Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Green Vein for Pune

Dear Friends

The citizen's guide - The Green Vein- for the city of Pune is finally ready would like to thank Roda Mehta, Satish Magar, Vikram Bhosale and Mr Tulsani for their donations in making this happen. Not to forget the host of people (all credited in the guide) who helped immensely in putting this together and getting the information and text in order and sharpness. A special thanks to Ashish Mehta for the introductory note (see below).

We are requesting a donation amount of Rs 100/- for each copy if you pick it up from us or an amount of Rs 150/- if you would prefer that we send it to you (the amount is to cover packaging and posting costs). For more information please do contact kvbooks@gmail.com or call Sharvari at 09422057737.

We would also love a feedback on the guide when you have read it...

THE GREEN VEIN - An Introduction

Citizen's Guide for Pune City

Citizens can do a lot to protect their immediate environment. Rampant tree felling in cities has seen many citizen groups like Trees of Delhi, Pune Tree Watch, Hasiru Usiru in Bangalore, Nizhal in Chennai and Save Rani Baug in Mumbai up in arms to protect what rightly belongs to the citizens – the ecological security of the city. Besides these there are many efforts across Indian cities where efforts are being made by the citizens to protect their environment in different ways. An environmentally conscious citizen may wish to participate as well.

In this case then there are a few questions that must be asked: How well do you know your environment? Do you care about your environment? Are you pessimistic about the future of this environment, or do you see a light at the end of the tunnel? Are you aware of the measures that are being taken to protect your environment? Do you perceive yourself to be a citizen, a consumer, a bystander, or a member of an urban environment? Would you save a tree from being felled? Could you name an environmental legislation?

This booklet takes up the issue of greens in a city. It has a simple purpose: it exhibits how you can contribute to your environment by simply knowing more about it or saving a tree from being felled, if you are living in Pune. Indeed, it does not wish to make an environmentalist out of you; it does, however, hope to take a few minutes of your time, to be able to inform you about a few things you must know – for example, how a simple phone call could save the life of a tree.

Tasneem Balasinorwala
Email: just.tasneem@gmail.com

Pune Tree Watch
Pune Tree Authority member
Pune, India

Dastkar Andhra cotton handlooms sale in Chennai

Protected Area Update - August 2008

Dear Friends,
Pasted below is the list of contents and the Editorial from the New Issue of the Protected Area Update (Vol XIV, No. 4, August 2008 (No. 74))
If you want to receive any particular stories or the entire update as an email attachment please write to me at psekhsaria@gmail.com

Pankaj Sekhsaria
Editor - PA Update
C/0 Kalpavriksh

News and Information from protected areas in India and South Asia
Vol. XIV No. 4, August 2008 (No. 74)

When elephants cross borders
Opposition to sanctuary proposal in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram districts
Orang tigers to be camera trapped

Two elephants found dead within 24 hours
Assam seeks tougher punishments for rhino poachers; army to help too

Gaur population up in Goa

Gir gets award for eco-tourism
Artificial water points in Gir for summer
Increased vigil after anthrax outbreak around Gir

Demand to cancel approval for cement plant near Sundarnagar and Bandli WLS

Dachigam NP opened to public after 60 years

Rs. 190 lakh Central assistance for wildlife protection to Jharkhand
Elephants flock to Dalma WLS during summer

Dalma WLS elephant and calf electrocuted

Workshop held to sensitise judges and forest officers to provisions of the WLPA.
Traffic management centre in Bannerghata NP
World Heritage tag likely for 12 sites

Newsletter on Vembanad
Malabar WLS proposed in Kozhikode
Diphtheria reported in Kani settlements in Peppara WLS
FD to set up three biodiversity parks

Wildlife sanctuary proposed in Alirajpur district

Lonar lake to tell the story of climate change

Proposal to reduce Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary to 350 sq. kms
PAs in Vidarbha, Aurangabad to be promoted for tourism
No support from police to demolish illegal ashram in Tungareshwar WLS: FD

FD files case against ZP member for blocking saline water ingress into Bhitarkanika NP

Effort to develop Harike as a tourism site

Nokia – WWF India project for Ranthambhor

Tigers re-introduced to Sariska

Elephant poached in Mudumalai after six years
Protest against declaration of Mudumalai WLS as a Critical Tiger Habitat
Tribals in Kalakad Mundunthurai TR face eviction for failing to stop forest fire.
Rs. 50 lakh project for Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve
Exotic algae invades Gulf of Mannar NP

