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A polluted future awaits Shimla as rising emissions, polluting vehicles go unchecked

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pollution-feature

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Needless to say, the DSP Shimla traffic police and HP Pollution Control Board are answerable for such ignorance by the officials under their command. We would like to forward this issue Shimla SP, DW Negi, and ask him to take some time from beating and abusing HPU students, and pay attention to the issue.

SHIMLA- Ecology, environmental balance, nature, climate change, global warming, green house effect, air pollution, emissions, do any of these words sounds familiar to you? We doubt. most of the people, irrespective to their educational background, do not realize the environmental crisis the humanity is creating. Of course, today, we would like to throw some light on one of these issues – emission from vehicles, and surprising carelessness on the part of the HP Pollution Control Board, Shimla traffic police, and the public itself.

Take a look at this video before we continue further.

Let’s note bore you with a lecture on environmental issues, but come to the point – rising levels of air pollution in Shimla, completely unchecked by any of the responsible Govt. authority including the Govt. itself. Obviously, we have no doubt about the share of ignorance on the part of the public.

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The condition is critical considering the fact that Shimla used to be the most referred hill station with healthy environment and pure air. Now, Shimla is losing that serenity and chastity of breathable air, especially if you in the Shimla city. Now, more vehicles crawl on Shimla roads. The city is expanding; population is increasing, and with it increases the number of vehicles. This year, the number is even higher as tourists turned towards Himachal due to recent flood in Shrinagar, which paralyzed its infrastructure.

Take a look at one more video

Traffic jams are hitting Shimla city roads everyday. Govt. didn’t make any preparation for readying parking spaces, so the situation is getting even uglier.

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On the top of all, the pollution is rising due to higher emissions. Not just tourist vehicles, but local ones area also creating more hazardous condition. Old, decaying, and poorly maintained (or say not maintained at all) HRTC buses and that of private bus service providers are running unchecked on Shimla roads, literally spraying dense, constant stream of smoke.

Emissions from vehicles running on petroleum fuel are the most toxic ones and contains Nitrogen oxides (NOx), Fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5), Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Air Toxics like benzene, 1,3-butadiene, acrolein, formaldehyde and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), and the coolants in vehicles using Freon, an ozone depleting substance, as a refrigerant.

If people think only environment is facing the damage, then it’s very idiotic perception. The quality of breathable air is decaying, the pattern of snowfall and rain is hit, it’s changing, and effecting agricultural occupations in Himachal, where agriculture is the biggest economy after tourism.

The Shimla traffic police gives its best to ensure traffic free road for the vehicles of VVIP politicians, high-rank Govt. officials, and those from Judiciary. A whole traffic plan would be changed if the Z + security fleet of Chief Justice of HP High Court is halted for even a minute in a traffic jam. No offence, but that does happen. But, the same traffic police let polluting vehicles rampantly run on Shimla streets. Pollution control board is not even in the scene. Everyone is completely blind when it comes to emission trouble.

What does the law say:

“Sub-rule (7) of Rule 115 mentioned under Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 says, “after expiry of a period of one year from the date on which the motor vehicle was first registered, every such vehicle shall carry a valid “Pollution under control” certificate issued by an agency authorized for this purpose by the State Government. The validity of the certificate shall be for six months or any lesser period as may be specified by the State Government from time to time.

If the certificate referred to in Sub-rule (1) is not produced within the stipulated period of seven days or if the vehicle fails to comply with the provisions of Sub-rule (2) of rule 115 within a period of seven days, the owner of the vehicle shall be liable for the penalty prescribed under Sub-section (2) of Section 190 of the Act.”

HRTC buses top the list of poorly maintained buses, then come the private bus operator followed by rest of the public including the tourist vehicles. Look at the buses and cars in the videos. The traffic police don’t need to stop them and ask for pollution check- certificate. Anyone with a normal eyesight could see heavy stream of smoke pumped out of exhaust. Sometimes, the buses/cars right ahead you make it difficult see the road as the quantity of dense emissions disrupt the visibility.

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Why no one is worried at such a disastrous mistake as ignoring a critical environmental concern -air pollution. We are literally on the highway to hell. Littering, improper garbage disposal, emission and burning garbage, especially plastic waste, in open spaces are haunting our heaven like Shimla.

Needless to say, the DSP Shimla traffic police and HP Pollution Control Board are answerable for such ignorance by the officials under their commandWe would like to forward this issue Shimla SP, DW Negi, and ask him to take some time from beating and abusing HPU students, and pay attention to the issue.

Of course, it’s a waste of time to expect a reaction to our criticism from the Govt., transport minister, the CM, or any political figure holding a chair in the Govt. They behave like masters and the public accept it like fearful slaves. No one is bothered to correct the malfunctioning democracy. The representatives elected by the people are not doing their job. In that case, the public has to react and ask for explanation for not doing what they had promised to them – better Himachal.

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However, such suggestion sounds like a south-Indian movie dialogue. Who the hell could do that – make the Govt. answerable or dare to criticize them? We don’t blame them. They are too conscious to invite a VVIP trouble when they struggle to ensure a survival.

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If not all, then those who are fortunate enough to have a smartphone camera and access to Internet, please, do not ignore such critical issues like air pollution.

You see a vehicle spitting out smoke, click a photograph or record a video and send it on editor[at]himachalwatcher[dot]com or you can post it directly into HW’s Your News section for instant publishing. You can choose to be anonymous while posting anything if you aren’t comfortable to disclose your identity. Not only emission, but there are a lot of other public grievances which need attention from us.

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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.

Environment

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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