Saturday, March 29, 2008

A journey up the Godavari

On the 22nd of March we did a day long boat journey up the River Godavari - from just downstream of the site of the Polavaram Dam to about 100 kms up, to the small village of Koeda. The roughly six hour voyage was a journey into what will soon cease to be if the dam that will displace more than 2,00,000 people, and drown almost 30,000 acres of agricultural land along with some fine forests including those of the Papikonda Wildlife Sanctuary is to finally come up.
Here are some pictures from that journey, from a landscape that is rich, varied and does not deserve to be destroyed!

Just a little downstream of the dam site, fishing communities carry on with their traditional livelihood activities

We were caught in an unseasonal storm - the skies darkened up and a gust of wind blew up the brown sand from the sandbars in the river bed, creating colours, images and memories of haunting beauty

Innumerable stands of toddy palm dot the riverside landscape that is visible from the boat

Village youth from the hamlet of Parentapalli stand by the giant tamarind tree, watching the Godavari go peacefully by

The mountains of the Papikonda Mountain range that the Godavari drains and which will be submerged are clothed by extremely rich and diverse forests.

Ironically, we were told, that tourists like us wanting to take this boat ride had increased significantly in recent months. The reason? Word has gone around that this will all be submerged when the dam comes up and many want to see what it is that is going to be lost forever.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Demoiselle Cranes of Kheechan

Thousands of Demoiselle Cranes flock to the small village of Kheechan every winter. Drawn here by the protection offered by the villagers and the huge quantities of grain scattered for them daily, it offers a great opportunity to watch these beautiful birds from close. Kheechan is about 140 kms from Jodhpur and 7 kms from the small town of Phalodi

The Demoiselle Cranes of Kheechan, March 2008

They let you come close, but that is only upto a point

At the village water body for a drink

Village boys scatter grain for the visitors...

...And an unconcerned motorcyclist drives past many unconcerned cranes

The sacred rats of Karnimata

At the Karnimata Temple, Deshnoke in the Bikaner District of Rajasthan. March 2008.

Rats scamper carefree in the temple complex...

...for there is no shortage of the devout and...

...their offerings...

A good meal...

...can only be followed by a good nap.

... a wonder indeed.

Desert National Park, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

From my recent visit to Sudasri, Desert National Park, Jaisalmer

The Great Indian Bustard

Desert Fox

A vulture takes off

A munia and a finch lark

Monday, March 17, 2008


News and Information from protected areas in India and South Asia

Vol. XIV No. 1
February 2008 (No. 71)

Securing corridors…Snapping corridors!
-Blackbucks feared poisoned near Rollapadu WLS
-Area of Nagarjunasagar – Srisailam TR reduced by over 1000 sq. kms
-Domestic elephants to deal with wild elephant depredation
-Bridge over rail line in Gibbon WLS
-Tiger death in tea estate bordering Kaziranga; management proposes acquiring part of estate
-Increase in Swamp Deer population in Kaziranga
-Large scale fish deaths near Vikramshila Dolphin Sanctuary
-118 fire incidents in PAs in last three years
-Siltation threat to Hokresar
-Dog squad to fight wildlife crime
-Opposition to wall inside Ranganathittu WLS
-NGO initiative secures elephant corridor connecting BRT Wildlife Sanctuary
-Soliga tribals to be allowed to remove NTFP from the BRT Wildlife Sanctuary
-Deer to be translocated from Mysore zoo to Bandipur NP
-Illegal road construction work inside Jayamangali Conservation Reserve
- Elephants move to TN forests with onset of Sabarimala season
- Cameras to monitor tigers in Periyar TR
-Meeting of Madhya Pradesh Tiger Foundation
-New entry rules for NPs in MP
-Construction of wall around SG National Park to be speeded up
-Minister visits Tadoba TR after midnight in violation of rules
-Bird census conducted in Chilka
-Bhitarkanika closed for tourists for annual census
-DRDO link for turtle protection units; mass turtle mortalities reported
-Reduced elephant menace around Chandaka-Dampara WLS
-Fresh water dolphins spotted in Harike
-Rajasthan to get Museum of Natural History
-12 tiger cubs born in Ranthambore NP in last two years
-Keoladeo NP could lose UNESCO world heritage status
-Poaching alert in Corbett NP for New Year eve
-Tigress in Sunderbans radio-collared
-12 tigers in Buxa TR
-Food problem for increasing rhino population in Jaldapara WLS
-MoEF proposal to deal with elephant deaths in train accidents in North Bengal
-Traffic to be monitored in tiger reserves to avoid animal mortality
-273 villages to be relocated from tiger reserves
-Wildlife Service Awards 2007
-Workshop to develop National strategy on human-wildlife conflict
-Five year Houbara Bustard conservation project
-South East Asian Workshop on CCAs
-Research Associate: Forest Fire Management
-Wildlife Conservation Society Invites Applications for its RFP
-Research project on management and use of biodiversity in the North East
-Work with CAT in the Mumbai Metropolitan region
-International Seminar on PA Management
-ButterflyIndia Meet 2008
-Asian Wetlands Symposium 2008
-Conference of the ATBC - Asia Pacific Chapter




