Friday, February 7, 2014

In memory of Dr. Prakash Gole

Remembering ‘Sir’
In memory of Dr. Prakash Gole

(A heart felt tribute by his student and my colleague in Kalpavriksh, Sharmila Deo - from the latest issue of the Protected Area Update)

An eminent economist and ecologist, an internationally acclaimed ornithologist, a prolific author of environmental books, and a visionary with a passion for conservation of nature is how the world knew Dr. Prakash Gole, our 'Sir' who passed away recently. He edited the Journal of Ecological Society and his extensive work on conservation and restoration of wetlands and wetland birds, especially the Bar-headed goose, Sarus crane, Siberian crane, and the Black necked crane is recognised the world over.
I was fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to attend the one-year course on 'Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and Nature Conservation' run by  the Ecological Society, which was established at his initiative in 1982 in Pune. Along with various conservation and restoration projects that the society carried out under his leadership, he constantly emphasised the importance of interdisciplinary learning and developing a holistic view, be it in terms of development, landscape planning or any other facet of conservation. He motivated hundreds of people who came to him from various spheres - students from various faculties, homemakers, and professionals - to study and contribute to the field of environment.
               Our classes with him were a mix of many things, all united with one goal - love for the environment. Sir instilled into us that just harbouring a love for nature was not enough and that each of us had to strive for its conservation as well. He made us aware of the rampant destruction of the environment in the name of development, and taught us to observe our consumption levels, both as a society, and as an individual.
               A man of few words, and not one to give in to banter or futile ‘time-pass’, he dedicated most of his time in the pursuit of his varied passions – all through his work. This quality of his was most evident on field trips. After walking in the Himalayan landscapes for hours, he would announce a lunch break of 10 minutes and if we had the energy to protest, he would generously extend it to 15. While most of us utilized that time either eating leisurely or just lying peacefully under the clear skies, he would be done with his meal of one sandwich in a couple of minutes and set off immediately to wander around with his binoculars waiting for his young students to revive.
               Although no one said it in front of him, Sir was not spared the jibes of 'sustainable living' and 'watching his consumption levels' by seeing how little he actually needed even to eat. Even after crossing 65 years, his energy and stamina was commendable. Till date, we cannot discuss or read anything related to Ecology without Sir's memory fleeting by.
Contact  Sharmila Deo at

(For a full copy of the PA Update please write to me at
Also check

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Kabir-nama 42

Papa bhi...TV bhi

It's past 10 pm and we're trying to get Kabir into bed to sleep. The threatening and the sweet talk's not working so we trying some emotional blackmail.

Me: Kabir, Papa ke saath aake so jao
Kabir: TV dekhne ke baad aata na
Me: Papa ko koi bhi pyaru nahin karta
Kabir: Nahin, mein karta na, TV dekhne ke baad
Latha: Kabir, Papa jyada important hai ki TV jyada important hai
Kabir: TV bhi important hai mama - Dono important hai...


Here is the full list of contents of the new issue of the PA Update. IF you would like to receive the entire 24 page newsletter as a pdf file, please write to me at

News and Information from protected areas in India and South Asia

Vol. XX, No. 1
February 2014 (No. 107)

The perils and promise of mass-scale bird watching

- DRDO Missile Test Range proposed within Krishna WLS

- Tiger photographed in Dibang WLS

- Three rhino poachers held at Rajiv Gandhi (Orang) National Park
- FD dismisses NFR’s proposal for iron pillars inside Gibbon WLS to prevent accidents with elephants

- Mhadei Water Dispute Tribunal visits the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary

- Villagers inside GHNP surrender guns, promise to protect wildlife

- Proposal for Wesley Bird Sanctuary
- FD needs veterinarians with expertise in handling wild animals

- Fear of foot-and-mouth disease epidemic in wildlife in Kerala

- FD alleges that villagers nearly killed two tigers when Pench TR staff was away on election duty

- Tadoba Andhari TR leopards to be radio-collared to track them, prevent human-animal conflict
- Increased camera fees raises over Rs. 6 lakh for Tadoba Andhari TR
- Cattle grazing poses threat to newly notified Navegaon-Nagzira TR: FD

- Fisherman gunned down in a mid sea gun battle at Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary
- Villagers from the Sunabeda WLS take stand against Maoists
- Odisha proposes to shrink Satkosia TR
- 32 families relocated from the core zone of Similipal TR

- Fossil National Park proposed in Lapthal in Pithoragarh district

- Centre releases first ever financial sanction of Rs. 24 lakh for Amangarh TR

- Authorities arrest 45 involved in wildlife smuggling in border areas of West Bengal


- MoEF directs GIB range states to have recovery plan; Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat ready with the draft

- Dugarajapatnam port threat to the Pulicat Lake
- Flamingo festival at Pulicat

- Flamingoes at Carambolim Lake after five years

- No Greater Flamingos in the Great Rann of Kutch this season

- Farmers around Bhoj wetlands give up chemical agriculture

- Three month bird survey in Sanjay Gandhi National Park
- Opposition to research project on forest owlets near Melghat TR; other researchers back the project

- Poaching incidents in Chilika

- NGT asks Uttar Pradesh to fix ESZ around Okhla Bird Sanctuary

- Official circulars/ guidelines related to applicability of Forest Rights Act in PAs

- Community Forest Rights (CFRs) rejected in Melghat TR

- Gram sabhas stop FD from clear felling forests in vicinity of Jaldapara WLS
- First gram sabhas formed in Sunderbans TR


Remembering Prakash Gole


Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction


Protected Area Update
Vol. XX, No. 1, February 2014 (No. 107)
Editor: Pankaj Sekhsaria
Editorial Assistance: Reshma Jathar, Anuradha Arjunwadkar
Illustrations: Madhuvanti Anantharajan, Peeyush Sekhsaria
Produced by The Documentation and Outreach Centre
Apartment 5, Shri Dutta Krupa, 908 Deccan Gymkhana, Pune 411004, Maharashtra, India. Tel/Fax: 020 – 25654239. Email:

Publication of the PA Update has been supported by

- Foundation for Ecological Security (FES)
- Duleep Matthai Nature Conservation Trust, C/o FES
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) - India
- Bombay Natural History Society
- Action Aid India
- Donations from a number of individual supporters

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ikkat - At daram in Hyderabad


Ikkat or tie & dye is one of the best known and considerably complex traditions in weaving - something that the Nalgonda belt in Andhra Pradesh is quite famous for. The process involves elaborate calculations and markings on the yarn followed by different stages of dyeing to finally get the complex and beautiful patterns that the tradition is well known for. Here are some pictures a trip a couple of years ago to the village of Kunthlagudem in Nalgonda

the weftthe weft to the left. the warp has been laid out for marking and tying to the right
the weaver works on the weft as the warp is stretched across the length of the house

The state of Wildlife in North-east India - Review in Frontline

A habitat in danger

A guide to wildlife conservation in north-eastern India in the midst of insurgency, increasing immigration, and encroachment. By A.J.T. JOHNSINGH

NORTH-EASTERN India, at the confluence of the Indo-Malayan, Indo-Chinese, Palearctic and Indian biogeographic realms, is famous for its varied and rich biological and ecological values. It comprises the “Seven Sister States” of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and the Himalayan State of Sikkim. The region can be physiographically categorised into the eastern Himalaya and north-eastern hills, and the Brahmaputra and Barak valley plains. It is inhabited by nearly 160 Scheduled Tribes, speaking about 220 languages. Faced with problems of insurgency, increasing immigration and growing encroachment, the wildlife and the habitat of this region are in immense danger.
The State of Wildlife in North-east India, 1996–2011: A Compilation of News from the Protected Area Update, edited by Pankaj Sekhsaria who has been working with Kalpavriksh, and published by Foundation for Ecological Security, strives to give information on developments related to wildlife conservation in north-eastern India. For 17 years and running, the Protected Area Update (PAU) has studiously presented a consolidated account of India’s wildlife and protected area (PA) network. Based almost entirely on what the English media in India report on wildlife, it is a huge, valuable database with nearly 4,000 stories and news reports.
The news reports on north-eastern India have broadly ranged from those covering unfortunate and unexpected events involving armymen on hunting and wildlife souvenir collection expeditions, and tragic incidents of wild elephants killing about 260 people in Assam since 2001 and of 280 elephants dying mostly on account of human retaliation to ceremonial developments in the cause of wildlife protection.
Section I contains regional news, with reports on attempts to form an inter-State biosphere reserve, elephant and gibbon conservation, tourism, funds released for various conservation work, encroachment (which is a humongous problem), and population estimation of large mammals (which is a usually a hugely flawed conservation endeavour in the country). The table “Population Census of Important Wild Animals for the years 1997 and 2002” is full of mistakes; it lists 1,607 rhinos in Arunachal Pradesh and 5,246 in Assam with a note below saying that the count is only for the Namdapha Tiger Reserve, which is in Arunachal Pradesh. The fact is that the total rhino population in the country is less than 3,000. There is no information on leopards in Manipur, Meghalaya and Sikkim.
Mention has been made of Aparajita Datta, a former student of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and currently a scientist of the Mysore-based Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF). She heads the conservation programmes in north-eastern India and was the recipient of the 2009 Women of Discovery Award.
To get the best out of this book, one has to read through Section 2 (“Analysis and Perspectives”), which contains seven well-written articles. Mehak Siddiqui and Rajesh Reddi inform us that of the 516 news reports about the north-eastern region, Assam got the maximum coverage (404) and Tripura the least (4). Of the 516 stories, 275 were about five protected areas, all from Assam, and 138 (27 per cent) were on the world-famous Kaziranga Tiger Reserve. Many news items about Kaziranga were related to poaching, flooding and tourism. It cannot be denied that Kaziranga is the best in terms of conservation with its valiant guards protecting the rhinos and other wildlife at a time when the government is unable to keep away encroachers.
Sonali Ghosh, a young forest officer from the WII with a Ph.D. (on the fascinating topic of the Indo-Bhutan Manas landscape) from Aberystywth University, United Kingdom, writes about the importance of ‘bush meat’ (a term used in Africa) in the lives of the local people and explains how the wildlife rescue and rehabilitation programme could take off successfully.
Yashveer Bhatnagar, a student of WII and who now heads the snow leopard programme in India under the aegis of the NCF, writes about the potential for snow leopard conservation in Sikkim and Arunachal Himalaya. He believes that tigers and snow leopards could occasionally be coming face to face in the upper reaches of the Dihang Dibang Biosphere Reserve and Namdapha Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh, and concludes that the large free-ranging dog population maintained by the army is a serious threat to wildlife, especially the snow leopard. Defence forces do and can play a vital role in promoting snow leopard conservation. Anwaruddin Choudhury, who knows more about north-eastern India than anyone else in the country, has written about Karbi Anglong, which he rightly calls ‘the little-known wilderness’ in Assam. While carrying out his surveys in the early 1990s, Anwaruddin found the area to be extremely rich in wildlife. In a 10 square kilometre area in the Dhansiri forests, he saw evidence of a pair of tigers and a grown-up cub. He is worried about the future of Karbi Anglong because of the growing militancy, encroachment and rampant poaching.
The association of Nimesh Ved with Samrakshan Trust from 2002 to 2010 gave him splendid opportunities to understand the Garo hills. He rightly observes that the greatest threat to the area comes from coal mining and monoculture plantations. Poaching and tree-felling are also widely prevalent.
Neeraj Vagholikar of Kalpavriksh, who has closely tracked environmental governance issues with respect to large dams in north-eastern India since 2001, laments that the government has taken a casual approach to wildlife conservation by approving all hydel projects. To save prime protected areas, endangered species like river dolphins should be taken care of, he says. And to ensure the livelihood of the people living downstream of the proposed dams, sincere and sustained efforts should be made to check the planning and construction of ecologically damaging and unsustainable dams in the eastern Himalaya.
Neema Pathak Broome, a member of Kalpavriksh who has been championing the cause of community conservation through research, documentation and community mobilisation, writes that community conserved areas have emerged as a powerful new concept in the global conservation discourse. She gives several examples of such areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. The progress of community conserved areas in the north-eastern region, according to her, is primarily because of a higher degree of tenure security as compared to other regions in the country. She strongly and rightly believes that efforts should be taken to ensure that the existing territories are not alienated from the community in the name of development projects or creation of PAs. She believes that the tenure can be strengthened by the implementation of Scheduled Tribes and other Forest Dwellers Recognition of Forest Rights Act 2006.
The book also features an article on the statistical overview of PAs in India, with State-wise data and details of funds released under Centrally sponsored schemes such as Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats, Project Tiger and Project Elephant. India with a large human and cattle population has established 664 PAs extending over 1,58,508 sq. km.—4.83 per cent of its total geographic area. There are 99 national parks, 516 wildlife sanctuaries, 42 conservation reserves and seven community reserves. Thirty-nine tiger reserves and 28 elephant reserves have also been designated. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation has designated five protected areas as world heritage sites. Institutions and, if possible, individuals interested in wildlife conservation, should possess a copy of this book.
A.J.T. Johnsingh is with the Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore and WWF-India.