Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pune Municipal Corporation's Take on Timely Work

A week ago, I got home to this suffocating foul smell. After 5mins of absolute cluelessness, it struck me - the drainage. I went out into the balcony and looked outside. There is a lane exactly opposite my house. To the right of this lane, is a building being constructed. To the left, is another building which is being used my a courier company. At the gate of this courier company building is a drain cover that was lying in two pieces, leaving the drain open. 1cm from the drain, is a 6-7 feet long spread of garbage dumped by well, people. Now why the PMC has never bothered to reprimand or fine those who actually dump garbage there, beats me. I have personally been accused of dumping garbage there when the employees who come to clean the area every morning, know well that the people living in this house use the yellow dumper for their trash. Not the street.
   I have seen others come, dump trash, and walk away royally..all while the PMC people stand watching. Quietly. Where is their arrogance and voice then? Cat got it eh? Who knows.
   Anyway, this issue is entirely different. So yes,  5days ago the drain started overflowing and a LOT of absolute disgusting stuff came out from it..on to the road, which we walk and drive on. Unlucky us, we also live opposite it. Now it seems the only family being bothered by the nasal harassment, was our's. So 5 days ago, we complained to the PMC saying this was the situation and that the smell was becoming unbearable and the drain water would breed mosquitoes. Everyone with their wits about them knows that malaria, dengue and fever are spreading like wildfire in Mumbai and Pune this past month and stagnant water puddles just make matters worse. Which they did.
   After 4 phone calls to a coporator called Mr.Ashok Yanpure whose office, incidentally is in Lane no.5 Subhash Nagar, which is the lane just after our's, the PMC had still done nothing about it because apparently one of the days was Raksha Bandhan.. so the brothers got priority. Granted. They still had 4 other days.
   The situation is such that I cannot use "Hit" or "Baygon" in my house because we have two people with severe asthma and bronchitis living in this house, both of whom face serious breathing problems when these two repellents are used. Odomos is not a bright option because I refuse to smell like a repellent all day long.
  And why must citizens wait for breeding to begin, and malaria to be diagnosed in a family member for the PMC to take action? Are things really that bad that the Corporation can take such things so lightly even during the chain of illnesses including swine flu going around?

   This morning, I took some images finally and decided to email the article along with the images to a few local newspapers. I dont know whether any of them would be interested in helping solve such ground level problems, but Im hoping they will. I honestly don't think it takes more than some responsibility to do work that you get paid for, and especially when you have the audacity to talk to citizens in a tone of voice that even our Prime Minister doesnt use.

The brown specs on see on the water are mosquito larvae breeding on this water. God knows what else is in there.
Kasba-Vishrambaug Wada ward and Subhash Nagar electoral ward- lane no.4, subhash nagar.

High time someone paid heed to the growing problem of pathetic hygiene standards. Or do we wait till anyone else contracts Malaria?

- Apoorva Joshi.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wildlife Rescue Centre needed at Chanda

CHANDRAPUR: The absence of a proper facility where stressed and injured animals rescued from the wild could be treated was once again felt after an ailing tigress died of prolonged illness and senility in Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) a few days back.

Despite the recommendation of 
National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to shift the tigress to a suitable facility where constant attention of a veterinary officer would be available, TATR officials failed to find such place for the critically ailing beast anywhere in Vidarbha.

The ailing tigress, named Zarina, was kept in TATR and was treated by a team of veterinary doctors from 
Nagpur and Chandrapur. An NTCA team comprising expert wildlifers monitored her condition. Zarina stayed in the small squeeze cage for one-and-a-half months. After examining the condition of the tigress during treatment, the NTCA team had ruled out her release into the wild.

But she needed to be shifted to a place where constant attention of a veterinary officer was available. Her weak health was a constraint for long journey. The authorities looked for facilities like Maharajbagh Zoo, Seminary Hills in Nagpur and 
Rambagh in Chandrapur, but none was found suitable. A written statement issued by TATR said Maharajbagh zoo was unable to receive Zarina because of restriction under zoo regulations and inadequate veterinary care facility. Absence of suitable enclosure, vicinity to children's park and residential area were constraints for shifting her to Rambagh area in Chandrapur. Even Seminary Hills at Nagpur did not have suitable enclosure and has high disturbance level.

