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Mass slaughter of full-grown, fruit bearing apple trees to free forest land: An ecological & economical blunder

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SHIMLA- Thousands of apple trees are being axed after Himachal Pradesh High Court directed the state clear encroachment on forest land in the state including apple orchards. The court took a suo motu cognizance on complaint filed by a resident of Shimla that about 40 people in four Chaithala villages in Kothkhai Tehsil have encroached 500 bighas of land for apple growing.

After HC’s directives, full-grown trees, laden with fruits are being cut by forest department to free the forest land in district Shimla, Kinnaur, Kullu and Mandi.

While it’s an appreciable move to use stringent actions to free forest land encroached illegally, it’s highly condemnable and ridiculous decision to axe thousands of full grown, green trees, which took decades to attain their present growth. Huge apple trees, some of them 20-30-years-old, have been cleared.

So far, according to the forest department, 823 trees in three enclaves under Rampur territory have been axed. The department further adds that three hectare of forest land has been freed. The department has identified 71 hectare land encroached by 354 people under Rampur territory.

The next round of massacre will continue from 23-24 July. Thousands other apple trees are likely to be felled unless Himachal does not react against it. The apple season has begun and these trees are bearing apple crop worth crores.

The forest land encroached by hoteliers for commercial structures in places like Kullu-Manali and Dharamshala must be demolished, but small huts of poverty stricken cultivators need to be attended, rehabilitated by the state government. It’s the responsibility of the state in any democracy.

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Similarly, in order to free forest land, apple trees needed a different strategy. The state should have acted wisely.

First of all, the High Court states that people are clearing cedar and other trees to plant apple trees on forest land, and then, it doubled the blunder. Full grown apple orchards contribute a lot in soaking carbon from atmosphere and preserve ecological balance. New plantation will take decades to attain such position, if it survives.

Secondly, the encroachments of forest land for apple growing could have been solved in other productive ways. Standing trees are not the enemies, those who encroached forest land are. The forest department could reclaim the land and sell this season’s apple crop that would have fetched them revenue worth crores. Not just this season, but these trees would have fetched a fat amount of revenue for the state every year along with maintaining the greenery and ecological balance.

The BJP government had called for all the farmers and agrarian associations to come ahead and help in regularize cultivation of apples on encroached forest land. Lakhs of people had come ahead with affidavits. However, it appears to be a trap to identify encroached land. In a way, the government tricked apple growers.

Himachal Pradesh Government itself encouraged encroachments for years. The encroachers were granted electricity connection and water supply by the respective departments. Now, the government stepped back and followed the orders blindly.

It was mentioned by the petitioner too.

“They have felled deodar trees on the land. Some of them even took financial assistance from the government for constructing apple grading and packing house and water storage tanks. The government also provided the encroachers electricity and water connections,”

the petitioner alleged.

At one hand, NGT puts complete ban on commercial activity in Rohtang-Pass following reports of rising air pollution, one the other hand, the High Court is adding to deforestation. Deforestation is directly related to air quality of any region on earth.

The revenue from the apple could have been claimed and spent for the welfare of orphanages, home for destitute women, school for visually impaired, all of which are in pathetic condition. There are mentally ill people roaming on roads, eating from garbage. The money could have ensured annual fund generation for many other small-public grievance or needs.

However, Himachal Pradesh government and the HC bench consisting of honorable Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh, Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan , came out with a solution that is highly condemnable and injustice with ecology and economy of the state.

Only one political party came ahead to protest this decision. The state Secretariat of Communist Party of India (CPI-M) criticized the cutting apple trees at Kandroo in Theog and Mandholi in Jubbal-kotkhai. CPM also insisting on initiating the process of leasing land to farmers instead of axing full grown apple trees.

Condemning the idiotic decision to fell fruit-bearing trees, CPI (M) said:

The state government’s decision to axe tree and evict farmers isn’t justifiable at all. Even if it can be believed the government is serious about getting rid of encroachments on forest land there are various other alternatives. These include fencing of forested areas and leasing out land to farmers as has been done in the case of entrepreneurs. The same government was benevolent enough to change land use norms and lease out land to the Jaypee group for cement and hydropower plants. The government has leased out hundreds of hectares of land to private entities in the name of ecotourism. When it can promote ecotourism in the state, then why not horticulture?

CPI (M) has called for the launch of a “Chipko movement”.

The CPM has urged the public to ensure their trees are not cut and are protected from inept state government officials. The Congress party led government is using the Himachal Pradesh High Court order as a pretext to willfully evict horticulturists from lands where they have been cultivating crops for years.

said CPI (M).

The Himachal Kisan Sabha and State Apple Grower Association have also called their eviction an injustice. Himachal Kisan Sabha president Dr Kuldeep Singh Tanwar said”

Of the total 55, 67, 00 hectares land in Himachal Pradesh, farmers have only 9, 55,651 hectares in their possession which is just the 17.14%. Of this only 6, 22,156 hectares land is cultivable while farming is not possible on remaining land. The state government is removing apple trees from its land in the districts of Shimla, Mandi, Kullu and Kinnaur. It is the poor, marginal, dalit and landless farmers who are facing the harsh impact brunt of the drive. No one dares to lay hands on the influential persons.

The apple growers alleged that the state is selling forest land to real estate firms when law doesn’t permit it. The real-estates are building luxury villas by clearing deodar forest. The DLF luxury villa in Kanlog, slaughter of hundreds of trees in Tara Devi hill in Shimla district and mass felling of trees in Chamba serves as some instances that support the allegation.

It’s highly condemnable to encourage deforestation in any way when the world is facing sensitive problems such as climate change and global warming. Both of which are directly associated with deforestation. The whole incident shows that leaders elected by Himachal’s people are somewhat mentally impaired. Moreover, it’s huge blow that the HC allowed mass slaughter of trees and state’s agrarian resources.

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 Gets First Fully Automated ‘Doppler Weather Radar’, Would Provide More Accurate Short Range Forecast

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Dopper Weather Radar in Himachal Pradesh's Kufari

Shimla-India Meteorological Department (IMD) January 15, 2021, celebrated its 146th Foundation Day. IMD is one of the oldest, scientific service organizations in the country, in existence well before Independence.

On the occasion, Dr. Harsh Vardhan inaugurated Doppler Weather Radars at Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand and Kufri, Himachal Pradesh; Multi-Mission Meteorological Data Receiving and Processing System in IMD in collaboration with ISRO (MMDRPS).

According to the IMD, these modernized Radars would give a more specific short-range weather forecast.

It’s pertinent to mention that accurate and advance weather information is of utmost importance to Himachal Pradesh – a state largely dependent on agriculture and tourism.

The one installed in Kufari, Shimla, is Indigenous dual polarised X-Band Doppler Weather Radar. Two more Radars would be installed at Mandi and Dalhousie in Chamba district of the State. A site had already been finalized at Mandi and a site for Radar at Dalhousie would be finalized soon, the State Government informed.

This specific type of Radar uses the Doppler effect to gather velocity data. The Radar transmits a signal, which gets reflected when hits a raindrop. Based on the changes in the frequency of the reflected signal, data is obtained about the motion of droplets and intensity of the precipitation. Scientists can analyze this data to determine the structure and severity of storms.

Radar installed at Kufri is on test mode for a period of two weeks. Thereafter its data would be used for forecasting purposes. This Radar has a range upto 100 kilometres in radial distance. It would observe and provide the weather data of 100 kilometres in all directions, which would be used for forecasting purpose, especially for the short-range forecast. More précised area-specific weather forecast and warning can be issued for a particular place, for the weather phenomenon like thunderstorm, lighting, hailstorm, heavy rainfall/snowfall, gusty winds etc.    

This Centre would help the horticulturists and farmers of the State by providing them with accurate weather information.

The DWR Kufri would run round the clock and it is fully automatic. It would transmit the data in various digital format and picture form.

 Forecasting monsoons is the lifeline to India’s food security and affect the economy as the nation’s GDP is dependent on agriculture. Moreover, weather prediction is critical to reducing the loss of lives from various extreme events like a cyclone, heavy rain, thunderstorm, heatwave and cold wave, monsoonal floods and droughts.

India Meteorological Department says that it is modernizing its observational network in the Central and Western Himalayas by the installation of Doppler Weather Radars in a phased manner, at different locations.

IMD said that this radar will be providing severe weather information to the weather forecasters, thus, improving the safety of the public in the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. It will also provide support to the disaster managers and the pilgrims undertaking the pilgrimage to Kailash Manasarovar and Char Dham yatra. 

 

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Environment

The GHNP and Tirthan Wildlife Sanctuary Ranked as Best Managed Protected Areas of India

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MEE Rank himachal pradesh GHNP

Shimla-The Great Himalayan National Park and Tirthan Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) have been ranked as the best managed protected areas in India. Sainj WLS has also been placed among the top five Sanctuaries.

Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar, on January 11 released Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) of 146 National Park and Wildlife Sanctuaries in the Country. At present, India has a network of 903 Protected Areas in the country covering about 5% of the total geographic area of the country. The purpose of it was to assess the efficacy of Protected Areas, evaluation of management effectiveness.

The evaluation process was executed by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, in which  nation-wide 146 National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries, including 13 protected areas of Himachal Pradesh, were assessed through a team of evaluators. The score is given for various parameters including staff position, provision of financial resources, degree of protection, peoples’ participation and awareness of the communities towards the conservation values. Against a national average of 62 percent GHNP and Tirthan WLS scored a high of 84.17 percent while Sainj recorded 82.5 percent.

Currently, Himachal Pradesh has a network of 5 National Parks, 28 Wildlife Sanctuaries and 3 Conservation Reserves covering 8391.42 km2 which is 15 percent of the total geographical area of the state.