An interesting set of ‘infrastructure’ is to come up in protected areas in different parts of the country. These are bridges for wildlife, physical constructions that will allow wild animal movement along traditional routes. Conventional flyovers have been proposed on roads running through the Rajaji and Manas National Parks (PA Update Vol. XIII, No. 5) for vehicles to move over and allow animals to cross under. In the Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, on the other hand, custom made steel bridges, designed like trees are to come up for gibbons to cross over a rail line running through their forest (see story below). In another, first of its kind initiative in the country, a group of NGOs is actually purchasing land that constitutes corridors between significant forest areas (see stories from Karnataka in this issue of the PA Update). The move is ensured at permanently securing these small ‘patches’ of forests so that these vital but tenuous connections are not broken.
While there might be questions about the implementation of the bridge construction plans or the widespread and long term financial and logistical viability of purchasing corridors (how many can be bought and where will the money come from?), there can be no denying their importance. These initiatives are also clear pointers towards the realization that corridors are absolutely crucial in a landscape that is being ruthlessly fragmented, where wildlife habitats are rapidly shrinking and protected areas are left only as islands in a sea of hostility all around. They are the symptoms of a larger problem where there is no vision or planning for the larger landscape and where attempts at securing corridors for wildlife like those discussed above are savagely out numbered by the magnitude and scale of the snapping of existing corridors.
Mining projects like in Orissa, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh; dam building like in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh; road, railway line & canal construction, and destruction of the forests by encroachers all over are rapidly cutting off channels for wild animal movement. The results are evident: rapidly escalating elephant depredation like in Orissa; increased animal deaths in road accidents and on railway lines like in North Bengal and growing hostility of local people as they suffer even more damage to life and property from the ‘straying’ animals. An equally important but little studied dimension is the slow but visible breakdown of the traditional pastoral and agricultural practices. Agricultural systems, in particular, used to be far more tolerant but are becoming increasingly unfriendly to wildlife as they get rapidly commercialized and intensified.
There is, without doubt, a serious and urgent need to go to the root of the problem. Corridors for human movement like the road and rail networks need to be planned (or even stopped or removed when necessary) to ensure that wildlife corridors are not snapped; a larger picture of the landscape (the oft repeated landscape planning) and the needs of wildlife have to be kept in mind; local communities need to be taken into confidence and made part of the conservation agenda; and hugely destructive activities involving construction of ports, dams, mines and industrial complexes that go under the name of developmental projects need to be reigned in.
All we could end up with, otherwise, is another huge cement, concrete and steel construction binge in the name of wildlife. There will be many bridges but all useless, because nothing will be left on either side to bridge.

Vol. XIV, No. 1, February 2008 (No. 71)
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 71 has been supported by Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), Anand.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Like tigers, good news coverage too these days is a rare sight

New Delhi, March 3: The alarmingly dwindling number of tigers in India as brought out by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) could evoke an average coverage of only 376 words across the national media, according to a study by Newswatch, an independent online entity which monitors, collates and documents news and information pertaining to the news media and journalism.
The Newswatch ( probe, which tracked 30 news sources across the Indian media, also looked specifically at the front pages of ten editions of eight newspapers that the launch of the report ‘Status of tigers, co-predators and prey in India: 2008’ generated. Revelation: only three featured the story as its lead; in one it was the second lead but prominently displayed. “This study is not meant to debate whether the dip in tiger numbers is a newsworthy and significant issue. That it is indeed so, is an incontrovertible truth,” said the Newswatch editor, Subir Ghosh.
“The stories,” the probe found,
“did not devote too many words to the news. The mean word count was 376.13. Almost one-third failed to mention where the tiger census report was unveiled. The report was a joint publication of NTCA and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII). But, just six said so. Only four of the 25 that quoted R Gopal referred to him correctly as member secretary NTCA. The rest got it wrong.”
The NTCA/WII survey had an error coefficient of 17.43 per cent. The number of tigers could vary from 1,165 to 1,657. This aspect was significant, but was rendered insignificant by half the publications tracked. Counting was not carried out in three tiger reserves. This fact was statistically important, but more than half the stories ignored this point. The NTCA/WII report talked of three primary causes for the alarming tiger number decline; close to one-fourth missed out on this point as well.
The Newswatch study, Tail tell tales, has been published under the slug ‘Contentious’, which would be a series of reports that would be content analysis accounts of the news media. For the complete PDF version, go to:
This study was conducted over a six-day period starting the day of the report launch. It was meant to be a qualitative analysis, not a quantitative one. The idea was to look at the way the news media covered the issue, and not to quantify the exact number of publications that did a story.

The tracking of stories was done by browsing through the websites of news establishments as well as monitoring stories through Google News. In all, 30 stories were selected to be analysed for the ‘breaking news’ category. The ‘breaking news’ in this case is not the same as that in a live medium like television, radio or the Internet. In the Newswatch studies, ‘breaking news’ is the first story of an incident —in this case, the launch of the report by NTCA on February 12, 2008.

Over 200 stories were identified in the first round. Over two-thirds of these were rejected for being duplicates — these had their origins in agency creeds. Initially, a five-day period was chosen. But since newspapers needed to be given a day’s leeway, the study had to look at stories that were published between February 12 and 17, 2008. There was also a need to see how the news-break was being followed by different publications. In the five-day follow-up period, only 36 news items could be tracked down across the publications monitored.

The stories selected for the analysis were coded on basis of over 20 parameters. Each of these data entries were subsequently cross-checked by two other persons to avoid errors of omission and commission. There is but one shortcoming in the study — it looks only at the English language media. This was done, or not done, only because of logistical drawbacks —lack of adequate financial resources.

Details of the report:
Pages: 4
Format: PDF
Colour: All-colour
Price: Free
Size: 1 MB
For more information contact:
Subir Ghosh, Editor-Publisher, Newswatch
Tel: 0-9811316305