Thus, all three locations were ruled out and Zarina was kept in a small squeeze cage and treated in TATR. "We have strongly recommended establishment of wildlife rescue centre in 
Chandrapur district in our report forwarded to NTCA. Man-animal conflict in Chandrapur district is high and the case of Zarina was not the first one. Hence, a permanent facility is badly needed in Chandrapur," said member of NTCA team and senior conservationist Kishor Rithe. He claimed that such a facility would also provide employment to over two dozen local people.

Rithe, however, lamented the lack of political will in building of such a facility. "When it is some other developmental issue, politicians are hyperactive in pushing the project. However, when it comes to wildlife protection, politicians are least interested," said Rithe. He appealed to the MLAs and MP in the district to take up the issue.

Notably, the issue of building rescue centre for wildlife in Chandrapur in pending since 2008. More than two dozen predators, including many tiger cubs, were captured in forests of Chandrapur and shifted either to Maharajbagh zoo in Nagpur and elsewhere during last two and half years.

Former forest minister 
Babanrao Pachpute had assured then MLA Shobhatai Fadanvis in legislative assembly to build a wildlife rescue centre during winter session of 2008. It is almost two years now, but the forest department has failed to build the facility so far.

Chandrapur forest circle has forwarded a proposal to build a wildlife rescue centre here a couple of months back. CF, Chandrapur circle, GRK Rao agreed that there is a proposal of building a wildlife rescue centre in Chandrapur.

"We have marked a land aside 
Rangers College here for the rescue centre. The facility will have large enclosures and other amenities to treat and nurse at least eight wild animals at once. The proposal has been forwarded to PCCF office and its clearance is awaited," said Rao.
Read more: Needed: Wildlife rescue centre at Chanda - Nagpur - City - The Times of India

Elephant tusks and Rhino horns Seized in Kenya

Two suspects were arrested over the weekend after authorities found two tons of raw elephant ivory and five rhinoceros horns at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, the Kenya Wildlife Service said Monday.
The cargo had been disguised as avocados, according to the service, which says its mission is "to sustainably conserve and manage Kenya's wildlife and its habitats in collaboration with other stakeholders for posterity."
"Most of the tusks seem to have been collected from natural deaths of about 150 elephants over the last 20 years with the latest likely to be 6 months old," it said in a news release. "None of the tusks had the indelible ink used for marking government-held stocks. DNA tests will be conducted to determine the tusks' actual origin."
The seizure and arrests resulted from a joint operation that included the Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Revenue Authority, Lusaka Agreement Task Force and the Kenya Police, the wildlife service said.
On Saturday night, the airport's warehouse security contacted a canine unit after becoming suspicious about a cargo destined for Malaysia through Dubai by Emirates Airline, it said.
"The cargo, which was falsely declared as containing only fresh avocado fruits, was packed in 12 wooden boxes, which raised a red flag due to its mode of package, weight and destination," it said.
Inside the boxes, officials found the contraband packed among avocados and wrapped in black paper and banana leaves -- packaging used in an attempt to evade detection, the wildlife service said.
Last year, 204 elephants were illegally killed in Kenya, up from 94 in 2008 and 47 in 2007, the service said.
Also last year, 13 rhinoceroses were illegally killed in the country, up from five in 2008, it said.
In 1979, Africa was home to some 1.3 million elephants; by 1989 only 600,000 remained, a drop blamed almost wholly on the killing of elephants for ivory, the service said.
There are currently about 400,000 elephants in Africa, it said.
After the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species banned international commercial ivory trade in 1989, demand dropped as did the price of ivory -- from $300 per kilo to about $3 per kilo, it said.
As some southern African elephant populations appeared healthier, restrictions eased in 1997 and 2002, when Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe were allowed to sell limited stocks of ivory to Japan.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Corridors - give it a read.

NAGPUR: In a bid to mitigate damage to wildlife and to the corridor for four-laning of national highway number six in 80 km patch in Bhandaraand Gondia divisions, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has been recommended construction of eight underpasses. 

The recommendation comes from two consultants—RN Indurkar, former chief conservator of forests (CCF) for wildlife, and SS Deshpande, ex-assistant conservator of forests (ACF). The experts submitted their report to NHAI project director NY Wadetwar on Tuesday. 

The NHAI is implementing the four-lane project stretching from Chhattisgarh border to Wainganga Bridge near Bhandara. Of the total 80 kms project stretch, about 24 km passes through forests. The NHAI had submitted proposal to divert 85 hectare forest land for the project. 

