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NatureNews

May 4, 2007


WELCOME to NatureNews from the Library & Documentation Centre, WWF-India, New Delhi.

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NEWS

Climate Change & Energy

Coping with climate change. From the Himalayas to the Amazon, eleven of the world's greatest natural wonders face destruction if the climate continues to warm up at the current rate, warns WWF in its latest release on the devastating impacts of global warming and the damage it can cause to the world's natural wonders. And two of the eleven wonders -- the Himalayas and Sunderbans in the Indian subcontinent -- too figure on the list. The list released by WWF also details the work being undertaken in each of the regions to reduce the damaging impacts of climate change. According to WWF, the Himalayas -- which contribute to the water supply of millions of people, feeding seven of Asia's great rivers -- are threatened due to melting glaciers that are receding at an average of 10 to 15 metres per year while the Sunderbans, on the other hand, face threats from the increase in sea levels. The Sunderbans are the only mangrove tiger habitat and support the largest tiger population in the world. "We continue to put pressure on the Government to make meaningful cuts in heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions. We are also working on adaptation strategies to offer protection to some of the world's natural wonders as well as the livelihoods of the people who live there,'' says Ravi Singh, Secretary-General and Chief Executive Officer of WWF-India. WWF, he adds, is actively working in both the Himalayas and the Sunderbans with local communities, policy makers and other stakeholders to study and assess the impact of climate change in the region through climate witness and impact assessment programmes. For more: http://www.hindu.com/2007/04/17/stories/2007041701100200.htm

US ‘biggest culprit’ of climate change: WWF. The United States, the world’s top belcher of greenhouse gas emissions, is “the biggest culprit” of climate change, the WWF said, urging Washington to take swift action against global warming. “They are the biggest culprit and they are the biggest offender of climate,” said Stephan Singer, head of the environmental group WWF’s climate change policy unit. “The United States should take climate change seriously,” Singer told reporters in Bangkok, where scientists around the world are attending the week-long session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN’s leading authority on global warming. While accusing the US of “ignoring science” on global warming, the WWF still urged Washington to lead the world in combating climate change. “What’s happening in the United States is important because it is still the largest emitter” of greenhouse gas, said Hans Verolme, director of WWF’s global climate change program. “The United States should take on economy-wise carbon reduction targets,” Verolme said. The US, the world’s biggest economy, consumes around a quarter of global energy and causes nearly 30 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. For more: http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=54220


U.N. findings on costs of fighting global warming. Following are the main findings in a report by the U.N. climate panel issued in Bangkok . The survey by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) looks at the costs of slowing climate change and the tools available for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC report is the third of four this year in a review that will guide government policymakers. The IPCC draws on the work of 2,500 scientists from more than 130 countries and last issued reports in 2001. For more: http://www.upi.com/NewsTrack/Science/2007/05/04/panel_says_emissions_must_be_stopped_now/

Nuclear industry welcomes climate report backing. The world nuclear power industry welcomed the tacit backing given to their technology by some of the world's top scientists and economists in the latest analysis of the climate change crisis. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meeting in Bangkok said tackling global warming was both technologically and financially feasible as long as action was taken promptly, and that nuclear power could be in the arsenal. "It is common sense. What else is there for most of electricity generation that is carbon free," Ian Hore-Lacy of the World Nuclear Association said. "If you have a major technology that is capable of being deployed on a larger scale than now that emits no carbon, you don't need a Phd (doctorate) to work out that it has got an awful lot of potential," he told Reuters in London. For more: http://uk.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUKL0473076220070504

CII, WWF launch carbon disclosure project in India. In an initiative to enable companies to better estimate their Green House Gas (GHG) emission, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and World Wildlife Fund launched the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) in India that will tap at least 100 listed companies this year. Keeping in view the concerns of global warming, CII felt the need to foray into Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and has joined hands with CDP, which has already attracted the support of 225 investment institutions globally. "In India, there are eight companies which have responded to CDP, including big names such as Tata Steel, State Bank of India, Hindustan Lever Limited, National Thermal Power, ITC and Infosys," CDP's Chief Operating Officer Paul Simpson told media persons. For more: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/ET_Cetera/CII_WWF_launch_carbon_disclosure_project_in_India/articleshow/2005317.cms

Marine & Oceans

Rare Irrawaddy Dolphins in Palawan face extinction. Palawan is the country's last habitat of the rare Irrawaddy Dolphins, but its population in the wild is fast decreasing due to relentless fishing activities. A report of the WWF-Philippines said that 25 years after being discovered, the Irrawaddy Dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) in the Malampaya Sound in Taytay, Palawan are "hanging on for dear life." Despite the efforts of WWF personnel to conserve the sea mammal, numerous dolphins have continued to die yearly because of their vulnerability to human activities. From May to August alone last year, five dolphins drowned as by catch, all were entangled in a wide range of fishing gear--from purse seine nets to crab pots. Dolphins belong to the Mammalian Order Cetacea, which means that every so often, they still need to resurface for air. Two have already died in early months of 2007. "The sheer saturation of these traps is the greatest threat to the Irrawaddy Dolphins' survival," says WWF Mavic Matillano, WWF project manager in the area. From the initial population of 77, Matillano revealed the current number of dolphins have gone down to 47. For more: http://www.bayanihan.org/html/article.php/20070413125517043

