The high-rank officials and MLAs travel in VVIP fleet and security despite the fact they are never exposed to such risky field work. However, for forest guards, who deal with animals like leopard, are not even given most basic and trivial equipment – tranquilizer gun.
UNA- After yesterday’s tragic encounter of an ill-equipped rescue team of Una Forest Division with an injured leopard, in which the Range Officer was critically injured and the leopard was killed on the spot, a shocking revelation came into light after postmortem of the carcass. The veterinary doctor and examination by forest department experts confirmed the leopard injured after it was shot with a firearm. On the other hand, the seriously injured R.O. was referred to PGI Chandigarh after his condition didn’t stabilize. Reportedly, the head of the victim remained crushed between jaws of the furious leopard for about 10 minutes before he was freed from animal’s grab. Five other including two local youth were also injured while rescuing the R.O.
The veterinary doctor Amit Sharma stated that splinters shots fired from firearm were visible on the carcass of the animal. Same was confirmed by a team of three veterinary doctors that was constituted by the Forest and Animal Husbandry department for the postmortem of the carcass to know exact reason of its injury and death. The Divisional Forest Officer, RK Dogra, also agreed that the injuries were sustained from a firearm.
They suggested that the leopard was in injured condition after it was shot by poachers or locals. The revelation seems to agree with speculations of poaching activity in Himachal’s forests that house dense leopard population. The DFO further informed that the animal was a full-grown female leopard.
The Superintendent of Police, Una, Anupam Sharma, informed media that a case has been registered against unidentified suspects and inquiry has been initiated. The suspects will be behind bars soon, the SP said.
It was the same leopard that the locals had seen yesterday sitting on roadside in injured condition and had informed the forest officials regarding it. The team consisting of four forest guards led by the Range Officer, Rajesh Kumar, arrived at the scene without required equipment and didn’t follow standard operating procedure while searching for the injured animal that belongs to a highly aggressive and dangerous feline family. The department didn’t provide the team even a single tranquilizer gun or a firearm for defense purpose in a case involving deadly wild animal. During the search operation, the injured and threatened animal pounced on the R.O. and had almost mauled him to death if it weren’t for the guards and two local youth who killed the leopard with some tree-branches they had just ripped off.
Without Providing Standard Equipment, HP Govt. Exposing Forest Staff to Life-Threatening Risks
It is noticeable that the forest department had been pleading the government to pass the proposal of providing tranquilizer guns to the staff so that life of both animals and humans could be saved during rescue operations or while capturing dangerous animals. The proposal is now pending for over a year. The high-rank officials and MLAs travel in VVIP fleet and security despite the fact they are never exposed to such risky field work. However, for forest guards, who deal with animals like leopard, are not even given most basic and trivial equipment – tranquilizer gun.
The forest staff is blamed for inaction, but in reality they are helpless as they are facing apathy of the government.
Secondly, it is evident from the postmortem report that either poachers are active in the region or local are carrying out hunting activity.
Dust storms hit air quality of Himachal, no health advisory issued from Govt
Shimla: Himachal Pradesh along with other North India states like Haryana and Delhi-NCR is affected by the dust storms due to strong-anti cyclonic winds, blowing from Rajasthan.
All major towns remained covered in a blanket of haze for the second day on Friday. The air quality has dropped in the capital Shimla. The amount of suspended particulate matter was reported to above 300 µg/m³ from 80-85 µg/m³ on normal days.
As per the Meteorological Department, the haze is worsened by higher humidity levels.
The tourist activity may also be effected in tourist towns like Shimla during the peak season as flights from airports in Himachal were also grounded for the second day due to the low visibility. The heli-taxi service from Shimla to Chandigarh was also suspended.
The State Pollution Control Board or the State Government has not issued any health advisory to the public so far. Some media reports said the PCB was not even aware of the exact levels of suspended particulate matter during past two days.
The haze could cause several problems from respiratory to allergic reactions including wheezing, cough, chest discomfort and shortness of breath.
For people suffering from asthma, it could prove to be fatal.
The reports suggested that a number of asthma patients visiting the Indira Gandhi Medical Hosptial saw a rise during last two days.
Children and elderly persons, who have smaller lung-reserve, can also face breathing problems. Therefore, remaining indoor to avoid long exposure to haze is advisable for vulnerable individuals.
It is a mixture of dust particles, gases, and other pollutants already floating in the breathable air.
The dust particles become a platform for deadly PM 10 and PM 2.5 particulate matter to cling on.
Previous studies have also confirmed the presence of chemcical pollutants in the haze of the Delhi-NCR.
Moreover, dust is a respiratory irritant even if it is not accompanied by toxic particles.
During such conditions, wearing a simple mask is advisable to minimize the damage.
Other than the health issues, the dust is settling on everything from clothes to edibles.
The Met Department had predicted rain with thunderstorm and gusty winds in all part of Himachal on Saturday and Sunday. The rain could bring relief from both humidity and dust storm.
The situation is alarming in the Delhi-NCR. So far, the dust storms have reportedly killed about 15 people in Uttar Pradesh. It may worsen as the storm is predicted to last for next two days.
HP Govt’s failure in implementing FRA Act turning habitants into encroachers
The right to claim titles in “Forest” areas occupied prior to December 13, 2005, is clearly provided in the FRA for the individuals regarded as “encroachers” under the previous legal framework.
