25 July 2013

Indian Owls vs Black Magic

How Black Magic is Threatening India's Owl Population

owl for salePhoto: © Abrar Ahmed
A round head, flat face, forward-facing eyes with some feathers around and the ability to rotate the head as much as 270 degrees in either direction. These are the distinguishing features that make owls instantly recognizable. But today, we humans are taking the lead in their habitat destruction by unprecedented tree cutting and illegal trading, according to a recent wildlife report. What is wrong with the human race? Do we have to destroy everything?
Dyed Owls 
Photo: © Abrar AhmedSpotted Owlet, Dyed Spotted Owlet with coloured eyes, and Dyed Spotted Owlet
For sale 
Photo: © Abrar Ahmed Spotted Owlet offered at Nakhas market, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
Owls are trapped and traded illegally in India because they are of great importance in many superstitious beliefs. Thus, these cute birds are used in black magic and sorcery. Referred to as ‘tantriks’, the black magic practitioners use owls and their various body parts in rituals and sacred ceremonies.
Body parts prescribed by a shaman (or tantrik) are the skull, bones, blood, claws, eyes, beak, liver, kidney, meat and eggshells. Some owl species with false “ear tufts” are supposed to bestow great magical powers and are therefore in great demand.
Owls parts for sale 
Photo: © Abrar Ahmed Owl parts for sale for folk medicinal use / black magic
Performance with owls' eggs 
Photo: © Girish V. JatharA tribal man performing using owl’s eggs in Maharasthra, India
The darkest time for owls in India is between mid-October and mid-November. This is the period when the great festival Diwali is celebrated and more owls disappear than at any other time. In this festival, the goddess of wealth and wisdom, Laxmi, is worshiped. The owl is regarded as the vehicle of Laxmi. Because owls are associated with wealth, the animals are sacrificed that day in the misguided belief that it will bring good luck, wealth and wisdom. The way this innocent wild animal is plundered to feed ignorant superstition is totally unacceptable.
Owl Trappers 
Photo: © Abrar AhmedOwl trappers
Photo: © George WangzhiyongTrapped owls
With the owls caught using bamboo poles, nets and various traps, their population is in serious danger. Bird catchers earn a lot and, getting paid up to 10,000 INR (USD 200-250), and thus try to catch this bird by any means. Out of 30 known species, 15 species are caught up in the trade: the spot-bellied eagle owl, spotted owlet, barn owl, Asian barred owlet, dusky eagle owl, collared owl, oriental scops owl, tawny fish owl, rock eagle owl, eastern grass owl, jungle owlet, brown fish owl, mottled wood owl, collared scops owl and the brown wood owl.
Photo: © Abrar AhmedOwls and owl parts confiscated from various sources (Kalander means street performers)
Photo: © Abrar Ahmed
Recently, a report titled 'Imperilled Custodians of the Night: A Study on Illegal Trade, Trapping and Use of Owls in India', written by Abrar Ahmed, was published by Traffic India, the wildlife trade-monitoring network of the WWF and IUCN. The report, based on various investigations and detailed studies, revealed how owl species are facing extinction because of black magic and the illegal trade. Even though the hunting and trading of Indian owl species is banned under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 of India, still they are highly sought after by traders.
Perhaps we are not fully aware of the ecological importance of owls. As a natural form of pest control, these natural predators control rodent populations and maintain and balance the food chain.
Street show 
Photo: © Abrar AhmedA street performer (kalander) with an owl
Owls are birds of prey, as they hunt other living things for food. Their excellent night vision and superb hearing play an important role in locating and attacking prey silently in darkness. We should not hunt them or sacrifice them as the totems of clairvoyants and mystics. It is sad to learn how some non-essential traditions in India are conflicting with an enlightened modern life style.
Though based on religious superstition, this issue is quite difficult to wipe out, but to raise awareness, one does not need to be a part of an NGO. The most practical approach would be to inform the local authorities right away of any of such trading taking place in front of your eyes. Let this unfortunate bird not to be the victim of superstition any longer.
Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owl

Courtesy: http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/news-black-magic-and-illegal-wildlife-trading-causing-dwindling-owl-population-india

23 July 2013

Indus River dolphin calves successfully rescued in eastern Pakistan

© WWF pakistan
© WWF Pakistan
© WWF Pakistan
Sukkur, Pakistan: A joint team of WWF-Pakistan and the Sindh Wildlife Department recently rescued two stray Indus River dolphin calves caught in a canal in eastern Pakistan.

The calves, a male and female, were stranded in the Dehar Wah canal for two hours before the successful rescue saw them released 80 km downstream.

Joint rescue teams from WWF-Pakistan and the Sindh Wildlife Department regularly carry out these operations. The stranded dolphins are carefully captured, placed on a stretcher, kept moist with water and wet towels, and transported in a sound-proof vehicle and released in the main stream of the Indus River.

The stranding of Indus River dolphins in irrigation canals is a potential threat to their existing population. Dolphins regularly travel back and forth into irrigation canals when canal gates are open and during canal closure the water level drops and dolphins become trapped in small pools with depleting fish supply.

Intensive fishing in canals during closure period also aggravates the risk of net entanglements of these endangered dolphins.

Since January 2013, four successful rescue operations have been carried out resulting in the rescue of five dolphins.

WWF-Pakistan launched the first phase of the “Indus River Dolphin Conservation Project” (IRDCP) in 2004 with the goal of preserving the dolphin’s genetic variability, conserving the biological diversity of the lower Indus River eco-system, ensuring sustainable use of river biological diversity and promoting actions to ease pollution and wasteful extraction of river resources, the second phase was launched in 2007.

The Indus River Dolphin Conservation Project focuses on the root causes of biodiversity loss by linking the protection of the Indus River Dolphin with measures in the agricultural and fisheries sectors.

Eco-tourism is also part of the project with dolphin watching tours and the new Indus Dolphin Conservation Centre in Sukkur. The project combines conservation work with the improvement of the livelihood of local communities.

The Indus River dolphin is one of the world's rarest mammal and most endangered cetaceans. A 2011 dolphin population survey estimated the population to be 1,297 individuals.

Courtesy: http://wwf.panda.org/?209334%2FIndus-River-dolphin-calves-successfully-rescued-in-eastern-Pakistan

21 July 2013

Thol to be thrilled

Publication: The Times Of India Ahmedabad; Date: Jul 20, 2013; Section: Front Page; Page: 1

Guj govt to kill Thol with rly track Allows Freight Corridor Close To Sanctuary Himanshu Kaushik | TNN

Ahmedabad: A Gujarat government decision allowing railway tracks within 700 metres of Thol bird sanctuary has ruffled many feathers.

    The state forest department has recently approved a proposal to allow tracks for a dedicated freight corridor, a move environment activists say will disturb the safe haven for winged visitors that throng the lake from across the globe. Officials say the decision is a violation of Supreme Court order and a notification of Union ministry of forests and environment. As per a SC judgment, no new infrastructure projects can be allowed within 10 km of a sanctuary till the state government earmarks an eco-sensitive zone.

    The state government has in-principle decided to have an area of 2 km around the sanctuary marked as eco-sensitive zone. Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) Corporation of India has undertaken the project to create additional rail infrastructure to provide an efficient, cost-effective transport system. The DFC will significantly reduce freight costs and with the shifting of freight trains on DFC it would generate line capacity for additional passenger trains.

    A member of National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) Prerna Bindra has in her report pointed out that the land use around Thol is changing rapidly with large residential and commercial complexes coming up in the vicinity. Bindra has suggested that eco-sensitive zone under the Environment Protection Act must be demarcated for the sanctuary prior to sanctioning the project.

    A study commissioned by NBWL was carried out recently to gauge the nature of threat and disturbance that the project might cause to the birds in Thol. Every year the sanctuary hosts cranes, geese, flamingos, pelicans, egrets, herons, spoonbills, ducks and whistling teals.

17 July 2013

Wildlife Institute of India to study tigers in Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve

To know about density, abundance and demographic ratio of tigers, the wildlife wing of the forest department for the first time will implement a research project titled 'Long-term monitoring of tigers, co-predators and prey species in Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) and adjoining landscapes'.
On June 25, the state government gave its go ahead to the Rs1.64 crore project which will be implemented by Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, on 70:30 cost sharing basis between the state government and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
The project, submitted by WII tiger scientist Bilal Habib, is for a five-year period and will be intensively implemented in five protected areas (PAs) and its corridors soon.
The PAs include TATR, Navegaon National Park, Nagzira, Bor and Chaprala wildlife sanctuaries. The study, to be conducted in two phases, will include capacity building of local staff for managing man-animal conflict.
"The memorandum of understanding (MoU) is ready and it will sent to the WII this week. Of the Rs1.64 crore, Rs46 lakh will be given by the state while remaining funds will come from the NTCA," said Virendra Tiwari, chief conservator of forests (CCF) & field director, TATR. In a letter to chief wildlife warden SWH Naqvi, the government has authorized field director to sign the MOU.
Tiwari told TOI that TATR landscape is one of the most important landscapes in Central India and is crucial for long-term conservation of tigers in the region. The area has witnessed highest number of conflict cases in the recent past. The study would investigate dynamics of tigers, co-predators and their prey.
TATR has been extensively mapped. Hence, in the first year, mapping of current land-use pattern, infrastructure, mining areas, villages, roads, power transmission lines, demographic profile, livestock population, dispersal corridors, prey and predator occupancy etc in the landscape surrounding TATR will be done.
The first year of the project will evaluate these factors to provide crucial information about surrounding landscape in terms of capability to sustain tiger dispersal or act as corridor for tigers dispersing from TATR.
The WII researchers will also study population density apart from abundance and demographic structure of tigers. Capture-recapture, distance sampling method and spatially explicit approaches will be used to achieve the objective.
"The exercise will be carried out on an annual basis and hence there will be no need to carry the Phase IV exercise to monitor tigers during the duration of the project," officials told TOI.
Officials informed that as part of the exercise, five tigers and as many leopards will be fixed with satellite radio-collars within TATR. Monitoring of village relocation sites will also be done as these will provide the impact of relocation. In TATR, first relocation happened in 1975 followed by 2007 and 2013.
During the entire monitoring programme, two-three such cycles will be carried out. Besides, socio-economic aspects of tiger and leopard conflict and village surveys once in three years will also be conducted. Food habits of tigers and co-predators will also be part of the study.

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN Jul 16, 2013, 01.09AM IST

- See more at: http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/category/thesaurus/wildlife#sthash.UuUGABG5.dpuf

- See more at: http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/category/thesaurus/wildlife#sthash.UuUGABG5.dpuf

26 May 2013

Shocking betrayal on Western Ghats

J.B.S. Haldane, the celebrated 19th-century scientist and humanist who quit England protesting its imperialistic invasion of Suez to become an Indian citizen, once said: “Reality is not only stranger than we suppose, but stranger than we CAN suppose!” I could never have imagined that you would be party to a report such as that of the High Level Working Group on Western Ghats, but, then, reality is indeed stranger than we can suppose!
In our report to the Ministry of Environment & Forests, based on extensive discussions and field visits, we had advocated a graded approach with a major role for grassroots-level inputs for safeguarding the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats. You have rejected this framework and in its place, you advocate a partitioning amongst roughly one-third of what you term natural landscapes, to be safeguarded by guns and guards, and two-third of so-called cultural landscapes to be thrown open to development, such as what has spawned the Rs.35,000-crore illegal mining scam of Goa.
This is like trying to maintain oases of diversity in a desert of ecological devastation. Ecology teaches us that such fragmentation would lead, sooner rather than later, to the desert overwhelming the oases. It is vital to think of maintenance of habitat continuity, and of an ecologically and socially friendly matrix to ensure long-term conservation of biodiversity-rich areas, and this is what we had proposed.
Moreover, freshwater biodiversity is far more threatened than forest biodiversity and lies largely in what you term cultural landscapes. Freshwater biodiversity is also vital to livelihoods and nutrition of large sections of our people.
That is why we had provided a detailed case study of the Lote Chemical Industry complex in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, where pollution, exceeding all legal limits, has devastated fisheries so that 20,000 people have been rendered jobless, while only 11,000 have obtained industrial employment. Yet, the government wants to set up further polluting industries in the same area, and has therefore deliberately suppressed its own Zonal Atlas for Siting of Industries.
Your report shockingly dismisses our constitutionally-guaranteed democratic devolution of decision-making powers, remarking that local communities can have no role in economic decisions. Not surprisingly, your report completely glosses over the fact, reported by us, that while the government takes absolutely no action against the illegal pollution of Lote, it had invoked police powers to suppress perfectly legitimate and peaceful protests against pollution on as many as 180 out of 600 days in 2007-09.
India’s cultural landscape harbours many valuable elements of biodiversity. Fully 75 per cent of the population of lion-tailed macaque, a monkey species confined to the Western Ghats, thrives in the cultural landscape of tea gardens. I live in the city of Pune and scattered in my locality are a large number of banyan, peepal and gular trees; trees that belong to genus Ficus, celebrated in modern ecology as a keystone resource that sustains a wide variety of other species. Through the night I hear peacocks calling, and when I get up and go to the terrace I see them dancing.
It is our people, rooted in India’s strong cultural traditions of respect for nature, who have venerated and protected the sacred groves, the Ficus trees, the monkeys and the peafowl.
Apparently, all this is to be snuffed out. It reminds me of Francis Buchanan, an avowed agent of British imperialism, who wrote in 1801 that India’s sacred groves were merely a contrivance to prevent the East India Company from claiming its rightful property.
It would appear that we are now more British than the British and are asserting that a nature-friendly approach in the cultural landscape is merely a contrivance to prevent the rich and powerful of the country and of the globalised world from taking over all lands and waters to exploit and pollute as they wish while pursuing lawless, jobless economic growth. It is astonishing that your report strongly endorses such an approach. Reality is indeed stranger than we can suppose!
Madhav Gadgil, Chairman, Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel
An open letter from Madhav Gadgil says Kasturirangan panel report will rob the region of its biodiversity

Courtesy: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/shocking-betrayal-on-western-ghats/article4726179.ece

6 May 2013

The much awaited report of the high level working group on Western Ghats

The much awaited crucial report on Western Ghats prepared by K Kasturirangan-led 10-member high-level working group has been submitted to the environment ministry. It proposes protecting 90 per cent of the region's 'natural landscape' as ecological sensitive area.
High Level Working Group presents report on Western Ghats to MoEF; proposes protecting 90 per cent of the region’s ‘natural landscape’ as ecological sensitive area. The Western Ghats is a biological treasure trove that is endangered, and it needs to be “protected and regenerated, indeed celebrated for its enormous wealth of endemic species and natural beauty” – says the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest’s High Level Working Group, whose much awaited report on the Ghats was presented to Ms.Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister of State (IC) for Environment & Forests. The 10- member Working Group is headed by Dr. K Kasturirangan (Member, Planning Commission) and includes environmental experts and other professionals as its members.


19 April 2013

Amreli’s Lions Distressed By Firing Practice

April 2013: In February and March every year, Gujarat’s Amreli district police conducts firing practice in Khambha town, barely half a kilometre away from the Mityala Wildlife Sanctuary, home to seven Asiatic lions (as per the census conducted in 2010).
In addition, the region acts as an important corridor for larger lion populations in the district. The annual firing practice sees around 70 policemen of various ranks firing 32 rounds each day: a total of 950 cops firing no less than 30,000 rounds in the area over the course of the practice session. The sound of the gunshots is naturally distressing to the lions, which flee the region, sometimes venturing into neighbouring farms looking for livestock to hunt. “We have written to the concerned government departments to find an alternate firing range as this one is very close to the wildlife sanctuary,” Vimalsinh Rathod, a wildlife activist in Khambha told the Times of India. He hopes such activities are banned in a 10 km. periphery around the sanctuary, and that it will be declared a silent and eco-sensitive zone.
Source: Sanctuary Asia.

15 April 2013

SC allows translocation of Asiatic lions from Gujarat to MP

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the translocation of Asiatic lions from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh.

In its verdict the apex court gave six months for translocation of the endangered species from Gir sanctuary in Gujarat to Kuno Palpur wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.

“The species which is on the verge of extinction needs a second home,” the apex court ruled responding to a PIL filed by an environmental group on whether the Asiatic lions should be shifted to Kuno to avoid extinction of the endangered species in case of a calamity or disease.

The two BJP-governed states have been at loggerheads over the translocation of the Asiatic lions.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan government had asked the Gujarat government to send a few lions from Gir to Kuno Palpur sanctuary. However, the Gujarat government had argued against the need to move the Asiatic lions, saying that the Kuno reserve isn’t suitable for lions as it houses tigers, and its weather and environment aren’t conducive for their survival.

The court has also constituted a large expert body to decide the number of lions to be relocated and closely monitor their translocation in Madhya Pradesh.

However, the court has ruled against the introduction of African cheetahs in India.

Asiatic lion is listed as endangered by International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) based on the small population size and exists as a single isolated population in Gujarat. 

Source: http://zeenews.india.com/news/eco-news/sc-allows-translocation-of-asiatic-lions-from-gujarat-to-mp_842195.html

12 April 2013

Rajasthan declares Mukundra Hills as its third tiger reserve

JAIPUR: After Ranthambore and Sariska, Rajasthan will now boast of yet another tiger reserve. The state government has declared the Mukundra Hills a reserve for the conservation of the majestic cats, officials said on Thursday.

"We have received the notification letter from the state government. The reserve area is spread over 759 square kilometres in four districts — Kota, Bundi, Chittorgarh and Jhalawar. About 417 square kilometres have been defined as the core tiger habitat, while an area of 342.82 has been notified as the buffer zone," a senior forest department officer told IANS.

Mukundra Hills is connected with the Ranthambore National Park, located in the state's Sawai Madhopur district.

In the two existing reserves in the state, Ranthambore has 50 majestic cats including 24 cubs, while Alwar's Sariska is home to nine tigers.

"The existing area in Ranthambore National Park is adequate for about 35-40 tigers. Four tigers have been killed in territorial fights in Ranthambore over the past four years. So the introduction of a new tiger reserve will ease the pressure from Ranthambore and boost tiger conservation in the state," the officer said, adding that the Ranthambore tigers already frequently stray into the Mukundra Hills, so extending the reserve area would allow them freer passage.

Four villages within the newly notified area will be shifted, the officer said.

The state government had earlier received the in-principle nod from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to declare Mukundra Hills a tiger reserve.

An annual working plan for the development and management of the newly notified reserve is still to be approved by the NTCA, the officer said.

"It may take about a year before the tigers are shifted to Mukundra," the officer said. 

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/flora-fauna/Rajasthan-declares-Mukundra-Hills-as-its-third-tiger-reserve/articleshow/19498133.cms

11 April 2013

New pine species in Arunachal

Scientists at the Rain Forest Research Institute (RFRI) here have found a new sub-type pine forest in Arunachal Pradesh, said to be the first such forest in India.
The forest comprises Pinus merkusii trees, a pine species, and is spread over an area that is large enough to qualify as a sub-type forest.
The RFRI at Sotai on the outskirts of this town, about 310km east of Guwahati, is the only one of its kind in the Northeast under the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) — an autonomous body under the Union ministry of forests and environment.

25 March 2013

New rhododendron flower discovered from Arunachal

ITANAGAR: Adding to the rare bouquet of rich biodiversity in the Himalayan state, researchers have discovered a new beautiful species of pink rhododendron flower from Arunachal Pradesh which was hitherto unknown to science.
A team of botanical experts recently carried out explorations in West Siang district’s remote Mechukha valley, few km away from the China border, and found the rare and endemic flower which has been named ‘Rhododendron Mechukae’ after its place of origin.

20 March 2013

Sathyamangalam Forest declared Tiger Reserve

Sathyamangalam Forest in Erode district has been declared a Tiger Reserve. It is the fourth such reserve in Tamil Nadu. The three other tiger reserves are at Mudumalai in the Nilgiris district, Anamalai in Coimbatore districtand Kalakad-Mundanthurai in Tirunelveli district.
The Forest Department has received the Government Order declaring Sathyamangalam Forests as a tiger reserve, and the Union government has also notified it, Conservator of Forests, Erode circle, A. Venkatesh told The Hindu over the phone on Monday.
The government has earmarked 1.40 lakh hectares for the exclusive protection zone for the big cats. Of the total area, the core zone comprises over 90,000 hectares.
25 tigers
“Sathyamangalam is home to at least 25 tigers, which has been confirmed by various studies conducted by our department and the World Wildlife Fund. The population is healthy and growing,” Mr. Venkatesh said.
The presence of a good number of tigers in the region was confirmed during the recent wildlife census, as well. Enumerators found marks left by tigers in many areas in this region.
The scat study conducted by the department also indicated the presence of 18 to 25 tigers in the region.
“The creation of a tiger reserve will lead to total habitat improvement and improve the flora and fauna in the entire region. The wildlife managers will be able to ensure greater protection to the big cats. The purpose of the initiative is to protect, propagate and improve wildlife and its environment,” Mr. Venkatesh said.
The region has a unique environment where elephants, tigers, black bucks, hyenas and vultures co-exist. The elephant population in the region is estimated to be around 1,200. The region also witnesses a healthy growth in the vulture population, forest officials here said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Venkatesh said, the Forest Department would not evict people living inside the tiger reserve. “There will be no forceful eviction. The livelihood of the forest dwellers will not be disturbed due to the creation of exclusive zone for tigers,” he said. 

Courtesy:  http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/sathyamangalam-forest-declared-tiger-reserve/article4529052.ece

11 March 2013

City emitted 46 lakh tonnes of carbon in one yr

Power Use Contributes 56.38% Of Total Release, Per Capita Emission Bit Lower Than National Average
Pune: The first-ever carbon footprint report for Pune has revealed that the city emitted over 46 lakh metric tonnes of the gas in 2010-2011. The per capita carbon release in the city is around 1.46 metric tonnes, which is slightly lower than the national average of around 1.5 metric tonnes. However, the per capita emission is way below that of several western countries — for instance, the per capita release in the US is around 17.3 metric tonnes.

7 March 2013

Monitoring & Truth about Tigers and Their Prey

This Training Video, produced by Shekar Dattatri, is based on the acclaimed manual, 'Monitoring Tigers and their Prey', edited by K.Ullas Karanth and James D.Nichols. It explains the field practices of sampling, line transects, camera trapping and occupancy surveys - the correct scientific methods to estimate tiger and prey populations. To watch a film on tigers and their conservation, go to



80 % of Indian sewage flows into rivers

Eighty per cent of sewage in India is untreated and flows directly into the nation’s rivers, polluting the main sources of drinking water, a study by an environment watchdog showed Tuesday. Indian cities produce nearly 40,000 million litres of sewage every day and barely 20 percent of it is treated, according to “Excreta Does Matter”, a new report released by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). “The untreated waste dumped into rivers seeps into groundwater, thereby creating a ticking health bomb in India,” concludes the report.

6 March 2013

Shah panel seeks clarity on mining near forests

The Justice M B Shah Commission, inquiring into illegal mining in Odisha and some other states, on Monday asked the state government and the Union ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) to inform it about their position on matter pertaining to mining within 10 km radius of wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forest areas.
The commission, which concluded its latest round of hearing here, asked the state forest department and MoEF to submit their affidavit regarding their interpretation of rules related to mining in areas adjacent to sanctuaries and reserve forests.

Giant elephant killed by speeding train INSIDE nature reserve as it tries to cross track in remote north-east India.

These tragic photo shows the body of a tusker elephant who died today when he was hit by a speeding train in West Bengal.
The adult elephant was struck by a train in a forest at the Buxa Tiger Reserve, a few miles from Alipurduar in north east India.
A speeding passenger train, the Guwahati-bound Somporkkranti Express, hit the elephant while he was crossing the railway line. He died instantly.

The dead body of the Tusker elephant lies on railway track after it was struck by the speeding Guwahati-bound Somporkkranti Express
Heart-breaking sight: The dead body of the tusker elephant lies on railway track after it was struck by the speeding passenger train

The tiger reserve where the elephant was killed is inside the Buxa National Park, which runs along India's boundary with Bhutan.
This means that the tiger reserve serves as international corridor for elephants migrating between India and Bhutan, making a it a danger spot for train drivers.
Indian forest guards now have the difficult task of getting the huge animal off the tracks so that the train line can reopen.
Sadly this fatal collision was not an isolated incident.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2288559/Elephant-killed-speeding-train-crossing-railway-track-India.html#ixzz2Mjy4Zwjs

5 March 2013

Right to Information (RTI) — a Powerful Tool for Wildlife Conservation by Praveen Bhargav

RTI stands for Right To Information and has been given the status of a fundamental right under Article 19(1) of the Constitution. Article 19 (1) under which every citizen has freedom of speech and expression and the right to know how the government works, the role it plays, its functions, and so on. This empowers any citizen to demand access to government files and after scrutinizing the files obtain certified copies of the letters, documents, file notings etc. Another important right is that any person can demand inspection of works. These two clauses would be extremely useful for field monitoring campaigns in protected areas. As per sub clause (c) of clause 2 of Rule 4 fee chargeable for inspection of files would be Rs 20/half hour after the first hour (which is free). For inspection of works, a reasonable fee would be chargeable. The download provided provides all information related to RTI, FAQs and the form to use to file an RTI.
An RTI application can be on any issue and information can be sought on:
  1. Management Plan of a Park or Protected Area which will provide all maps and other details
  2. Annual Plan of Operations that are sent to MoEF for seeking funding for civil works etc.
  3. Copies of development project proposals that are seeking approvals
  4. Inquiry reports on hunting, illegal felling, encroachment etc
  5. Site inspection reports of senior officers
  6. Details of pending offence cases, PM reports, year wise abstract of wildlife moralities etc
  7. Copies of (tourism) permits issued to resorts etc.
  8. Any Government Order, Gazette notification, circular, Official Memorandum, Letter etc
  9. Log books, Field Note books, monthly reports, MB Registers and other control documents
  10. Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs) of officers
Practically, any information/document that is on the file of any government office can be sought. One important point to keep in mind by activists is to always ask for a ‘Certified Copy‘. This means that every page is stamped officially and can be filed in a court.
Process of applying for an RTI application
Step 1
  1. Download the attached RTI application form
  2. Fill in your name and address in column 1 & 2.
  3. Succinctly describe the document that you wish to access. Always start as follows – “Certified copy of the Management Plan…” (This will then be usable even in courts)
  4. State the year to which the document pertains to. If you are not sure state “2008 -2011″.
  5. In the last column, enter the correct designation – ” The Public Information Officer – Office of the Deputy Conservator of Forests…”
Step 2
  1. You can either hand deliver the application to the concerned office and obtain an acknowledgement or send it by RPAD/Speed post.
  2. Make sure you enclose a Postal order of Rs. 10 for each application.
  3. If you are sure the document you have sought is not more than 5 pages you could send two postal orders of Rs. 10 each so that you would have paid in advance for the 5 pages (Rs. 2 /page). You may get the information faster.
  4. If you want to use RTI frequently, it might be a good idea to purchase several Rs.10 Postal Orders. POs have a validity of six months and not drawn on a particular person — so can be used by anybody for any RTI application.
Important Provisions of The Right to Information Act, 2005
  1. Section 2:
    (f) “information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force;
    (i) “record” includes—
    (a) any document, manuscript and file;
    (b) any microfilm, microfiche and facsimile copy of a document;
    (c) any reproduction of image or images embodied in such microfilm (whether enlarged or not); and
    (d) any other material produced by a computer or any other device;
    (j) “right to information” means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to -
    (i) inspection of work, documents, records;
    (ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records;
    (iii) taking certified samples of material;
    (iv) obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device;
    This empowers any person to demand access to all government files and after scrutinizing the file obtain certified copies of the letters, documents, file notings etc.  Another important provision is that any person can demand inspection of works. This would be extremely useful for NGOs to actually carry out an audit (physical/ecological/financial) of various civil works that are presently damaging wildlife habitat. A chartered engineer can be part of the team that checks measurements of civil works to determine if it complies with the tender documents or approved contractor’s bill. Inspection of plantation works can also be carried out.
    Thus, these two clauses would be extremely useful for field monitoring campaigns. As per sub clause (c) of clause 2 of Rule 4  fee chargeable for inspection of files would be Rs 20/ half hour after the first hour (which is free). For inspection of works, a reasonable fee would be chargeable.
    6. (1) A person, who desires to obtain any information under this Act, shall make a request in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area in which the application is being made, accompanying such fee as may be prescribed, to —
    (a) the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, of the concerned public authority; (b) the Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer, as the case may be, specifying the particulars of the information sought by him or her:
    Provided that where such request cannot be made in writing, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall render all reasonable assistance to the person making the request orally to reduce the same in writing.
    (2) An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him.
    No officer can insist on any extraneous details from the applicant including the reason for seeking such information or file or inspection of works.
