Missing the Grass for Trees — Planting Trees Where They Don’t Belong

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It may not be an overstatement to say that grasses underpin much of human existence. From sustaining wildlife that fed early hunter-gatherers to eventually becoming food itself, grasses have contributed to the development and flourishing of human civilisations. From present day cereal crops, to even elegant furniture, grasses serve multiple uses in human societies, from the functional to the aesthetic. Yet, when it comes to judgement, the larger urban public and a range of government bodies tend to view grasses … Read More

Saswad Grasslands near Pune in Danger

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20 km to the Southeast of Pune lies the Purandar District with its headquarters at Saswad. As we leave the semi-urban environs of Saswad behind, we enter a unique habitat – a mosaic of grasslands interspersed with agricultural lands and human settlements. This human dominated semi-arid savannah landscape harbours unique and threatened faunal diversity.

These areas, historically labelled as ‘wastelands’, have long been ignored by environment policy makers due to the cryptic nature of diversity which they possess. As the … Read More

Bleeding the Chambal Dry

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Reckless water hoarding, diversion, sand mining and fishing are killing a pristine river that once used to recast its vast ravines every flood. Jay Mazoomdaar on the curse of the Chambal.

This article originally appeared in Tehelka, 8 March, 2013.

In a culture where rivers are worshipped, the Chambal, by all means mightier than the Yamuna, would be slighted as a tributary of the latter. Unsurprisingly, no great cities or shrines came up on its banks. This traditional isolation fostered … Read More

Religious Festivals Inside Protected Areas

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CI recently received this very pertinent question (in our ‘Ask CI’ section) from Suraj Kumaar of Coimbatore: “I would like to know what kind of rights for worship are provided to tribals and forest dwellers (villagers) inside PAs? We have been recording the temple festivals inside Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary over the last two years and the situation is one of absolute mayhem. Between 70,000 to 1,50,000 visitors, over 700 buses, trucks visit two temples deep inside the sanctuary. One temple, Read More

Going Nowhere? Roads and Conservation in India

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The ongoing controversy about widening National Highway 7 (NH7) has highlighted the inevitable trade-offs in conservation and development. Conservation groups and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) have been at logger-heads. The former contend that widening the parts of NH7 that pass through Kanha and Pench Tiger Reserves will further fragment an important wildlife refuge and corridor. NHAI opposed the high costs of wildlife-friendly mitigation measures, and agreed to build underpasses and overlays only after the Supreme Court’s intervention. Nonetheless, … Read More

Otters in a Famous Tourist Destination

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Beaches and sunsets are what come to mind when most people think of Goa. This small state in western India has earned its reputation as one of the most favoured top tourist destinations. But very few know that Goa also has a rich diversity of flora and fauna. Much of the eastern rim of Goa falls within the Western Ghats (a global biodiversity hotspot). Goa has an area of 3,702 sq.km with several rivers spread across the state, all of … Read More

The Wolf and the Sheep: Concerns about the Proposed Purandar Airport in Pune

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There are growing conservation concerns about the proposed greenfield International Airport in Purandar taluk, Pune. In addition to local people’s opposition, which led to arrests and subsequent talk of land compensation packages, there is little information on the status of environmental clearance for airport construction. Approved by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), the airport is meant to be fully functional by 2020. Purandar was chosen by AAI after considering other sites in the Chakan-Rajgurunagar area. Various players including top … Read More

Lights on for Elephants

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Technology offers solutions for Human-Elephant Conflicts.

