Prime Intention of the Blog
"People without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees and wildlife is almost as helpless".
I still remember my childhood days when I used to visit Dandeli a place where even my father started his professional career and also where my most of the relatives were staying.Even though I never brought up in Dandeli no one could stop me to go there since it was just two hours journey from my native. And during every visit I used to get the scoldings from my father and relatives since I used to spend most of the time in forests than in house.So as I grown up my visit to Dandeli became very less except twice or thrice in a year since I became busy with studies but always I had in my mind that I should contribute something to these magnificent forests which inspired me a lot to fall in love with the Conservation.So it is just an attempt from my side to create awareness to save these magnificent animals and landscapes they exist in.If this blog contributes in a small way to achieve this goal I will be the most happiest person in this world.
This blog mainly focuses towards conservation activities in and around Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve.This blog doesn't provide any information regarding tourism and its related activities in and around Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve.
Sunday, April 8, 2012
Wiping out the wildlife?
Tucked away in the lush green Western Ghats, in the picturesque village of Asaniye in Maharashtra's Sindhudurg district, a priest is offering prayers to an unusual deity. But there's nothing unusual about this tradition. For as long as village elders can remember, Asaniye village has had a temple dedicated to India's national animal- the tiger. In fact, so strong is their belief in its powers that villagers don't even claim compensation from the forest department when the tiger kills cattle here.
Not just that. Tiger presence is well documented even in the forest departments records. The forest department's records show the presence of at least 5 tigers and 40 leopards here. Yet, what's surprising is that environment impact assessment reports (EIA) prepared by expert consultants for obtaining mining permissions here, have no records of any tigers or leopards- both highly endangered species.
The forest cover in Sindhudurg is a crucial wildlife corridor that connects the Anshi-Dandeli tiger reserve in the south with the Sahyadri tiger project in the north, spread over approximately 10-15 km that could be completely destroyed since all of it comes under the proposed mines.
The western ghats is a catchment area for most of the rivers in south India, large parts of the Western Ghats are also world heritage sites with endemic species found only here. Vast areas are yet to be explored and many species yet to be discovered. It would be a pity to lose them even before they are found.
There are 32 mining leases in the Sawantwadi- Dodamarg belt alone and as many as 105 leases in the Sindhudurg district currently under consideration but their environment impact assessment reports are largely silent on significant wildlife species. For example, the rapid environment impact assessment report for mining iron ore in Dongarpal shows presence of rats, mongoose and jungle cat but has no mention of highly endangered species like the leopard and tiger. Even in a village like Asaniye, that has a temple dedicated to the tiger, the report for mining here is silent on the tiger.
B R Kolte, President of the Mining Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti told NDTV, "The previous EIA had said there is no resident population here and hence no question of rehabilitation. When we pointed this out to them, theychanged it. The EIA also said that there are no water sources here and after our protest changed that. So in a span of two months they completely contradicted their own findings. They should have spent some time on studying the area. How can they give false EIAs and go unpunished for it?"
The people of Asaniye are worried. Though there were strong protests at the public hearing, residents are not sure their voice will reach the government.
"We never know if our papers and our say has reached the authorities", says Kolte. "We have seen in Goa that in place of mountains and greenery, now there are heaps of waste stocked up from the mines. There isn't any green patch left where something as tiny as a bird can perch. Mountains have been reduced to dust and mud. It has been denuded completely. There used to be forests there just like the ones here. People from Goa tell us that."
In nearby Dabhil village, there is a peculiar problem. This village is ear-marked for both mining and irrigation.
D Stalin from NGO Vanashakti says, "This is very strange because it is basically wrong to consider both this project can go hand in hand which makes it very obvious that this irrigation project is not meant for villagers or agricultural purposes it is just to give water to the mining leases which are going to get operational all along the region. So everywhere there is a no entry board for miner but the government is hell-bent on twisting that board away and putting a welcome board on that place."
In fact, despite strong opposition to mining from the forest department, the proposal in the Kesari village has still not been rejected.
The mine in Kalne village has been in operation for more than a year. The environment assessment reports were silent on Maharashtra's state animal- the critically endangered giant squirrel, but it paid the NDTV team a chance visit right in front of the Kalne iron ore mine, when we were working on this report.
The Madhav Gadgil led Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel's report, currently with the Ministry of Environment and Forests, accessed by NDTV, has clearly said 'Current environmental clearance processes are seriously defective'.
In fact...the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report, that has classified the region into 3 ecologically sensitive zones or ESZs, has recommended:
(a) An indefinite moratorium on new environmental clearances for mining in Ecologically Sensitive Zones 1 and 2
(b) A phasing out of mining from ESZ1 by 2016.
Sindhudurg's proposed mining leases fall in this ESZ 1 category.
The state government accepts that environment impact assessment reports are flawed but says the onus for making a change is on the Union government. Yet, surprisingly, at a time that the moratorium is still in place in Sindhudurg, the collector, in complete violation of the moratorium, has scheduled another public hearing in April in Zolambe village for mining iron ore. This despite the fact that the village committee has said in writing it doesn't want any mining there.
An edited version of this article can be read from the link below: