Friday, June 29, 2007


Leaves -A Photofeature in Monochrome
Pankaj Sekhsaria

TERRAGREEN - Earth Matters is the environment magazine published
by 'The Energy Research Institute', New Delhi.
Contact: Sucharita Sengupta

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Break it up and speed ahead

By Kanchi Kohli

The new recipe for environment clearance that’s being followed these days goes like this: Take a large industrial project. Break up into three components. Show that each has limited impact on the environment and people’s livelihoods. And the required clearance is yours!

One large costly irrigation scheme requiring the mandatory environment impact assessment? No problem. Show that the two dams are two different projects, and do away with the legal requirement altogether.

There is a list of projects specified under the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification that require environmental clearance before construction begins. This includes commissioning an EIA report and, in most cases, conducting a public hearing. The related process of seeking forest clearance under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, comes into play when a project calls for the diversion of forest land for non-forest use, such as for industry, roads, mines, dams, etc. No construction activity can begin on forest or non-forest land until both these clearances are in place.

But the reality on the ground is different.

The most talked about example of the trend of splitting up projects is the Lanjigarh refinery and proposed bauxite mine in the Niyamgiri hills of Orissa by Vedanta Alumina plc. Construction on the refinery began without clearance for the mine. The mine site, which is 4 km from the refinery, is an important and ecologically sensitive area. It is also the home of the Dongria Kond tribals.

When the issue was brought up before the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court, the project proponent delinked the two components as a safeguard against penalisation for violation of the provisions of two critical environmental laws. Construction of the refinery was not stayed. Today, the case is still being argued in court and clearance for the mine remains pending.

Meanwhile, the project proponent has changed its stance completely. It now says upfront that the mine is critically linked to the refinery project. And that the refinery cannot function without ore from the Niyamgiri hills. Connecting or breaking up project components has become a matter of convenience. A final decision on the matter is yet to be taken, although the CEC is of the strong view that forest clearance should not be granted to the project.

Another example is in the neighbouring state of Chhattisgarh. The government of that state recently moved a proposal for forest clearance of 1.517 ha chhote bade jhad ke jangal (scrub forests) to lay a water pipeline from the village of Rabo to the Tamnar thermal power plant belonging to M/s Jindal Power Ltd, in Raigarh district. The total length of the pipeline is 23 km. The proposal claims that no trees will be felled in the course of laying the pipeline. The pipeline is centrally linked to another project with two other components, which was challenged before the CEC on similar grounds as the Vedanta case. Only this time, the linked components were a 1,000 MW thermal power plant at Tamnar and an 18-metre-high dam to be constructed near Rabo village on the Kurkut river. The environment clearance letter for the thermal power plant clearly mentions the need for a dam that necessitates diversion of forest land. It also states that construction cannot begin without the forest clearance in place (see

Despite this, construction at both Tamnar and Rabo (“preliminary work”, as the project proponent admitted before the CEC) began before forest clearance for the diversion of 177.542 ha was granted. When the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) carried out a revalidation of environment clearance, it was on the grounds that construction activity had begun. Legally there should have been no construction there, as forest clearance for the project was not yet in place. But nothing could be done as, by the time the matter came up for hearing, forest clearance for the dam had come in: three years after environment clearance for the thermal power plant was revalidated. Now, the same company, through the state forest department, is seeking additional forest clearance for the third linked component -- the pipeline. Surely the project proponent knew about all these components from the project design!

Let us return to Orissa where POSCO, in Jagatsinghpur, is making news and local agitations clearly show that the people here are not in favour of the project.

According to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Pohang Steel Company (POSCO) and the Government of Orissa in 2005, POSCO plans to set up an integrated steel project in Orissa with the following components:

  • A mining project or captive mines to meet iron ore requirements.
  • A transportation component -- a captive port along with road, rail infrastructure including a dedicated railway line from the mine belt to Paradeep.
  • An integrated township.
  • A water infrastructure project.
  • An integrated steel plant of 12 MTPA, to be built in three phases.

With a delay in the granting of Special Economic Zone (SEZ) status, POSCO began pursuing clearances for the mining, steel plant and port components of its project separately. It made separate applications for environmental clearance of the port and the first phase of the steel plant. On April 15, 2007, a joint public hearing for the captive port and first phase of the steel plant was conducted under heavy police supervision. The third component of the mine in Kandadhar is stuck in a legal tussle with the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd (KIOCL), as the area was originally allotted to them.

Although the various links in the project are clearly and publicly known, the Ministry of Environment and Forests accepted the break-up model and went ahead in granting environment clearance to the captive port on May 15, 2007. The clearance letters are still not available on the MoEF’s website and have also not reached the local panchayats. POSCO officials have, however, made statements about it to the media.

