Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Times of India - Pune edition, Page 05 - "Ministry identifies critically endangered species;calls for conservation,protection "

Ministry identifies critically endangered species;calls for conservation,protection 

TIMES NEWS NETWORK 

Pune: The ministry of environment and forests has come up with a list of critically endangered species of India,which includes,birds,mammals,reptiles and amphibians.The ministry has called for conservation and protection of these species.
The ministry has observed that conservation efforts are often focused on large animals like the tiger and elephant,however,there are a host of species that do not rank very high on the conservation totem pole,although they are under great threat and are classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
According to Dr Erach Bharucha,environmental scientist,the population of smaller species is dwindling.Also,there is not enough data to understand their declining population.
Some of these endangered birds and amphibians are also found in Maharashtra.
Out of the five listed bird species,three are found in Maharashtra.The Jerdons Courser is a nocturnal bird and belongs to the scrub jungle which is under extreme threat because of clearing of scrub jungle,creation of new pastures,growing of dryland crops,plantations of exotic trees,quarrying and the construction of the Telugu-Ganga canal and illegal trapping.It is endemic to Andhra Pradesh,however,19th century records attribute its presence in the neighbouring areas of Maharashtra.
The Forest Owlet is found in south Madhya Pradesh,in north-west Maharashtra and north-central Maharashtra.After 113 long years,the owlet was rediscovered in 1997.Their habitat is the dry deciduous forest and the major threat in logging operations,burning and cutting of trees.
The White-bellied Heron is an extremely rare bird found in five or six sites in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh,one or two sites in Bhutan and a few in Myanmar.Their habitat are rivers with sand or gravel bars or inland lakes.Unfortunately,loss and degradation of lowland forest and wetlands are the major threat.
It is also alarming to note that out of the nine species of vultures found across India,the population of three species have declined by 99 per cent.And this is due to the use of painkiller diclofenac for veterinary purposes.
The Bengal Florican, a rare Bustard species,is native to three countries Cambodia,India and Nepal.It is found in Uttar Pradesh,Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.The ongoing conversion of the birds grassland habitat is mainly responsible for its population decline.
According to ornithologist Sharad D Apte,the major threat is the habitat loss and change in crop pattern.There has been global climate change,but scientists and experts are not sure whether it has an adverse impact on birds.
In the mammal category,the Pygmy hog,the worlds smallest wild pig with the adult weighing only eight kg,needs relatively undisturbed tall terai grasslands,now restricted to only a single remnant population in Manas Wildlife Sanctuary and its buffer reserves.The main threats are loss and degradation of grasslands,dry-season burning,livestock grazing,afforestation of grasslands and hunting.
The Gharial, the most uniquely evolved crocodilian in the world,is also in the critically endangered list.Sadly,their dire condition reflects the tragedy of rivers.They live in clean rivers with sand banks.They are found in Uttar Pardesh,Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.And a small non-breeding populations exists in Son,Gandak,Hoogly and Ghagra rivers.The combined effect of dams,barrages,change in river course,pollution,sand-mining,riparian agriculture has led to their loss.
The Leatherback turtles and Four-toed river terrapin (turtle) are both critically endangered.Leatherback turtles weigh as much as 900 kg and are found in the tropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic,Pacific and Indian oceans.Unfortunately,their decline can be attributed to high sea fishing operations,harvesting of eggs and destruction of nests.
The omnivorous diet of the Four-toed river terrapin makes them an essential part of the efficient clean-up systems of aquatic habitats.They are found in Bangladesh,Cambodia,India,Indonesia,Malaysia.The major threats are use of flesh for medicinal purposes,and demand for eggs.
The Gliding Frog,endemic to the Western ghats,are found in the Indira Gandhi National Park and surrounding areas of Anamalai hills,Tamil Nadu presently.The threats include conversion of forested areas for timber and non-timber plantations and timber extraction activities.
Bhau Katdare,who works extensively on turtle conservation in Maharashtra,said that there is a rise in human population and people are negligent towards nature.Habitat destruction is the major threat for different species.They do not have sufficient space and food, he added.

