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Rohtang glacier melting faster than previous years, snow turn black again despite NGT ban: Report

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Rohtang-Pass glacier melting faster

He had claimed that the black layer on snow is not harmful carbon. However, the study has said that high carbon emission due to increased traffic is polluting the area, including snow, and speeding up melting of snow at Rohtang.

SHIMLA- The ignorance of Himachal Pradesh Government toward rising emissions in Rohtang is costing the state a lot. Despite taking strong steps, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has failed to stop fast melting of snow and it turning black at Rohtang Pass this year. It appears, the damage is almost irreversible now. However, the government is still ignoring rising emission in rest of the state, especially Capital city Shimla.

In Rohtang, the snow at 13,050ft high mountain pass is not only melting faster than the previous years, it has also turned black again.

Watch: Unchecked Vehicular Emission in Shimla

According to sources, Rohtang used to remain completely covered with snow for entire June and it used to melt away in July. But, this year the snow has almost disappeared from the mountain pass and only few patches of snow are left which might melt away in the next 10 to 15 days. All available snow has turned black which has increased the speed of its melting.

Watch: Vehicular Emission in Shimla

The NGT had cited high rush of tourists, movement of unlimited vehicles and unregulated tourism activities for increasing pollution at Rohtang area. Saying that horse riding, skiing, dhabas, snow scooters and all-terrain vehicles were making snow black and were polluting the region, the tribunal had imposed a complete ban on all commercial activities in the area.

Watch: Vehicular Emission in Shimla

The NGT had asked the Himachal government to prepare a master plan and regulate all the activities. It had also limited the number of vehicles going to Rohtang in an effort to preserve the fragile ecology of the area.

Also Read: Major cause of Air Pollution in Shimla

Local resident Bhag Chand Thakur, who is in 80s, said,

I think it will be for the first time when Rohtang will become snowless in June. Now few vehicles are allowed to reach Rohtang and all tourism activities are banned. Dhabas have been demolished and few tourists reach Rohtang. Even then, the snow is melting fast and remaining snow has turned black. Who is responsible for this now?

Also Read: Save Shimla from Air Pollution, Speak Up!

Last year, the snow was available till July end at Rohtang. Similarly, the snow had lasted till July in the last 10 years. Though, Rohtang experienced little less snowfall this year, the prolonged winter season made the snow accumulation up to 20 to 30ft.

Also Read: Welcome to ‪Shimla‬ – Queen of Hills once known for quality and purity of breathable air

Rohtang opened for vehicular traffic in mid-April and it opened for tourists on May 21 when Rohtang had 5ft to 10ft of snow.

Also Read: Control of HP Pollution Control Board over air pollution in Shimla City ?

Now a layer of dark dust has covered the snow.

Also Read: Who’s responsibility is it to put a check on polluting vehicles?

A study conducted by professor of glacial geomorphology with Jawaharlal Nehru University Dr Milap Dhand Sharma had claimed that no glacier existed close to Rohtang for the last 15,000 years and the snow has no carbon.

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

He had claimed that the black layer on snow is not harmful carbon. However, the study has said that high carbon emission due to increased traffic is polluting the area, including snow, and speeding up melting of snow at Rohtang.

Also Read: Along with ecology, Shimla‘s traffic cops worst hit by vehicular emissions while apathy of HP Govt. and Police Department continue

Photo: Robin Moulik Blog/Representational image

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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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