The break-up theory is not a new phenomenon. Let’s look at an example that attracted the provisions of the 1994 version of the EIA notification.

The project related to the diversion of the west-flowing Mahadayi river in Belgaum district of Karnataka to the east-flowing Malaprabha river, by the Government of Karnataka. Two earthen dams are proposed to be built on the Bhandura and Kalasa Nalas. When originally envisaged, diversion of the Kalasa entailed an estimated cost of Rs 44.78 crore and Bhandura, Rs 49.2 crore. It is important to note that both proposals were components of the larger Mahadayi Diversion Scheme. When first envisaged, the combined cost of the projects was over Rs 90 crore, making environment clearance from the MoEF mandatory according to the 1994 EIA notification. The notification requires that any project above Rs 50 crore must go through the environment clearance process. But, split up into two separate proposals, the project cost was under Rs 50 crore, thereby escaping the mandatory requirements.

Then, in 2002, the entire scenario changed with an amendment to the notification itself, raising the financial limit of projects requiring EIA and a public hearing to over Rs 100 crore.

Why are proponents seeking separate clearances for their projects? Is it not simpler to show all the links between the components and get one clearance? But then obviously, when assessed, the cumulative impact of the project will be greater. In most cases, each component of a project cannot operate in isolation. Very often, grant of clearance to one component and the subsequent investment in construction are used to argue grant of clearance to another component. It’s the old fait accompli argument.

The real problem lies with the ministry that grants clearances. It’s important that the impact assessment division looking at environment clearances and the forestry division looking at forest clearances work in tandem. And the expert committees looking at various components of a project consult with each other. Often, different expert appraisal committees at the MoEF (mining, industrial, river valley, new construction projects, etc) appraise environment clearance for different components; forest clearance is pursued separately. There is no mandatory requirement or scope (or perhaps even desire) to look at the impacts of projects cumulatively and arrive at decisions that, in most cases, are extremely critical.

Such trends in the environment and forest clearance process are totally unacceptable; they make a mockery of the very purpose for which they were introduced. The examples given above are only illustrations of what’s happening right across the country, on entire river basins, in forests and along our coastline. We must take action now.

(Kanchi Kolhi is a member of Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group and is based in Delhi)

InfoChange News & Features, June 2007

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Forest Fires and the ban on NTFP collection

In May 2007, Kalpavriksh conducted a field investigation into incidences of forest fires and resulting tension between the Forest Department and Soliga adivasis in the Biligiri Rangaswamy Sanctuary, Karnataka. The investigation revealed that most crucial issue facing the Sanctuary and the adivasis was the ban on collection of non-timber forest produce (NTFP), which has traditionally been a significant source of livelihood for several thousand Soligas. The ban has caused widespread suffering, and also backfired on conservation itself. Urgent steps are needed to resolve the situation, and to move towards healthier collaboration between the Forest Department and the Soligas, aided by NGOs that have been working in the Sanctuary for many years. The investigation report gives details of the findings, and a set of recommendations for the state government, the Soliga Sangha, and NGOs.
Pl. see the full report at

Turtles invade Taj Land's End, seek new home

Turtles invade Taj Land's End, seek new home

Mumbai, June 26, 2007: Under threat of displacement by Tata's mega port at Dhamra in Orissa, four 'Olive Ridley Sea Turtles' sought refuge in the swimming pool of the Taj Land's End Hotel (a Tata concern) at Bandra. Tongue in cheek, the turtles opened a banner that read 'Tata, No Room for Turtles?' a pun on the hotel's slogan 'No Room for the Ordinary'.

"The Tatas' port at Dhamra in Orissa is going to jeopardize our mating and feeding grounds. Ratan Tata is callously ignoring our pleas to save us, and so we have now been forced to come to the Taj in search of an alternative home", said Turtle Spokesperson Jitesh Mohanan. "On June 19th, 2007, we approached approached Tata AIG Life Insurance for insurance cover since the Tatas were destroying our homes and lives. Since the Tatas refused to grant us insurance, we have now been forced to invade the Taj, in the quest for a new habitat" he added.

Tata Steel's proposed port is less than 15 km. from the world's largest mass nesting site at Gahirmatha, where up to 500,000 turtles have been known to nest in a single year. Tata's has always maintained that turtles are not found near the port site, and if evidence of their presence was recorded, they would reconsider the port. In March 2007, a study conducted by renowned herpetologist and member of the IUCN's Amphibian Specialist Group Dr. S.K. Dutta unequivocally established the presence of turtles in the offshore waters near the port. (1) The study also recorded other rare species on the port site itself, which have been ignored in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) done for the project. (2)

Greenpeace has been in touch with the Tatas since May 2007, on this issue, but the points raised by the study have yet to be addressed. Tata Steel has continued to claim publicly that the port will not impact turtles, though they have not been able to provide any evidence for this statement. Further, the company has chosen to ignore specific scientific concerns raised by Greenpeace, through the Critique of the Dhamra EIA report as well as the findings of the biodiversity assessment which Greenpeace had commissioned.

"The TATAs are jeopardizing their reputation for integrity by refusing to address this issue ina direct and straightforward manner. Greenpeace is calling on Ratan Tata to walk the talk and act with the integrity that JRD Tata and the other legends of the family would be proud of. If the Tatas truly value our country's environment, they must pull out of the Dhamra port project", said Ashish Fernandes, Oceans Campaigner with Greenpeace India.

For more information contact:

Ashish Fernandes, Oceans Campaigner +91 99801 99380,

Saumya Tripathy, Greenpeace Communications +91 93438 62212

(1) The biodiversity assessment conducted by Dr. S.K. Dutta recorded the presence of over 2,000 turtle carcasses on the port site, probably victims on mechanized fishing in the waters off the port site. Other significant findings include a large population of horseshoe crabs and rare frog and snake species that are the the first confirmed records from mainland India. The complete report is available at

(2) The Dhamra Port EIA has been scientifically critiqued by Greenpeace scientists from the School of Biosciences, Exeter University and has been found to be fundamentally flawed. This critique is available at

Thursday, June 14, 2007

18 Collectors/ Dist. officers on challenges in their districts

Views of 18 collectors / dist officers on the Social and Developmental Challenges of their districts
Visit ( Click here )

Views of District Collectors / Authorities

Sri Dinakar Babu - Addl Collector
Forest land enchroachment by locals; Forest land selling for commercial purpose; Water scarcity; Female illiteracy; Earlier, health was a major issue, but slowly the tribal population has realised the benefits of new therapies
Mr Shailendra - Addl Collector
Youth Development; Standard of living; High suicide rate; Bad transportation; Lack of electricity
V N Vishnu - Collector
Unemployment; Education; Health; Communication and transportation; Lack of utilisation of natural resources to the optimum level ( rainwater in rivers )
Talem Tapok - Deputy Commissioner
Economic backwardness - no major income generation opportunities; Hilly area - Land not proper for cultivation; Naga insurgency; Twin born children are killed; Social taboo for girl child
R K Balthakur
Flood prone area
Radhe Hinda - DIO
Militancy - extortion of money; Lack of communication and transportation facilities; Illiteracy; Economic backwardness; Being backward, no exposure to modern amenities of development
East Siang
Y Tayeng - Extra Asst Commissioner
Communication; Being a remote area, educational facilities like teaching staff is not available as per the requirement; Lack of health infrastructure in rural areas; Lack of electricity; No proper supply of water
Usha Rani - Collector
Poor quality of education; Health services; Water scarcity; Corruption; Social evils like child marriage, apathy for girl child
M Purushottam Reddy - Collector
Fluoride content is more in ground water; Apathy towards girl child in remote areas; Child Labour; Rural to urban migration during non agricultural season; Unemployment of youth
West Kameng
Smt Padma Jaiswal - Deputy Commissioner
Lack of presence of NGOs; Lack of communication and trust among people; Heavy rainfall and landsliding; Transportation; No exposure to the other part of the country; Students unions are politically affected; Youth unemployment
M Ravichandra
Cyclone prone area; Ground water is turning saline in coastal areas; Tribals are less educated; Poor state of health; Difficulties faced in maintaining irrigation structure
M Danakishore - Collector
Child Labour; High illiteracy rate; Health of children and women; Under development of minorities; Non productive agriculture by small marginal farmers; Difficult agricultural conditions
Uttalananda Sharma - Dy Commissioner
Communication and connectivity; Flood prone area; People's participation is less; Enchroachment of forest land; Superstition amongst tribal people; Witch hunting
R V Chandravadan - Collector
Urbanisation; Growing slum population; Migration; Child Labour; Domestic violence against women; Unemployment; Trafficking of women; People living with HIV/AIDS; Housing for poor
Divakar Nats Mishra - Dy Commissioner
Floods; Poor infrastructure - Education, Rail....Absence of industrialisation; Poor per capita income; Low cropping intensity;
Mohammad Ali Rapat - Collector
High illiteracy rate; Floods; Health - HIV / AIDS; Naxalism; Trafficking of women
B Venkatesham - Collector
High illiteracy rate; Unemployment; Poor irrigation potential; Lack of awareness among people about growth in nearby areas; Health
East Kameng
K Panginj - Dy Commissioner
Communication; Lack of power supply; High illiteracy rate; Road connectivity

If India has to become a Developed Nation by 2020It needs
Newsletter dated June 11, 2007 brought to you

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


dāram - the store
Dastkar Andhra's new retail initiative

Handloom Garments & Furnishings and other handcrafted products

At Naik's Estate, ICICI Bank Lane, Adjacent to Airport Lane,

Begumpet, Hyderabad

Tel: 91 40 27764843; Email:

11am - 8 pm

Sunday's Closed


Chief Guest, Nandita Das inaugurating the store

Lighting the lamp

At the inauguration - A full house

An evening with Kabir - A recital by Sagari Ramdas

putting it together...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Music from Asia's tsunami-ravaged coastline will come alive in India

Georgina Maddox

Two unknown singers from Myanmar croon a plaintive tune as percussion players from India lift the piece to a catchy beat; a Buddhist prayer cymbal chimes on the offbeat and the whole piece comes together as a song in the album, Laya Project. The musicians - a woman from a Maldivian isle, villagers of Polhena in Sri Lanka and Gayo in Indonesia, Buddhist monks from Myanmar, Tamil folk musicians from India and Thai islanders - are hardly known outside their sunny strips of coastal land. But they share a moment: the angst-ridden instance when the fury of the sea shattered their lives into smithereens, killed their children and washed away their homes. Laya Project is the sound of that pain, of wails waving across desolate shores, of the lapping of the waves against bodies half-buried in sand. It is also the music of survival.The sounds come to India at the first live performance of Laya Project at Mumbai's National Centre for Performing Arts on June 9.Laya Project began in the aftermath of the tsunami on December 26, 2004, when Sonya Mazumdar of Clementine Studios, Chennai, and Yotam Agam, a recording engineer from Israel, decided to collaborate on a folk-musical project; it ended as a unique amalgamation of folk sounds from the regions, under the label EarthSync. On the way, music connoisseurs from Malyasia, Canada and the Netherlands joined in."In the album, Buddhist monks chant with Tamil temple drummers," says Paul Jacob of Chennai-based Bodhi Muzzik. Jacob, who has been working with folk musicians for the past 12 years, had got Mazumdar and Agam in touch with folk musicians scattered along the tsunami-hit shores. Then Mumbai-based Frenchwoman Aurelie Chauleur, a concert coordinator, stepped in. Now the concert is travelling to Europe and the US."We started the project after doing a lot of research on the tsunami-affected areas of Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar and India, but a lot of the magic happened spontaneously while working," says Mazumdar. "Like the instance we met Farihi, a Muslim woman in purdah, who lives in a small coastal strip called Maroosh in the Maldives. We had been recording all day with percussionists and were ready to pack up when she came out from behind a wall and requested us to let her sing a song. It was pure magic and she became the mascot for our album," adds Agam.The album (Rs 500) and a documentary on the making of the Laya Project (Rs 1,200) will hit the shelves after the concert. Goan DJ Mafiza will open the show along with a few guest artists - Chen Zimbalista, a percussionist from Israel, and Tibetan monks from the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Himal SouthAsian, June 2007

Trouble Down this road

The Hindu, June 10, 2007
The Andaman Trunk Road, a boon for settlers on the island, could be the death-knell for the Jarawas. But little is being done to protect the Stone Age tribe from contact with the 21st century.

THE deprivation of a name, the loss of a homeland, the extinction of a tribe — this seems to be the ominous progression of one of the oldest extant hunter-gatherer tribes in India, indeed, possibly, in the whole world. ‘Ang’ is what they call themselves, but the world knows them as the Jarawa, the Palaeolithic tribe that lives deep in the jungles of the Andaman Islands. The word ‘Jarawa’, in the language of the Great Andamanese (another Stone Age tribe of the Andamans) means ‘the stranger’ or ‘the outsider’. To the Andamanese, the Jarawa were outsiders; a different people, albeit of the same Negrito stock and inhabiting the same islands. It is unfortunate that this name — rather than Ang meaning ‘humans’, which the Jarawa use for themselves — should become the name by which we know them.

The Jarawa are one of the five Stone Age tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which have lived in almost total isolation in the dense tropical forests of the islands, and have survived virtually unchanged up to modern times. They are hunter-gatherers, who do not practise even rudimentary agriculture, wear no clothes, shun contact with outsiders, and are fiercely independent. Their physical appearance — dark, almost ebony skin, closely curled woolly hair, and negrito features — are quite distinct from the population that originates from the Indian mainland and mark them as a race apart. Because of their small numbers (240 persons as per the 2001 census, 317 persons as reported by the Andaman administration in 2007) and their being nomadic deep forest dwellers, they are virtually unknown as a community to the rest of India and are only a name even to the inhabitants of the islands. The plight of the Jarawa has, in recent years, generated a lot of interest because of an almost sudden change in their behaviour in the late 1990s — from avoiding all contact with the outsider to actively seeking such contact. This change, which began in 1997, has heightened their vulnerability and threatened their way of life. The single activity that has had the most significant, and adverse, impact on the lives of the Jarawa is the construction of the Andaman Trunk Road. Running in a south-north direction from Port Blair, the administrative headquarters in South Andaman to Maya Bunder in the north, the ATR was started in 1958 with the very laudable intention of linking Port Blair with the several settlements scattered in the middle and north of the Andaman Islands. These settlements, which consisted entirely of people who migrated from the mainland (refugees from erstwhile East Pakistan, other people who had migrated in search of better opportunities, descendants of convicts and jailors brought by the British) were either consciously established by the administration or, more rarely, had sprung up on their own. Established at great human and financial cost, they are now flourishing habitations, with the people conscious and vociferous about their rights. Before the construction of the Andaman Trunk Road, these habitations were connected to Port Blair (and to the mainland) only by sea routes. With the completion of the ATR (an endeavour that took approximately 40 years), a direct and unimaginably convenient land link was established between the settlements and Port Blair. The trouble was that the ATR sliced right through territory that was, until then, the exclusive and undisturbed preserve of the Stone Age, hunter-gatherer Jarawa tribe. In fact it was because this territory was, by and large, undisturbed that the Jarawa had been able to survive with their way of life almost unchanged over centuries. The incursion into their territory, through the means of the ATR, exposed them to modern civilisation and its baneful influences like tobacco, alcohol, unfamiliar foods and diseases against which they had no immunity, which could together take them to the brink of extinction. What was a boon for the settlers, therefore, could very easily sound the death knell for the Jarawa.Alarm bells about the impact of the ATR on the Jarawa should have started ringing long ago. When the road first started, sensibilities about the environment and human rights and the different rights of tribals were low. Therefore creating a road through someone else’s homeland, destroying virgin forests was not a matter of great concern.

But over the 40 years or so it took to construct the ATR, consciousness of environmental issues and human rights has grown by leaps and bounds. However when the rights of a tiny group of people clashes with those of a much larger one, it is usually the more clamorous and stronger voice that is heard. And that is what has happened in the case of the ATR. There was certainly no dearth of opposition from the Jarawa. Starting with the killing of the labourers building the road, to shooting with bow and arrows at buses and other vehicles when they started to ply on the road, the Jarawa made their objection to the violation of their homeland and space quite clear. That the administration continued with their efforts could be seen as an act of valour and determination in the face of odds or callousness and insensitivity towards the rights of weaker people depending on the point of view. The Jarawa became the subject of a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Calcutta High Court in the 1990s with the High Court issuing an order to frame a policy for the Jarawa. The Jarawa Policy was prepared as a consequence, in consultation with a number of experts, and was adopted on December 21, 2004. The Jarawa Policy dwells not inconsiderably on the ATR and its impact on the Jarawa. It recommends, among other things, that the traffic on the road be restricted to essential purposes (which have been specified) and allowed to move only during restricted hours and in convoys. It repeatedly stresses that all manner of interaction between the Jarawa and the travellers, particularly tourists, be prevented. Very importantly, the policy talks of encouraging and strengthening facilities for travel by boat and ship. The policy also talks of removing encroachments in the Jarawa territory on priority basis, and ensuring that no such encroachment of non-tribals take place.

In the two and a half years since the Jarawa policy has come into being, little has been done to implement its recommendations, particularly the more difficult ones. In defence of the administration, it must be pointed out that the inaction was not, perhaps, deliberate. The Jarawa policy was adopted on December 21, 2004. Just five days later, on December 26, the devastating tsunami struck the islands. The Jarawa were not affected by the tsunami, so the administration, whose entire attention got diverted to the affected areas, had little time to think of the Jarawa, apart from verifying that they had not suffered any loss. The Jarawa policy has thus remained, by and large unimplemented. No attempt has been made to explore alternate sea routes to link the places that the ATR goes to. Little effort has been made to curtail the number of vehicles plying on the road. The average number of vehicles plying on the ATR annually shows a steep increase from 17,179 in 2001 to 35,798 in 2006. The number is poised to exceed 40,000 in 2007. Convoys of vehicles leave eight times a day from Jirkatang and Middle Strait — the two opposite ends of the portion of the ATR that runs through the Jarawa reserve — with an average of 120 vehicles per day. And despite explicit stipulations of no contact with the Jarawa, vehicles conveniently break down or stop on one pretext or the other on the portion of the road inside the Jarawa reserve to allow tourists to see and sometimes interact with the Jarawa. The subject of the Jarawa was again studied by a sub-group of experts and officials, set up in January, 2006 by the National Advisory Council, to examine inter alia institutional arrangements for protecting the Jarawa and to suggest various measures to ensure greater protection. By January 2006, the Jarawa policy adopted in December 2004 had not had a fair chance at implementation. Just a year had passed, and the tsunami and its aftermath had grabbed all attention and resources. The sub-group studied various aspects including the notified Jarawa policy and its implementation and made several recommendations. Regarding the ATR, it has suggested that the portion that runs through the Jarawa reserve eventually be closed, after alternate arrangements for transportation by sea or air were put in place. This means a further delay since very little action has been taken to explore other arrangements. Unless a firm decision to close the ATR (i.e. the portion inside the Jarawa reserve) is taken, the administration will continue to drag its feet on alternate routes.

Despite the Supreme Court having taken such a decision in 2002, the administration has filed a review petition, which is yet to be finalised. It is easily forgotten that before the completion of the ATR (which is fairly recent), sea routes were the only alternative. Even today, for all other islands, e.g. Car Nicobar, Havelock, Great Nicobar, other islands of the Nicobar group, Little Andaman and many others, transportation is only by boat or ship and, very occasionally, by helicopter. Therefore the people living in North and Middle Andaman can hardly claim that they will be specially inconvenienced. Almost all the officials who work or have worked closely with the Jarawa, whether of the Andaman administration or the Andaman Adim Janjati Vikas Samiti, a registered society set up to look after matters relating to primitive tribes, privately aver that closure of the ATR is essential to reduce contact with the Jarawa and protect them from abrupt induction into the 21st century. However, other officials strongly claim that closure of the ATR, even a portion of it, is impossible since it is a lifeline for the northern settlements. The attitude of these latter officials is understandable, but unsupportable, if one keeps the future of the Jarawa in mind. It is apparent they are thinking not of the Jarawa but of the other inhabitants. For these inhabitants, other alternatives are, or can be, made available. For the Jarawa, who virtually have their backs against the wall, there is no alternative, and time is fast running out.

Traffic on the Andaman Trunk Road inside the Jarawa Reserve. Photo: Pankaj Sekhsaria, 2003

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Dhamra port: threat to Orissa's Olive Ridley Turtles

GREENPEACE Press Release

Evidence of turtles, rare species at Dhamra: TATA must drop port
Mumbai, June 8, 2007: A Greenpeace-commissioned study has unequivocally established that TATA Steel’s port at Dhamra in Orissa would be an ecological blunder, causing irreversible destruction. The North Orissa University team, led by Dr. S.K. Dutta (1) has found evidence of the presence of Olive Ridley turtles as well as other rare species in and around the Dhamra port site. Although the site is less than 5 km. from the Bhitarkanika Sanctuary, India’s second largest mangrove forest, and less than 15 km. from the Gahirmatha nesting beaches, the world’s largest mass nesting site for Olive Ridley sea turtles, Tata Steel have claimed that the port will have no impact on the turtles
Releasing the report on World Oceans Day, Dr. Dutta, Principal Investigator of the study, said, “This finding shatters the theory that the offshore waters near Dhamra are a no-turtle zone. Even though this is not a turtle nesting ground, over the course of the study, we have recorded over 2,000 dead turtles, victims of mechanised fishing, on the port site and in nearby areas like Kanika Sands.” (2)
“Aside from the turtle aspect,. the Dhamra area is intrinsically rich in biodiversity and deserving of special protection. The area is very important for horseshoe crabs. We have also made two exciting discoveries on the port site itself: the rare Crab-eating Frog is the first record from mainland India, and the White-bellied mangrove snake has thus far only been reported once on the mainland, from the Sundarbans”, Dr. Dutta added.
The port area is an important breeding and nesting ground for the King Crab or Horseshoe Crab, a little known species. Over 1,300 individuals were recorded in the study area, trapped in fishing gear. Further highlighting the ecological significance of the area is the presence of the Crab-eating Frog, F. cancrivora, which has only been reported from the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Southeast Asia until now.
“This is the real test of The Tatas’ claims to be environmentally responsible, a corporate group that would never harm the environment. Ratan Tata has promised to ‘address environmental concerns (concerning Dhamra) in the best possible manner’. (3) Tata Steel have repeatedly asserted that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that the port will harm the turtles and if there was they would not build the port. It is time for them to walk the talk. These findings leave them with no option but to withdraw from the project. It is not possible to ‘mitigate’ damage later. This would also be contrary to the precautionary approach that the Tatas claim to stand by” said Ashish Fernandes, Oceans Campaigner with Greenpeace. (4)
While the project has been cleared by state and central authorities, the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), the basis for this clearance, has recently been exposed by Greenpeace scientists, as being fundamentally flawed and completely inadequate to gauge the project’s ecological impacts (5). The Tatas have yet to respond to this scientific critique.
“We are calling upon the Tatas to withdraw from the project in the light of this new evidence. There is absolutely no way they can build the Dhamra port while simultaneously claiming to respect the environment. For a group that prides themselves on their ‘legacy’, the question they need to answer is, what kind of environmental legacy will they leave behind if the Dhamra port is built?” asked G. Ananthapadmanabhan, Executive Director of Greenpeace.
For more information contact:
Ashish Fernandes, Oceans Campaigner +91 99801 99380,

Saumya Tripathy, Greenpeace Communications +91 93438 62212

G. Ananthapadmanabhan, Executive Director, Greenpeace +91 98455 35410

(1) Dr. S.K. Dutta is a member of the IUCN’s Amphibian Specialist Group and Captive Breeding Specialist Group and is also the Head of the Department of Zoology at the North Orissa University.
(2) In addition to these current findings, a satellite telemetry study, done by the Wildlife Institute of India in 2001, showed turtle movement near the port site. A Greenpeace team also recorded mating turtles in the waters north of Kanika Sands, off the port site, in February 2006.
(3) Letter to Greenpeace, December 2004.
(4) As a member of the United Nations Global Compact, Tata Steel has endorsed Principle 7, the Precautionary Approach to environmental challenges.
(5) The Greenpeace critique of the 1997 Dhamra Port EIA can be found at

Friday, June 8, 2007

Wildlife news from across India

News and Information from protected areas in India and South Asia

Vol. XIII No. 3
June 2007 (No. 67)

The Big Cat crisis

Elephants translocated to Manas suffer from bug bites
CAG report reveals bungling of Project Tiger Funds in Nameri and Manas
Eight lions poached in and around Gir; another 11 die in open wells
Salt makers to resist relocation from the Dhrangadhra Wild Ass Sanctuary
GEER to take up project on Great Indian Bustard
Himachal Pradesh
Survey for rationalization of PAs
Jammu & Kashmir
Mining inside Limber and Lachipora WLSs
Conflict in Dalma over ritual hunting
Proposal for Conservation Reserve status to Puttenhalli Lake in Bangalore
State approves hydroelectric project near Silent Valley NP
New tiger monitoring protocol in Periyar
Illegal trekking in Periyar TR
Fires reported in April in Parambikulam WLS, Nelliampathy forests
Crocodile research centre at Neyyar WLS
Madhya Pradesh
WII study indicates fall in tiger population in MP
Lesser florican spotted in Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary after 1879
Fires in Melghat and Tadoba Andhari TRs
KYKL camp busted in Keibul Lamjao NP
Protests against encroachment in Intanki NP
Management school in way of Chandaka WLS elephants
Forests around two villages in core of Simlipal BR undisturbed: AnSI
Tourism facilities to be developed in Bhitarkanika, Satkosia; tourist influx promotes poaching in Bhitarkanika
Coastal Community Resource Centre near Bhitarkanika
Turtles fitted with satellite transmitters
Proposal for community reserve for sarus cranes in Gurdaspur district
Watchtowers, close circuit TV for Keoladeo NP to fight fires
Leopard radio telemetry project in Sariska
Tigers to be reintroduced into Sariska TR
Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu, Kerala to jointly protect Anaimalais
Road under-passes for Rajaji elephants
West Bengal
Train kills another elephant in Buxa TR
Five elephants found dead in Buxa TR
Rs 10.28 crores for relocation of villages in Buxa TR unused: CAG report
Forest near Bethuadahari WLS to be developed for tourism
Serious staff shortage in West Bengal FD
New newsletter on Community Based biodiversity conservation
Planning Commission stops funding for Project Snow Leopard
Details of funds released for relocation of villages from Protected Areas
Inter-State Coordination Committees to check poaching
Dr. TN Khoshoo Award 2007 For Dr. BR Ramesh
Forestry fund of Rs 3,500 crore unused
TRAFFIC reopens
TigerLink restarted

Sonaha community demands rights in RBNP

Increase in Black Necked Crane, Bar Headed Geese populations in Tibet
Working Group on High Elevation Grasslands
Workshop on Governance and Categories Assessment for PAs in ASEAN region

Fourth International Conference on Environmental Education

Deputy Director for the Corbett Foundation
Oppurtunities with ATREE
Volunteers for Leopard awareness program around SGNP in Mumbai
Director – Madras Crocodile Bank / Centre for Herpetology


In the Supreme Court

The Big Cat Crisis

The Big Cat Crisis comes to us from at least two clear directions. Lions in Gujarat are being poached for the first time ever with a clear commercial motive in mind. Where the tiger is concerned it is about the numbers of how many are there (or not there) in the wild.
There are confirmed reports of the poaching of eight lions from in and around Gir in the last few months. The claws and bones of the animals were found missing indicating that the Asiatic lion too has started to figure in wildlife trade. It is also important to note that in the last four years another 20 odd of these extremely endangered cats have fallen to their death into open wells that dot the Gir landscape in their hundreds. The combined implications can only be considered ominous. If that was not enough the controversy over moving some lions from Gujarat to Kuno-Palpur continues unabated. Whether it is a strategy that will work in the long run is something that one can know only if it is tried. The message from the Gujarat Government is that they rather have the lion die in Gujarat; sending the animal outside the state is out of the question.
In the case of the tiger it continues to be an issue of their numbers. As we go to press there is much anguish being expressed over the fall in numbers of tigers as reported by the Wildlife Institute of India. Estimates based on a new counting protocol indicate that tiger numbers could be about half (or even less) of what were reported in the last census five years ago. Those figures from some of the main tiger states is rather alarming: In Madhya Pradesh from over 700 in 2001-02 in to less than 300 now; Maharashtra – from 238 to about 100 now and in Chattisgarh from 227 to only about 30 (the Indravati Tiger Reserve was not included in the count).
What this can only mean is that a large number of them have died (many poached) in the intervening period – if this is not a big crisis, what can it be? It also points out to the huge inadequacy in the process and attitudes in the earlier methods of counting.
Initial government responses have been rather characteristic – a combination of denial and skepticism – a refusal, it seems, to accept the figures that are coming out. MoEF secretary Dr. Pradipto Ghosh (he has since retired) was reported as having said that these numbers could not be compared to those from the last census and that, in fact, there was nothing wrong with the pugmark method.
The numbers from the counts still perhaps need a final confirmation and validation. Some correction could still perhaps happen. Yet, it would be difficult to deny that we have a serious problem on hand; and that denial would be the most inappropriate way of dealing with the issue.
The combination of responses needed is also well known to us…more numbers and better trained/equipped ground staff, rapid response teams, joint operations with local communities, winning communities over to conservation rather than making them enemies prone to being exploited by poachers and hands-off tiger habitats to 'development' projects.
The direction, however, to finding a solution would be to acknowledge and accept that we have a problem in the first place. The rest can be then made to happen.

Protected Area Update
Vol. XIII, No. 3, June 2007 (No. 67)
Editor: Pankaj Sekhsaria
Illustrations: Madhuvanti Anantharajan
Produced by: Kalpavriksh
Ideas, comments, news and information may please be sent to the editorial address:
KALPAVRIKSH, Apartment 5, Shri Dutta Krupa, 908 Deccan Gymkhana, Pune 411004, Maharashtra, India. Tel/Fax: 020 – 25654239.
Production of PA Update 67 has been supported by Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), Anand.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Port Blairians to get water every 96 hours

City dwellers to continue to get piped water every 96 hours: LG
Port Blair, June 04
The existing pattern of water supply in the Port Blair city would continue till the end of this month. Accordingly, piped water will be supplied to the people every 96 hours, the Lt. Governor informed the accompanying mediapersons after inspecting the water level at Dhanikhari and discussing with the Engineers of Andaman Public Works Department at the dam site this afternoon.The Lt. Governor reiterated that the situation was not at all alarming and asked the mediapersons not to create any panic on the issue of water availability. He said, the fall in the level of Dhanikhari Dam due to a long dry spell and subsequent delay in the onset of monsoon has rendered us into a difficult spot but "we have made all necessary arrangement to tide over the situation". If necessary, arrangements will be made to fetch water from Rutland Island, he said, adding that there was, however, no dearth of raw water thanks to the special efforts made over the few months towards cleaning of wells and ponds in and around the city. Answering a query of the newsmen about the desalination plant, the Lt. Governor informed that 8 out of the 10 plants, which were earlier procured could be successfully activated in different islands to cater to the needs of drinking water and that more desalination plants would be acquired for the islands. Referring to the construction of a sweet water lake at Sippighat where a vast stretch of agriculture land have been rendered permanently unploughable due to ingression of sea water, the Lt. Governor informed that the project to be taken up phase-wise, once completed, will be a long term solution for the water crisis.The Lt. Governor also met the affected persons of the submerged land at Sippighat and discussed with them the acquisition of the land for construction of sweet water lake. He told them that apart from the cash compensation, the Administration will also take up the matter for allotment of alternate land to these persons in lieu of the submerged land. The Lt. Governor was accompanied by a number of senior officers of the Administration.