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Environment Minister to meet Western Ghat MPs over ecology

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New Delhi, Aug :Union Environment Minister Anil Dave on Tuesday said he will meet 60 parliamentarians from states in the Western Ghat region following Kasturirangan Committee recommendations on declaring certain areas as ecologically sensitive areas.

“I will meet all MPs from states in Western Ghat region before August 12. We have more than 60 MPs from this region. I have requested all the members to raise their concern,” Dave told the Lok Sabha during question hour.

Kodikunnil Suresh of the Congress said: “The Kasturirangan Committee report recommended that only 37 per cent of the Western Ghats is to be declared as ecologically sensitive as compared to 97 per cent recommended by the Gadgil Committee report earlier”.

The Congress member also said the Western Ghats are the “treasure house of flora and fauna” and that states like Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu “depend a lot on the Western Ghats and its virgin ecosystem.

Dave  stated  that  the efforts taken by the government have increased the number of wild animals there is a  need to avoid conflict between nature, humans and animals. And also said that increase in  agricultural activities in and around forest areas also attract animals.

“It is true when human beings and animals come into contact with each other, there is a conflict,” he added.

Among others A.R. Vanaroja of the AIADMK expressed concern over growing incidents of wild animals coming out of forest into the plains. “This has become a regular phenomenon in the country. Even a few days back, there was a news that a tiger along with its cub entered into a village and settled there,” she said.

Wefornews Bureau

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India

Once in a blue bloom: Kerala’s famed neelakurinji set for rare mass bloom

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Once in a blue bloom

Thiruvananthapuram, July 12 (IANS/Mongabay) Starting late July, the Anamalai hills near Munnar in Kerala will be resplendent, clad in a purplish blue carpet. The famed neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana) will burst into flower – a phenomenon that occurs once in 12 years. Hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to flock to the Munnar hills to behold the spectacle that lasts up until October.

Munnar is home to the highest concentration of neelakurinji plants in the country – spread over 3,000 hectares of rolling hills. Each shrub reproduces once in its life time and dies after flowering. It takes another 12 years for the seeds to sprout again and grow up to 30 to 60 centimetres high, for another glorious bloom.

The neelakurinji belongs to the genus Strobilanthes, which is a tropical plant species found in Asia and Australia. There are about 450 species of Strobilanthes in the world, of which 146 are found in India and of them, about 43, in Kerala.

Image result for neelakurinji strobilanthes kunthiana

Strobilanthes Kunthiana

The blooming of neelakurunji this year has ensured the fourth most important place for the Western Ghats in the Lonely Planet’s 2018 Best in Asia.

According to Prasad Ambattu, a journalist and a resident of Munnar, there are two 12-year cycles simultaneously going on in the Anamalai hills. In one cycle, the last neelakurinji bloom was in 2006 and the next one is now, in 2018. In the other cycle, the last bloom was in 2014.

The mass flowering neelakurinji provides a feast for butterflies, honeybees and other insects. The purple flowers hold a large amount of nectar, which especially attract the eastern honeybee (Apis cerana).

“This honey from the neelakurinji is very special. It lasts for about 15 years without getting spoilt,” said G. Rajkumar, chief coordinator of the NGO Save Kurinji Campaign Council. He added that the honey is supposed to have medicinal properties.

Rajkumar also said that the ecosystem that supports the kurinji plants plays a major role in bringing water to the Amaravati river which is a tributary of the Kaveri river, a main water source for Tamil Nadu. “The Kurinji reserve is in the catchment area of Amaravati river,” he said.

The tourist boom begins

The forest department expects a large number of tourists to arrive in Munnar during this season, said Lekshmi Rajeshwari, forest range officer at Devikulam, which is part of the Eravikulam National Park, the prime destination where neelakurinji will bloom.

“One million tourists, including travellers from Europe and the United States, are expected to visit this amazing place this year,” she said.

Last October, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had communicated through a social media post that around eight lakh (0.8 million) tourists are expected for the bloom season and the state government aims to introduce a series of measures to protect the Eravikulam National Park. As an unprecedented number of tourists will visit the region, the government plans to restrict the numbers entering the park and the amount of time they spend there, said Vijayan’s post. Action on waste management and required tourist facilities are to be in place to safeguard the national park.

Encroachment on the neelakuri habitats

The Kurinjimala Sanctuary was declared in 2006, during the previous mass flowering to protecting the neelakurinji and its habitat. “This sanctuary gives the rarest, most spectacular view of neelakurinji,” said G. Baburaj, an environmentalist. “But it is eyed by many,” he added, elaborating that the area is being encroached on by resorts, hotels, plantations and small farms.

Image result for Encroachment neelakuri habitats kerala

Pic, (HT) An encroached plot in Munnar; (inset) the kurinji in bloom.

To put an end to the encroachments, the Kerala government passed an ordinance in 2006, for protecting the Kurinjimala Sanctuary. Since a number of settlements came under the area in the sanctuary, which was raising a stir among locals, the government, in the ordinance, authorised a sub-collector to adjudicate land claims after hearing complaints.

The proposed land that came under this ordinance included 2,041 houses, more than 53 government offices, 12 schools, 62 temples, churches and even banks. There were allegations against local politicians for forging title deeds of land ownership in the areas declared as protected.

However, for Kurinjimala to be declared as a wildlife sanctuary permanently under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, there is need for the settlement officer (in this case the Devikulam sub-collector) to go through the settlement of rights process for those who have inhabited or have rights over the land. This has now happened.

In November 2017, the Kerala Government decided to redraw the boundaries of the Kurinjimala Sanctuary – a move which had invited criticism alleging that it was to support the encroachers.

Following the controversy, Pinarayi Vijayan had promised that the reserve’s area will not be reduced at any cost. He told media representatives that a committee will be formed to study the issues at the reserve and it will look in to the settlement concerns.

There is also a case pending in the Kerala High Court, demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) enquiry into the involvement of the local member of Parliament in fabricating documents for the land. Similarly, there are hundreds of such encroachments in the reserve, claims environmentalist G. Baburaj.

Protection for neelakurinji habitat finally declared

Now, in the latest decision as of April 2018, the Kerala cabinet has decided to ensure that the proposed Neelakurinji Sanctuary will have a minimum of 3,200 hectares. Though the cabinet had decided not to evict people with title deeds, it plans to redraw the boundaries in cooperation with the revenue department.

Related image

Picture Credit : iamlark

The cabinet decision includes appointing a settlement officer, conducting drone-based survey to identify the forest land and amending The Kerala Promotion of Tree Growth In Non-Forest Areas Act 2005 to prevent growing acacia and eucalyptus in the reserve forest area, all meant to benefit the Kurinjimala Sanctuary.

(In arrangement with Mongabay.com, a source for environmental news reporting and analysis. The views expressed in the article are those of Mongabay.com. Feedback: [email protected])

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India

Justice AK Goel, Appointed National Green Tribunal Chairperson

Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel has been appointed to the post for five years, according to an order issued by the personnel ministry.

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Justics AK Goel NGT Chief

NEW DELHI: Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, who retired from the Supreme Court today, has been appointed the chairperson of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

He has been appointed to the post for five years, according to an order issued by the personnel ministry. Justice Goel was appointed Supreme Court judge in July 2014.

The post of NGT chairperson was lying vacant for more than 6 months since the retirement of Justice Swatanter Kumar on December 20 last year.

After Justice Kumar’s retirement, Justice Umesh Dattatraya Salvi was made the acting chairperson of the NGT. He retired on February 13. Justice Jawad Rahim was then appointed the acting chairperson.

At present, there is only functional court at the Principal bench in the national capital comprising Justice Rahim, Justice RS Rathore and SS Garbyal.

Various important matters relating to the environment such as air pollution, Ganga and Yamuna rejuvenation, Vaishno Devi, challenge to various redevelopments projects in Delhi, Volkswagen emission fiasco and others are pending before the tribunal.

The NGT’s functioning has been hit by vacancies as the apex environment watchdog is left with less than one-third of its sanctioned strength of 20 officials.

The NGT was established on October 18, 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.

The tribunal’s principal bench is located in New Delhi while its zonal benches are in Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai and its circuit benches are in Shimla, Shillong, Jodhpur and Kochi.

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India

World Environment Day: India calls to ban plastic pollution

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plastic pollution
This year's host is India and the official theme is ‘Beating plastic pollution.’

New Delhi, June 5: Celebrated on June 5 every year, World Environment Day is the United Nation’s principal vehicle for encouraging awareness and action for the protection of the flaura and fauna.

Every World Environment Day has a different global host country, where the official celebrations take place. The focus on the host country helps highlight the environmental challenges it faces, and supports the effort to address them. This year’s host is India. The official theme is ‘Beating plastic pollution.’

Here’s how Indians have taken to Twitter to spread the message:

President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to reaffirm the commitment to a cleaner and sustainable planet and pledge to beat the plastic pollution.

“On the World Environment Day, we reaffirm our commitment to a cleaner and sustainable planet. India is hosting the global celebrations this year. And we are obligated to bequeathing a greener and eco-friendly legacy to our children,” Kovind said in a tweet.

The Vice President pushed for the plastic ban, saying: “Let us take a pledge to ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’, the theme of the World Environment Day today. Time has come for every individual to join the campaign to end single-use plastic and protect the environment.”

PM Modi also took to Twitter to greet the people. “Together, let us ensure that our future generations live in a clean and green planet, in harmony with nature,” he said in a tweet.

Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar urged people to vow not to use low-grade plastic.

“Fifteen thousand tonnes of plastic waste is generated every day, 9,000 tonnes is collected and recycled, but 6,000 tonnes of plastic waste is not collected and remain littered,” Javadekar said.

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad emphasised on raising awareness for “a cleaner and greener environment that can lead us to sustainable development”.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also urged people to pledge to “beat plastic pollution”.

The Congress also took to Twitter, pledging to protect and preserve the Environment, saying, “the Earth doesn’t belong to us but, we belong to the Earth”.

Popular actor and UN representative Dia Mirza took to Twitter as well, wishing everyone on World Environment Day.

Indian cricketer Gautam Gambhir too put forward some thought-provoking remarks.

Artist Sudarshan Pattnaik created the biggest sand turtle to spread the message of #beatplasticpollution.

Cricketer Rohit Sharma stressed on the fact that environment protection should not remain a one-day affair, but something that people look into everyday.

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