The dark hulks ambled in a single file across the stark green landscape of thigh-high tea bushes. Without a pause in their stride, the elephants made their way towards a tiny patch of forest. Save for the tree crickets, there were no other sounds. Had it been daytime, the elephants would have been harassed by people behaving like neurotic monkeys. On such occasions, despite their size, the elephants seemed so vulnerable, with nowhere to … Read More

Small Dams, Big Problems – Join the Campaign

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Small hydropower projects (SHPs) or mini hydels are propagated as an environmentally friendly and socially beneficial option to meet our rising energy demands. Hence, according to the EIA notification, SHPs (capacity not more than 25MW) do not require an environmental clearance, and are legally exempt from environmental impact assessments and public hearing in India. In fact, the government usually grants substantial subsidies and financial incentives to such ‘green initiatives’. However, this notion of SHPs having minimal or no adverse impacts … Read More

Bannerghatta National Park In Grave Danger — Act Now!

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New Notification Further Reduces Bannerghatta ESZ. 

The recent October 30th, 2018 notification issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) mentions that the Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of Bannerghatta National Park would have an area of 168.84 sq km housing 77 villages. This is 100 sq km less than the previous notification issued in 2016 in which 268.9 sq km was earmarked as the ESZ. Read / download the new draft MoEFCC notification here.

This will further devastate … Read More

Hollongapar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam

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This is an image of the railway line cutting through the Hollongapar Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, taken in Feb 2012. One needs to understand the behaviour of Hoolock Gibbons and the habitat to understand the destruction caused by the railway line.

Hoolock Gibbons are the only apes found in India (apart from a billion humans of course!). They have long forelimbs and shorter hind limbs which are very conducive for these animals to move around the forest by swinging along the … Read More

Human — Leopard Conflict; Lessons from Junnar, Maharashtra

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In many parts of India, leopards live in close proximity to human habitations with surprisingly low levels of conflict.  They are capable of living and breeding even in degraded forests, plantations and croplands, and manage to survive on a variety of small wild prey, domestic dogs, livestock and feral animals. Rural folk in many of these areas are often remarkably tolerant to the presence of these wild and potentially dangerous predators; but the threat to human lives even if rare Read More

Numaligarh — On a Wrong Course?

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Reports of a golf course coming up in the township of the Numaligarh Refinery Limited near Kaziranga National Park in Assam created ripples and troubled many; some also regarded it as one of the ‘regular’ depressing news on the wildlife conservation front. Why – one wonders though – does a Miniratna Public Sector Unit need an arena for a sport usually associated with the elite, that too within a ‘No Development Zone’. Golf courses are ‘infamous’ for their water guzzling … Read More

The Six Percent Solution — a New Recipe for Saving Wild Tigers

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21 leading conservation biologists from across the world have proposed that since it might be far too expensive and far too difficult to save all wild tigers, we should focus a major part of our efforts and expenditure on 42 selected sites that show the greatest promise. Here’s CI’s distilled version of the original paper titled Bringing the tiger back from the brink – The six percent solution.

Current approaches to tiger conservation have not succeeded in slowing the decline … Read More

‘Gajah’: The Report of the Elephant Task Force

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A major report on securing the future for the Elephant in India was today submitted to the Minister of Environment & Forests. The report lays out a comprehensive action agenda for protecting elephants in the wild and in captivity, and for addressing human-elephant conflict. The Minister welcomed the Report and promised speedy implementation of the major recommendations.

The Executive Summary is posted here. The full report can be downloaded from the MOEF website here.

Executive Summary

Securing a future … Read More

Mining and its aftermath

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Iron ore was discovered in Kudremukh in 1913, when P. Sampath Iyengar, a geologist from Mysore, set out on a quest for the mineral.  As he rode along the Bhadra River he noticed that fine particles of ore had adhered to his horse’s shoes. Following the trail, he finally reached the Aroli range of hills and discovered Kudremukh’s iron-ore deposits. However, full-scale mining operations only began decades later, when the Iranian government, under Mohammad Reza Pahlavi — the Shah of … Read More

Dead Long-billed Vulture in Windmill Site, Western Ghats

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A large number of windfarms have been constructed across the Western Ghats landscapes. Many of these fall in area rich in biological diversity with many endemic and threatened species. So far they do not require any EIA and hence analysis of impacts on biodiversity is never measured. Although the serious concerns are the actual birdhits, the changes brought about in the entire landscape during construction and working phases are also heavily impacting these sensitive landscapes. This picture was taken in … Read More

The Buck Stops Here

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A lone blackbuck walks through real estate development bordering the Vallanadu Blackbuck sanctuary, Tuticorin District, Tamilnadu. About 70 blackbuck are present in the sanctuary and are frequently seen outside its boundary in search of grass.

