Precious Amrit Mahal Kavals are not Wastelands

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Amrit Mahal Kavals are semi-arid grasslands in Karnataka that were set aside several centuries ago, during the Vijayanagara empire, and protected as grazing grounds for a sturdy local breed of cattle known as Amrit Mahal, which was once highly prized as a military draught animal. The protection of these grasslands was continued by subsequent rulers, including Hyder Ali, Tippu Sultan, and the Maharajas of Mysore, as well as the British during their colonial reign in India. Although these grasslands … Read More

India’s Savanna Grasslands: The Unsung Tale

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Close your eyes and think of the wilderness. What do you see? Chances are that you visualized a forest or a wooded area. While that is not incorrect, it does not present a complete picture. We live on an immensely diverse planet, with a range of environmental regimes or biomes. Biomes are distinct areas of the planet that support certain types of plants and animals based on the temperature, soil type, light and water available. Forest biomes cover a third … Read More

Park in Peril — Proposed Highway Through Pakke Tiger Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh

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The future of the Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh is threatened by a proposal to construct a two-lane Highway through it. The proposed road, from Seijosa, Pakke Kessang district to Bhalukpong, West Kameng district would form part of the 692 km long East-West Industrial Corridor project that seeks to connect towns/villages in the foothill areas of Arunachal Pradesh, from Kanubari in the east to Bhairabkund in the west.

In Phase I of the proposed project, the developers / state … Read More

Ecological Restoration Increases Tree Diversity and Carbon Storage in Degraded Rainforest Fragments

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Our research article that appeared recently in the journal, Ecosphere, asks: To what extent can a degraded rainforest be ecologically restored to resemble an undisturbed and mature rainforest? This is the first study that attempts to evaluate the effectiveness of a long term rainforest restoration project in the Anamalai Hills of the Western Ghats in peninsular India.

The results of the study suggest that ecological restoration of degraded rainforests – by controlling invasive weeds and planting native tree saplings – … Read More

A Landmark Event: UN Declares “Decade of Ecosystem Restoration”

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In the first week of March the UN declared 2021-30 as the decade of ecosystem restoration. The resolution pioneered by El Salvador was supported by calls from the international community to put ecological restoration at the forefront of national agendas. The Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) has called this an important step toward focusing the world’s attention on the imperative of restoring degraded ecosystems. The UN declaration is expected to bring political commitment, scientific research and financial muscle to scale … Read More

A Bullet to the Lungs: Mumbai Set to Lose More Forest to High-Speed Railway Line

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Will development once again take precedence over conserving India’s natural wealth?

India’s forests are quietly disappearing to accelerated infrastructure development. During the past three decades, approximately 15,000 sq km of forests have been diverted for development projects. Among them, 5000 sq km for mining, 1,600 sq km for defence projects and 1400 sq km for hydroelectric projects (http://data.gov.in). As of 2019, government data shows that 15,19,167.19 hectares of forest land have been diverted for non-forest use cumulatively across … Read More

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