The Land of Vanishing Pastures


The northern Indian regions of Kashmir and Ladakh are home to a variety of livestock that provides meat as well as fine wool used to produce the famous Pashmina shawls. But overgrazing, strong winds and car traffic are now destroying pastures and posing a hazard to the survival of traditional herding.

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Climate change is increasing the intensity of extreme weather events

Climate change is increasing the intensity of extreme weather events

Far from being isolated, the Philippines typhoon Haiyan followed other extraordinary meteorological events that are becoming more frequent and increasingly severe Three weeks ago the most powerful typhoon ever recorded to hit land destroyed parts of the Philippines. The devastation has been catastrophic, flattening homes, schools and hospitals and leaving thousands dead and 5.5 million children affected.

Unicef has worked in the Philippines since 1948 and experienced staff returning from the worst affected areas such as Leyte are reporting having never seen anything like this – not even after the Asian tsunami on Boxing day almost a decade ago. They have seen hundreds of kilometres of coconut groves literally blown away by 300kph winds. A coconut tree takes 12 years to grow, so this is a decade of livelihoods wiped out in a single storm.

I am incredibly concerned about the children who are without a doubt the most vulnerable right now. But as the immediate shock of the typhoon news reports begin to fade from people’s memories we need to address with energy and decision the true facts behind the intensity of the Philippines typhoon.

If the Philippines typhoon was an isolated incident, it would be a meteorological phenomenon, but the real worry is that far from being isolated, these events are both frequent and increasingly severe. This typhoon comes on top of other extraordinary meteorological events that have occurred recently; unprecedented floods caused by a cyclone in Sardinia last week; unprecedented typhoons in the United States a few weeks ago; unprecedented rains that caused the Pakistan floods in August and last year.

We can not turn a blind eye to the stark reality; the reality that is climate change. Leaving aside the appalling individual tragedies that have occurred we must see that these are flashes of the future. Climate change is contributing to these events becoming more intense.

Hazards only become disasters when a population or society’s capacity to cope within existing resources is overwhelmed. In such a situation, children, especially the hardest to reach, are always the most vulnerable. Disasters put children at greater risk of death, exposure to disease and trauma, and disruption to their education and social development.

As disasters intensify with increasing impacts of climate change, there must be an expansion of adaptation and resilience programmes in vulnerable countries to protect children from risk. Unicef’s disaster risk reduction programmes implement simple measures like early warning systems which can mean the difference between life and death. These programmes work – the Indian state of Orissa’s disaster preparedness plan implemented last month undoubtedly saved lives as nearly a million people were evacuated when a cyclone was known to be heading towards the eastern coastal region.

Last weekend the UN climate change talks ended in Warsaw. The Philippines disaster should have sent an urgent message demanding bold action to protect children from disasters like these and delivered plans for how we can effectively rebuild when the worst happens, but the lack of energy has left me speechless. I can not believe we are not yet gripping this issue with the urgency that is needed and unless we do that, what you see isn’t going to be one event that shocks and saddens us but an event that is repeated and repeated and repeated.

I’m not saying that human beings alone are causing global warming, they’re not. The Earth is going through one of its warming cycles, but there is no doubt, none whatsoever, that human beings are adding to that and adding to that in a dangerous and ultimately fatal way. Unless we begin to take this seriously, according to experts, climate related disasters could affect 375 million people every year by 2015, up from 263 million in 2010.

Questions regarding Margalla Hills tunnel !

Questions regarding Margalla Hills Tunnel  !

The Capital Development Authority (CDA) is currently working on an estimated US$12 billion mega-project which includes building a twin capital across the Margalla Hills, connecting the two with a tunnel. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, despite severe opposition from politicians and members of the civil society, has directed CDA to continue working on the project.

I raised these questions :
The digging of tunnel in Margalla Hills a sheer violation of the law governing the Margalla Hills National Park.
Firstly, building a tunnel through the Margalla Hills would be a flagrant violation of the laws covering the Margalla Hills National Park, which is protected from construction of any kind under the law of the land.
Secondly such a tunnel through the beautiful Margalla Hills would be a serious threat to the environment of Margalla Hills National Park and Islamabad and this would cause irreparable damage to the ecology and beauty of Islamabad, which is one of the most beautiful capitals of the world.
Thirdly, this decision seems to have been taken in a hurry since even the official procedure for processing and permitting such projects has not been followed, as such projects require approval of the Planning Commission and sanction by the ECNEC as well as the NOC of the Environment Protection Agency.

The Supreme Court has also taken a suo motu notice of the project and sought replies from the government.

Disaster dice loaded against poorest countries

TOKYO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – It is often said that people in the poorest countries suffer most from climate hazards and the effects of a warming world. Now we have the data to prove it.

Between January 1980 and July 2013, climate-related disasters caused 2.52 million deaths around the globe. Of the total, a disproportionately high number of deaths – 1.28 million or 51 percent – were recorded in the world’s 49 least developed countries (LDCs), according to a recent briefing paper from the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). –

सिमट रहा झील का आंचल, पक्षी का कलरव भी मद्धिम

‘किये न पिअइछी जलवा हे पंडित ज्ञानी
नदिया किनार में गईया मर गइल
त मछली खोदी-खोदी खाई
किये न पिअइछी जलवा हे पंडित ज्ञानी’’
गांव-गंवई के ये बोल जब इन महिलाओं के कंठ से उतरकर पास के चौरों और नदियों के जल से तरंगित होती हैं तो झील का विहार करने वालों का यहां आना सार्थक हो जाता है। नदी, जल, मछली, पक्षी, चौर, झील जैसे शब्द भी यहां के लोक गीतों में पिरोया हुआ है। हम बात कर रहे हैं मिथिलांचल के मनोहारी चौरों-झीलों के मनोरम दृश्यों की, प्रवासी पक्षियों के सुंदर नजारों की, आसपास कलकल बहती नदियों की और इस बीच धिसट-धिसटकर सरकती जिंदगियों की।
यह है ‘कुशेश्वरस्थान पक्षी अभयारण्य’ । यह कई छोटे-छोटे चौरों की एक ऐसी ऋंखला है, जिसे लोग नरांच झील के नाम से भी जानते हैं। यह पक्षी विहार के लिए सर्वोत्तम जगह है। यहां गर्मी की विदाई के साथ मेहमान पक्षियों का आगमन शुरू हो जाता है। खासकर, साइबेरियाई पक्षियों के लिए दरभंगा जिले के कुशेश्वरस्थान प्रखंड का यह इलाका ससुराल से कम नहीं है। बिहार के अन्य प्रमुख झीलों की तरह यहां से विदेशी पक्षियों की रूसवाई पूरी तरह नहीं हुई है। शांत व शीतल जल में हजारों प्रवासी पक्षियों का कतारबदद्घ होकर भोजन व प्रजनन में मगर रहने और तरह-तरह की अदाओं से फिजाओं को गुलजार करने का दृश्य भला किन आंखों को नहीं भायेगा?
दरभंगा मुख्यालय से तकरीबन 45 किलोमीटर का सफर तय कर जब आप बेरि चौक पहुंचेंगे तो ‘कुशेश्वरस्थान पक्षी अभयारण्य’ का इलाका शुरू हो जाता है। निर्माणाधीन दरभंगा-कुशेश्वरस्थान नई रेल लाइन पार करते ही घुमावदार सोलिंग सड़क से होते हुए आगे बढ़ते ही दिखता है ऊबर-खाबड़ जमीन। कहीं जल से भरा तो कहीं सूखे खेत। दूर तक फैले जलकुंभी तो कहीं गेहूं के छोटे-छोटे, हरे-हरे पौधे। किसान मशगुल हैं रबी के फसल को सींचने में, तो बच्चे मशगुल हैं खेलने में। कहीं कुदाल चल रहा है तो कहीं क्रिक्रेट का बल्ला। झील का यह सूखा क्षेा भी कभी पानी से लबालब भरा रहता था, लेकिन पिछले कई सालों से यह झील रूठ गया लगता है। यहां खड़े पीपल के पेड़ गवाह हैं कि कभी इसका तना भी पानी में डूबा रहता था। आखिर इस झील और इसके प्रियतम निर्मल जल को क्या हो गया है? यहां आसपास रहने वाले लोगों को भी इसकी वजह मालूम नहीं।
5-6 चौर मिलकर यह विस्तृत क्षेा नरांच झील कहलाता है। सरकारी आंकड़ों के मुताबिक, 6700 हेक्टेयर क्षेाफल में फैले ये चौर और 1400 हेक्टेयर लो लैंड का यह वृहत क्षेाफल वाला यह इलाका आज भले सिमट गया हो, लेकिन प्रवासी पक्षियों का अतिथि सत्कार कम नहीं हुआ है।
सहरसा जिले के मनगर गांव से सटा महरैला चौर, बिसरिया पंचायत से होकर बहती कमला नदी, विशुनपुर गांव का सुल्तानपुर चौर और कोसी नदी का स्नेह आज भी इस झील को जिंदा रखे हुए है। नाव पर चढ़कर जलकुंभी निकालती ये महिलाएं, घोंघा-सितुआ छानते बच्चे, केकड़ा पकड़ भोजन का जुगाड़ करते लोग और तितली नाम का यह जलीय पौधा। क्या यह सब कम है प्रवासी पक्षियों की मेहमाननवाजी के लिये !
कुशेश्वरस्थान पक्षी अभयारण्य। लगभग 15 दुर्लभ किस्म के प्रवासी पक्षियों का तीर्थ स्थल। लालसर, दिधौंच, मेल, नक्टा, गैरी, गगन, सिल्ली, अधनी, हरियाल, चाहा, करन, रत्वा, गैबर, हसुआ दाग जैसे मेहमान पक्षियों से गुलजार रहने वाला प्रकृति का रमणीक स्थान। जब यहां सैकड़ों-हजारों किलोमीटर दूर नेपाल, तिब्बत, भूटान, अफगानिस्तान, चीन, पाकिस्तान, मंगोलिया, साइबेरिया आदि देशों से ये रंग-बिरंगे पक्षी नवंबर में पहुंचते हैं तो पक्षी व प्रकृति प्रेमियों का मन खिल उठता है। चीड़ीमारों की भी बांछें खिल जाती हैं। रात के अंधेरे में ये चीड़ीमार इनका शिकार करने से नहीं चूकते हैं। हालांकि, कई बार ये पकड़े जाते हैं। झील के आसपास रहने वाले लोग बताते हैं कि अब प्रवासी पक्षियों का आना कम हो गया है । चीड़ीमार पानी में नशीली दवा डालकर पक्षी को बेहोश कर पकड़ लेते हैं। और इसे मारकर बड़े चाव से इसके मांस को खा जाते हैं। यहां के कई लोग इन पक्षियों का शिकार करते पकड़े गये और हवालात पहुंच गये। बहरहाल, पक्षियों का शिकार तो कमा है, लेकिन पानी के सिमटने से झील का आंचल छोटा हो गया है। इसकी पेटी में जहां कभी पानी भरा रहता था, वहां आज रबी फसल उगाये जा रहे हैं। जलीय जीवों, पौधों और मेहमान पक्षियों के घर-आंगन में गेहूं व सरसों के बीज प्रस्फुटित हो रहे हैं। गरमा धान की रोपनी के लिये बिचरा जमाया जा रहा है। पंपिंग सेट और ट्रैक्टर की आहट से मेहमान पक्षी आहत हैं। यहां चल रहे दो-दो पंपिंग सेट यह इंगित करने के लिये काफी हैं कि किस तरह झील और पक्षियों की पीड़ा से अनभिज्ञ किसान शेष बचे पानी को भी सोख लेना चाहते हैं। लिहाजा, इसमें इनका क्या दोषै? इन भोले-भाले किसानों को क्या मालूम कि प्रकृति के लिये पक्षी व जीव-जंतु कितना महत्वपूर्ण है। पर्यावरण के सेहत से इनका क्या सरोकार ? झोपड़ी में अपनी जिंद्गी की रात गुजारने वाले साधनहीन आबादी को पक्षी अभयारण्य की रक्षा का मां किसी ने दिया भी तो नहीं? हालांकि झील व प्रवासी पक्षियों के अस्तित्व को बचाने व लोगों को जागरूक करने के उद्देश्य से कभी यहां ‘रेड कारपेट डे’ मनाया जाता था। बॉटनी के एक प्रोफेसर डॉ एसके वर्मा की पहल पर ये कार्यक्रम दिसंबर में आयोजित होते थे, लेकिन यह सिलसिला कुछ साल चलकर थम गया। उद्घारक की बाट जोहता यह झील धीरे-धीरे वीरानी व उदासी की चादर ओढे चला जा रहा है। फिलवक्त किसी पर्यावरण व पक्षी प्रेमियों की आस में एक बार फिर ये पक्षी दूर-देश से यहां विचरण को आये हैं तो उम्मीद की एक किरण जगती है।
ज्यादा दिन नहीं गुजरे, जब ठंड के मौसम में हजारों प्रवासी पक्षियों का झूंड मन मोह लेता था। पक्षियों के कलरव से लोगों की नींद गायब हो जाती थी। मगर अब वो दिन कहां रहा। प्रकृति का गुस्सा, कोसी-कमला का बदलता मिजाज और चौरों में भर रहे गाद से झील बेहाल है। इसका असर पक्षियों के निवाले पर भी पड़ रहा है। ये फटी धरती और मृत पड़े घोंघा-सितुआ के ये अवशेष इस झील का दर्द बयां करने के लिये काफी हैं।
बताते चलें कि कुशेश्वरस्थान प्रखंड के जलजमाव वाले चौदह गांवों को नैसर्गिक, भूगर्भीय विशेषता और खासकर प्रवासी पक्षियों के लिये अनुकूल वातावरण के लिये इस झील को वाइल्ड लाइफ प्रोटेक्शन एक्ट 1972 (1991 में संशोधित) के तहत ‘कुशेश्वरस्थान पक्षी अभयारण्य’ घोषित किया गया। मिथिलांचल का यह इलाका पर्यटन के लिये भी खास स्थान रखता है। इस खासियत के चलते इस झील को खुशियों के दिन लौटाने होंगे। दुर्लभ किस्म के प्रवासी पक्षियों के मिटते अस्तित्व को बचाना होगा। प्राकृतिक जलस्त्रोतों, यथा-झील, चौर, नदी, नाला, बाबड़ी, पइनों को पुनजिर्वीत करना होगा। अन्यथा, हम अपने सहचर से बेबफाई के लिए दोषी होंगे। और तब हमारी जुबान भी इस गीत को शब्द देने में लड़खड़ायेगी कि
‘किये न पिअइछी जलवा हे पंडित ज्ञानी़़़़़

Nepal’s shifting rains and changing crops

By Saleem Shaikh
October 17, 2013
Science and Development News Network International

A short video story on how shifting rains are leading to changing crop patterns.

Watch the climate video story on this weblink: 

A Nepalese mountain farmer, in the scenic panityanki mountain village, packs cauliflower to send them to vegetable market in Kahtmandu, Nepal’s capital. Shaikh

[KATHMANDU] With weather becoming more erratic every year as a result of climate change, Nepali farmers are progressively shifting their approach, turning vast areas of rice paddies into small-scale vegetablefarming. Vegetables are more resilient as they can be hand watered in case of drought. Farmers say that with rains that used to come in April now shifting as late as mid-June, vegetables that can be sown at the time the rains finally fall are now a better investment.

But large parts of their fields now remain uncultivated due to lack of water.

The situation raises concern among experts, who warn that a shift from rice to vegetable cultivation may harm food security. They also say that without adequate support from the government farmers’ livelihood could be at risk. According to researchers, there is now a need for insurance schemes, public subsidies and improved early-warning systems to forecast extreme weather.


Nepal tackles methane emissions through trash recycling

By Saleem Shaikh
October 23, 2013
Thomson Reuters Foundation

Labourers work at the Biocomp-Nepal project site in Khokna, a village on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Saleem Shaikh

KATHMANDU, Nepal (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nepal’s capital is recycling organic waste into compost in a bid to reduce methane emissions and provide cheap, environmentally friendly organic fertiliser to local farmers.

The scheme aims to tackle environmental degradation and reduce the health hazards from rotting produce.

Trash is a significant nuisance in Kathmandu, and organic matter accounts for almost 70 percent of the total waste generated daily in the city.

