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Himachal to use Korean expertise in urban management and green development (in files only)

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Green Growth in Himachal and Korean Expertise

SHIMLA- Himachal Pradesh Government, including the tenure of both major political parties, has achieved milestones in development of Himachal Pradesh but just in papers for decades. Everything is fit and fine from the perspective of the government and Himachal is the most prosperous State of India.

Recently, Himachal Pradesh Government organized a workshop in collaboration with Korea Green Growth Trust Fund (KGGTE). The Urban Development, HP Public Works Department and Environment, Science and Technology Department claimed their achievements in the workshop. Claims made by the Urban Development, Housing and Town and Country Planning Minister Sudhir Sharma were the main attraction at the workshop.

The quality of service and corruption in HPPWD isn’t hidden from anyone. The condition of roads is miserable even in the core city area of capital Shimla. The Chief Minister himself had labeled the department as the worst performer and hub of corruption. So, what sort of achievements did HPPWD claim?

In papers, the government claims excellence in the field of solid waste management, public transport, urban management, road constructions and maintenance. Well, in reality, the administration in capital city couldn’t even run a solid waste management plant and sending its daily waste to Chandigarh for treatment or is being piled up on landfills.

The government claims that Himachal Pradesh would utilize the global experience of Korea and World Bank for the solutions in areas like solid waste management, public transport, urban management, road constructions and maintenances etc.

Now, in this workshop, The Urban Development, Housing and Town and Country Planning Minister Sudhir Sharma was luring public by assuring assistance from Korea in achieving green and inclusive development. The minister claims that the State Government would work on the analogy of Korean model for developing Shimla, Dharamshala city as a smart cities and streamlining the traffic problems of the Shimla city.

To the World Bank and the Development Policy Loan of the World Bank, state claims implementation of critical structural and administrative reforms necessary to achieve rapid inclusive economic growth and development.

He went on boasting that Himachal Pradesh had surpassed various other States of the country in many sectors because of good co-ordination and commitment of the administrative machinery and the State leadership. For the government, the State had emerged as one of the States with the best human development outcomes.

In reality, the government departments of Himachal are highly callous toward their duty. For instance, the HP Pollution Control Board, HP Traffic Police, and RTO claim that they are not responsible for checking vehicular pollution. Most of the buses of Himachal Pradesh Road Corporation are visibly polluting due to lack of maintenance.

Recently, government had invited people to come forward to get their illegal structures legalize by paying a nominal fee. The decision sounds absurd considering the fact that the government never bothered to check illegal construction in first place. When the condition went out of control, the government decided to legalize them. This will benefit contactors and politicians who have erected illegal structure by bypassing the rules and regulations.
But, in the workshop, the government claimed that the State’s top priority is to check haphazard and unplanned growth of these areas and to provide best infrastructural and public services like housing, sanitation, disposal of solid wastes, transport, water, health and education etc.

Rationing of water in Shimla, deadly jaundice outbreak in Shimla, and the recovery of Yug Gupta’s remains from IPH water tank in Shimla aptly demonstrated how committed the State government is about providing clean and sufficient water to public.

The government further patted its back for initiative towards green growth, the state government had imposed complete ban on green felling, use of polythene, plastic bags, cups and plates besides smoking in public places. Himachal was the first State in the country to initiate green forest accounting.

In reality, the plastic is still used in some places of Himachal, illegal tree felling is regular, and littering is only getting worse in the State. In capital, the administration doesn’t have provided basic facilities like toilets and dustbins at some of the most crowded bus stops and people urinate in open and dispose of waste in open.

The ministers and other government representatives present in the workshop repeated same old statements about exchange of knowledge through workshop to find effective solutions in various issues the State was grappling with.

Concerned departments, which aren’t at all concerned about sustainability or preservation of ecology, would learn about green technologies and make appropriate adjustments in the development policies, claims government.

The Korean experience of application of ICT interventions would further contribute to achieve better standards of administrative efficiency, transparency and citizen delivery, said the government as part of impressive press note.
While the government and local bodies are still practicing open burning of daily garbage and vehicular pollution is going completely unchecked, the ministers claimed that the State was also looking forward in the areas of use of green construction technology in road sector, use of ICT applications to achieve green growth and the concept of green smart city development with the participation of citizens.

Additional Chief Secretary, Finance Dr. Shrikant Baldi believes that Himachal Pradesh had done remarkable job in green growth initiative and by the end of year 2020, the State would achieve the carbon neutrality target.

The conclusion is that the State is doing excellent job in files and papers and is likely to continue the same trend with dedication. Therefore, it is very important for public to beware of such statements that appear in newspapers and try to compare declaration of achievements by the government and reality.

Photo: The News Himachal

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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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