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Forest Department and the MC Shimla playing the blame game on DLF Sama Tara Luxury Villa project

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HW had submitted a complaint asking the Forest Department about their role in the DLF Sama Tara Luxury Villa Project, where thousand of Deodar trees were chopped down without any objection from the present government and opposition. HW had also published an article on the same issue that received a huge response from the readers, and even comments from the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor of the Shimla District. (Check the complete article, comments, images and videos)

Here is what we have received as a response to our complaint.

The Forest Department denied the responsibility and puts it on MC Shimla with the following directions:

Please go through the application and take appropriate action under the intimation to quarters concerned. Shimla Forest Circle (FOR), KEHAR SINGH THAKUR, Conservator Of Forests Jul 6 2012 1:18PM In Progress

The MC Shimla further forwarded the complaint to the DFO M.C Shimla saying:

The Demand has been forwarded vide Dy. No. 726/e-gov/12 dated 07-07-2012 to the DFO, M.C. Shimla for further necessary action in the matter.

What sounds more ridiculous is that Forest Department has forwarded the complaint to the MC Shimla, asking to take the responsibility. Well, on the same story published on the HW on 27/06/2012, the Deputy Mayor of Shimla, Tikkender Verma, had left a comment saying:

There is already a writ pending in the high court challenging the illegal construction. interestingly the forest department too is saving the the construction company.

project-in-Kanlog

While the Deputy Mayor blamed the Forest Department for supporting the builder and the government by assisting them, the Forest Department held the MC Shimla responsible. What we could make out of these responses is that either our government departments are not clear who is actually responsible or both of them are trying to confuse the public so that the matter could be complicated. Otherwise, why the MC Shimla, which blamed the Forest department earlier, has now accepted the reply from the Forest Department and forwarded it to the DFO MC Shimla?

Sanjay Chauhan, the present mayor of the Shimla district, commented on the same story with the following words:

This clearly reflects the nexus between politicians, officers and big business. Where even law of land could not work. This needs to be fought by people’s power. Unite and fight to break this nexus.

The project involves of huge real estate tycoons, DFL and Robert Vadhera, who is a partner with DFL and the son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi, the president of Indian National Congress. A few rich and powerful men make our government dance on their notes and the Indian politicians as well as the government departments sell their soul for the pieces of bribe thrown at them. The government and the representatives elected by the public have become aristocrats, dealing only with those who stands in the same class. The public is the last priority. Most of the policies are prepared only if that involves any interest of the huge private firms or political personalities. The 2G Scam, the CAG report on the scam of $33 billions in the allotment of the coal mines, and the loss of almost 8 crore to the government in recent parliamentary session speaks it all.

taking-necessary-permission-from-the-government

However, the public and the government, both should mind one thing that deforestation, which is rapidly taking place in our state, would destroy the beauty and the peace for which it’s famous. The nature does not distinguish between the rich and poor, the common and the VIPs, but the wrath of climate change would punish the whole humanity equally for the imbalance. The state government has already given green line to many projects involving the clearing of hundreds of trees.Even the public is contributing its part in the process.

Therefore, HW again requests to all the citizens and the government not to behave in an ignorant manner towards the environmental issues. Please put efforts to preserve the greenery and the beauty of our state instead of promoting deforestation. Just Writing ‘Save Trees’ on the billboards to promote the political parties won’t do, we need to implement it.

Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 9 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture the world around him in his DSLR lens.

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Himachal: Report Forest Fires on Toll-Free Numbers 1077 and 1070

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helpline for Forest Fires in himachal pradesh

Shimla-Forest fire is a recurrent annual phenomenon in Himachal Pradesh and causes losses worth several crores every year. Dry spell and summers make forests, especially chir pine forests, highly vulnerable to forest fires. These forest fires not only damage the forest wealth but also hit wildlife and biodiversity in general. The forest department attributes most fires to human factors.

Like every year, the forest department has claimed that it is all geared up and ready to combat forest fires this year too. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Dr. Savita on Monday held a virtual review meeting with Forest Circles on preparedness for forest fires in the state.

She said that the Forest department was well prepared to fight the forest fires and a rapid forest fire fighting force and rapid response teams had been set up at forest division and range levels.

“Approximately 40,000 man-days of fire watchers would be engaged by the department in addition to existing frontline staff for preventing and combating forest fires,” she said. The state disaster control room with toll-free number 1077 at the state level and 1070 at the district level were operational for reporting of the forest fire by the local community, she informed.

Dr. Savita said messages regarding forest fire had been shared with the members of the rapid forest fire fighting force, in which approximately 50,000 volunteers had already been registered. Awareness to the community was also conducted through Nukkar Nataks, songs, speeches and other activities at different locations in the state. Besides, a massive state-level awareness program was also conducted at 45 places from 10 to 17 March 2021

She said that the department had created forest fire lines and did control burning and also constructed water storage structures in the forest areas to combat forest fires. Additional multi-utility vehicles and water loaded tankers in 80 fire-sensitive ranges had been engaged for three months. She that matter regarding Standard Operating Systems (SOPs) for requisition of helicopter services for dousing the forest fires had been sent to the Government for approval. 

