Now, there's reason for hope.

Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), which runs the zoo, has written to the state government asking for a pair of Asiatic lions from Sakkarbaug Zoo in Junagadh.

Govind, a lion, and Ekta, a lioness, died at Kankaria zoo after having lived there for more than a decade. Both the animals were favourites among visitors. The zoo sees more than 20 lakh visitors annually . Ekta, who was the oldest lioness in the zoo, came to the zoo from Sakkarbaug Zoo in 1999.

Currently, there is only one pair - Ganesha and Okha - which is a crossbreed of Asiatic and African lions. Lion population in the state is dwindling - the latest census put it at 360 in the wild.

"Procurement of Asiatic lions will be for inbreeding and also educational purpose. Captive breeding has been successful in the world for a variety of species. We have the capacity and technical know-how to breed animals here too," said an AMC official. According to Central Zoo Authority of India, only Asiatic lions and tigers are allowed to breed in captivity.

"We have been intimated about AMC's request, but the final decision will be taken by the forest department. Currently , we have 18 lions in display and care centres at the zoo," a Sakkarbaug Zoo official said.

A breeding centre was established at that zoo with the objective of studying the Asiatic lion and supply pure-bred lions to various zoos in the country and abroad.

kumar.manish@timesgroup .com


The Great Himalayan Bird Count, Winter of 2008 by ARCH

Hello Mr Adhiya
Could i request you to kindly include our avian conservation initiative info in your blog(s)
warm regards
prateek panwar

Hello Birding Friends,

Greetings from Uttarakhand Himalayas

Finally some good news,

The Great Himalayan Bird Count, Winter of 2008 is planned on the most popular trekking trails situated in the valleys of Yamuna; Bhagirithi; Bhilingna; Ganga; Mandakini and Alaknanda rivers in Garhwal.

- The Bird Count Dates are: 14th to 17th of November, 2008

- The bird count will start and finish at Dehradun

- We propose 15 Groups undertaking 34 different treks of +/- 10 kms
each between 14th and 17th November 2008 (Each Group size will be a
maximum of five birders plus 2-3 urban school students) local
village youths and govt. school students will join the trails at the
count destinations itself.

- We are involving young school children because we at ARCH feel
that young minds should start thinking of Conservation as an academic
and career pursuit instead of just another constructive activity.

- This event will be organized with the support of Uttarakhand Forest

- There will be a Orientation and Debriefing Workshop at Dehradun on
the 14th & 17th respectively.

- The 14th & 17th are also the dates for to-&-fro journey to the
count destinations.

- Most of the groups will be undertaking two treks during the Count
but one or two groups will be undertaking 3-4 treks in the Count.

- It is an encounter-rate baseline data generation and conservation
awareness activity.

- Each group will accommodate some local youths and young school
children from the area and will provide orientation & motivation
to take-up bird watching as an revenue generation skill.

- Each group is encouraged to conduct a small half-hour workshop
with the local village elders to generate list of vernacular names
of the bird species found in different river valleys. They are
also expected to document any references occurring in oral folk.

- This is not a commercial activity, so we expect the participants
to share the cost of lodging, Boarding & travel expenses at

- During the count modest lodging & boarding will be arranged at the
Forest Rest Houses of the area.

Friends now you know the dates, so plan your schedules accordingly and kindly let un know of your intention (with your trekking & birding experience of Himalayan bird species) to participate in this wonderful birding opportunity at the earliest possible.

Kindly take an early Registration initiative to avoid any disappointments later.

Each Group size is restricted to 5 birders only, so please hurry...

On hearing from you we’ll furnish the Count Trails and Registration Details at the outset.

Our next count "The Great Himalayan Bird Count, Summer of 2009" in Garhwal Himalayas is happening in May 2009.


Prateek Panwar
Founder Trustee ARCH
Action & Research for Conservation in Himalayas
MDDA Duplex Villa # 3, Sahastradhara Road,
Dehradun, Uttarakhand 248001 INDIA

Tel# 9412054216