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September 27, 2011

International Union for Conservation of Nature lists two mass-consumed fish species as endangered in Western Ghats




The endangered species are narrowly distributed within the Western Ghats, where destruction or alteration of a small catchment may lead to their extinction.

by jayashree nandi for journey basket. file images used for representational purpose.

New Delhi: If you are a fish lover, there are certain species which you may not be able to enjoy anymore. These include the rare fresh water fish varieties like the Deccan Mahseer and Black clams. There is some grim news for both fish lovers and conservationists as International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has recently listed them to be bordering extinction. Black clams and fresh water pearls are equally threatened.

In fact, as much 16% of fresh water species in Western Ghats have been classified to be threatened with extinction.

Water pollution and over harvesting are the main reasons behind the rapid depletion. Worse, the flow of the streams and water bodies of this biodiversity hotspot are hurdled by various hydroelectric projects and hundreds of mini-hydel projects, which cause more damage.

As per the IUCN red list, the center of this extinction threat is in the Western Ghats.

It concluded that the main issues impacting freshwater biodiversity in the Western Ghats were pollution, over fishing and collection for aquarium trade, dams, energy projects and mining.

More sad news for fish lovers: as per fellow and coordinator of Ashoka Trust For Research in Ecology and Environment, Aravind Madhyatsa, black clams found in the region, which are also exported in huge quantities, is almost threatened due to over harvesting.

“Not just the clams, even fresh water pearls that are found only in the Western Ghats are threatened. There are just 5,000 of them left in Tungabhadra and other rivers here. The hydel water projects that stop the extensive movement of these species cause a lot of problems. Pollution and overharvesting are also major causes," he said.

Some fresh water species like Mahseer and clams are often sold at major markets like INA in Delhi, which get a lot of fish supply from the south.

Pitra Bahadur, a fish vendor at Pick Fresh Fish in INA, says they used to get these varieties, especially Mahseer, from Cauvery a couple of years ago. But it increasingly became rare and expensive. "They used to be huge. I remember selling big pieces for Rs 150 per kg," he said.

Samuel Wharthekar, another vendor at INA, said such species are bought by people with unique taste for rare fish. "The Mahseer could be as big as 20 kg. We sell it for Rs 300 per kg. But now the Mahseer mostly comes from Kashmir, not so much from Cauvery," he said.

One of the recommendations made by the researchers is that many species are narrowly distributed within the Western Ghats, where destruction or alteration of a small catchment may lead to their extinction. Protection of key habitats, prevention of flow modifications and conservation of specialised ecosystems are required urgently.

Rampant angling of Mahseer, a common sport on the banks of the Cauvery, is also responsible for the decline in their numbers.

(the writer is an environment journalist based in new delhi. she can be contacted at jayashree.nandi[at]gmail.com)

September 15, 2011

nagarhole national park


the kuruba tribals of nagarhole national park, karnataka, wake up to the silence of a concrete colony these days, attuning themselves to a new livelihood and way of life far from the familiar forests. it is a tentative beginning.



shanti j k of the jenu kuruba tribe used to live in the bhogapura hadi inside the tiger reserve. but she preferred a more comfortable life in the relocated colony, free of the fear of being attacked by animals. she shifted to shettihalli lokpattna colony recently. "my great grandfathers must have come to live in the forests, i don't know since when. encounters with wild elephants, leopards were a regular thing. but crops and wild animals can't live together. there is no security for crops inside the forest." many women in the colony agree they now hope for a better life, and better education for their children.



besides the new shettihalli lokpattna colony, a healthy compensation package of rs 10 lakh (up from the earlier rs 1 lakh) has seen many taking the offer, with tribals slowly but steadily agreeing to shift to the colony.






for the forest department, it is quite a feat to have convinced some tribal families of the benefits of relocation. it dismisses charges by tribal rights groups that the forest rights act has been violated and therefore, the relocation is illegal, and argues that families have moved out willingly. but what lies ahead for conservation and for the tribals in a new setting is not clear yet.







the tribals relocation process began in 1999 when 50 families in nagarhole were relocated. the forest department acknowledges that then, it was not an all-voluntary relocation. "i will not shy away from saying we did force some of them to relocate. neither was the package so attractive. now, the families themselves realise it's not worth living in the forest anymore," says karnataka principal conservator of forests b k singh.





sunset at nagarhole national park, karnataka.

(reporting by jayashree nandi)

September 3, 2011

a leisurely walk at night


like moths to flame, people often walk towards the lights that illuminate the india gate monument. that is where you find the cotton candy and popcorn sellers, waiting for people.



the lawns surrounding the monument is also a busy marketplace for things that most people would remember from their childhood — flutes, fragile plastic toys, head bands, and bubbles.


here too, anna hazare makes an appearance. is that a frown, or a smile, moannalisa?



india gate, new delhi.

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