    7. (1) Subject to the proviso to sub-section (2) of section 5 or the proviso to subsection (3) of section 6, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, on receipt of a request undersection 6 shall, as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within thirty days of the receipt of the request, either provide the information on payment of such fee as may be prescribed or reject the request for any of the reasons specified in sections 8 and 9: Provided that where the information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within forty-eight hours of the receipt of the request.
    (8) Where a request has been rejected under sub-section (1), the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall communicate to the person making the request,
    (i) the reasons for such rejection;
    (ii) the period within which an appeal against such rejection may be preferred; and
    (iii) the particulars of the appellate authority.
    The time limit specified for providing information or rejection of the application is 30 days. In case of rejection, the reasons must be provided along with time limit for appeal and the appellate authority details.
    8. (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen,—
    (a) information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence;
    (b) information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court;
    (c) information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature;
    (d) information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
    (e) information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
    (f) information received in confidence from foreign Government;
    (g) information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes;
    (h) information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;
    (i) cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers: Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over: Provided further that those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed;
    (j) information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information: Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.
    (2) Notwithstanding anything in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 nor any of the exemptions permissible in accordance with sub-section (1), a public authority may allow access to information, if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests.
    The above clauses specify information that can be withheld. Even ACRs of officials including field note books (FNBs), MB books, Vehicle Log Books, inquiry reports, audit reports with remarks etc can be obtained.
    20. (1) Where the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, at the time of deciding any complaint or appeal is of the opinion that the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, has, without any reasonable cause, refused to receive an application for information or has not furnished information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of section 7 or malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or destroyed information which was the subject of the request or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, it shall impose a penalty of two hundred and fifty rupees each day till application is received or information is furnished, so however, the total amount of such penalty shall not exceed twenty-five thousand rupees:
    The penalty for not furnishing the information would be 250 rupees per day till information is furnished subject to a maximum of 25,000 rupees.
    24. (1) Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the intelligence and security organisations specified in the Second Schedule, being organisations established by the Central Government or any information furnished by such organisations to that Government:
    The Ministry of Environment or State Forest Departments or the Department of Personnel & Administrative Reforms (DPAR) are not listed in the second schedule and they are bound to disclose all the information held by them.
    RTI Rules
    (1) Any person desirous of obtaining information under sub-section (1) of section 6 of the Act shall make an application in Form-A or in any other format as far as possible containing the particulars specified under the format to the State Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer as the case may be along with an initial fee of Rs. 10 with his application. Every officer receiving request under the Act shall give an acknowledgement
    (2) (a) For providing information under subsection (1) of section 7, the fees for supplying the information shall be charged at Rs.2/- for each page in respect of matters in A4 size paper.
    (b) For providing information under subsection (1) of section 7, in the case of Maps, Plans, Reports, a Partial record or any Technical data or Sample or Models, a reasonable fee shall be fixed by the State Public Information Officer in each case depending upon the cost of labour and material required to be employed.
    (c) As regards inspection of records and documents, no fee for the first hour. For every subsequent half an hour or fraction thereof, Rs.20/- shall be charged from persons making application with initial payment as prescribed under rule 4(1) above. For inspection of works a reasonable fee shall be fixed by the State Public Information Officer in each case depending upon the cost of labour and material required to be employed apart from initial fees as prescribed under rule 4(1).
    (3) For providing information under sub-section (5) of section 7, the fees for supplying information in Diskette or Floppy or C.D. or in any other Electronic mode shall be Rs.50/-
    (4) The fee shall be collected in the form of Indian postal order or D.D. or Bankers Cheque or Pay order drawn in favour of the State Public Information Officer or in cash or by remitting it to the Treasury as per Karnataka Financial Code (KFC).
    The government of India is very serious about ground level implementation of RTI and has a dedicated website: http://rti.gov.in and http://rti.india.gov.in for detailed information.

    Courtesy:  http://www.conservationindia.org/resources/right-to-information-rti-%E2%80%94-a-powerful-tool-for-wildlife-conservation/2