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Another blunder by Shimla MC to which Pollution Control Board has turned a blind eye

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Burning garbage including dry leaves is illegal according to Supreme Court’s interpretation of Article 21 of Indian Constitution. Also, it’s strictly prohibited under “Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) rules 2000”.

SHIMLA- Did you ever wonder why the very institution of State Pollution Control Board even exists? How often you read about initiatives or actions taken by the board to control air, soil, water, visual and noise pollution? No activity from the boards is visible.

However, effects of air pollution are clearly visible. The weather pattern has changed a lot, now Shimla receives lesser snow that melts away by evening. The average temperature in winters has increased in Shimla. The minimum temperature in Shimla is between 8 and 15 degree C, which is quite unusual while there is no perceptible change in the temperature at Manali, Bhuntar, Una and Sundernagar.In terms of rainfall, Himachal is rain over 70 percent deficient this winter, and level of ground water has dipped. In summers, water shortage is likely to haunt Shimla. Another bad news is that most of the baoris (small natural water reserves) have either dried or have been declared unsafe for drinking purpose.

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So, emissions and air pollution are critical and sensitive issues to which both public and government are insensitive.

Previous Story: ‘Unusual rise’ in Shimla’s minimum temp – A big reason to worry

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Other than vehicular emission, it’s a very common and regular scene around Shimla city to see heaps of fallen leaves burning on roadsides, even in drains. In Delhi, 30% of air pollution is caused by biomass (garbage, wood, and fallen leaves) and air quality of Delhi has reached alarming levels. Therefore, Delhi government has strictly warned people about facing maximum penalty (Rs. 20,000 – 1 lakh depending upon circumstances) stipulated by the National Green Tribunal to curb the rampant practice of garbage and green waste burning in the cities.

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Previous Story: Why Himachal must act now to cut down diesel emissions

A bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar had also taken notice of rampart burning of biomass and garbage had directed state governments of Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to immediately spread mass awareness regarding ill-effects of burning waste materials in open areas. NGT had clearly stated that,

It is on record before us that burning of garbage and other materials is not only source of air pollution but forms 29.4 per cent of air pollution with reference to PM10. Burning of material also causes serious respiratory problems and is even carcinogenic. There shall be complete prohibition on burning of any kind of garbage, leaves, waste, plastic, rubber or any such other materials in open areas.”

The bench had also added,

We direct that for every incident of burning of such material, the person who is found burning or responsible for burning would be liable to pay compensation in terms of Section 15 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 under the principle of polluter pays.

So, what Shimla MC and Pollution Control Board are waiting for – to get things worse, as it happened in Rohtang-Pass or in case of jaundice outbreak in Shimla due Ashwani Khud water contamination that has killed about 8 people so far and has landed thousands in hospitals?

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Burning garbage including dry leaves is illegal according to Supreme Court’s interpretation of Article 21 of Indian Constitution. Also, it’s strictly prohibited under “Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) rules 2000”. Along with air pollution, it also poses many health hazards.

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The health hazards caused by burning any kind of biomass including fallen, dry leaves and grass includes respiratory, neurological, cardiac diseases and even cancers due to long exposure to the smoke. Amount of carbon and toxic gases released is higher in biomass burning due to higher amount of moisture.

Click To View : Pollutants Released from Burning Biomass and Garbage and Related Health Effects

Health Hazards of waste burning

Fallen leaves make excellent compost if transported to waste management plants or to other specified facilities. Himachal is an agricultural state and compost could be supplied to growers. However, our talented IAS, HPS officers and politicians have chosen burning the leaves and garbage. Clearly, our government lacks vision and the public lacks awareness. Our government is always short of funds for such causes except for their luxury fleet of cars with beacons, fat salaries, and allowances.

Himachal Watcher is forwarding the complaint to Shimla MC and State Pollution Control Board and also expect people to understand why garbage and biomass must be properly disposed and not burn it. Places like Shimla need awareness drives organized by government and environmental groups.

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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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