Bird sanctuary proposed in Noida
Tigers pushing out leopards from Katerniaghat WLS, Dudhwa NP
Rhinos from Bardia and ShuklaPhanta move to Katerniaghat WLS, Lagga Bagga forests

Two conservation reserves for Musk deer in Pithoragarh
Rescue centres for big cats, tuskers in Almora, Haridwar
Severe staff shortage at Corbett
Record earnings from tourism in Corbett TR
Uttarakhand, UP to work together to curb poaching in Corbett TR
No more elephant deaths by trains in Rajaji
Rajaji tusker tramples nine, shot dead
Rajaji NP grassland to be handed over for temple construction

Increasing human-elephant conflict along the Bengal-Nepal border
Monkeys to prevent poaching, tree smuggling in the Sunderbans
Workshop on Community Forest Governance in North Bengal

Wildlife Bureau hit by staff shortage
Corridors to alleviate elephant crisis in Eastern Indian states
Disney Conservation Award to Shailendra Singh of the MCBT

Whitley Award for Dr. Deepak Apte

Steps to combat illegal wildlife trade in South Asia

Tiger attacks on the rise in the Sundarbans

Sherpa community creates the Khumbu Community Conserved Area

29th Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation


Declaration of the Khumbu Community Conserved Area



Following are some interesting cross-border news nuggets gleaned over the last few months.

a) Wild elephant migration from Karnataka to Goa and Maharashtra is termed ‘unnatural’ and Goa seeks Maharasthra’s help to drive the animals back. When Goa starts the operation it finds that its efforts to drive back the elephants have been hampered by trenches dug on the Maharashtra side to prevent the entry of the animals into that state. Goan authorities are asking Project Elephant authorities to intervene and ask Maharashtra to behave.
b) Elephants that had ‘strayed’ from Orissa into Andhra in late 2007 were termed ‘rogue’ and huge efforts were made to force them to return. Two of animals were even darted and drugged and carried back to their home state. One died almost immediately, most likely because of an overdose of the drug used on it.
c) Bangladesh wants India to ‘take back’ her 100 odd elephants that have moved across the international border from Meghalaya. They have threatened that the animals might otherwise be killed; and
d) (As you will read below) The Nepalese government is reinforcing the border with India in North Bengal with low-voltage electric wires to prevent herds of elephants from crossing over along their traditional migratory routes.

Reading news like this is to experience a tragic-comic drama being played out across elephant territory in the sub-continent. How else can one explain a country asking another to take back ‘its’ elephants, or one minister complaining to a counterpart in the neighbouring state that his elephants are causing trouble.
No one will argue that the situation on the ground is a simple one. The case of human-elephant conflict is an extremely protracted and complex one. Large populations of rural and tribal people undoubtedly suffer huge depredations because of elephants; and the pressure on administrators, politicians and forest staff to deal with the problem must be undeniably huge.
It needs to be remembered at the same time that elephants don’t have it easy either. Increasing encroachments, dam construction, mining projects and infrastructure corridors have, over the years, ruthlessly destroyed elephant habitat and snapped traditional migratory routes. Not only are the elephants being denied what was traditionally and rightfully theirs, but terms like ‘straying’ herds, ‘rogue’ animals and ‘unnatural’ habitat are used without thought to hold them responsible for a problem they are not responsible for at all.
Borders created by human beings for their own kind are turning tragically problematic, even fatal for the pachyderms in ways that can only be considered bizarre.
The largest mammal on land deserves better than being shot, electrocuted or drugged for crossing our borders. The animal that is one of the most venerated in our cultures and histories can surely be treated with more respect and tolerance. We, humans, can at the same time, certainly do better than blaming neighbours and demanding that ‘their’ animals behave or be taken back; it is the best way to ensure a solution will not be found. A little common sense and pragmatism in dealing with the issue will certainly do no one any harm.
It might, in fact, be a good starting point to find some meaningful resolution and long lasting answers.


Vol. XIV, No. 4, August 2008 (No. 74)
Editor: Pankaj Sekhsaria
Editorial Assistance: Wrutuja Pardeshi
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.
Email: psekhsaria@gmail.com
Website: www.kalpavriksh.org
Production of PA Update 74 has been supported by Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), Anand.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Displacing tribals

Displacing tribals
By Pankaj Sekhsaria
It is evident that the wildlife conservation paradigm in India has failed to consider those affected in the process.


