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Monday, January 7, 2013

Railways inaction leaves foresters fuming

By Pinak Priya Bhattacharya, TNN | Jan 7, 2013, 03.02 AM IST Indian Railways beat Maharashtra3 elephants killed, 2 injured as train crashes into herdRailways pitches for 5-10 paise fare hike per kilometreMP Dinesh Trivedi seeks speedy trial of tainted leadersRailways to develop stations for more revenue JALPAIGURI: A day after three jumbos died when the Guwahati-bound Jhajha Express crashed into a herd near Madhugachh, the two injured elephants were rescued on Sunday morning and are undergoing treatment at Rajabhatkhawa. The accident left foresters fuming and they came down heavily on the railways for taking no measures to curb elephant deaths. According to officials, the forest department had written to the railways last month asking them to maintain a minimum speed while running through forest areas especially at night. The railways, say reports, refused to agree to the proposal on the grounds that train services would take a hit if it is implemented. "Instead, they insisted on increasing vigil along the 168-km-long railway track between Alipurduar Junction and New Jalpaiguri. Even if watch towers are set up every 500 meters, how will you monitor the space between the two towers during the night hours," questioned a senior forest official. "Had we had the mechanism to track elephant movement inside forests, would we allow herds to come near the railway tracks? It is not possible to know the movement of a wild herd. The only solution is stopping movement of trains on the railway track after darkness," said RP Saini, field director, Buxa Tiger Reserve. In September 2010, seven jumbos were mowed down by a goods train in Moraghat after which it was decided that regular weeding, up to 30 feet, would be done on both sides of the track to ensure clear visibility for the train drivers. "We have been doing that regularly. The spot where the incident happened on Saturday evening has a clear visibility. Then how did the driver overlook the herd crossing the track? The problem is that the railways never accepts its fault and always blames the forest department," a senior forester said. Several naturist organizations have time and again appealed to the railways to double the track that passes through Falakata in Jalpaiguri and runs parallel to the one that moves through Dooars. On Sunday, forest minister Hiten Burman visited the site of the accident. He said his department would write to the railways seeking answers on why jumbo deaths by trains had become a regular affair. But Burman's assurance has failed to please foresters and naturists. " Mamata Banerjee, Dinesh Trivedi and then Mukul Roy - all of them were railway ministers and could have taken up the matter of doubling the parallel railway track and stopping movement of trains on the Dooars track at night. But when in power, they did nothing despite making numerous appeals. Now what's the point in blaming the railways?" said Animesh Basu of Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation.

Dr R K Pachauri sounds climate alert for Sundarbans

Mumbai News www.mid-day.comFind out the freshest and latest news of Mumbai Nobel laureate and director-general of TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) Dr R K Pachauri on Sunday expressed concern over rising sea levels in the Sundarban delta — the world’s largest mangrove forest that straddles India and Bangladesh. Speaking on the sidelines of the Indian Science Congress, Pachauri said there is a need to take adaptation measures to address the issue. “The rise in sea levels in Sundarbans is a cause of worry,” he said. Researchers of the School of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University, estimate that the annual rise in sea level from 3.14 mm recorded till the year 2000 increased to about 8 mm in 2010. The delta consists of 102 low-lying islands of which 48 are inhabited. Nearly 4 million people in the Sundarbans coexist with 26 species of true mangroves, 234 species of birds and 47 species of mammals including the Royal Bengal tiger. Experts point out that the islands and their ecosystems, including the human and animal communities, are under severe stress for want of natural resources and are highly vulnerable to changes in climate. Climate change is leading to increased salinity and higher tidal surges, permanent submergence of land masses, experts said. Reports suggest that in the past two decades four islands (Bedford, Lohachara, Kabasgadi and Suparibhanga) were submerged and 6,000 families rendered homeless. This apart, scientists from University of Calcutta and Jadavpur University have predicted that one of the largest islands (Sagar island) will lose at least 15 per cent of its habitat area by 2020. Pachauri highlighted the need to strengthen mangrove plantations. “Dykes need to be set up at Sundarbans. It is one of the most important things to maintain biodiversity,” he said. Dykes are natural or artificial slopes or walls to regulate water levels. Solar energy Pachauri said India is committed to National Action Mission on Solar Energy. Till now 10,000 MW of solar energy is used as alternative source of power, but the country needs around 25-30,000 MW solar energy as alternative power.

'MP tigress died due to officials' negligence'

Shashikant Trivedi / New Delhi/ Bhopal Jan 07, 2013, 00:18 IST The death of a tigress in the forests of Katni, Madhya Pradesh, two months ago, was caused due to “the carelessness of government officials”, a new investigation report has said. “On 16 November, 2012, ‘lineman’ Prakash Chandra Berman had spotted a damaged power transmission pole in the area where the tigress was later found dead. He made repeated requests. But there was no response from his superiors. On 18 November, carelessness turned fatal while the tigress was preying on a stray cow. They both fell on the live, high-voltage, loose electric supply wires and were electrocuted to death,” the investigation report of forest conservation (Katni circle) said. A copy of the report is available with Business Standard. "It is a clear case of negligence and the investigation report must have made the MP Power Transmission Company an accused in the case. If proper action is not taken against the erring and irresponsible staff and officials, our organisations will file a private complaint in the local court," tiger conservationist Ajay Dubey told Business Standard. Dubey also raised several questions about the incident. "Why did the forest beat in-charge not report about the incident immediately to his superiors? Why does the primary offence report of the forest department not have names of its own field staff and those of the MP Power Distribution Company staff when the lineman had already reported a damaged pole two days prior to the accident? What steps have been taken by the state government to protect tigers?" Dubey had earlier demanded that the Supreme Court impose a blanket ban on tiger tourism across India. The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) R S Negi, however, clarified while speaking to Business Standard, "We have a process to file criminal cases under the Wildlife Protection Act when any Schedule - I animal is killed. When our team reached the scene of death, there was no one. As a result, the police has made "Unknown" as an accused. After investigations, responsibility will be fixed and a ‘challan’ will be presented before the court either by police or by department staff to bring the accused to justice." Katni District Forest Officer (DFO) Mohammad Quasim Khan told Business Standard, "Two staff members of the MP Power Discom Company have been found guilty of carelessness and I have filed an FIR (first information report) against them under an electricity act. Since the lineman and the maintenance engineer did not take timely action, the tigress was electrocuted." Khan also responded to Dubey’s charge that the forest department had ignored and skipped the post-mortem of the tigress even though the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has made it mandatory to ascertain reasons and the time of death of a tiger. "The carcasses of the tigress and the cow were charred due to high-voltage and were beyond postmortem or lab examination limits," explained Khan. Madhya Pradesh is already facing criticism from various organisations and wildlife activists on the fast-shrinking population of the big cat in the state. In the recent past, three tigresses died in accidents or poacher attacks. The total number of tigers in Madhya Pradesh was 257 in the last census, while Karnataka reported 300 or more tigers in the count. This resulted in Madhya Pradesh losing the title of 'tiger state'.

Tiger found dead, body parts intact

TNN | Jan 7, 2013, 01.58 AM IST CHANDRAPUR: A tiger was found dead in forest under south Bramhapuri range on Sunday afternoon. Forest department has ruled out poaching in this case claiming that all body parts of the beast are intact. This is the first instance of tiger death in Chandrapur this year. DCF, Bramhapuri Forest Division, Sanjay Thavare informed that a forest guard and an NGO activist detected the carcass during patrolling in compartment no. 156 near Ekara (Bhuj) village late on Sunday afternoon. "The carcass is four days old and has decomposed totally. But all body parts are intact," he said and ruled out possibility of poaching. The gender of the animal could not be determined till evening due to its decomposed state. Guards were posted at the place and post-mortem would be carried out on Monday. Senior officials had left for the spot in the evening. Nevertheless, forest officials are suspecting it to be a case of revenge killing (by poisoning). However sources said that an official confirmation could be made after the post-mortem report is received tomorrow. Last year, 10 tigers had died in Chandrapur's forests.

Forest dept seeks funds from State for Project Tiger

Ashwini Y S, Bangalore, Jan 6, 2013, DHNS: Rehabilitation programmes stalled owing to severe financial crunch Left high and dry by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the State Forest department has been forced to approach the State government in the hopes of getting funds for rehabilitation projects under Project Tiger in Karnataka. The department, the nodal agency responsible for Project Tiger, claims it is in the throes of a financial crisis as it has suffered a poor flow of funds for rehabilitation projects aimed at reducing human presence in tiger habitats. Now, the department is placing a proposal for the release of Rs 300 crore in the 2013-14 State budget. Officials from the department, however, are sceptical about the proposal’s acceptance, as the scheme is Centrally sponsored. Furthermore, the Karnataka government has already declined to respond to a similar request made in the last financial year. Funds needed The department has sought Rs 92.40 crore for Nagarhole from the State government. It also hopes to get Rs 3.60 crore for Anshi-Dandeli, Rs 4.01 crore for Bhadra, and Rs 200 crore for the Kudremukh National Park. “During the last few years, despite our continued efforts, we have been able to secure funds only for Nagarhole. As a result, we are approaching the Karnataka government. The lack of funds, coupled with continued efforts by NGOs who are persuading forest dwellers not to relocate, has impeded effective rehabilitation,” explained Dipak Sharma, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests. Karnataka has five tiger reserves: at Bandipur, Bhadra, Nagarhole, Anshi-Dandeli and the Biligiri Ranganatha Temple area — together containing over 285 tigers. An additional 40 to 50 tigers have been identified as residing in other forests, including at the Kudremukh National Park (KNP). Incidentally, Karnataka has rejected proposals calling for KNP to be declared a tiger reserve despite the Centre’s approval to do so. Project Tiger aims at ending human interaction in tiger-populated areas and offers a rehabilitation package to help relocate families found in “core” and “buffer” areas. Families in “core” areas are offered Rs 10 lakh as compensation. A total of 8,374 families have been identified in tiger reserves and national parks, of which 856 families have been relocated till date. The Forest department is yet to begin a survey at the Biligiri Ranganatha Temple, which was declared a tiger reserve in 2011. Successful beginning The most successful rehabilitation project has been at Bandipur, which in 1973, became the first forest area to be declared a tiger reserve. A total of 154 families resided in the area — all of whom were rehabilitated and relocated to Sollepur in HD Kote over a period of time. In Nagarhole, the department has spent around Rs 19 crore — of the total Rs 29 crore released by the NTCA — and has relocated 496 families to Shettihalli Lakkapatna in Hunsur. As many as 133 families have agreed to move, and the department is in the process of completing new homes at the rehabilitation site. In Bhadra, the department has shifted 418 families to MC Halli and Kelagur near Chikmagalur by spending Rs 17.65 crore till date. At Anshi-Dandeli, of the 4,114 families, only 36 have come forward to accept the package. At Kudremukh National Park, of the 1,382 families which lived there, the department spent Rs 5.59 crore to shift 61 families. Recently, an additional 531 families have volunteered to be relocated.