Friday, May 19, 2017

Conservation Ethos in India - Impact of Vedas

With the passing away of Mr. Anil Dave a seasoned politician and river conservation enthusiast a great loss has occurred. The loss is not of a political party alone, it is a serious setback for the conservation in India.     

Albeit the scope of river conservation (NCRD) under the ministry of Environment and Forests is greater with inclusion of lakes and other water bodies. It nevertheless points out to the value system we uphold in this country. 

Most rivers in India have always had a holy status with the usual connotation of "mother." The connotation does not point out towards the belief as being illogical it should be seen in wider perspective. This is a shrewd way of according importance to an element of ecological importance. The credit goes to the Vedic system which originated about five thousand years back during the peak of Indus Valley Civilization in India.

As Indians we should believe in the system as Vedas have had an indelible impact on our lives since time immemorial. Likewise the connotation specifying things as motherly or holy are used in many instances especially elements which are of ecological importance like, trees, animals, reptiles, birds and others. 

Hence the status Mother or Holy is applicable to Ganges or Narmada since they played a significant role in upbringing ancient civilizations in the country...they still do. Such connotations just act as a subtle means of adding value. The Vedic civilization has been instrumental in creating such a value system during it's prevalence all over India. The value system is logical address to creation of cultural values rather than being religious in nature.          

Whatever may be the causes of degradation of environment in India. An impressive shred of environmental degradation is history of imperialism, the impact has also been brought about by our greed, ill planned land use and rabid industrialization. 

The negative impact has been mitigated by this value system to a good extent. By this I mean there is still hope for saving the tiger and other species, cleaning the polluted rivers, regenerating niche ecosystems, and bringing about responsible change how we govern the country and our society.  

The ethos of Vedic System is ingrained in our psyche consciously or otherwise, It is perpetually instrumental in auguring us towards a more conservation oriented approach vis a vis nature. The results of impact are obvious whence we take into consideration the efforts being made towards conservation of animals, birds, rivers, habitats and environment as whole in the country.      

The ancient Vedic civilizations in India were fully cognizant of impact of environmental degradation on our lives. It was well known since ages that human activities could cause disruptions in weather patterns, temperature, rainfall and agriculture. The ancient scriptures contain references to aspects of ecological importance and how to prevent damage and augur forth a positive impact.

With all the knowledge stored in ancient treatise we should be at the forefront of conservation and hence climate change in the World. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Searching For Tigers

My First Tiger Sighting

With trepidation, my heart thumping madly I got on to the hawdah tied on the back of the elephant. The contraption made of thin steel rods and a wooden plank was nowhere near to the assurance I needed on my first jungle adventure.   

I was at Kanha National Park sometime back in the early seventies. We were on the way to see a tiger. The ride on the pachyderm was anything but comfortable as it trudged past bushes and grass in the rugged terrain. I had a tough time tackling bamboo clumps that brushed past us like sharp edged swords. The elephant, huge as they come was in intense conversation with the mahaut oblivious of us on its torturous back. 

Tigress - Uday Patel

As a young lad I had been introduced to forests quiet early. My family was in bidi business and every year there was a visit to Central Indian Jungles in order to purchase tendu leaves.   

This was my first ride on an elephant and quiet an unnerving experience it was. The mahuat pointed out to a big cat painted yellow black and white sitting beside a shallow water body in bright sunlight.   “Tigress,” he called out and then went silent. I could feel the fear rising higher within me. The cat sat listlessly and did not even bother to look at us. 

So this was the much touted tiger, the King of the jungle. A terrible roar and a charge was what I was expecting from huge animal. They did not arrive. Man killer, blood thirsty, ferocious all deadly notions started to flood my mind. But the nonchalance and the ease with which the tigress sat amidst the humans grouped around her changed by views. She was at peace with herself and the surroundings. This set to ease trepidation within me and my notions about this magnificent predator changed dramatically. Over the years I came to understand the tiger as part of an ecosystem which was connected to the environment upon which we all depend. That day I had become a tiger lover.   

My brother clicked from his simple black and white camera. The photo was a pride possession and it decorated the walls for a number of years.          