For those living in the submergence area of the proposed Indira Sagar Project (Polavaram Dam project) in Andhra Pradesh, the writing appears to be clearly on the wall. To be executed at a cost of nearly Rs 13,000 crore, the project will submerge more than one lakh acres of agricultural land and the lives and livelihood of nearly two lakh people in about 290 settlements and villages. In line with history and earlier experience, nearly half the people to be impacted are scheduled tribes. Another 17.5 per cent are scheduled castes and nearly 15 per cent are from the backward classes.
The issue of the Polavaram dam clearly has multiple implications and significance. One that stands out starkly is the ongoing acrimonious debate over the Scheduled Tribes and other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act that was recently passed and now stands challenged in the courts by ‘conservation organisations’ and ex forest officers on grounds that its implementation will be the final nail in the coffin of the India’s remaining forests.

One of the key issues of concern for those supporting the Act is the historical injustice, displacement and harassment caused by forest reservation and the creation of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks (protected areas) for the conservation and protection of India’s increasingly threatened wildlife. Experiences of the last couple of decades have resulted in articulations from a tribal perspective that put dams, mining projects and protected areas in the same category on account of the forced displacement and as the cause of untold hardships and misery. It is evident that the wildlife conservation paradigm in the country has failed to take into account, leave alone include, those affected in the process of ensuring conservation. Local communities that could have been the biggest supporters of conservation are today one of its most bitter critics.

The case of the Polavaram Dam only reinforces that reality. The specific issue in this context is of the forest land to be submerged by the dam - this is about 37 sq km of reserved forest land and another 17 sq km inside the Papikonda Wildlife Sanctuary that is itself spread over 590 sq km in the West Godavari, East Godavari and Khamman districts of Andhra Pradesh. The matter has been before the Supreme Court for a while and one of the important submissions to the court in the matter is the November 2006 report of the court’s own Central Empowered Committee (CEC). It can only be a considered powerful reinforcement of the conflicts and contradictions that have come to underline wildlife conservation in the country.

Among the conditions suggested by the CEC for the final approvals to be granted to the dam is that nearly 500 sq km of forests adjoining the Papikonda Wildlife Sanctuary be added to the sanctuary and this then be declared a national park. According to India’s Wildlife Protection Act no one is allowed to live inside a national park and all traditional rights and livelihood dependencies on the forests are completely extinguished. The contradictions are painfully evident. Additional displacement is being created as a condition to ensure that the main displacement will take place in the first instance. “The state (government) has also agreed in principle,” the CEC report says,” for the relocation of the isolated villages falling within the sanctuary and notifying the sanctuary as a national park. This notification would be a pre-condition to any clearance to use/divert sanctuary land.”

While there is no respite for the two lakh-odd people who will be directly displaced because of submergence caused by the dam, an additional category of displacement is being created in the name of wildlife conservation, a “conservation offset,” and the justification, ironically, is that this will create a well preserved water catchment for the region. It is well known that Polavaram is not an exception. A slew of such projects are being proposed, pushed and approved across the length and breadth of the country. In Orissa, for instance, thickly forested hills, sacred to the local tribals and rich in diverse species of wildlife, are being handed over for mining; in the south a huge ‘scientific’ project with an investment of a few hundred crores might come up amidst prime tiger habitat and in the North East, huge dams are slated to submerge pristine forests in a region that is seismically very volatile.
The conservation debate in India has often slipped (even dragged) into being a tribal versus tiger one. The blame for the destruction of India’s forests and the decimation of its wildlife has willy-nilly and repeatedly been placed at the door of the tribal.

What’s happening with the Polavaram Dam project in Andhra Pradesh, in Niyamgiri (and other parts) in Orissa, in the Mudumalai forests of Tamil Nadu, in the thickly forested river valleys on North East India and in numerous such situations elsewhere will hopefully provide us a window into a slightly different reality.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

daram - 1st anniversary celebrations

daram celebrated its first anniversary on the 2nd of July with a day full of programs and activities. here are some pictures:

bablu ganguly of the Timbaktu Collective launched timbaktu organic's organic foods in daram. timbaktu organic products are now available for the first time in Hyderabad

bablu ganguly speaks to those gathered for the evening's program

a display of the various products from timbaktu organic

there was a cooking demonstration, followed by snacks made of millets and other products from timbaktu organic

friends, wellwishers and partners of daram who had gathered for the occassion

the evening concluded with an enthralling carnatic music concert by Sangeeta Shivkumar

Also see

At Naik's Estate, ICICI Bank Lane,
Adjacent to Airport Lane,
Begumpet, Hyderabad
Tel: 91 40 27764843
Email: dastkarandhra@gmail.com

I am a big bully on wheels

If you folks are civilized people when you are behind the steering wheel, then maybe you are more evolved human beings than I am. When I am driving and come across a bunch of pedestrians trying to cross the road, I don't slow down unless the signal is red. I flash my headlights menacingly, honk my horn and speed up. Translated into words, this action means, "Watch out! I'm bigger and clad in a metal armour! So step out of my way... or else!"

When a pedestrian stands in front of my accelerating vehicle, this isn't a friendly warning but a direct threat of physical harm. From where he stands, my car isn't a vehicle of transportation; for him, it is a weapon of death, like a loaded cannon ready to fire.

No, we don't see this as a social injustice because we are all so USED TO IT, dammit! Just as, in the days of feudalistic zamindari and untouchability, neither the overlords nor the downtrodden felt that they were part of an unjust system! They felt it was a normal way for a society to function!

Just this morning, I flashed my headlights, honked my horn and prevented a bunch of schoolgirls from crossing the highway in front of my car. My thinking was: Let them cross behind me because I'm in a tearing hurry.

All citizens are not equal
You remember that famous quote from George Orwell's novella, Animal Farm, where the pigs declare, "All animals are equal, but some of us are more equal than others"?

Like the pigs, we motorists -- especially those of us in cars -- are 'more equal' than others. We have special rights. We have a special right-of-way that the bitch-goddess of economic superiority has bestowed upon us.

Our comfort and speed takes precedence over the comfort and safety of pedestrians, because we can afford to buy expensive vehicles, fuel and vehicle insurance, and pay road tax.

It is no secret that wheels are a status symbol, a social pecking-order based on wealth. In ascending order -- bicycle, scooter, motorbike, small car (Maruti 800), larger car (Fiat Palio, Maruti Esteem), larger foreign car (Honda Civic), SUVs. A Toyota Land Cruiser or Mitsubishi Pajero sits near the top of the heap.

Status-symbols are a natural human tendency. But...
Have you noticed that the word 'pedestrian' is tainted with contempt? Also it's hindi equivalent, Raaste pe chalta aadmi ? When did the basic human-being become an object of contempt? We aren't born with wheels, you know! We are all basically pedestrians, but why is it so easy to forget this when we are behind a steering wheel?

Visualize the sheer inequity of this situation: I am ONE GUY securely seat-belted in a well-cushioned airconditioned bubble of metal and glass travelling 90 km per hour. As usual, I am in a tearing hurry. Therefore, my right-or-way takes precedence over that of SIX KIDS carrying a load of books in the noontime sun, balancing precariously on a road divider amidst the confusion of speeding vehicles, noise and smoke, looking for a chance to safely cross the highway and reach school before the starting bell!

Some questions
Who gave me superior right-or-way over these kids? What gave me the right to assign MY time and comfort greater priority than THEIR time, comfort and above all, THEIR SAFETY?

Was it the fact that I could do them physical harm --a sense of raw power -- that gave me the superior right-of-way?
Must the weak yield to the strong in our society?

Was it my vehicle's size and bulk -- a ton of machinery hurtling down the road like a charging rhino? Must humans yield to machines in our society?

Was it my greater speed and momentum -- the fact that I was going much faster, and would have to sacrifice my speed in order to let them pass?
Must human 'inefficiency' yield to mechanical 'efficiency' in our society?

Was it the fact that I had visible money-power, and therefore my time and comfort was more important than theirs? Must mere humans bow before money-power in our society?

Was it the fact that the road was a motorists' territory -- and therefore a pedestrian must somehow sneak past as best as he can, at his own risk? Must we all gradually give up our rights as 'mere humans' and pedestrians in our own neighbourhoods, as roads become increasingly more common, wider and busier?

To my children, an apology
My children cannot safely walk to school. They cannot ride a bicycle to school. I would not even advise them to walk to and from the nearest suburban railway station, although it is at an easy walking distance which I myself often walk.

They cannot do all these things because the rights of people-on-wheels are rampaging the basic rights of people-on-foot.

Unless my children become people-on-wheels, they are underprivileged citizens in my city. They are not equal citizens. Their basic right to walk is not respected by my government or even by motorists like myself.

For robbing my children of their birthright to walk any distance in safety, I hang my head in shame.

And with tears of anger and regret, I swear to restore to my children their birthright. So Help me God!

-- Krishnaraj Rao

Originally posted on my blog dated 22nd October 2007 at