Orissa turtles face survival threat. Olive Ridley sea turtles will never have a say in the matter even if it involves their survival. These turtles, killed in thousands every year along the Orissa coast by illegal fishing trawlers, might now find their centuries-old affair with Orissa ending. Korean steel major POSCO plans to set up a captive port at Jatadhari mouth just 12 kilometres from the port at Paradeep and turtle lovers feel it could be the final blow to the endangered creatures. ''We have lost major turtle nesting beaches in Gahirmatha just because of one port and that is Paradeep port and if the POSCO project also comes it will add to this problem? And ultimately we will lose whatever little nesting space which we still have in the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary,'' said Biswajit Mohanty, Coordinator, Operation Kachchapa. For more: http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/story.aspx?id=NEWEN20070009572


Forest & Biodiversity

The Capital's greens are in the red as never before. Cutting down healthy and unmarked trees, damaging others by exposing their roots or attacking their barks and not managing to re-locate large trees, Delhi's greens probably were never so severely under threat as now, reveals a new tree audit conducted to assess the state of greens in the Capital in the wake of ongoing and planned development works. Details of the audit inspection would be submitted to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit soon to demand immediate action for protection of the Capital's green cover. The audit points to discrepancies between the Government's tree map and ground realities relating to the number of trees affected and says that of the 688 to-be-audited trees mentioned in official records submitted by the Indian Institute of Technology, 102 are to be felled and 347 to be transplanted, while the others would remain unaffected. For more: http://www.hindu.com/2007/04/29/stories/2007042918960100.htm

Let forest panel work but we have final say: SC. With about 300 development projects of “national importance” stalled because of the non-constitution of the Forest Advisory Committee, the Supreme Court finally allowed the functioning of the existing FAC “with utmost urgency.” But the directive from the bench, headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, came with a rider — all fresh cases examined by the FAC will be considered by the SC-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC). Then, a final nod will come from the apex court based on the CEC’s recommendations, said the bench also comprising Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice S H Kapadia. This order came in the face of strong criticism by Additional Solicitor General Vikas Singh who questioned the court’s decision to decide on clearances in forest and environment matters. “There is no provision in the Constitution for a judicial emergency, where courts should decide such matters,” he said. “Even in a situation of Emergency in a democracy, it’s the Centre which takes over the functioning of the state’s administration,” he argued. For more: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/29551.html


Wildlife & Endangered Species

Gujarat appoints permanent panel to protect Asiatic lions. Following the poaching of Asiatic lions in their only abode, the Gir sanctuary in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat, the State Government has appointed a permanent 10-member committee of experts for the conservation of the endangered species. The State committee comes close on the heels of the Centre appointing one. The three-member Central committee arrived in Gujarat and is expected to submit its report in a month. The team inspected the carcass of a lion recovered in the Babariya range, questioned the settlers in the sanctuary and held discussions with the forest officials. The State committee to be headed by the Principal Secretary in the Environment and Forest department, P. N. Roy Choudhury, would keep reviewing the security systems from time to time and recommend necessary measures. For more: http://www.hindu.com/2007/04/18/stories/2007041800720900.htm

WWF zooms in on Red Panda. The WWF is determined to save the Red Panda from the brink of extinction. The highly endangered species, found in the Himalayan region, is being treated as a top priority by the wildlife conservation organisation. As many as 30 species from all over the globe were currently in the priority list of WWF, said Associate Director (Areas India) Tariq Aziz. The organisation devotes extra resources on these species and brings them to the attention of the global community. The Red Pandas, also called “Hunho” or “Firefox” in Chinese, were found only in the Himalayan region between 2,200 and 4,800 metres in Nepal, Bhutan, India and China. A preeminent species of this region, Red Panda is the state animal of Sikkim and the mascot of the International Tea Festival in Darjeeling. For more: http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/StoryPage.aspx?id=bddaf78f-e1eb-4972-a5f0-d705d3dc5e7a&&Headline=WWF+zooms+in+on+Red+Panda

Amur tiger back from the brink. After a century in which its numbers have dwindled to the point of extinction, the Amur tiger, the largest cat in the world, has made an improbable recovery. According to WWF, the tiger's population is at its highest level for 100 years. The latest census of the tiger, which hides in an isolated region near the Chinese border, shows there are between 480 and 520 animals surviving in the wild. In the 1940s the sub-species had nearly died out, with around 40 tigers left. Most experts put its chances of survival as little higher than the dodo's. Yuri Darman, head of WWF Russia's far-east office, said the tiger's comeback was good news. But he warned that the species remained critically endangered and was at imminent risk if China succeeded in lifting the global ban on tiger products at the Global Tiger Forum in Kathmandu. For more: http://www.hindu.com/2007/04/16/stories/2007041600872000.htm


WWF Official Says Tiger Habitat in Nepal Shrinking. Director of the Global Species Programme of the WWF International, Dr Sue Liiberman, warned that the shrinkage of tiger habitat was a "real and the biggest" challenge for Nepal. "Just like other countries where tigers are found, Nepal is also suffering from destruction of tiger habitats and people's encroachment in the wildlife areas," she told this daily. Liberman is currently in Kathmandu to attend the International Tiger Symposium. "Though Nepal's efforts in the conservation of tigers are appreciable, it is yet to come up with an up-to-date statistics of tigers," she said, adding that Nepal should produce better results in the field of tiger conservation. According to government officials, there are 350 to 370 tigers in Nepal as per the 2000 census. For more: http://www.thehimalayantimes.com/fullstory.asp?filename=aFanata0vcqzpa5a3Wa0ra.axamal&folder=aHaoamW&Name=Home&dtSiteDate=20070418

Chinese against ban on tiger meat. International conservation experts who cry foul about China’s inability to stop the eating of tiger meat and bones are now faced with a new challenge. There is a rising wave of public opinion, probably encouraged by some official agencies, to open up the trade in tiger parts. The biggest argument made for them is finances. Chinese wildlife parks have produced over 5,000 captively-bred tigers and now they have run out of money. Sale of tiger parts including meat in special restaurants and bones that go into traditional Chinese medicine bring in huge sums of money for “private tiger breeders’’ that abound in China. “We cannot afford to raise the tigers, and we are very short of money now,” says Liu Dan, chief engineer of the Hengdaohezi Feline Breeding Centre in northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, regarded as the world’s largest breeding base for Siberian tigers. He wants the ban on trade in tiger parts to be lifted so that he can raise funds for the park. For more: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Chinese_against_ban_on_tiger_meat/articleshow/1977053.cms

The death Knell. Till last year, the Kaziranga National Park had reason to be proud. The number of rhinoceroses were increasing and poaching had declined phenomenally. In fact, as Assam’s Forest and Environment Minister Rockybul Hussain recently claimed in the Assembly, the number of rhinos killed by poachers hadn’t reached double figure since 1998. Now it might be time to worry again. As many as six rhinos have been poached in less than four months, and at this rate, the World Heritage site could be short of 18 rhinos by year-end. “Our men have been doing their best despite the staff shortage,” says Mohan Chandra Malakar, Assam’s Chief Wildlife Warden and Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife). While the number of rhinos has been rising at an astonishing pace, the park is facing severe manpower shortage. Seven or eight years ago, when the park was spread over 430 sq km, it had a sanctioned staff strength of 487. Today, when the park area has more than doubled at over 1,000 sq km after six new portions were added, the team strength has reduced to 376. For more: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/29561.html

Eight tigers go missing from Ranthambhore park when everyone’s watching. Tigers have vanished from the Ranthambhore national park again, this time eight of them between August 2005 and October 2006. This is the same period in which, after an investigation by The Indian Express first highlighted the crisis of the missing tiger in national parks across the country, several steps were taken by both the Centre and the state government. The Prime Minister intervened, a Tiger Task Force was set up, the Supreme Court asked the CBI to probe all poaching cases, a Wildlife Crime Bureau was approved and a comprehensive tiger census is under way. In fact, the startling discovery of new missing tigers from perhaps the most well-known national park in the country is based on evidence gathered as part of the census exercise. For more: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/29029.html

Census may reveal rise in elephant population in north Bengal. Wildlife officials believe that the four-day elephant census will reveal a considerable increase in population in north Bengal where the elephant-human conflict is among the highest in the country. The last census in 2005 estimated the population at between 300 and 350, while it was around 280 in the one carried out two years earlier. "We have been monitoring the situation through the year and find new recruits to the population. Though we have lost a few elephants due to natural deaths and collision with trains, the overall numbers should be more than that in the last census estimates," State's Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Ujjal Bhattacharjee said. The census area extends from the eastern border of Nepal to Assam with Bhutan in the north. The census workers, divided into about 200 teams, identified nearly 600 blocks recognised as the elephants' preferred zones across grasslands, forests and riverbeds and positioned themselves along known corridors through which the herds move, to prevent double counting, Mr. Bhattacharjee said. For more: http://www.hindu.com/2007/04/27/stories/2007042718851400.htm


