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Illegal Mining in Shimla: Mining officials take note of complaints, challans and notices issued to offenders

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Mining Officer Shimla Rural Shailja Chaudhary

SHIMLA- Taking note of two separate reports of illegal mining in capital Shimla published on Himachal Watcher recently, the Mining Officer Shimla (Rural) Shailza Choudhry  took a prompt action and inspected the mentioned locations.

On September 20, 2016, on the basis of information provided by a resident of Barmu, Himachal Watcher (HW) had reported rampant illegal mining activity, felling of green deodar trees, and large scale illegal dumping. About 400 trees were threatened by unscientific, unlawful mining along with increasing risk of landslides. According to the action taken report shared by the Mining Officer, illegal mining and transportation were detected on Sept 24.

A vehicle was nabbed transporting the quarried stone, which was challaned, and notice was issued to the offender, said MO report.

Read/Photos: Illegal mining, dumping, felling of deodar trees near Keleston Shimla, Admin silent despite complaints

illegal-mining-shimla-bekhalti-mashobra-himachal-pradesh3-feature

In a separate article published on Sept 26, 2016, HW had reported illegal mining/dumping activity on Mashobra-Bekhalti link road in Shimla being carried out by a private contractor on the name of road repair. Again, the information was provided by an aware resident of Mashobra. Reportedly, grazing fields of cattle as well as natural water resources were covered under illegally dumped debris. Taking note of it, the department inspected the site and detected illegal mining and transportation. On Sept 27, two challans were issued to the vehicles while notices will be sent to the offender.

Read/Photos: Blatant illegal mining, dumping on Mashobra-Bekhalti road in broad daylight despite High Court warning 

Action taken was confirmed by Mr. Amit Kashyap, Director, State Industries department.

However, despite this action, reports of illegal mining on Mashobra-Bekhalti road are still coming from sources.

Other Cases of Illegal Mining in Shimla

As per MO’s monthly report, during last month (until Sept 27) 61 cases/challans of illegal mining were detected in various regions of district Shimla. The number was reported highest in regions like Rampur, Kotkhai, Basantpur, Theog, Duttnagar, and Hatkoti.

These are some of the regions, but illegal mining seems to have infested every possible site in capital Shimla as well as in other districts of the State. Although, offenders do not hesitate conducting their unlawful business in broad daylight, but mining and transportation are mostly carried out either during early morning hours or at night.

Forest Department Still Asleep

While the Mining Officials have become active after the State High Court had warned administration of dire consequences if illegal mining activity isn’t curbed in time, the State Forest Department is still hesitating to take note of illegal tree felling and damage to green trees due to large scale dumping despite complaints.

HPPWD’s Intentional Ignorance Toward Illegal Dumping 

A large number of tippers of debris is illegally unloaded on National as well as State Highways. Offenders have parted with fear of law and don’t even hesitate to dump it simply on roadsides. On Shimla-Dhalli bypass, heaps of construction waste can be seen partially obstructing the road. Check on illegal dumping is least concern for HPPWD. Rather, department doesn’t even care to remove these dumps.

Web of Illegal Link Roads to Mining Sites

Mining mafia has created a wide web of link roads to connect the mining sites to main roads to facilitate transportation. HPPWD was never unaware of the situation, but, in this case, negligence earned the official a fortune. HPPWD is responsible for putting check on construction of illegal link roads. However, the department is barely co-operating.

The MO Shimla(R) admits that it would be difficult to curb mining menace without dismantling these illegal link roads created by mining mafia specially to facilitate transportation. She has asked HPPWD to identify and act to disable access to mining sites by dismantling such routes. She has also written to the Deputy Commissioner of Shimla regarding the same.

Secondly, patronage of elected MLAs or politicians to mining mafia is clearly making it harder for administration to act against offenders even if honest official try to do so. It was clearly visible in ASP Baddi Gaurav Singh’s case. The officer had challaned a tipper for illegal transportation of quarried material. The tipper belonged to a company owned by Doon MLAs wife. Despite being a headline in media, ASP was slapped with transfer orders within a couple of days of this action. There are other such controversial cases of transfer of officials for being strict on mining mafia.

 

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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