UNDER THREAT 




Critically endangered is the highest risk category assigned by the IUCN Red List to wild species 




Critically endangered means that the natural population of a species has decreased,or will decrease by 80 per cent within three generations and all the available evidence indicates an extremely high risk of its extinction in the wild 




SOME CRITICALLY ENDANGERED SPECIES IN INDIA 




BIRDS 




y Himalayan Quail 




y Pink-headed Duck 




y Siberian Crane 




y Sociable Lapwing 




y Spoon-billed Sandpiper 




MAMMALS 




y Andaman Whitetoothed Shrew 




y Jenkins Shrew 




y Nicobar Shrew 




y Large Rock-rat 




y Malabar Civet 




y Namdapha Flying Squirrel 




FISH 




y Knifetooth Sawfish 




y Ganges Shark 




y Pondicherry Shark 




y Largetooth Sawfish 




y Deccan Labeo 




REPTILES 




y Hawksbill Turtle 




y Red-crowned Roof Turtle 


 

 
The Siberian crane (left) and the Gharial are on the list of critically endangered species 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Baaraat : the procession

Baaraat : The Procession
There’s a rhythmic beat of drums floating across, weaving its way through the by lanes of our colony, turning and dancing with the breeze that transports this soulful music during the early hours of a divine Tuesday morning. The Sun is yet to reach its hottest and the winter chill makes this morning a rather fog-filled tranquil lazy one. Amidst the “morning walkers” there are bustling house-helpers scurrying around with vessels, cleaning equipment, dog chains, and a variety of utilities.
This mad almost blind rush can relate to only one thing. A Wedding. There’s a wedding set to take place during the course of the day and the family is trying its best to meet deadlines, get everything arranged perfectly for their oldest daughter is set to embark upon a new journey, a new life.
As the ladies can be seen in a flurry, the men are rather relaxed but soon, everyone around will realize that that thing about the men, it’s just a fa├žade. In reality, their hearts are jumping up and down to finally be standing in the present.
As a viewer, all of this chaos seems rather exaggerated but with that thought, comes the realization, that every girl probably thinks like this about a wedding until her day finally arrives. At that point, she’ll probably turn a deaf eye and a blind ear to the wonkies around her J [I haven’t mixed the sensory organs up..I’m just trying to portray the sheer confusion that is, a wedding]
There are so many things to do, so many places to be at, so many people to meet, so many things to eat! I wonder, how, during all the pre-wedding running around, the couple getting married doesn’t forget the reason behind their marriage! It’s like bribing a child preparing for a tough exam with a big box of chocolates every 2minutes until the child finally forgets what he was doing in the first place!
I wonder how many people really put their ‘reason for getting married’ on a higher priority when compared with the menu, the guest list, the date, the venue, and whatever else there may be. Those weddings where everything is so red or pink are very confusing to someone like me. No doubt it all looks wonderfully done, but how come people don’t want to bring some colour into their soon to be new life? Before the wedding, everything is orange and green and yellow and blue and purple and suddenly, after it, things go red!
I’m not sure when people get married, why they do so, but I honestly think a wedding should remain something to be cherished and remembered all your life not only by you, and your spouse, but also, your family, friends, and every bloke who attended it! I’m sure the extravagance has no effect on emotions whatsoever! And as I see it, that’s the beauty of it. The fact that emotions, smiles, love, affection, are unscathed by shimmering metals and gem stones, 53 cuisines at the food counter, imported flowers and cars and a guest list that includes the world and their brother.
Whether one chooses to ‘tie the knot’ under water while scuba diving, or while climbing a mountain during a trek, or spontaneously at a family dinner, how does anything apart from the feeling matter?  Being thoughtful and extravagant are two different things although most parents will go all out on their children’s weddings especially if they’re a single child family.
Even though I never quite understood why the madness has to creep into something that is a celebration of two people uniting and their close friends and family being there to bless them.
The prospect of being able to share your life with someone who completes you is unmatched!  To be able to call someone your own, who will look out for you, look after you, and stand beside you all through, is a gift and a precious one at that. When you’re walking along the sea shore, and you turn to look behind at the impressions of your feet on the wet sand, when you see two pairs instead of one, that strengthening feeling of companionship, is heavenly! :)
To have someone to dance with even though you are the world’s worst dancer, to have a human mirror that reflects to you, who you really are; to learn how to cook things that are not Maggi or plain dal and rice, to be able to step out in the rain without an umbrella and not do it alone; ..these aren’t fairytale stories or Mills and Boons pages. They’re emotions and somehow, for me, they don’t go with the fan-fare!
A wedding is a day for the groom and his bride.. and that’s how it should be :) It’s not a day the bachelor dies. It’s not a day when a mental prison is inaugurated. It’s a day that marks the beginning of the period when you show each other off with the “Mr.” and “Mrs.” Tags :) Sometimes, it’s ok to let the good stuff prevail over the bad, especially when it’s about a very special moment in the lives of two very happy people :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Day of the G[raduate] R[escue] E[xpedition]

They say it's the city of dreams. The city that never sleeps. The city where people come with that ONE passion in mind. The city that either makes or breaks. In short, Mumbai.
  Now I don't qualify as someone who thinks of this city as any of the above. I admire the spirit with which is bounced right back from all the bombs that cowards have flung at it. But as a city that I'd like to call home, I just don't like it. So this, is about my day off from Pune, and evidently, my day off IN Mumbai.
  To wake up at 5am after having fallen asleep at 1am and then to board a bus to Mumbai at 6:30 in the freezing winter morning, isn't the start I would like to any day. So here I was, looking out the bus window at people, trees, bridges, water bodies, birds, garbage, cars, roads.. and strangely, I realized during this visit to Bombay, that perspectives alter not only with time, but also sometimes, with company! When you have no one but yourself to talk to, there's nothing you hesitate from saying, or keep to yourself. 
  When you are holding on to a rung hanging from the support rails of a local train compartment, and standing right at the door and looking out, you practically see Bombay go by. I have grown up visiting family there and I refuse to call it Mumbai because for me, it will always be Bombay. Having long since overcome my fear of Bombay local train travel, I comfortably hopped onto one to get to Dadar and realized, this was easy because  there was no point being afraid even if I was afraid. Because all I had, was me! There was no one who would say it's stupid to be afraid and what not. So I just chucked it and climbed on. Those 25minutes enlightened me. 
  I realized, after a long time, that just because on the outside, this city is coated with drugs and slums and garbage and bureaucracy and sky scrapers, on the inside, it's just really a 'home'. It's home to I dont even know how many people! But when one has a very fixed impression about a place, one tends to miss out on seeing the little tiny things that make it human, in totality. 
  I saw that the other day. I saw a young girl of about 6 or 7 yrs sitting on a stair with her grandfather while her grandmother looked at the two of them as the warm looking grandpa pointed to the local and the child was thrilled with his stories.. They sat there, without a care in the world, concentrating just on that moment with each other and at that point it hit me, that no matter how this city is on the outside, it's heart, is still very human. Because it's these people, that are the common people who get ignored day in and day out and they dont have to do anything spectacular to keep their feet on the ground. They're regular people with families, jobs maybe, worries, happy moments.. 
  As I smiled at the sight from my vantage point in the local train, the train had gone by almost 2 stations when I was jolted out of my engrossed memories and thoughts. I guess, when you don't go looking for examples, that's when they all come stand in front of you and practically parade around! I was in the ladies compartment, and there was an old man standing right behind me. A blind, old, poor man who relied entirely on his ears to guide him around. One hand holding the folded walking stick, and the other holding on to the railing, he stood there silently waiting for his station without having realized he was in the ladies compartment. I asked him where he wanted to get off because he was getting scarily close to the edge of the door and he said "Dadar utarna hai" so I thought I'd help him off when I get off at Dadar too. The train was now almost at Bandra and just as it pulled out, I happened to glance at the foot-over-bridge and I saw a dad throwing his son up in the air and catching him again. I saw the little kid smile and chuckle, then I saw the dad repeat his action and bring another smile on his son's face and I realized, even in this frightfully busy city, some people DO manage to enjoy the little things! Because those little things, ARE important! 