The consultant has recommended eight underpasses of 10 feet height and 20 feet width at every two km in the forest patch. Other measures of the mitigation plan include fencing, water conservation works and providing tractor, tanker fitted with pump for Navegaon Park. 

As per NHAI estimates, it would cost another Rs 10 crore to implement mitigative measures. This includes Rs 45 lakh for each underpass, Rs 1.20 crore for erection of fencing upto 40 km, Rs 3 lakh towards 10 rescue gates and ramps, Rs 2.10 lakh for 14 cattle guards, Rs 32,000 for each wicket gates and expenses towards sign boards. Additional expense of Rs 35.65 lakh for repair of old water tanks and construction of new has been recommended for the forest department. 

The consultants have suggested adoption of water conservation measures and have identified nine places including two compartments (202 and 203) of Navegaon National Park. 

Water is important constraint which compels wildlife to move from inside to the fringes where they meet with accidents. In view of this, nine spots have been identified where repairs to dam, desilting of water holes, deepening of tanks construction of nulla bunds have been suggested. These works should be monitored by the forest officials. The report states that this may be perhaps the first project in India focusing to mitigate damage to wildlife. 

TOI in January 2009 had first reported how the four-laning will cut the corridor between Nagzira-Navegaon and Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR). Based on the report, Wildlife Trust of India(WTI), an NGO working for tiger conservation, had moved centrally empowered committee (CEC) of the supreme court in June 2009. 

The WTI objected that widening of the road will break the corridor and stop dispersal of tigers as its falls between nine tiger reserves of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The stretch was later inspected by the CEC members on June 24, 2009. They had also asked CCF (wildlife) Nandkishore to send a report. 

Nandkishore in his report sent to CEC on August 17, 2009 had recommended 8-13 underpasses in five stretches viz. Shirpur-Nawatola; Maramjob-Duggipar; Duddipar-Bamhni; Soundad-Sendurwafa; and Mundipar-Sakoli. The NHAI consultants too have suggested 8 underpasses in these patches. 

"A copy of the report will be submitted to the forest department and NHAI headquarters at Delhi as it is," Wadetwar told TOI. "As it has been decided that the right of way (ROW) of NH-6 will be 45 metres instead of 60 metres in forest stretches, requirement of land had reduced to 38.32 hectares," he added. 

The report admits that at one stretch, the boundary of the Navegoan park is just a km away from the road and comes under the eco-sensitive zone of the park. Hence, special treatment needs to be given in and around these areas.

Sri Lanka's Wildlife Vets go on Strike

Sri Lanka's wildlife veterinary surgeons have gone on strike in protest at what they say is the government's failure to manage a serious conflict between wild elephants and humans.
The wild elephant population has shrunk to about 4,000 as humans take over land used by the animals as corridors.
About 50 people also died last year, as elephants turned violent.
The vets' union said a major problem was that cattle were encroaching on elephants' food and water supplies.
The country's 11 wildfire veterinary surgeons have gone on strike until Friday, the union said.
Last year the conflict between humans and non-domesticated elephants saw the deaths of 50 people and 228 elephants.
Two elderly people were killed by elephants only last Saturday.
This is happening as people encroach on land traditionally used by elephants as corridors. When people put up improvised electric fences, the animals can go berserk.
The secretary of the vets' union, Vijitha Perera, told the BBC that they were not satisfied with the government's attempts to address the issue.
He said cattle were encroaching on elephant ranges, eating their food sources and using their water.
Non-native trees, useless for feeding the beasts, were being introduced and some of the animals were going deaf as people let off firecrackers to scare them.
About four elephants were being killed every week, he said.
The government has, however, taken some remedial measures - transferring orphaned elephants from sanctuaries to bigger parks and monitoring to see if they integrate with the wild herds.
The director-general of wildlife, Ananda Wijesooriya, said the wildlife vets had refused to hold discussions with him on the subject, saying they wanted to speak to the minister.
The wildlife department now comes under a vast new ministry headed by a brother of the president.