Shimla: About 1500 people participated in a rally and public meeting held on June 7, 2018, at Reckong Peo, Kinnaur, to raise their voice against on-going eviction drive that is terming a large number of occupants of forestland as illegal encroachers in complete violation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
The people protested against HP Government’s poor implementation of the FRA, in their district as well as in the entire state.
The rally and public meeting were organized jointly by the Him Lok Jagriti Manch, Zilla Van Adhikar Mancha, a Kinnaur-based platform, Himachal Van Adhikar Manch, Himdhara Collective, and Himalaya Niti Abhiyan.
A memorandum was submitted to the Deputy Commissioner with a demand to immediately start processing the claims under FRA from Kinnaur district.
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, or Recognition of Forest Rights Act – commonly known as the Forest Rights Act (FRA)- was passed by Parliament in 2006 to address historical injustices and exclusion meted out to a large community of forest dwellers in India. Rights over forestlands were taken away since notification of forests under colonial Indian Forest Act (1927).
While in Himachal, there was a Forest Settlement in the 1970s that settled people’s access to forestlands, for the community, these remained privileges that could be taken away any time, the activists of organizing groups said.
Since then, a process of alienation of forest-dwelling communities has intensified in the name of development, wildlife conservation, forest management, and development, shrinking survival spaces of the forest-dependent people each time, they said.
It is only logical to assume that this piece of legislation is extremely relevant for Himachal Pradesh, where 67 percent of the total land area is under the jurisdiction of the Forest Department, the activists said.
In the initial phase, the State government had implemented the Act only in the Schedule – V (Tribal regions) areas of the State. As a result of this, the process of implementation in the State faced a long delay.
In 2013, after a High Court order and repeated instructions from the Centre, the government decided to implement the Act in non-tribal areas also. Despite the formation of more than 17503 Forest Right Committees (FRCs), which would file the claims, the process is not taking off in most areas.
Local administration and government officials have a partial understanding of the act and several misgivings. As a result of it, the process is just not moving forward.
The activists informed that it is extremely unfortunate that despite the formation of FRCs in 99.82% of revenue villages, only 53 individuals and 7 community titles have been issued under the Act in Himachal in past five years.
Further, on April 6, 2015, the Himachal Pradesh High Court ordered the removal of encroachments on “forest land” in the state within six months. It has triggered an eviction drive by the Forest Department.
This includes serving notices for removal of encroachments, disconnecting electricity and water supply provided to all “illegal” structures raised over encroached land and legal action in case of non-compliance.
In upper Shimla, the Forest Department went to the extent of felling apple trees from orchards on “forest land.” In Kinnaur, 98 such notices have been served to so-called “encroachers”.
Fearing further action, the people of Kinnaur, earlier on July 25, 2015, organised a huge rally at District headquarters, Rekong Peo, questioning the manner in which the Forest Department is implementing the orders of the High Court.
The activists emphasized on the importance of understanding the right to claim titles in “Forest” areas occupied prior to December 13, 2005, is clearly provided in the FRA for the individuals regarded as “encroachers” under the previous legal framework.
The provisions of this Act are applicable for Scheduled Tribes and other forest-dwelling communities, which mean almost the entire state. This is a special Act that supersedes all other previous acts related to forests like the Indian Forest Act 1927 or the Forest Conservation Act 1980.
It is a matter of concern that the state government failed to bring the issue of this non-implementation of the FRA Act to the attention of the High Court, the activists said.
As per the Section 5(4) of Chapter III of the FRA,
No member of a forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe or other traditional forest dwellers shall be evicted or removed from forest land under his occupation till the recognition and verification procedure is complete.
According to the 2011 Census, of the total workforce in Himachal, around 62 percents are cultivators and agricultural labourers. This means that a majority of the population dependent completely on farming and forests (livestock rearing) as a livelihood is not a beneficiary in the state budget allocations, the activists said.
Further, the falling number of jobs in the private sector has added to the crises between communities, which could ultimately lead to distress migration, visible in states like Uttarakhand, they said expressing concern.
Undertake research on ways to reduce dependence on plastic, say Nauni varsity scientists
Solan: The scientists and students of the Environment Science Department at Dr. YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni celebrated the World Environment Day with the students of Government Senior Secondary School, Kothi Deora. The students, staff, villagers and Dangri Gram Panchayat representatives took part in the celebrations.
Speaking at the occasion, Dr. SK Bhardwaj, Head Department of Environment Science said that the theme of this year’s celebrations was ‘Beating Plastic Pollution’.
The scientists and research scholars Apoorva Sharma, Shivani, Lal Rinzuali and health specialist Dr. Ajay Singh took part in the event and apprised the students about the various kinds of pollution and their impact.
Addressing the gathering, Apoorva explained the need to curtail the use of plastic products, as they were one of the main pollutants.
She urged everyone to look for environmentally friendly alternatives and undertake research on the ways to reduce the dependence on plastic. Another speaker, Shivani highlighted the pollution of water sources and the importance of water for humans.
She called for collective efforts to conserve water by building small tanks and by proper disposal of soapless water from kitchens and bathrooms in the soil.
School Principal Dr. Narender Sharma also shared effective techniques of environmental conservation with the students. The eco club of the school also administered the oath for the protection and conservation of the environment.
In addition, the Dangri Panchayat also organized a Workshop on Air Quality and TB at its premises. The university scientists set up Respirable Dust Sampler machine, which will help to ascertain the air quality of the area within the next one month.
The panchayat has already taken steps to fight pollution and has distributed plants like a spider plant, snake plant, aloe vera etc., which were provided to them by the university.
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