Vallanadu Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area created for the protection of Blackbuck. Located on an isolated hillock in Vallanadu Village of Srivaikundam Taluk, it is the southernmost place in India where a natural population of Blackbuck exists (courtesy Wikipedia). … Read More

Native Grasslands Matter for Denning Indian Foxes

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Habitats of many species are rapidly getting fragmented and human-modified today; therefore assessing how species respond to such changes in native habitats is an important precursor for any conservation strategy. The tropical short grasslands in India are heavily human-modified landscapes, but are still home to a diverse array of species, including the widely distributed Indian fox (Vulpes benghalensis). Even though commonly seen, Indian fox populations appear to be declining in most parts of its range, and this decline … Read More

Riparian Forests for Healthy Rivers

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With the new government have come new promises. With a new name of Ministry for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, can the rivers hope for a cleaner future?

India is home to 16% of the world’s total population, but has only 4% of the water resources sustaining the economy in terms of agriculture, power and biological productivity 1 . As a large part of the population is directly dependent upon rivers, it is all the more important to … Read More

Habitat Fragmentation in the Western Ghats

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Habitat fragmentation is the alteration of habitat, which results in the division of a continuous habitat into smaller, isolated fragments. While natural causes can contribute to habitat fragmentation, humans are the main cause. Human activities such as roads, mining, agricultural land conversion and urbanization contribute greatly to fragmentation. Habitat fragmentation has a greater effect on terrestrial animals as they have to cross human inhabited areas and roads to reach the habitats and resources they depend upon. This leads to road … Read More

Gibbons in Our Midst: Informing Connectivity Conservation

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Authors Divya Vasudev and Robert J. Fletcher highlight the importance of using data of animal movement to infer connectivity. Below are the highlights of their study appearing in Biological Conservation (Volume 181) in January 2015.

A flash of black in the trees makes me stop. I am not sure if it is the softness of the black that differentiates it from the shadows. Perhaps it was a movement, uncoordinated with the swaying of the branches with the wind. For a … Read More

Western Hoolock Gibbon, Bherjan, Assam

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Tucked in a corner of Upper Assam in Bherjan survives a small population of about 35 Western Hoolock Gibbons (Hoolock hoolock). Their lowland evergreen forests have been wiped out and these apes are marooned in an island of tamul or areca nut trees (Areca catechu) and some high canopy trees hemmed in by villages. Fortunately, the villagers are tolerant of these primates and have started protecting these endangered apes and efforts are underway to restore the corridors for their … Read More

Lion-Tailed Macaque and Traffic, Someshwara

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This image is from the Agumbe – Someshwara main road in the Malnad region of Karnataka. This is a very busy road as it provides the shortest connection from Shimoga to coastal towns like Manipal, Mangalore and Udupi. Sadly, there are no signboards or speed-breakers to notify wildlife crossing areas.

The lion-tailed macaque (Macaca silenus) is an endangered and endemic macaque found only in the tropical rainforests of the Western Ghats. These macaques can benefit from ecologically informed and … Read More

Dholes in Tea Estate near Chembra peak, Kerala

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Chembra is part of the Wayanad hill ranges in the Western Ghats, adjoining the Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu and Vellarimala in Kozhikode district in Kerala. Chembra Peak is accessible by foot from Meppady. District Tourism Promotion Council provides guides and trekking equipment on hire charges to tourists. A heart-shaped lake on the way to the top of the peak is a major tourist attraction.

Last month (September 2013), my friends and I were trekking to Chembra peak. We had … Read More