Oil Spill affecting species in Lakshadweep

The recent oil spill near the Mumbai coast due to the collision of two ships has put the mangroves and  marine life in and around Mumbai under grave danger. Layers of oil have been found to spread uptil Uran and Elephanta Caves.
Now the Coast Guard has warned of another possible oil spill off the Kavaratti Islands in Lakshwadeep. Nand Aparajita, a 78 meter long cargo vessel hired by a transport operator to ferry cement hit the coral reef off Karavatti Islands, damaging about 400 meters of the reef. Though at present there is no oil spill, according to Coast Guard officials, the ship is dangerously perched on the reef and thus can create environmental damage in the days to come. All crew members have been declared safe although rescue operations have been delayed due to unconditional weather conditions.
The ship has been grounded on the eastern side of the island an according to marine scientist at Bombay Natural History Society; this is a coral rich reef area home to thousands of marine species. The accident site especially is a nesting area for endangered green sea turtles, the hawksbill turtle and the olive ridley turtles. The coral reefs near Karavatti Islands are considered the second largest in India after those found off Andaman and Nicobar Islands and are home to many endangered marine species.
These coral reefs are considered one of the best in the world with marine animals such as whales, sharks, porpoises and dolphins also found here and this area has been recorded to produce 40 new species recently. A BNHS member said, "These reefs have over 150 species of coral, 600 species of mollusk, 1000 species of fish, 150 species of marine algae and a plethora of flora and fauna. The ship owners should be made to compensate for this extensive damage to the rich natural resources of the country."
The local police and Coast Guard officials are keeping hope that no oil spill occurs, as it will lead to endangering the lives of many rare species found in this area. But even if there is no oil spill, the grounding of ship will cause extensive damage to the coral reefs, which can extend over some area.
Lakshwadeep are a group of islands on the West Coast of India in the Arabian Sea. To visit Lakshwadeep, one requires to obtain a special permit from the government. This rule is applicable for both Indians and foreigners. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Poacher held with Tiger's claw in UP

A poacher was nabbed with a tiger's claw near a forest area in Uttar Pradesh's Lakhimpur district Saturday, officials said.

Dinesh Kumar, was nabbed by a team of forest officials, who found him moving suspiciously near the Dudhwa forest reserve, some 200 km from Lucknow.

'The claw recovered from him is of a sub-adult tiger,' Divisional Forest Officer Shailesh Prasad told reporters in Lakhimpur.

'Our officials are trying to gather more information related to the illegal wildlife trade from the man, who has been booked under multiple sections of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA),' he added.
According to sources, the man has admitted that he has been into the illegal wildlife trade for nearly last five years.
Dudhwa, one of the country's largest tiger reserve, had 106 tigers as per the last census.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mumbai Oil Spills- an angle unexplored

Mumbai: The oil spill off Mumbai coast has now reached the mangroves coating them black and endangering the fragile eco system. After the oil leak, the danger of lethal contamination is now emerging as the big threat.
The bottles with hazardous chemicals were found washed ashore on the Navakhar beach near Mumbai after they had fallen overboard from MSC Chitra. The discovery has triggered panic in the area.
Till now 45 chemical bottles have been recovered. The bottles bear the signs of 'danger' and 'POISON' and contain a toxic fumigant. They had been loaded on to 36 containers with each container given a number when they were loaded on MSC Chitra.

Now several badly mangled containers have swept ashore. At least 300 are still drifting dangerously in the Arabian Sea hindering shipping.
"Navy has taken mapping of that particular area. So that they know these containers are lying in the path and they will try to workout an area through which ships can pass through," said Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan.
Sources say some of the containers full of chemicals were kept on the deck of MSC Chitra which on collision fell into the sea and their location is still unknown. But if the marine life comes in direct contact with the chemicals it could prove fatal.
-- Photo on link.

Illegal Mining Threatening Himalyan Ecology

Private miners in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh are exploiting the area's rich mines in the absence of any regulation by the state government, and this is threatening Himalayan ecology and environment.

The uncontrolled and illegal mining of sand, concrete and stones is causing great concern to both scientists and environmentalists.

According to one scientist, Himalayan topography is made of loose soil, and if uncontrolled mining is done, it will definitely increase erosion activity along riverbanks, thus destroying the whole eco system.

"It destroys the whole eco system. It also impacts atmospheric changes, which may lead to cloudbursts. Such cloudbursts will damage property and natural resources heavily," claimed J.C Kuniyal, a scientist, with the J.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development in Kullu.

Kishan Kapoor, the Industry Minister of Himachal Pradesh, said the state government is trying to control the situation and assured of all possible action.

"The state government will strictly ban illegal mining and stringent action will be taken against people involved in illegal mining," Kapoor said.

