Published: Wednesday 15 June 2005

Protected poaching

As a wildlife photographer living at Tala, near the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, I have raised issues like conservation, poaching and park management at a local level. Though poaching in this area can be controlled easily if only the park officials do their job, nobody -- politicians or forest officials -- wants to take on the poachers. Even when there is definite information available, they don't take any strong action.

For instance, last winter specific news came in that a family near Umaria (known for poaching tigers and other animals) had got tiger skins to deliver the next day to a person in Katni. Despite this, officials raided the village without a search warrant and were not allowed by the family to enter. By the time the warrant arrived, the house had been cleaned up, while officials waited outside. This is a typical situation.

In the Bandhavgarh tourism zone, no work has been done for the last five years on habitat management. In the last five years, every director posted here is only concerned with construction activity: pipe culverts or unnecessary digging of waterholes -- some with banks so high that the animals can't drink from there. The ineptness of the park officials in all this is obvious, as can be seen in the illogical discussions during tiger-steering committee meetings, on inbreeding being responsible for tiger deaths in national parks.


Daft document

The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, has nothing whatsoever on ecology ('Hunted', Down To Earth, April 30, 2005). It merely assumes that the same principles that apply in the Great Himalayan National Park should be applied in the Andamans as well.

It does, however, have a lot on regulations. In these chapters, which appear to have been written by persons with no biological training, even researchers are equated with poachers. Hence the problem you highlight.

Foundation for Ecological
Research, Advocacy & Learning
Pondicherry, India

Development runneth over

Despite inherent opportunities in modernising the water paradigm ('Moving nimbly beyond', Down To Earth, April 15, 2005), it's difficult to wean the public from their water wasting habits. An efficient closed loop water system would be totally modern and a model for "overdeveloped" countries to learn from. As a recent graduate of a permaculture design course, I have been awakened to the possibilities available when nutrient loops are closed.

Robert van Creveld

Faulty treatment

We have ruined and finished our sources of fresh water. The condition of the river (a nullah really) in Agra, even near the Taj, is pathetic. The sewage treatment plant (stp) project design itself is faulty. The methods used for tapping river water are such that only 25 per cent of it is treated. Mantola, Agra's biggest drain, straightaway goes into the river. As per a Central Pollution Control Board report, this drain contributes a large portion of biological oxygen demand to the river. What's worse, Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam's treatment plant near Sikandra treats polluted river water and supplies it to the city.

If a study of waterbodies in places like Mumbai or Kolkata were conducted, it would reveal how resources have been plundered and waterbodies destroyed over the years. In European countries, water bodies near cities are preserved so as to serve as tourist attractions and provide a cheaper means of transport. Here we have just turned them into dysfunctional sewers.


No simple answers

There are no grounds ('Capital Drain', Down To Earth, April 30, 2005) for the claim that "In the future, the Yamuna can flow again". The government, and even you, have not analysed and proposed scientific solutions. The subject is complicated and needs scientific studies and the establishment of a knowledge base or community to provide the policy interaction with executive bodies.

We also need to consider the following components: the Yamuna river and people's role in changing it, future pressures and their impact, and finally, ways to deal with the situation. The response should not only offer engineering solutions but manage pressures as well. Further, the Yamuna should be considered part of the environmental system at several spatial levels. Any analysis has to be supported with transparent and participatory system dynamic models.

M C Chaturvedi
New Delhi

Farmers first

Urban consumers -- and the agencies that make water available to them -- do not see that the water has to be made available first to the farmer to grow food crops. Having water to waste, just to be hyper-clean and have antiseptic homes, is pointless. At this rate, soon there will be no food left to clean.

kavita mukhi

As a farmer and a student of environment science I have observed, over the last few years, a lethal cycle between cattle and scavengers. Domestic animals are frequently poisoned for the trade in bone and hide. That is bad enough, but the dead animals are dumped and exposed to scavengers.

So, in turn, eagles, vultures, crows, dogs and jackals get poisoned as well. Extinction of vultures can also be linked to this process. This disturbs the ecological balance and affects all biota directly or indirectly, especially human beings.

At times, these scavengers also become mad and can affect those they attack. Recently, a mad jackal fought with my dog. The dog bit it, and in turn, got several wounds and may die or go mad. What are the possibilities of poison accumulation in the dog's body tissues and at the next trophic levels ? How can we combat such types of poison?

Bijnore, Uttar Pradesh

Indifference rules

The environmental crisis operates on several fronts, from rising dependence on edible oil imports to mining of minerals at the cost of ecology. There is little attention to such issues by the authorities, whether they are elected politicians or bureaucrats. This lack of social commitment -- evident in the haste to negate the verdict of the country's apex court in the Samatha judgement -- is having devastating effects on the nation's greenery and public health.

Muzaffarpur, Bihar...

Just another episode?

The Dharaji incident ('68 drowned', Down To Earth, May 15, 2005) in Madhya Pradesh, shows the utterly callous administrative stance towards the common man. Superficial 'enquiries' apart, this enoromous tragedy will also be brushed aside, while the real culprits of another mass murder go scot-free. This man-made tsunami at Narmada could have been avoided with a sensitive and responsible administration.

Promod Kureel
New Delhi

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Pick of the postbag

Just research?
As someone who has worked in Kudremukh wildlife division (under which falls Kudremukh National Park as well as the Mookambika and Someshwara wildlife sanctuaries), I have seen the local situation at close quarters. Entry of outsiders here should be minimal, as they can easily mislead the poor, illiterate tribal people around wildlife areas.

Secondly, research in wildlife areas
(Hunted, Down To Earth, April 30 th, 2005), requires a permit under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. If Ullas Karanth did not have requisite permits for three years, then how did he and his associates manage to conduct various research activities, including filming?

As the co-opted members of the Central Empowered Committee that visited the park have concluded, Karanth's team caused resentment among the community. The committee's report also points out that the team's work was based on "undue emphasis on conservation activity without being alive to other, larger implications".

This implies that management of all our wildlife areas should have broader parameters beyond research. Moreover, even conservationists need to be more transparent.

Anita Arekal
Deputy conservator, forests
Mangalore division, Karnataka

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