   As that father-son duo climbed slowly down the bridge, the train had covered significant ground. We were then at Dadar and just as I turned to the blind man to ask him if he needed any help, his foot touched the platform and he was on his way! Surprised at his timing and judgement, I thought, circumstances and places and sometimes, people, teach us a lot more than we give them credit for. This man was absolutely at ease with his disability and he didn't want sympathy. He had learned to master the art of  "seeing through his ears" so marvellously that I stood there, still shocked and by the time I realized I should be walking out, he was gone. 
   So as I walked across Dadar's platforms and got out on the East side and walked towards Dadar TT bus stand, I saw hundreds of people trying to make their way around each other without bumping into one another to get to their destination in a hurry. I walked with my hands in my pockets, slowly, observing and thinking and people around me, changed by the second! One second there was a lady in a pink dress next to me, and the next, there was a man carrying vegetables! I just kept walking. I didn't ask anyone how I could get to where I needed to be because this, is where I had spent so much of my time as a kid! All the buildings around had changed. The 'scar's from the bomb blasts could still be seen, and more so, imagined, but ultimately, this was a part of town I knew instinctively. I dug up those decade old memories as I clambered on and I realized, they were rather fond memories! Memories of clean beaches, of streets and lanes lined with trees on both sides like avenues, of coconut water that we would just keep drinking as kids, of those hide and seek games which had o restrictions on hiding place ranges. And it hit me, where had those memories gone? Where were my cousins now? Why was I walking alone in Bombay when half my family lives in this city? Distances exist because we let them.
  And then as I was passing a beautiful, old building, I retraced my steps and asked the security guard whether Mr. D'Costa still lived there and he said he didn't know who that was but there had only ever been one D'Costa in that building and he was no more. As the guard went off to his post, I stood with the vacuum like realization that the nice uncle who we would run into several times while we played at Shivaji park, who always smiled at us and sometimes even enthusiastically offered to show us some innovative hiding places, was no more. I don't think he'd have remembered us anyway but I had only one memory of him and now, he was gone. As kids, we were too busy to notice the realities of the world. We were too young to realize that growing old is part of the plan. And now, as I wobbled back on to the footpath, the temporary character of things hit me. Whoever said nothing is permanent, wasnt entirely wrong... I guess. 
  Some emotions I think, are permanent but the point here was, there's so much to learn from the things and people around you! Why do we always try to look so far that we miss out on seeing what's practically under our noses? Why are we so busy that we can't stop to smile at someone we run into at work or someone waiting for a bus or train at the station? Why have we forgotten how to appreciate the small aspects of life? Why does material comfort satisfy us today? Why ,, there are so many Why's! 
  While all this was happening, I even forgot about the fact that I had gone to Bombay to give an exam, the GRE. After all those thoughts, it was no wonder that I had even forgotten to call home and say the exam was over. When you spend 3 months almost under self-implicated house arrest, and then when you finally have the chance to go out and live a little, the exam seems to be an obstacle! Hence the title, Graduate Rescue Expedition :) Of course, I'm still not fond of Bombay at large but at least now, Im willing to accept, it IS human. 
  I don't think I will ever like the city very much, because frankly, I don't like too many of the people in it and having spent so much of my childhood there, I've seen it go from it was to what it is. All in all, my one day Dadar- Andheri visit taught me to go back and appreciate some stuff I'd forgotten about a long time ago :) and for that, I thank you Bombay :) 
 -" ay dil hai mushkil jeena yahaan, kaheen building kaheen traamein kaheen motor kaheen mill, milta hai yahaan sab kuch, ik milta nahi dil, insaan ka nahi kaheen naam-o-nishaan, zara hatke zara bachke, yeh hai bombay meri jaan..."