Feature Photo: Unsplash@Thematthoward

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Himachal Counts 108,578 Waterbirds of 96 Species This Year With Increase in Habitat

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Annual Bird Count in Himachal Pradesh 2021

Shimla-The habitat of migratory and resident water-birds in Himachal Pradesh has gradually improved, said Forest Minister Rakesh Pathania.

The annual water-bird count at Pong Dam Lake Wildlife Sanctuary was conducted in the first of February, 2021 and the exercise was conducted under restrained conditions due to the prevailing Avian Influenza outbreak in Pong Dam Lake as well as the COVID-19 Pandemic, he said.

The exercise was conducted by Wildlife wing of Himachal Pradesh by deploying 57 staff members in 26 sections of the sanctuary for counting the water-dependent birds.

Total 108,578 birds of 96 species were counted during this year. Out of the total number, 101,431 of 51 species are water-dependent migratory birds and 6,433 of 29 species are water-dependent resident birds. As many as 714 birds of 16 other species were also recorded. The total population of the flagship species, Bar-Headed Geese, is 40,570.

The other species which have higher population count during this year are Eurasian Coot (24,163), Northern Pintail (12,702), Common Teal (8,444), Little Cormorant (3,649), Great Cormorant (3,410), Grey Lag Goose (2,297), Northern Shoveler (2,275) and Common Pochard (2,138). The species which find noticeable mention are Red Necked Grebe, Great Bittern, Lesser White-Fronted Goose, Red Crested Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Pied Avocet, Northern Lapwing, Peregrine Falcon etc. During the counting exercise, one Bar-headed Goose and one Grey Lag Goose with collars were also spotted.

This year the Annual bird count exercise assumes significance, considering the Avian Influenza outbreak in the Wildlife Sanctuary. Further, the Minister expressed satisfaction over the timely and effective containment measures taken by Wildlife Wing to control and contain Avian Influenza outbreak in the Wildlife Sanctuary.

PCCF (Wildlife) Archana Sharma and CCF Wildlife (North) Dharamshala Upasana Patial also participated and supervised the Annual Water Bird Count.

The total population of birds, as well as number of species, counted this year are marginally less as compared to last year, probably due to the impact of Avian Influenza outbreak which was first reported on 28th December 2020.

Although the total population of water birds declined during the peak of the Avian Influenza outbreak, there is a gradual increase in the total population of birds, the Minister informed.

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Himachal First State to Complete Assessment of Snow Leopard and its Wild Prey

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Snow Leopard Population Assessment in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-The assessment of snow leopard population in Himachal Pradesh has been completed by the state wildlife wing in collaboration with Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) Bangalore following the protocol aligning with the SPAI (Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India) protocols of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. Himachal Pradesh has become the first state to complete assessment of snow leopard and its wild prey.

The state has an estimated population of up to 73 snow leopards.

It is the first scientifically robust estimate of snow leopards and its prey for the State. Since snow leopard is the state animal, the study assumes great significance for Himachal Pradesh.
The exercise revealed that snow leopard density ranged from 0.08 to 0.37 individuals per 100 sq.km., with the trans-Himalayan regions of Spiti, Pin valley and upper Kinnaur recording the highest densities, both of the predator and its prey, mainly ibex and blue sheep.

This study covered the entire potential snow leopard habitat of Himachal Pradesh: an area of 26,112 sq.km., utilising a stratified sampling design. Camera trapping surveys were conducted at 10 sites to representatively sample all the strata i.e. high, low and unknown. The camera trap deployment over the mountainous terrains was led by a team of eight local youth of Kibber village and more than 70 frontline staff of HPFD were trained in this technique as part of the project. Snow leopards were detected at all the 10 sites (Bhaga, Chandra, Bharmour, Kullu, Miyar, Pin, Baspa, Tabo, Hangrang & Spiti) suggesting that snow leopards are found in the entire snow leopard habitat in Himachal Pradesh either as resident individuals of a population or as dispersing individuals navigating through these connecting habitats.

Another revelation from the study is that a bulk of snow leopard occurrence is outside protected areas, reiterating the fact that local communities are the strongest allies for conservation in snow leopard landscapes.

The NCF and wildlife wing collaborated in the effort and it took three years to complete the assessment. MoEFCC had launched the First National Protocol on Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India, on the occasion of International Snow Leopard Day. You can read the complete protocol here.

Snow leopard is the icon of high mountains of Asia. In India, they inhabit the higher Himalayan and TransHimalayan landscape in an altitudinal range between approximately 3,000 m to 5,400 m above MSL, spanning c. 100,000 km2 in the five states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. This area contributes to about 5% of the global snow leopard range.

Snow leopards occur over a vast, relatively remote and difficult to access mountainous area. Together with their elusive nature, this makes a complete population census of snow leopards an unfeasible goal. Even their distribution remains unclear. For example, recent surveys show that they do not occur in 25 % of the area that was thought to be their range in the state of Himachal Pradesh Their density is expected to be variable in space, dependent on several factors such as habitat suitability, prey availability, disturbance and connectivity. Variation in density across space also poses the risk of biased sampling, and, indeed, most of the snow leopard population assessments conducted so far across the world are biased towards the best habitats.

Feature Photo: Pexels/Charles Miller

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