Wednesday, March 31, 2010

10 Ways in which you can help towards conservation of the Mhadei River.

The Mhadei river and its tributaries are threatened due to the diversion Project of the Karnataka State Government which is playing the ‘Big Brother’ game with Goa due to its strength both in the Political arena and otherwise.
We as a people, in Goa can and must do our bit to help our elected representatives and those fighting the cause of conservation of the Mahdei River in whichever way we can. On the occasion of World Water Day and upcoming Earth Hour I attempt to list some of the means that can make a difference in this fight to protect our Mother River, the Mhadei.
1. Be aware- Be conscious of the issue of the Diversion project envisaged by the Karnataka Government and its impacts on the Goan ecology and economy. Being aware is the key to action and the more we are updated on this issue that threatens the water security of our state, the better it is for the Goan society at large.
2. Help create awareness- arrange talks, slide shows and field visits for schools and other institutions across the state and beyond as people’s support is vital for petitioning both the state and central government on the peoples stand on this issue.
3. Take action- Volunteer time and resources to organizations like the Mhadei Bachao Abhiyan that have been relentlessly pursuing the matter in the Supreme Court as well as creating awareness at the grass roots level in the states of Goa and Karnataka.
4. Write to the Prime Minister of India seeking his personal attention to the delay in action to address the issue be it the Tribunal or the continuation of work at the Dam site despite a stay on the same.
5. Write to the Forest Minister of India and raise your concerns regarding the impacts of the diversion project on the biodiversity of adjoining Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary of Goa and the Bhimgad Wildlife sanctuary of Karnataka. It is a given that areas in the submergence and dam area are forest areas too and these will irreversibly damaged in the process of diversion.
6. Petition the court- petition the Central Empowered Committee on Wildlife and seek attention on the depletion of water sources,
7. Pass a resolution at your Village Gramsabha demanding the immediate intervention and attention of the Hon Supreme Court of India as well as the Central Empowered committee on Wildlife of the Supreme Court for the immediate stoppage of work at the dam site at Kankumbi as it is violating existing orders of Status quo by these law bodies.
8. Conserve forests- Jal, Jamin aur Jungle are connected. The conservation of green areas whether it is wetland or forest ecosystems, mangroves or city forests, requires protection. Habitat alteration is the single largest threat to catchment areas of our water bodies and these can only be protected by your active intervention at the grass roots levels.
9. Conserve Water-whether it is in your home or office environment, the need of the hour is to conserve fresh water and its sources-lakes, rivers wells, springs etc across the state. This must go hand in hand with protection of the Mhadei River and her tributaries.
10. Reach out- it is important to reach out and lobby for the conservation of water as a natural resource in the State. The Mhadei and its tributaries are Goa’s lifelines and it is our individual responsibility to safeguard and actively participate in planning and decision making in any program and project that involves the use or alteration of this resource. Give time and efforts to this issue, as it will decide the future of the state and its people. Keep the faith.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New species get raw deal in Goa.

Yes it is true. Species that have been described from the state of Goa by scientists and ecologists get a raw deal, and hardly a handful seem to know about these lesser known creatures and the people behind these contributions to the field of international science.
To begin with, the new descriptions of wild creatures from Goa are mostly lesser known fauna- i.e. in simple terms, smaller wildlife that is for many not of any significant economical, cultural and ecological value- and hence do not figure in any way in the scheme of things as far as awareness or appreciation for these living beings of the land.
Take for example the Goan Day Gecko (Nemespis goanensis), one of our early descriptions from the state, perhaps in the 70’s, a small and yet spectacular species of day lizards whose singular image does not even exist today and very little is known of the same as far as its description or even ecology is concerned. Many more have followed since and in the same manner have been lost in time and space, only to be known by a handful for academicians and researchers interested in the subject.
And sadly it is the same fact even with the new species described from the state in recent times. The species of caecilian (legless burrowing amphibians) described from Bondla Wildlife sanctuary i.e. the Nadkarni’s caecilian (Gegeneophis nadkarnii) in 2004 and the one described from Keri, Sattari Goan caecilian (Gegeneophis goaensis) in 2007 by Dr G. K. Bhatt and his team have not only been forgotten but even ignored for their conservation value by the concerned Departments. The same goes with the newly described scorpion species ‘Thaicharmus lowei’ described from the Netravali wildlife sanctuary in 2007 by Frantisek Kovarik and his team, and there is already another new description in acceptance for a spider species Ctenus goanensis (common name yet to be given) by well known Goan entomologist and scientist Dr Manoj Borkar…all from Goa where the exquisite forests remain unexplored for smaller wildlife and thus present a challenging task for conservation as well as research in terms of wildlife documentation and study.
But this study is tedious, meticulous and back breaking, and let me admit, as I know first hand… frustrating at times too as the recognition and encouragement for the work done is minimal, thanks to the low interest for subjects like ecology and wildlife biology amongst the masses as well as the classes.
However, I earnestly feel it is the need of the hour for our Forest Department to realize that these species descriptions from the state of Goa are not only important species as far as the state or country is concerned but have international significance as well and have succeeded in bringing Goa and its unique wilderness areas on the world map of wildlife and science as well. They need to be given their due recognition and the Department needs to take steps to ensure that at least the locals as well as tourists visiting these sites of discovery like Bondla, Mahdei and Netravali sanctuaries be made aware of the existence of these rare creatures.
That none of our Environment textbooks, Biology journals or even reference periodicals, etc have ever featured or included any of these described species from Goa is not only a sad fact but a shameful one at that. Isn’t it of utmost importance that our student community is aware of these unknown wonders, that have now been described and discovered for the first time from a small state like ours- should not they be appreciated and acknowledge just like other events and in field of sports or development are? It is but high time that the Education department and the Science and Technology department takes note of this lacuna and takes steps to ensure that information of these species and many others including flora and fauna (which I too may have missed) be compiled in the form of a booklet for distribution to libraries of educational institutions for creating awareness about these forgotten species whose knowledge the world community acknowledges time and again. As far as the media is concerned, their role is vital as researchers can only do their bit of documenting and bringing to light new aspects related to science and ecology, but it is the media who has to take the initiative for spreading awareness and creating interest amongst the masses so that this awareness leads to conservation and action for the protection of our wild habitats and their known as well as unknown denizens!
That the State Biodiversity Board needs to wake up from its slumber and bring out publications regarding new descriptions from the state, endemic species of plants and animals as well as threatened species, by way of children’s books, posters and other literature, is as of today the need of the hour.
And while ecologists and wildlife scientists continue to work and report new species and range extensions, endemic and rare species of flora and fauna from our exquisite forests, the least we as a people can do is support them in mind and spirit… and appreciate their work in every way possible. Keep the faith.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Top 10 ways to help frogs the cool way.

Declining numbers in Amphibian species is a cause of concern for all conservationists and wildlife researchers across the globe as well as the country. And while the issues that aggravate this decline are many, we in Goa are faced with some specific problems that need to be addressed firstly at an individual level by each and everyone of us and then as a conscious society. I list below 10 simple ways to conserve frog and other amphibian populations in the state and help conserve this much neglected group of creatures of our environs.
1. Observe, appreciate and educate yourself, your friends and your family about amphibians and their kind. Read about them on the Internet or from a book in your local library. Or better still attend a talk or discussion being organized by wildlife lovers on frogs in the state.
2. Create amphibian safe environs in your backyard and neighborhood by saying no to frog poaching for meat and creating niche habitats like small artificial ponds, cool undergrowth and leaf litter to attract frogs of various species.
3. Do not pollute your immediate surroundings including gardens, farmlands and backyards by disposing non-biodegradable waste recklessly. Refrain from using chemical fertilizers and pesticides as they have severe impacts on local populations of amphibians and irreversibly damage habitats that are then beyond repair.
4. Voice your opinion in the right forums to garner support for amphibians and their kind. Start from your local Panchayat and Gramsabha and seek the attention of your Range Forest officer as well as your neighborhood Police Beat officer too. Collectively, everyone can contribute in their own way to ensure that frogs and toads are protected in their breeding season.
5. Convince and educate those who have relished “ Jumping chicken” in the past that it is illegal to hunt, capture and serve or consume Frog meat now under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Make your local restaurant as well as
6. Conserve all natural resources including water and soil. Rainwater harvesting not only helps the soil and helps maximize the usage of water for the earth, it also ensures that most species of amphibians benefit from such clean collected rainwater. Preventing the run off of soil also helps conserve frog habitats.
7. Be active and participate in drives, talks and workshops that address issues relating to amphibian decline, curbing of poaching of certain species and habitat conservation. Every individual’s support will surely go a long way towards conservation of amphibians in our ecosystems.
8. Reduce the use of fossil fuels and other substances that you know are damaging to the planet and induce Climate change. Remember, one of the single largest reasons for drastic decline in amphibian populations worldwide is Climate change. Buy CFL bulbs and use renewable energy systems like solar panels etc to help slow the rate of climate change.
9. Drive slowly and carefully in the monsoons. Road kills of certain species are on the rise in the state and a cause of concern. You surely have a right on the road as a drive but these creatures to have a right to live and need your respect!
10. Participate in the planning and decision making process of Land use development of your neighborhood. Appropriate care and sustainable planning can go a long way in ensuring that natural habitats are conserved and managed properly for posterity.
And while we as individuals can make a notable difference if any or all of these ways are practiced and accomplished in our everyday lives, it is up to Government agencies too, to pledge their support and provide it as and when required to conserve Amphibian populations in the state for posterity. Keep the faith.

By- Nirmal U Kulkarni