Top five and bottom five scored NP&WLS

Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) of 146 National Park and Wildlife Sanctuaries in India 2

Source: MEE Evaluation Report

According to this Evaluation three of the top five best managed Protected Areas in the country are from Himachal Pradesh. However, the Evaluation also mentioned weaknesses in management in these National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. (Scroll down for details info)

Top two highest and lowest scored NP&WLS in five regions

Managemaent Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) of 146 National Park and Wildlife Sanctuaries in India

Source: MEE Evaluation Report

What is Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE)?

Protected area (PA) management effectiveness evaluation (MEE) is defined as the assessment of how well NP&WLS are being managed—primarily, whether they are protecting their values and achieving the goals and objectives agreed upon.

The term ‘management effectiveness’ reflects three main themes of PA management -design issues relating to both individual sites and PA systems, the adequacy and appropriateness of management systems and processes, and delivery of the objectives of NP&WLS, including conservation of values.

 Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) of Protected Areas (PAs) has emerged as a key tool for PA managers and is increasingly being used by governments and international bodies to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the protected area management systems.

MEE is a very important document that provides valuable guidance on various aspects of wildlife and protected area expand MEE of Marine Protected Areas. A new framework for MEE of Marine Protected Areas has been also jointly prepared by WII and MoEF&CC.

In recent years there has been a general concern amongst PA professionals and the public that many NP&WLS are failing to achieve their objectives and, in some cases, are actually losing the values for which they were established (Hockings et al. 2008).

As a result, improving the effectiveness of PA management has become a priority throughout the conservation community. Protected areas that are effectively managed generally lead to improved biodiversity outcomes.

However, only 20% (21,743 NP&WLS) of the total coverage of protected areas reported in the WDPA has been assessed for management effectiveness according to the Global Database on Protected Areas Management Effectiveness (UNEP-WCMC, IUCN and NGS 2018). The result indicated that only 17.5% of the countries have achieved the 60% score of management effectiveness (Coad et al. 2015).

Further, Javadekar also announced that from this year onwards 10 best National Parks, 5 coastal and Marine parks and top five Zoos in the country will be ranked and awarded every year.

Management Strengths and Weaknesses of National Parks and Wild Life Sanctuaries in Himachal Pradesh

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Environment

Himachal Bans Import of Poultry Products from Other States, Migratory Bird Death Toll Reaches 4324

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Poultry ban in himachal pradesh

Shimla-Import of poultry products to Himachal Pradesh from other States has been banned for a week, the State Government informed today. The step was taken in order to ensure that the Bird Flu (Avian Influenza) infection does spread from other States through poultry products.   

According to the Government, the “Bird Flu death toll” for migratory birds has reached 4324. The Government said that about 65 rapid response teams of Animal Husbandry and Wild Life departments were regularly monitoring the Pong Dam and adjoining areas. It said that keeping in view the intensity of Bird Flu, samples of poultry have been sent to RDDL Jalandhar by Animal Husbandry Department. 

Further, recently 1000 dead domestic poultry birds were found dumped in Dharampur Sub Division of Solan district, which were disposed of by deep burial and area was being sanitized as per protocol, it was informed. Samples of these dead birds have been sent to RDDL Jallandhar for diagnosis.

Further, it was informed that 215 other birds were also found dead in various parts of the State till date.

Officers have been asked to keep a strict vigil on birds alongside reservoirs and people to sensitize about proper handling of poultry products.

The Government has requested the people to inform the Animal Husbandry and Wild Life Departments if any dead bird is found in their areas.

Bird Flu Confirmed in 10 States

According to the official statement released by the Government of India, till January 11, 2021, Avian Influenza was confirmed in 10 states of the country. ICAR- NIHSAD has confirmed death of crows and migratory/wild birds in Tonk, Karauli, Bhilwara districts of Rajasthan; and Valsad, Vadodara and Surat districts of Gujarat. Further, death of crows was confirmed in Kotdwar and Dehradun districts of Uttarakhand. In Delhi, crows and ducks, respectively, were reported dead in New Delhi and Sanjay lake areas.

Additionally, an outbreak of Avian influenza has been among poultry in Parbhani district where 800 hens died of the Flu. Also, the Flu is confirmed from Mumbai, Thane, Dapoli, Beed in crows in Maharashtra.

Culling of Infected Birds Underway in Haryana

In Haryana, culling of infected birds is underway for the control and containment of the spread of the disease. A Central team has visited Himachal Pradesh and will reach Panchkula on 11 January 2021 for carrying out monitoring the epicentre sites and conducting epidemiological investigation.

States have been requested to build awareness among the public and avoid the spread of misinformation. States/ UTs have been requested to increase surveillance around water bodies, live bird markets, zoos, poultry farms, etc. along with proper disposal of carcasses and strengthening of bio-security in poultry farms.

The States have been asked to maintain adequate stock of PPE kits and accessories required for culling operations, Secretary, DAHD, requested.

Feature Photo: unsplash@relentlessjpg

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