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Ritwick Dutta: ‘We need to have a selfish interest in environment’

Ritwick Dutta, noted environment lawyer and founder of the highly accomplished Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE), received the Bhagirath Prayas Samman, an award that recognises efforts towards protection and conservation of rivers. Manu Moudgil caught up with him on his journey so far and how we can further expand the constituency of environment.

Daripalli Ramaiah: The man who planted (ten million!) trees

Daripalli Ramaiah, recently awarded the Padmashri, India’s third highest civilian honour, has dedicated his life to increasing the country’s green cover and in the process has been credited with planting one crore saplings. The fight of Ramaiah to plant trees was not alone, as his wife Janamma has also made significant contribution to tree planting.

The global road-building explosion is shattering nature

Bill Laurance writes: An unprecedented spate of road building is happening now, with around 25 million kilometres of new paved roads expected by 2050. An ambitious new study that mapped all roads globally has found that roads have split the Earth’s land surface into 600,000 fragments, most of them too tiny to support significant wildlife.

The best way to protect the world’s forests? Keep people in them

Gabriel Popkin reports: To preserve a natural landscape, kick people out. This “guns and fences” paradigm of conservation relies on drastically restricting local people’s activities—or even displacing them altogether. Today, it has spread around the world, with disastrous consequences for communities. But in many cases, it may be misguided, argue a growing chorus of experts.

How scientists counted every tree on Earth—and the startling results

From Nature Video: It’s a simple question: how many trees are there on Earth? The answer required 421,529 measurements from fifty countries on six continents. Their findings? The earth is losing 10 billion trees every year. Now this data has been combined to produce a stunning visualisation of earth as you’ve never seen it before.

Paul Ehrlich: Radical overhaul needed to halt earth’s sixth great extinction

Growing numbers of scientists have asserted that our planet might soon see a sixth massive extinction— driven by the escalating impacts of humanity. Others, such as the Swedish economist Bjørn Lomborg, have characterised such claims as ill-informed. We argue that the jury is in and the debate is over: Earth’s sixth great extinction has arrived.

Connecting the dots between the environment, conservation and adivasi politics

Shashank Kela, author of an acclaimed study of adivasi history and politics, writes: This essay aims to make connections between things that are usually studied separately– environmental history, political economy, conservation practice and adivasi politics. The belief that this potential convergence could do with wider discussion is my sole justification for putting it up here.

Report: World on track to lose two-thirds of wild animals by 2020

The Guardian reports: The number of wild animals on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020, which a new report attributes to an ongoing mass extinction. The analysis, the most comprehensive to date, indicates that animal populations plummeted by 58% between 1970 and 2012, with losses on track to reach 67% by 2020.

Ecologists are fiddling while our natural heritage burns, says Harvard scientist

Aaron M. Ellison writes in Nature: Better data will not save elephants, rhinos or any other species. Countless individuals, institutions, governments, and multinational and non-governmental organizations have been collecting, assimilating and organizing such data for decades, essentially fiddling while our biological heritage burns… I suggest three crucial actions that scientists can take, beginning right now.

Dia Mirza on the Uttarakhand fires and how we fail our forests

Dia Mirza writes:  We cannot call this devastation of ecology and livelihoods ‘natural calamities’ anymore; it’s evident that there is a nexus of powerful people who are ignorant to the ramifications of their idea of “development” and “progress” that is gutting our forests, polluting our rivers and leading many states to a state of drought.

Spotlight: Who is running our pollution control boards?

Ritwick Dutta writes: The National Green Tribunal recently passed a landmark judgment ruling that only those persons who have ‘special knowledge’ and ‘practical experience’ in ‘matters relating to environmental protection’ are eligible for appointment to pollution control boards. Unfortunately, across various states, persons who do not fulfill the criterion have been appointed in these posts.

Botswana prez is ‘Racist of the Year’; Indian godman among nominees

Survival International has given its “Racist of the Year” award for 2016 to President Ian Khama of Botswana. The award is given annually to the person displaying the greatest prejudice against tribal peoples. Nominees in 2016 included Australian cartoonist Bill Leak and Indian godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, whose film MSG-2 depicts tribal people as “evil”.

In Gadchiroli, the mining of another adivasi god

Javed Iqbal reports: Months have passed quietly with allegations of day-to-day violence and repression. Throughout the summer, say locals, many adivasis were caught and humiliated by the C60 – Maharashtra’s special anti-naxal force. In interviews, they detailed how they were deliberately humiliated by being beaten on the soles of their feet and on their buttocks.

CAMPA: The return of British Raj to the forests

Gladson Dungdung writes: With the CAMPA bill being passed, the forest department has regained its lost hegemonic power over Adivasis. Many past and present instances suggest that the CAMPA amounts to the return of a British Raj-like regime to the forest, aggravating resource based conflict and the enmity between the State and forest dwelling communities.

Warning from 40 top scientists: Tigers, elephants may go extinct by 2100

40 scientists from across the world have recently announced that megafauna – large animals like elephants, lions, tigers, cheetahs, rhinoceroses – will not survive much longer if we don’t act fast. Examining population trends, the scientists said that human activities like deforestation and hunting can wipe out their populations by the end of this century.

A black day for the rights of millions – Rajya Sabha passes Afforestation Bill

Campaign for Survival and Dignity release: The Rajya Sabha has passed the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill, 2016. This Bill essentially gives carte blanche to forest officials to spend gigantic amounts of money (over Rs. 40,000 crores) without any accountability to the people whose forests, lands and lives will be damaged or destroyed by their activities.

P. Sainath: The sacred waters of a tanker

From Ruralindiaonline.org: Rampant deforestation, extensive damming of the rivers, huge diversions of water for industrial projects and even elite resorts can be seen across the state. All these underlie Maharashtra’s terrible water crisis. They won’t get washed away by the monsoon, even if the media coverage of it dries up with onset of the rains.

The diversity of life across much of Earth has plunged below ‘safe’ levels

Chris Mooney reports: In an ambitious study representing the latest merger between big data approaches and the quest to conserve the planet, scientists have found that across a majority of the Earth’s land surface, the abundance or overall number of animals and plants of different species has fallen below a “safe” level identified by biologists.

The culling of wild animals herald future water wars in India

Peter Smetacek writes: Culling wild animals that have come to depend on agriculture for sustenance is only a short-term measure. This was portrayed as a man-animal conflict rather than what it actually is: the conversion of our forests from rich storehouses of bio-diversity to green deserts by a combination of mismanagement, political expediency and ignorance.

Environment Ministry’s rules for polluters in India, copied word for word from the US

Jay Mazoomdar reports: Three-quarters of the Environment Ministry’s Environment Supplement Plan — 2,900 words of the 3,850-word draft — is directly lifted from a similar US government document. The draft notification proposes to allow those who go ahead with project work without prior environmental clearance. Under existing laws, these are criminal offences punishable with imprisonment.

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