Many neighbourhoods in the capital are dirty and strewn with rubbish. Some markets look scarcely different from garbage dumps and streets are littered with discarded trash. Inadequate waste management in the Kathmandu Valley and a lack of dumps and landfills make the problem worse.

To address the problem, Biocomp-Nepal – a not-for-profit social enterprise –launched a year-long pilot project to recycle organic waste into compost in March 2011 in collaboration withmyclimate, a non-profit foundation based in Zurich. The foundation develops and supports projects around the world to reduce greenhouse gases.

During the pilot, the project collected organic waste every day from the Kalimat market, Kathmandu’s largest wholesale vegetable market, and composted it at a facility in Khokna, a village on the outskirts of the capital.

A total of 140 tons of fresh organic waste was collected and 15 tons of high-quality compost produced. The compost was sold to farmers who cultivate fields on the edges of Kathmandu, but local traders were pleased with the impact too.


“We are extremely happy that the surroundings of our vegetable market no longer get strewn with waste or rotten vegetables discarded in the open outside the market for want of proper dumping sites and … waste collections,” said Pitamber Gurung, a vegetable trader at the Kalimati market.

In January 2013, Biocomp-Nepal expanded its waste processing capacity to 20 tons a day, producing 3 to 4 tons of compost daily, to meet the demand for organic agricultural fertiliser in the Kathmandu valley.

According to Raju Khadka, Biocomp’s former project director in Nepal who now advises the project, the organisation is collaborating with myclimate to increase its collection capacity to 50 tons of vegetables and fruit by 2015, which will produce 7.5 tons of compost daily.

The waste will not just be sourced from vegetable markets such as Kalimati, he explained, but also from landfill sites and homes. The growing collections should help curb emissions of methane – a powerful climate-changing gas – and as well as reducing health problems associated with rotting trash.

Kathamandu Valley is a hub for agriculture due to its fertile and relatively flat land, and the majority of the vegetables sold at the Kalimati market are grown using chemical fertilisers to boost farm productivity.

Compost, a traditional fertiliser in the region, lost ground to chemical fertilisers as they became more widely available on the market, experts say. But the overuse of chemical fertilisers has caused soil fertility to decline globally, according to studies by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

In contrast to chemical fertilisers, compost feeds the soil through its nutrient-rich organic matter. According to Khadka, it maintains soil fertility, reduces acidity, and stops nutrients from being washed away by rain. The compost improves the soil’s ability to let water percolate, helping to recharge underground aquifers and prevent desertification of fertile land, he said.


Krishna Hari has been buying compost from Biocomp-Nepal for the past nine months to use on his land in Kirtipur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu.

“Before I used the compost fertiliser, I earned 35,000 Nepalese rupees (about $350) a year from my one acre land,” Hari said.

“But using the compost fertiliser has improved my income to 60,000 rupees” by boosting his yields per acre, he explained as he put small packages of compost into a cloth bag hanging from his bike at Biocomp-Nepal’s project site.

The compost is effective for twice as long as chemical fertiliser, according to Hari, and is cheaper too, at a rate of around $70 per ton rather than the $180 per ton for chemical fertiliser. Hari adds that other farmers have noted his improved results and started switching to compost.

Apart from these benefits, recycling vegetable waste into compost reduces methane emissions, said Khadka. Food waste is one of three main sources of methane, along with emissions from livestock and the mining and burning of fossil fuels.

Composting vegetable waste at the expanded rate of 50 tons a day has the potential to reduce methane emissions by an estimated 40,000 tons between 2012 and 2021, according to Khadka.

Biocomp-Nepal hopes to seek carbon credit financing through myclimate to scale up the project and make it self-sustaining.

The organisation also plans to offer training and demonstration sessions to meet the interest of community organisations from other areas of the country that want to create their own organic waste recycling programmes to counter the burden of rising fertiliser prices and address health hazards from decaying produce.

“Waste is a major problem in many cities of developing countries. The project can potentially be replicated in different places in Nepal or elsewhere in South Asia or the Asia-Pacific region where waste is a problem,” said Krishna Chandra Paudel, former secretary of Nepal’s Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation.