Published: Sunday 15 July 2001

Indian salamander

The threat to our environment and endangered species is a matter of grave concern (Scared to Leap, Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 1; May 31). Among all the animal species, the amphibians are given least attention from the point of study and conservation.

The Himalayan newt (Trilototriton verrucosus) or the Indian salamander is an endemic species. It is the only representative of the order 'Urodela' in India. In Darjeeling district it has a strong population and to protect this species the government has declared a special sanctuary known as "Jorepokhni Salamander Wildlife Sanctuary" in the year 1989, which spreads over an area of 0.04 sq km, making it probably the smallest sanctuary in India.

The idea is to protect these rare species of amphibians. But due to the West Bengal forest department's policy of declaring the sanctuary open to tourists in the name of promoting ecotourism, the breeding ground for this endangered species is depleting thereby jeopardising conservation efforts....

Taxpayers' money

I strongly disagree with Eugene W Myers' remarks that "We don't take money from the public... no obligation to divulge our result gratis" (Genomics could help cure cancer, Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 2; Jun 15). How can he make such unethical and anti-people remarks!

Most of the research work and infrastructure in the country has been either directly or indirectly subsidised by the government, which is in turn the money of taxpayers.

Myers view exposes the real interest of industry -- they foresee a huge billion dollar market for genetically engineered medicine. In the name of curing diseases, they are squeezing profits from the taxpayers pocket. With the recent controversy of cheap anti- aids drugs, the present international patent law and trips need to be reevaluated....


The Hoogly district administration has hacked down a huge banyan tree planted some 400 years ago by Dutch colonial rulers. The tree was felled in the Imambara hospital premises in Chinsurah for paving a new zilla parishad building. There is no dearth of zilla parishad buildings in Chinsurah and therefore local people and environmental groups cannot find any justification for uprooting such old trees. The Friends of Trees, an ecofriendly organisation, lodged a complaint with the district collector. However, no action has been initiated on his part....

Dream ride

The article, "Dream ride on Skybus" ( Down To Earth , Vol 10, No 1; May 31) is as simple as a fairy tale. The estimate of "time of construction" (two years or so) may be true in the outskirts of a city but not in metros.

It is also to be seen that the project does not increase noise pollution and air pollution. As the Skybus concept is a novel proposal, a workshop should be organised to know the views of the experts. If the proposal is found to be too costly and also hazardous it should not be allowed to roll....


This refers to the item "Biotech Compensation" ( Down To Earth , Vol 9, No 24; May 15). Your brief news item does not fully report the judge's conclusions in deciding the case, nor has it reported the matter fairly.

What Judge W Andrew MacKay wrote in his judgement is that the concentration or extent of the amount of canola seeds in the farmer's fields could not be explained merely by cross-pollination and the spread of seeds from nearby fields and passing trucks, as argued in the farmer's defence....

Shifting agriculture

This is with reference to the article on shifting agriculture on the hillsides ( Down To Earth , Vol 10, No 1; May 31). Agroforestry scientists are veering to the view that shifting cultivation is one of the most sophisticated agroforestry systems being practised in South East Asia, the Pacific islands, Latin America and Africa.

Indeed the only concern was that with the cycle of rotation being reduced from 10-15 years to 4-5 years due to various reasons, the system would be non-sustainable. But incorporation of fast growing leguminous species like Sesbania or non-leguminous nitrogen fixing species like Alders in the form of' improved fallows' could be the ultimate solution....

Violating a sanctuary

Eyebrows have been raised over the laying of a road from Thorapalli to the Good Shepherd farm and the Naidu estate through the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary area. The road is being laid by the forest department for the benefit of these private parties.

As per the Supreme Court's orders there should not be a saw mill near a wildlife sanctuary, but there are as many as three saw mills in Gudalur alone, which is very close to the park.

Besides this, the Good Shepherd people are already facing charges for polluting the Moyar river by washing the clothes of their boarders. The river runs through the Mudumalai and Bandhipur National Parks.

The Tamil Nadu Green Movement activists have raised the issue and are fighting to stop such indiscriminate activities....

Traffic chaos

A surge in number of cars and as many bumpers on the roads has led to the slowing down of traffic on the Marine Drive, right up to Bandra Linking Road. There are bottlenecks at each and every junction. Is this due to more citizens are using their vehicles instead of depending upon taxis?

Earlier, motorbikes and scooters were on the Marine Drive Promenade, scaring away all those who take their daily walk, between 6 am and 8 am.

The slowing down of traffic and the idling of vehicles is causing much smoke and emissions. This has made Mumbai a smog filled city. Besides pollution, this slow moving traffic causes much aggravation to the drivers and passengers, whose patience is always tested. The traffic police can be seen trying their best, but in vain.

It seems that the increase of vehicles has reached levels similar to that in cities like, Jakarta and Bangkok.

Drastic steps must be taken immediately or the situation in Mumbai will go out of control....

Ranid species

A frog mentioned on page 26 of Down To Earth , May 31, 2001 issue as belonging to the rhacophirade family beongs instead to the ranid species. The error is regretted....

Disciplinary action

This is with reference to the article "Wildlife Mismanaged" ( Down To Earth , Vol 10, No 1; May 31). I fully share the concern of the authors that animals housed in our zoos should be given adequate care, and wherever animal deaths occur due to the callous attitude of the authorities, stringent disciplinary action should be taken against them. Moreover, wherever financial resources are a constraint for the proper upkeep of these animals, alternative mechanisms, like corporate sponsorship, revising the entry fees, involving NGOs and other stakeholders needs to be devised. Considering the vital role zoos play in nature awareness, education and recreation, this would be a more positive step compared to the alternative of totally phasing them out, as suggested by the authors.

It is high time that all of us including community leaders, NGOs, scientists, academicians and others join hands to face the commercial and developmental threats to our protected areas. This would be a more constructive exercise, rather than washing dirty linen in public....


Project Tiger has saved Indian tigers from the verge of extinction. According to the 1991census, the tiger population is between 3,000-3,500 and in Uttar Pradesh alone it is about 475.

In order to govern all the national parks and sanctuaries under one central cover, the Central Zoo Authority (CZA), was established in 1990. According to CZA, one sanctuary/zoological park should have maximum 10 carnivorous and 20 herbivorous animals. Nandan Kanan is a very prestigious wildlife sanctuary. It had 56 tigers before the death of 12 tigers. It is an example of mismanagement on the part of officers and employees. In Nandan Kanan, 32 cubs were born in the past five years but only six survived which is quite shameful given that the morbidity rate is at 15-20 per cent.

The success of these projects largely rests on the efficiency of the management of these parks and sanctuaries. The need of the hour is to chalk out a holistic approach to tackle the mismanagement of these animal reserves....

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