Wetlands, Rivers & Water

Delhi is major contributor of pollution in Yamuna. The Capital is the major contributor of pollution in the Yamuna followed by Agra, Mathur-Vrindavan and Etawah, according to the Central Pollution Control Board's latest report. The report, "Water Quality Status of Yamuna River", covers the findings of monitoring studies undertaken between 1999 and 2005 and assumes significance because of the fact that this is the first time that a government agency has analysed and identified the cities contributing to causing the maximum pollution in the largest tributary of the holy river Ganga. Delhi contributes around 3,167 MLD (million litres per day) of sewage through 22 major drains joining the Yamuna. The report states that the 22 km long Delhi stretch is severely polluted. For more: http://www.hindu.com/2007/04/17/stories/2007041707870500.htm

Resident devises strategy to ‘turn around’ Yamuna’s ecosystem. A man, trained in turning around sick companies, has taken up the challenge to turn around the state of river Yamuna. Anand Arya, a concerned Delhiite, who runs a consultant company to devise strategies to ‘turn around’ ailing companies, has devised a simple strategy to protecting the ecosystem of Yamuna. Arya, an avid birdwatcher since the past three decades, recently met the Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), mooting a proposal to notify the 22 km between Wazirabad and Okhla as protected area with river zone regulations, on the lines of coastal zone regulations. He has also posted a petition online, and along with a group of supporters, has amassed 400 signatures. “This is a very simple plan and fits into the mandate of the MoEF. I am proposing that Oakhla Bird Park, a notified stretch, be made a protected area with fencing. Within this area, activities like trekking, walks, boating and studying the river ecosystem can be allowed. Another part of the plan is that encroachments be banned on the banks, which is in cognisance of the High Court order in 2005,” he says. Arya’s proposal works within the idea of the Ramsar Convention for Wetlands, which implies maintaining a notified high international standard for wetlands. For more: http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=234177


Birds

`Tigers of the sky' abandon Delhi. Nicknamed "tigers of the sky", kites are fast abandoning Delhi's skyline driven out by rapid urbanisation and increasing vehicular population. The Capital's kite population has dipped from 20 to 25 nesting pairs across 200 acres in 1973 to four to five nesting in the same area now, say ornithologists. Much like vultures, kites are scavengers and also feed on rodents. "With the increase in human population, Delhi has lost much of its green cover and its bird population too. Also, high vehicle population has made it difficult for the kites to swoop and pick up food, forcing them out of the city," says Delhi Zoo curator A.K. Malhotra. Having studied the bird for several decades, Dr. Malhotra has published his research, "Tigers of the Sky -- Pariah Kite", to document the disappearance of these birds from the Capital. His book looks into the physical features, breeding biology, growth and development and reproductive success. For more: http://www.hindu.com/2007/04/18/stories/2007041809150200.htm


Vulture conservation begins in Changa Manga. The WWF-Pakistan launched a Vulture Restoration-Conservation Project in collaboration with the Punjab Wildlife and Parks Department at Changa Manga. The Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi, (UAE) has provided financial support for the project. The WWF-P has set up phase 1 of a conservation facility for holding safe population and captive breeding of the critically endangered White-backed Vulture (Gyps bengalensis) in Changa Manga. The organisation has brought together ten (7 male and 3 female) captive vultures in one aviary. The facility has been developed and managed to meet the needs of birds and encourage their breeding in future. For more: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007%5C04%5C20%5Cstory_20-4-2007_pg7_50


EVENTS

The Role Of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPS) In Poverty Alleviation And Biodiversity Conservation; 11 - 15 June 2007; Hanoi, Viet Nam; http://www.cifor.cgiar.org/publications/pdf_files/events/Anouncement_24-3-2007.pdf

Third International Green Energy Conference; 18 - 20 June 2007; Västerås, Sweden; http://www.igec.info

GEF biennial international waters conference; 31 July 2007 - 3 August 2007; Cape Town, South Africa; http://www.getf.org/iwc4/index.cfm

World Water Week; 12 - 18 August 2007; Stockholm, Sweden; http://www.worldwaterweek.org

UNFCCC Dialogue And Kyoto Protocol AWG 4; 3 - 7 September 2007; Vienna, Austria; http://www.unfccc.int

WETPOL 2007 – 2nd International Symposium On Wetland Pollutant Dynamics And Control; 16 - 20 September 2007; Tartu, Estonia; http://www.geo.ut.ee/wetpol2007

Ramsar’s 36th Standing Committee Meeting; 25 - 29 February 2008; Gland, Switzerland;

http://www.ramsar.org/meetings.htm


Gita Warrier
Library & Documentation Officer
WWF-India, 172B Lodhi Estate,
New Delhi.


NatureNews

May 18, 2007


WELCOME to NatureNews from the Library & Documentation Centre, WWF-India, New Delhi.

