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HRTC buys 25 zero-emission, electric buses for 48 crore, Likely to run on Manali-Rohtang route in next 3 months

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hrtc electric buses

SHIMLA- In next three months, Himachal Pradesh would not only become the first Indian state to run electric-buses but also the first one in the world to ply them at an altitude of 3, 978 meters (13,000 feet) on mountainous terrain of Pir Panjal ranges of the eastern Himalayas. After floating an open tender last year, the HP Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) had run trials of e-buses from Chinese and Indian companies. Finally, Himachal has sealed a deal with Hydrabad-based company, Goldstone Infratech Ltd, for delivery of 25 electric-buses costing about 48 crore in next three months. The mentioned cost does not include yearly maintenance cost. These buses will be commissioned on Manal-Rohtang-Manali section.

With this step, the government hopes to make up for the restriction on entry of petrol and diesel vehicles that have created dilemma from tourists regarding transportation facilities.

Goldstone further has its collaboration with a Chinese e-bus manufacturer BYD. The buses will be bought from the Chinese company but will be assembled in India.

The centre government will pay 75% of the cost while state government will have to contribute remaining 25%.

Goldstone Infratech’s tie-up with BYD for pure electric buses in India is a path breaking milestone, which will go a long way as a green energy initiative and will be adopted by a number of states to combat pollution issues,

said P.K. Srivastava, Head, e-bus Division, Goldstone Infratech Ltd.

The state government would take credit for this initiative, but in reality, it was forced to introduce zero-emission transportation facility after the National Green Tribunal of India took stringent step of imposing restriction on entry of fossil fuel vehicles into Rohtang in order to wake it from slumber and do something to curb rising emissions that are causing damage to glaciers. As per the NGT, the glaciers at Rohtang are reported to be receding at a rate of 19-20 meters per year, which is alarming. The state acted ignorantly, as it does in most of the situation related to environmental protection, and didn’t take notice of increasing vehicular activity with rise in number of tourists visiting Rohtang. This ignorance led to restriction on the entry of fossil fuel vehicles into the region, which is less than 1,000 vehicles per day including both diesel and petrol vehicles. However, electric or CNG vehicles are exempted.

The state had faced embarrassment for its carelessness and lack of small arrangements like dustbins for waste collection.

It was also observed that there was no system and manpower in place, not even dustbins, to collect garbage and municipal waste at Rohtang Pass and other eco-sensitive places. There was no system of transportation of garbage to dumping sites,

” had said NGT rebuking the state government.

The local cab service providers, hoteliers and people dependent on tourist activity for their living suffered most due to this ignorance. When unrest grew among people who had lost their employment, the state government put all the blame on NGT. The government had even claimed that there are no glaciers at Rohtang. The local association from Manali had reached Supreme Court last year with a plea to remove the ban, but didn’t receive any respite.

This (NGT) order was in the interest of environment and ecology, the ecology must remain beautiful. What is the use if it gets destroyed? … We cannot deny that vehicular pollution will not affect the snow,

had said the apex court to Manali Taxi Association in reply to their plea.

The state couldn’t afford CNG buses as it was a costly deal. It would have taken over 250 crores to establish mother-daughter fueling stations. So, eventually, electric-buses had to be introduced.

Nevertheless, the introduction of e-buses will make a difference and would act as a lesson for states in plains. NGT has forcefully made rectification in condition of Rohtang region, but rest of the districts aren’t doing any better. Garbage burning is prevalent throughout the state, which is another major source of emissions. But the state agencies and administration haven’t bothered to check it so far. Environmental concerns and awareness toward its protection are mostly missing from government’s agenda. Even capital city is struggling with issues like public littering that can be dealt with awareness campaigns.

Image: BYD

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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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Himachal Gets First Fully Automated ‘Doppler Weather Radar’, Would Provide More Accurate Short Range Forecast

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Dopper Weather Radar in Himachal Pradesh's Kufari

Shimla-India Meteorological Department (IMD) January 15, 2021, celebrated its 146th Foundation Day. IMD is one of the oldest, scientific service organizations in the country, in existence well before Independence.

On the occasion, Dr. Harsh Vardhan inaugurated Doppler Weather Radars at Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand and Kufri, Himachal Pradesh; Multi-Mission Meteorological Data Receiving and Processing System in IMD in collaboration with ISRO (MMDRPS).

According to the IMD, these modernized Radars would give a more specific short-range weather forecast.

It’s pertinent to mention that accurate and advance weather information is of utmost importance to Himachal Pradesh – a state largely dependent on agriculture and tourism.

The one installed in Kufari, Shimla, is Indigenous dual polarised X-Band Doppler Weather Radar. Two more Radars would be installed at Mandi and Dalhousie in Chamba district of the State. A site had already been finalized at Mandi and a site for Radar at Dalhousie would be finalized soon, the State Government informed.

This specific type of Radar uses the Doppler effect to gather velocity data. The Radar transmits a signal, which gets reflected when hits a raindrop. Based on the changes in the frequency of the reflected signal, data is obtained about the motion of droplets and intensity of the precipitation. Scientists can analyze this data to determine the structure and severity of storms.

Radar installed at Kufri is on test mode for a period of two weeks. Thereafter its data would be used for forecasting purposes. This Radar has a range upto 100 kilometres in radial distance. It would observe and provide the weather data of 100 kilometres in all directions, which would be used for forecasting purpose, especially for the short-range forecast. More précised area-specific weather forecast and warning can be issued for a particular place, for the weather phenomenon like thunderstorm, lighting, hailstorm, heavy rainfall/snowfall, gusty winds etc.    

This Centre would help the horticulturists and farmers of the State by providing them with accurate weather information.

The DWR Kufri would run round the clock and it is fully automatic. It would transmit the data in various digital format and picture form.

 Forecasting monsoons is the lifeline to India’s food security and affect the economy as the nation’s GDP is dependent on agriculture. Moreover, weather prediction is critical to reducing the loss of lives from various extreme events like a cyclone, heavy rain, thunderstorm, heatwave and cold wave, monsoonal floods and droughts.

India Meteorological Department says that it is modernizing its observational network in the Central and Western Himalayas by the installation of Doppler Weather Radars in a phased manner, at different locations.

IMD said that this radar will be providing severe weather information to the weather forecasters, thus, improving the safety of the public in the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. It will also provide support to the disaster managers and the pilgrims undertaking the pilgrimage to Kailash Manasarovar and Char Dham yatra. 

 

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