Interview: Mr.Sanjay Shukla Park Director Kanha National Park

Interview: Mr. Sanjay Shukla - Field Director Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh. Interesting answers on questions posed by Last Wilderness Organization based in India

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Dryland Forests

Scarcity of trees defines these water scarce forests. Most of these in India are heavily populated or have number settlements which have contributed to their mistaken classification as urban land. Relatively low density of trees makes it difficult to classify them as forests. But nevertheless they contribute to ecosystems with carbon absorption capacity. 

The dryland forests are generally classified as arid or hyper arid and contain varying degree of water and floral elements. These type of forests are widespread and due to weak tree cover are often usurped by settlers, urban colonizers and by industries. 

Water scarcity in these biomes does not mean complete absence of water rather the crucial element is present on surface. The biodiversity does support million of people. 

Ironically most arid tropical forests have turned into dryland after severe deforestation in countries like India.  Most of the agriculture takes place by using stored surface water during a suitable period.

It would be interesting to study wildlife prevailing in arid conditions. Most of the open country mammals and birds should be present in the dryland forests.

Interesting Reading on Dryland Agro Forestry 

Global Warming & It's Impact

Also termed as climate change, the phenomena revolves around rising temperatures and unnatural disasters caused as a result. Earth is in ever in a state of evolution due internal geological and external atmospheric changes, these by all means are slow and study. The effect appears after passing of millions of years which may not be much as per historical timescale but is significant whence human history is concerned. 

But the geological changes are in no way related to climate change vis a vis human activities. The factors that affect climate on Earth and fetch about unwarranted changes are all man made. The unwarranted changes are rising temperatures, drought, deluge, rise in sea levels, desertification, extreme weather, melting of ice in the polar regions and disasters that bring about harrowing misery. These happenings are some how related to widespread disease prevalence among the young, occurence of rare virus disease, physical deformities  and so on. Global warming may also result in species extinction.  Hydro-meteorological disasters result in famine and hunger giving rise to poverty.         
The impact of this change differs from region to region, and it is not universal. Earth practically exists in a state of equilibrium where composition of air, water, climate, geography and resources make life sustainable. In return life also sustains abiotic elements in order to assist in maintaining an equilibrium. This is a complex web which humans have to understand and respect in order to survive on this planet.  We gauge the environment on the basis of it's support to life. This means stable conditions should exist without any untimely disruption such that life may flourish.

Some of the external forcings out of human purview are changes in solar luminosity, high volcanic activities, disastrous meteoric activities. changes in atmospheric composition brought about by the emission of greenhouse gases can also effect sustainability of life on Earth.   

Since the industrial revolutions in most part of the World, the emission of greenhouse gases like Co2, Ozone, vapours and methane has rising dramatically and continues to do so.  It is essential to repeat this in the article that fossil fuels and deforestation are two major factors responsible for this anomaly in the Earth's systems. But there are certain non fuel chemical process responsible for climate change as well albeit to a lesser scale.   

What can we do?
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an organization that is supported by many countries with the objective of mitigating or preventing anthropogenic climate changes.  

Reduction in harmful emissions brought about resorting to fossil fuels, prevention of destruction of forests and other natural lands is important in order to fetch stability in the climate. The use of alternative energy although in a nascent stage can also assist by reducing dependency on fossil fuels and thereby reducing emissions. Sustainable use of natural resource help us leave a better carbon footprint profile. We as responsible citizens can aid tremendously here by conserving energy.     

Increase in industrial production and unchecked population growth are factors responsible for high levels of C02 emissions. These are the factors we can control. 

As technology advances hopefully greater impetus will be accorded to prevent disastrous climatic changes on Earth.  

For extensive reading visit Wikipedia Article on Global Warming.   

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Commercial Forestry & Research in India

In need of environmental protection, protecting niche habitats for other forms of life, it becomes imperative to keep an eye on commercial exploitation of our forests. During the British Raj German born Dietrich Branids was appointed as first Inspector of Forests.    

He later on, in the year 1864 went on to establish the Indian Forest Service, and subsequently the Indian Forest Act in 1865. Water protection and wildlife also came under the purview of this act. The Indian forests were then classified as  Protected, Reserved and Village Forests. The amendment Act 1927 adds another category to the listings namely the Private Forest.    

Under the Act unauthorized quarrying, poaching and illegal tree felling was punishable by fine or imprisonment. 

The Forest Research Institute at Dehradun in Uttarakhand was set up in 1906 as Imperial Forest Research Institute by the masters. This Institute has been at the forefront of scientific study and development of forestry in India.  Through the Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy training is provided by it to forests officers.  

In 1988 Indian Council of Forest Research under MOEF was established. This is an umbrella organization for various training institutes and research centers in India.  In 1991 FRI was accorded the status of deemed university. 

The Indian Forestry Act was the beginning of organized exploitation of timber in India during the Raj. There was an urgent need of Sal and Teak woods for various commercial purpose hence tree felling by villagers was prohibited in the reserved forests. This era also witnessed mushrooming of tea and coffee plantations at the cost of precious ecosystems.     

In spite of formation of organized structures and scientific research exploitation of forest wealth (read timber) has continued unabated and could be termed as reprehensible. The single species plantation and clear felling points out to severe lack of  understanding of ecosystems and the fragile web of life. Over powered by greed, the plunder of our forest wealth continues till this day. Commercial felling constitutes one of major environmental disasters that the country is facing. 

Albeit recent reports in India point out to marginal growth of area under forest cover the effect is nowhere visible. FAO estimates a forest cover of twenty two percent in India, but do the surveys point out to the status of the forest cover?

In order to classify as healthy ecosystems, the forest crown cover should be robust. Some of the tiger reserves and protected areas in the country stand out as fine examples.      

In 1953 the government nationalised forests and minor forest produce bringing in complete control over what is termed as a National resource. It was during this period that large scale clear felling and takeover of forest and niche habitats like grasslands for agriculture and settlements for fast growing populations took place.  

As the disastrous impact of denudation dawned upon, greater impetus was placed on afforestation. Eventually social or community based forestry was introduced in India.  This was not only to prevent deluge and soil erosion, it was aimed at fulfilling huge demand for wood and wood based products in India. 

Although there was significant success of community based forestry in some states these were purely of commercial interest and had no impact on improvement of the environment, and could not sustain wildlife altogether. This merely resulted in industrialization of forest produce as a result of mass scale production - this certainly is not ecocoservation by all means.    

Thankfully clear feeling has been halted in the country and is replaced by felling selected one's which are classified as old or degenerate. These is under the purview of local state governments. 

Nevertheless the country strives for increasing the forest cover and an amount tantamount to staggering 6 billions dollars plus has been assigned for this purpose in the year 2015. The bill has been tabled as Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill.    

The approach may sound sincere, but there are many hurdles that afforestation faces. There is a lack of comprehensive mechanism for implementation and supervision of the whole exercise. This is further aggravated by misutilization of funds, corrupt practices, efficient methodology, prevalent lethargy and lack of sincerity.  

The exercise could be meaningful if the forest lands affected in the past, and those diversified for alternate commercial interest are brought under the purview. The country has faced abject failure as far as compensatory afforestation is concerned.   Read CAG Report. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Lesser Known Tiger Reserves Part II

As discussed in the earlier post the problems that arise in tiger conservation are many. But one insurmountable problem that interferes with the management practices and is the cause of severe man animal conflict is excess population around the reserves.   

Since the law prohibits human settlements with the core area of the reserve the impetus is on relocating them outside. Though in spite of a generous compensation package it is difficult to relocate people away from the critical tiger habitats.     

As the tiger population grows more and more space will be required this will include the forest in the buffer. Unfortunately the problem of settlements is further compounded in the buffer due to absence of law to relocate settlements further. Not only the absence of law there is absolute lack of political will if contingency arises.  

Coming back to the article read below briefs on lesser known tiger reserves in India. The list also includes reserves which are least visited.  

Melghat Tiger Reserve lies in State of Maharashtra in Satpura Ranges. With an area of over two thousand sq km Melghat is home to a large population of bison and Central Indian mammals. Gugamal National Park with an area of 360 constitutes the core.   

Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal is a 760 sq km big cat heaven in India. It is home to Indian Elephant besides tiger and other mammals. Bagdogra lies at a distance of 195 km.    

Dudhwa Tiger Reserve bordering Nepal is in Uttar Pradesh. The preserve is home to a good number of  tigers besides other mammals. The swamp deer the Northern race if found here. The rhino relocation has been successful since many years. Dudhwa lies in Lakhimpur Kheri district within a short distance from Palia City.  

Ratapani Tiger Reserve lies in close proximity to Bhopal the capital city of Madhya Pradesh. Home to tigers, wolves and other mammals the reserve contains finest stands of teak. Prehistoric Bhimbetika Caves lie within.  Poaching and illicit felling are major cause of concern.      

Sunbheda Tiger Reserve is situated in Odisha in Nuapada District. The 500 sq km preserve is home to Central Indian mammals like tiger, leopard, sloth bear.  

Bhadra Tiger Reserve is situated in Karnataka State near Chikkamagaluru District. It is home to tiger, lion tailed macaque, slender loris, bonnet macaque and wild elephants. Approximately 600 sq km in area the reserve is 163 km from Mangalore.    

More tiger reserves have been created and hopefully more will be notified in near future. This is essential if we wish to save the tiger from extinction as well as give new lease of life to myriads of lif e forms in India. 

At present the non violate area in India is very small, barely one percent of the total land mass. Better management of our land will result in preservation of niche habitats for other life forms and increase the protected area.  

Lesser Known Tiger Reserves of India

This entry is on the basis that there are many tiger reserves in India but few are in active circuit as far as tourism is concerned. Tourism is present in these reserves but they are less popular amidst the International and National circuits.   

The top five reserves in India are Internationally famous and offer good tiger sightings. These are Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench, Tadoba and Ranthambore. In recent times Corbett has become hub of tiger tourism but it is favored more by overseas tourist for the birding potential it holds. Due to altitude migration the park is home to more than five hundred species. 

Among the second rung of list (comparative) are the reserves that are more popular amongst local tourists.  The reason that they are less popular overseas are many. The primary reason for a tiger reserve to get fanciful numbers of tourist is the sightings of course. Being a keystone species wildlife lovers keep tiger sighting as first priority in their wishlist of reserves. In some of these reserves tiger sightings may be poor and the tourism infrastructure amy not be upto the required standards, Another reason may their remoteness with connectivity being a major issue. In some of the reserve problems regarding law and order in terms of extremists may be a major hindrance. In many destinations human settlements create man animal conflict and are a hindrance in tiger conservation.  

The reserves may also contain smaller populations of big cat. But this can be seen in a brighter light as they are destinations which can harbor more tigers in time to come with proper conservation practices. 

Amrabad Tiger Reserve in the newly carved Telangana State has a potential to attain popularity. It is one of the biggest reserve with area of 2880 The reserve holds twenty three tigers approximately and they are more often seen on camera traps rather than on safaris.   

Nagarjuna Srisailem Tiger Reserve in Andhra Pradesh is the largest reserve in India with an area of  3568 The core area is 1200 The National Park faces threat of armed extremists.  

Tiger - Dinesh Makhija
Indrawati Tiger Reserve in the State of Chhattisgarh is virtually out of bounds for the tourists due to armed extremist problem. The 2799 reserve holds the last remaining population of wild buffalo that fate of which is difficult to gauge in present times. Some efforts are being made to encourage tourism here. Jagdalpur at a distance of 168 km is the nearest railhead.

Kanger Valley National Park in the State of Chhattisgarh is 200 in area. The park contains an impressive list forty nine Central Indian mammals including the tiger and the leopard. Jagadalpur rail head at distance of thirty three km offers good accommodation. Natural cave formations are an interesting feature of this destination.    

Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve in the State of Madhya Pradesh. The park has an area of 1674 and is home to big cats as well as Central Indian Mammals. Tiger population here is very small.    

Guru Ghasidas National Park in Korea District was carved out pf Sanjay Dubri TR whence the State of Chattisgarh came into being. The tiger population here is very small in an area of  2898 

There will be more on  Lesser Known Tiger Reserves of India in my next blog entry.