NatureNews is also available on our web site: http://www.wwfindia.org/naturenews

NEWS

Environment - General

India Post unveils stamps on wildlife. India Post has organised a month-long exhibition of postage stamps on wildlife and nature at the National Philatelic Museum in New Delhi. Inaugurating the exhibition, well-known wildlife photographer and environmentalist Mike Pandey said: "It is very heartening that India Post has decided to honour the most vital aspect of our life. We need to sensitise people, especially children, about every creature that exists on our planet. Once we have respect for them, then only we will want them to survive. I think stamps will motivate children to ask questions about various types of animals and birds." For more: http://www.hindu.com/2007/05/16/stories/2007051612950400.htm

Govt [Assam] move to declare Kakoijana as wildlife sanctuary hailed. The Appropriate Technology Mission of Assam, a state level NGO working on the forestation and wildlife protection activities has lauded the maiden decision of the State government to declare the Kakoijana reserve forest in Bongaigaon district as a wildlife sanctuary. In a press release, ATMA stated that the State government vide letter No.FRW-58/99 has declared the Kakoijana reserve forest as a wildlife sanctuary for which the said NGO struggled for a period of 13 years till date. Hence, it has been considered a major achievement of the ATMA, which could undoubtedly inculcate a sense of benevolent approach among the masses towards the forest resources and its endangered wild animals. For more: http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/details.asp?id=may1507\State3


Climate Change & Energy

Proof that Antarctica is in grip of warming. Vast areas of snow in Antarctica melted in 2005 when temperatures warmed up for a week in the summer in a process that may accelerate invisible melting deep beneath the surface, Nasa said. A new analysis of satellite data showed that an area the size of California melted and then re-froze — the most significant thawing in 30 years, the US space agency said. Unlike the Arctic, Antarctica has shown little to no warming in the recent past with the exception of the Antarctic Peninsula, where ice sheets have been breaking apart. Son Nghiem of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California and Konrad Steffen of the University of Colorado in Boulder measured snowfall accumulation and melts in Antarctica from July 1999 through July 2005. They found evidence of melting in several areas, including high elevations and far inland in January of 2005, when temperatures got as high as 5 degrees Celsius. For more: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2055499.cms

Manmohan calls meet to discuss climate change. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh convened a high-level meeting to discuss the implications of the recent international reports on climate change. In less than a year, several policy measures would form a document, which would be included in the Eleventh Plan. The meeting began with the Prime Minister taking stock of what is already known about climate change, both globally and in India. There were two presentations made to him—one by Chairman of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) R K Pachauri and the second by Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests Prodipto Ghosh. The IPCC has come out with three reports this year, explaining the science behind climate change, its observed and forecasted impacts and the mitigation options available with the world. In all the reports, it is observed that a country like India is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of glacial melts, sea-level rise and reduction in agriculture productivity. For more: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/31127.html

Climate change to create one billion refugees: report. Global warming will create at least one billion refugees by 2050 as water shortages and crop failures force people to leave their homes, sparking local wars over access to resources. In its report “Human tide: The real migration crisis”, Christian Aid said that as the developed world was responsible for most of the climate-changing pollution, it should bear the brunt of the cost of helping those worst hit by it—the poor. “We believe that forced migration is now the most urgent threat facing poor people in the developing world,” said lead author John Davison. For more: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/30916.html

One fifth of Amazon rainforest 'savannah by 2099'. Global warming alone will cause an 18 per cent reduction in Amazon tropical rainforest if the most severe scenario projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) becomes reality. The study ― from Brazil's National Institute of Space Research (INPE) and the Institute of Aeronautics and Space ― only considers the effect of climate change on vegetation and not the impact of human deforestation activities. "If we consider human deforestation, the forest loss would be even more severe," says lead researcher Luis Salazar, from the INPE. For more: http://www.scidev.net/content/news/eng/one-fifth-of-amazon-rainforest-savannah-by-2099.cfm?&utm_source=feed-1&utm_medium=rss


Marine & Oceans

700 new creatures found in Antarctica. An astonishing array of wildlife has been unexpectedly found in one of the world’s most hostile environments - the pitch-black, freezing extreme depths of the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica. More than seven hundred creatures completely new to science, ranging from crustaceans and molluscs to carnivorous sponges and free-swimming worms, have been discovered on a series of expeditions exploring the deep waters of the Weddell Sea. No fewer than five-hundred and eighty-five new species of crustacean ~ the family that contains crabs and lobsters at its larger end - were brought to light during three sampling expeditions set up as part of the ANDEEP (Antarctic benthic deep-sea biodiversity) project, carried out by an international team including British scientists, based on the German polar research ship ITALS Polarstern OFFITALS, between 2002 and 2005. For more: http://www.thestatesman.net/page.news.php?clid=8&id=156592&usrsess=1

Are the reefs dying? A tourist surfaces spluttering as water enters his snorkel tube… Pausing to grab some air, he strokes out to the yellow dinghy bobbing on the clear waters of Radical Bay, off Townsville in Queensland. Pointing to the abundant coral reefs below him, concern etched on the lines of his face, he asks the skipper of his tourist yacht, now in the dinghy, “Those corals out there, are they brown naturally or are they dying?” Skipper Grant Lewis says, “Some of these corals are naturally brown, but sure enough there are those that are dying across the reef. They have been for some years now.” South of the country, a few days ago, the Fifth World Science Journalists Conference was grappling with the issue of climate change. In one session, John ‘Charlie’ Veron, eminent Coral Reef Researcher with the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences, described as having spent more time under water than above it, is using hyperboles to articulate his agitation: “We are committing the earth to unrivalled destruction… The Great Barrier Reef is dying. We need to pay immediate attention to it. All these things cannot wait.” If you are on the right wavelength, you can pick up the churning undercurrents of climate change nearly everywhere in Australia: On the radio, television, on a calm seashore, in pubs, among tourists, tour guides, not just with marine researchers and climatologists. Clearly, the continent is concerned about climate change and the far-reaching impact on what it believes is its greatest natural resource — the Great Barrier Reef. Not without reason though. The coral bleaching survey for 2005-2006, published in May 2006, conducted by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority noted: “At the height of summer, sea temperatures were either at or above levels known to cause thermal stress to corals in all regions of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, particularly in the far southern area.” There is now worldwide consensus, in the face of evidence, that high sea temperatures — a fallout of climate change — are responsible for the vast coral bleaching. The report pointed out “At the start of summer, a hot water anomaly developed early and persisted over much of the southern area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. In January… cloud cover over the central and northern Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (led to), cooling water temperatures in this region. However, waters in the southern region continued to warm.” For more: http://www.hindu.com/mag/2007/05/13/stories/2007051350670100.htm


Forest & Biodiversity

Greens concerned over hydel projects in Western Ghats. Conservationists and environmental activists have sounded the alarm on the large-scale destruction of forests expected to take place in the Western Ghats following the Government's decision to launch 61 mini-hydroelectric projects in the region. The Western Ghats Forum for Conservation of Natural Ecosystems (WG-FORCE), Mangalore, headed by Niren Jain, and "Arohana", an organisation dedicated to mountaineering and adventure, headed by G.N. Ashokavardhana, have called for an immediate halt to all projects in the Western Ghats. In a background paper prepared by Mr. Jain and Mr. Ashokavardhana, it is stated that the State Government proposed to establish 258 mini-hydroelectric projects in the State, of which 61 projects will be situated in the dense forests of the Western Ghats. The projects have been entrusted to private companies by the Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Ltd. of the State Government. For more: http://www.hindu.com/2007/05/15/stories/2007051514380300.htm


Pollution

E-waste flood alert sounded. Your sleek and smart mobile phone will be a junk and a major contributor to the electronic waste (e-waste) within four to seven years. By 2015, the e-waste owing to cellular phones in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad will be 71.5 tonnes, says a report prepared by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB). Mobile phones, television sets, personal computers and refrigerators, the four main electronic items used in most households, will account for around 4,000 tonnes of e-waste in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad by 2015, the MPCB has warned. The installed base of cellular phones in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad has increased from 2,153 in 1997 to 8,57,161 in 2006. The yearly addition of cell phones in the market have increased from 3,806 in 1998 to 2,97,600 in 2006. The penetration rate of cell phones has increased 200 times within nine years, the report points out. As against this, the obsolescence rate of cellular phones in India has reduced and ranges from two to four years. For more: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Cities/Pune/E-waste_flood_alert_sounded/articleshow/1999887.cms


Wildlife & Endangered Species

Three Indian species in danger. Ahead of a global meeting on wildlife trade in The Netherlands next month, the World Wide Fund for Nature-International on Wednesday released a list of the world's top ten species most threatened by illegal trade. Three of them - the tiger, the Asian rhinoceros and the elephant -- are from India. Others on the list include porbeagle, spiny dogfish, sawfish, red and pink coral, European eel, great apes and bigleaf mahogany. Urging immediate global action to reduce the threat from trade, WWF-India Chief Executive Officer Ravi Singh said: "Nothing will change unless governments take trade and its impact on conservation and local people's livelihoods seriously." The list has been released ahead of the 14th Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) due from June 3 to 15 in The Hague where delegates from 171 countries are expected to meet. "Some of the species on WWF's top ten priority list are among the most endangered. For example, the tiger, the elephant and the Asian rhino have required constant and urgent action over the past decades, because of the ever-present, pervasive threats to their survival, including poaching and illegal trade. Others, particularly marine species, are on the list because their populations have declined massively in recent years," said Mr. Singh. For more: http://www.hindu.com/2007/05/17/stories/2007051719410300.htm