Mandi and Kullu district are the main thrust areas for the illegal miners business activities. In the beginning, mining was done by poor local families to feed their families, but later, keeping in view the great potential in this business, many private miners entered this area and this has totally changed the riverbank landscape.
Though there are several mining sites marked by the government, but unplanned and unscientific mining is worrying scientists, ecologists and environmentalists.
The illegal mining of quarry rocks and boulders by private companies, could cause devastating floods and avalanches in the Kullu Valley. By Prem Thakur (ANI)

Mounted animal specimens, star attractions in Akurdi Museum

PUNE: Along with the only specimen of a giant centipede in India, the Zoological Survey of India's (ZSI) museum in Akurdi also houses mounted animals, birds, mammals, and specimens of crustaceans and insects.

Seeing the carefully preserved fauna at the museum, one is struck by the wonders of taxidermy. Speaking to TOI, ZSI scientist K A 
Subramanian said that taxidermy is the act of mounting and preserving all vertebrate species of animals including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians where the skin and bones are kept intact.

scientist S Jadhav said that apart from the mounted animals, there are specimens here that are treated chemically to preserve the texture, size and shape of a specie. "For more than 30 years, the museum has been housing these exhibits. Many students from schools and colleges visit the museum," he said.

While the museum awaits a seven-feet mounted African leopard confiscated recently by the airport authorities in Mumbai, the present display includes barking deer from Mahabaleshwar, a young spotted deer, an Australian parrot (exotic species) and a pied hornbill (endangered species) with the long beak and a seven-feet anteater (all mounted). Meanwhile, the aforementioned giant centipede is originally a Venezuelan species but was found on the Raigad coast in India.

The other zoological collection comprises butterflies, insects, moths and caecilians (an order of amphibians) that superficially resemble earthworms or snakes. It is interesting to see the display of aquatic bug species diplonychus rusticus', where the male is carrying the eggs on its back to protect it.

B E Yadav, another ZSI scientist, said that some of the animals showcased here were either hunted or captured before 1970s, prior to the 
Wildlife Protection Act 1972 that bans the killing of all wild animals. While some of the display was donated to the ZSI, the rest was collected for scientific studies.

The museum also exhibits photographs of threatened primates of 
India like the slender loris, golden langur, hoolock gibbon, crab eating macaque, stump tailed macaque, phayre's leaf monkey, lion-tailed macaque, capped langur and pig-tailed macaque.

One of the striking fish species kept as a specimen here is the hammerhead shark'. Its head is flattened and laterally extended into a hammer' shape. The positioning of the eyes give the shark a good binocular and 360-degree vision, enabling them to see above and below at all times.

Subramanian said there are plans afoot to add more exhibits and make them theme-based. "The exhibits will be made more interactive, with charts and LCD displays."
Read more: Mounted animals, specimens star attractions at Akurdi museum - Pune - City - The Times of India

Wildlife Board Okays Community Conservation Reserves

BANGALORE: The State Board for Wildlife has cleared the formation of a three-community conservation reserve and has agreed to declare Rangayana Durga near Davangere as a wildlife sanctuary.

The board, which met in the city on Wednesday under the aegis of Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa, has also given its consent for construction of residential quarters for lower-level staff on the fringes of wildlife sanctuaries.

Yeddyurappa also gave his consent to extend Rs 1 lakh ex-gratia for temporary staff retiring as forest watchers and guards, as they were deprived of other retirment benefits. This would be drawn from the 
Tiger Foundation fund.

However, the decision to declare Kapathgudda and Chincholi as wildlife sanctuaries was deferred.

FOREST OFFICIALS TAKEN TO TASK: The forest department officials came under fire by the chief minister when some MLAs had opposed the proposal to form community conservation reserves at Aghanashini, Bedthi and Dandeli Hornbill. The MLAs mistook the proposal as formation of sanctuaries and felt that people would not be allowed entry into the areas.

However, ex-officio members of the board came to the rescue of the officials and explained to the chief minister that gram panchayats in the areas surrounding these reserves would join hands with the forest department to protect teh region. This initiative was different from the formation of sanctuaries. Following this, the proposal was given the green signal.

RANGAYYANA DURGA: A go-ahead was also given to the setting up of a windmill in the Rangayana Durga wildlif sanctuary. The region has a rich antelope population. Hence, the windmill project was being opposed by forest secretary
Nagaraj Hamphole and the locals. However, officials said that the opposition was politically motivated, and the project was cleared.
Read more: Wildlife board okays community conservation reserves - Bangalore - City - The Times of India