Top ten threatened species named by WWF. The WWF announced its top ten list for species in need of trade protection ahead of the upcoming Conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in The Hague, The Netherlands. The group says that while the list includes the usual charismatic species like tigers and Asian rhinos, some inconspicuous marine species have been added due to their rapid recent decline as a result of markets demand. "The decisions made at CITES are critically important for species threatened by illegal or unsustainable trade," said Crawford Allan, director, TRAFFIC North America. "The priority species listed here either cannot sustain the current levels of harvest and trade or the illegal trade that continues despite it being banned under CITES. The CITES Conference is an opportunity for the world's governments to do something and the United States has a major role to play in making CITES work." For more: http://news.mongabay.com/2007/0516-wwf.html

Tigers head list of most-traded. The tiger is a species most endangered by illegal international trade, a new report has said. Ahead of next month’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) conference in The Hague, the Netherlands, WWF has released its list of the world's 10 most in-demand species being bought, sold, smuggled, killed or captured for trade purposes. The list comes even as a Chinese delegation is in India to lobby support for its plans to lift a 14-year-old ban on domestic trade in tiger and its derivatives. Tiger farms in China, collectively, house around 5,000 live tigers and the plan is to take that number to 100,000 so that body parts of the big cats can be harvested for commercial use in traditional Chinese medicine. But conservationists, who have formed a coalition of 35 organisations to protest the move, are not buying China's "sell the tiger to save it" argument. "Reopening of tiger trade in China's booming economy will rekindle an enormous demand. The potential size of that market is very worrying," said World Wide Fund for Nature CEO Ravi Singh. For more: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Tigers_head_list_of_most-traded/articleshow/2055739.cms

India opposes Chinese plan to breed tigers for body parts. India has strongly protested China's plans to breed tigers for their body parts saying that it could devastate the rapidly dwindling wild population of the endangered species. In their meeting with an eight-member Chinese delegation of State Forestry Administration (SFA) led by Li Yucai, Environment Ministry officials made it clear that the lifting of ban on trade in Tiger parts would take a toll on the its population by encouraging poaching. The delegation has been seeking Indian support in its plans to lift the ban on trade in tiger products. "They said that they feel the ban on trade would not help in conserving the big cats. However we have made them clear our mind that we disagree with them," said Rajesh Gopal, head of Project Tiger, who also attended the meeting. For more: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2058151.cms

Sariska was just tip of iceberg, admits govt. The tiger remains under severe threat. More than a year after the disappearance of tigers from Sariska became public, the lord of the jungle, a study shows, has vanished from 50% of its historical habitats in Bihar and Rajasthan, and from 30% of its accustomed haunts in central India. Confirmation of the tiger tragedy has been provided by a report prepared by the Wildlife Institute of India for the National Tiger Conservation Authority which has surveyed the presence of the top predator to the taluk-level in areas of its habitat. The grim findings reveal tiger being under stress even in the Shivaliks where it has vanished from 30% of its areas. While WII is going to release a partial tiger census report — estimates for tigers for six states on May 23 — the report it has prepared for the NTCA already outlines the extent of the crisis. "We have done extensive taluk-level study to present a real picture and this will be complemented by an estimate which will be shared as results come in," said Rajesh Gopal, member secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority. For more: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2055731.cms

Asia's last lions. There is a great deal of concern in the international conservation community over the unusually large number of lions dying during recent months in the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and surrounding forests. The reported death of some 18 lions, nearly half of them from poaching, is cause for alarm. Every schoolchild should know that Gir in Gujarat is home to the last surviving population of about 300 free-ranging Asiatic lions, classified as the sub-species Panthera leo persica. Historically, these regal animals ranged from Palestine to Palamau in eastern India but pressure from human activity has confined them to 1,412 square kilometres today. The Nawabs of Junagadh must be given the credit for protecting these lions, starting in the early 20th century. Researchers are worried about the vulnerability of the isolated population of critically endangered Gir lions to extinction. The major threats to the long-term survival of the Asiatic lion come from genetic isolation, which results in unhealthy levels of inbreeding, and from conflicts with people living in the sanctuary area, which mean reprisal killings for livestock sporadically preyed upon by the lions. It is vitally important to protect the Gir lions from epidemic diseases. In 1994, an outbreak of canine distemper in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park killed a third of the 2,500 lions hosted by that vast reserve. For more: http://www.hindu.com/2007/05/15/stories/2007051500901000.htm

3 C’garh habitats in Project Tiger. The Centre has brought three Chhattisgarh tiger habitats—Achanakmar, Sitanadi and Udanti—under Project Tiger. The rising number of tigers and support species of herbivores required for healthy growth of these ecosystems in the three reserves had forced the Centre to take this decision. According to forest officials, Achanakmar has 12 big cats while Udanti has 11 and Sitanadi three. The Achanakmar reserve in Bilaspur district is spread over 550 sq km, Sitanadi in Dhamtari district over 553 sq km, and Udanti in Raipur district over an area of 237 sq km. For more: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/30940.html

Elephant Corridor under scrutiny. Following the reports of tiger deaths in Sariska wildlife sanctuary, the four-day long task of counting the number of elephants present in the states of Jharkhand, Orissa, Chattisgarh and West Bengal, concluded. The census was carried in these states as they make a distinct “Elephant Corridor”, with the animals following the same route of movement through these states for a long time now. The counting was done by forest department officials of all four states, along with a number of non-government organisations associated with wildlife conservation, who had volunteered for the task. With the completion of the counting process, the officials of the four states will be analysing the data, which will finally bring out the nearly exact number of elephants present in these states. “The last time we had an elephant census was back in 2002.During the past five years, there has been quite some change in the behavioural pattern of the elephants. In the last census, we had calculated the presence of around 700 elephants across Jharkhand, Orissa, Chattisgarh and West Bengal. For more: http://www.thestatesman.net/page.arcview.php?clid=2&id=183516&usrsess=1

Snow Leopard project stalled. 'Project Snow Leopard', the environment ministry's innovative conservation project for the high altitude Himalayan landscape, has been stalled by a year with the Planning Commission not allocating any money for it in the 2007-08 budget. The project, breaking from the usual mould of wildlife schemes, envisages using the elusive and endangered high-altitude cat, of which 200-600 specimens are estimated remaining in the wild in India, as a flagship species to work with communities on conservation of the habitat in the higher ranges of five states — Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. But now with the Planning Commission holding back money for the project, the work done by the environment ministry over several years along with the state governments and research organisations will not get translated into action at the field level this year. The environment ministry has set up a steering committee, including senior officials from the Centre as well as the five states, to give impetus to the project. But the Planning Commission, working to revamp the allocation process under the 11th Five-Year Plan for the environment ministry, has put on hold most new projects that were proposed. 'Project Snow Leopard' is one of the casualties. For more: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2039228.cms

Forest Ministry announces inter-State panel to check poaching. The Union Environment and Forests Ministry has announced setting up of an inter-state coordination committee as part of its anti-poaching strategy. Comprising officers from various enforcement agencies and forest divisions, the committee will periodically review poaching problems along the borders. The committee will be set up for better implementation of anti-poaching measures in the sensitive areas around tiger reserves at the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan; Palpur Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh; Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka; Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park in Tamil Nadu; Wyanad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala and Pench Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. For more: http://www.hindu.com/2007/05/16/stories/2007051604630700.htm


Wetlands, Rivers & Water

Wetlands under threat, warns expert. A considerable area of the backwaters in Kerala has been lost due to reclamation for agriculture, mining, urban area development and other activities, a study on the faunal biodiversity of selected wetland ecosystems of Kerala carried out by S. Bijoy Nandan, Reader, Department of Marine Biology, School of Marine Sciences, the Cochin University of Science and Technology, has revealed. The findings of the study, presented at the ongoing Kerala Environment Congress 2007 organised by the Centre for Environment and Development (CED), calls for strict regulations on encroachment and reclamation of wetlands in the State. The study report states that man made and natural calamities such as the tsunami had considerably eroded the biodiversity in the `kayal' and riverine wetlands. Several stretches of the backwaters are polluted by organic and industrial effluents. For more: http://www.hindu.com/2007/05/10/stories/2007051018460300.htm

A river gasps for life. "What makes a river so restful to people is that it doesn’t have any doubt—it is sure to where it is going, and it doesn’t want to go anywhere else," Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Hal Boule once said. This statement, however, no longer holds true as some of the world’s greatest rivers, including the Ganga, are no longer assured of reaching the sea unhindered, says the WWF. Human greed, expanding population and climate change have together ensured that. In the years to come the northern plains, heavily dependent on the Ganga, are likely to face severe water scarcity. Together with the onslaught of industrial and sewage pollutants, the river’s fate stands more or less sealed. "Among the categories dead, dying and threatened, I would put the Ganga in the dying category," says WWF Programme Director Sejal Worah. The other heavyweight to join in the list from the Indian subcontinent is the mighty Indus. The Indus, too, has been the victim of climate change, water extraction and infrastructure development. "In all, poor planning and inadequate protection of natural means have ensured that the world population can no longer assume that water is going to flow forever," WWF says, adding that the world’s water suppliers—rivers-on-every-continent are dying, threatening severe water shortage in the future. For more: http://www.tribuneindia.com/2007/20070520/spectrum/main1.htm

Indian dams spew most methane: Study. If you think large hydro dams are environmentally sound, think again. A recently published study by scientists from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) has revealed that large dams in India are responsible for about a fifth of the country's global warming impact. This estimate by Ivan Lima and colleagues from INPE also reveals that Indian dams are the largest global warming contributors compared to other nations. Himanshu Thakkar, spokesperson for the New Delhi-based South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, said the study estimates that the total methane emissions from India's large dams could be 33.5 million tonnes (MT) per annum. This includes emissions from reservoirs (1.1 MT), spillways (13.2 MT) and turbines of hydropower dams (19.2 MT). According to the study, the methane emission from Indian dams is estimated at 27.86 per cent of the methane emission from all the large dams