Survey begins to find new route thru’ Sundarbans

Vessels now doing harm to forest, wildlife

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Syful Islam

The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) has launched a survey to find out a route alternative to the present one used by vessels through the Sundarbans harming the mangrove forest’s flora and fauna, sources have said.

A ship has now anchored at the Bogi point, close to the Sundarbans, from where the officials concerned of the BIWTA and the forest department are jointly conducting the survey.

“The survey is underway to find out an alternative route for the vessels plying through the Sundarbans as the present route is causing harm to the mangrove forest,” Director (Hydrographic) of BIWTA Mahbub Alam told the FE.

He said a high-powered team comprising officials from the ministry of shipping (MoS), the BIWTA and the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) would visit the spot Saturday to supervise the survey.

The MoEF early this year gave the MoS environmental clearance for letting vessels ply the Rayenda-Shapla-Harintana-Chandpai route through the Sundarbans as the regular Mongla-Ghoshiakhali route became unusable for ships due to its poor navigability.

However, instead of using that particular route, everyday more than 25 oil tankers and other vessels are plying the 60-kilometre-long Sannasi-Rayenda-Sharankhola-Dudhmukhi-Harintana-Andarmanik route further inside the mangrove forest to shorten the journey by two hours and lower the expenses.

Environmentalists expressed grave concerns that plying of such a large number of vessels through the Sundarbans was doing harm to the mangrove forest and its wildlife.

They said the oil tankers and the cargo vessels passing through the forest with high sound and blowing hydraulic horns were disturbing its tranquillity and thus the free movement of wildlife in the sanctuary. So the biodiversity of the UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site was being threatened.

They also said the unabated and unauthorised passage of vessels deep inside the forest was doing colossal harm to the ecosystem of the Sundarbans.

They also noted that the high sound of hydraulic horns was also disturbing food consumption, plying and breeding of the inhabitants of the forest.

In such a situation months back the government formed a committee comprising officials from the MoEF and the MoS to resolve the problem by choosing an alternative route for the vessels. A subcommittee was also formed on September 17 to assess the depth and suitability of the alternative routes proposed by the forest department.

Earlier, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) asked the MoEF and the MoS to take necessary steps for saving the Sundarbans by ensuring plying of the vessels on the particular route already approved by the authorities concerned, but abandoned due to its loss of navigability.

It also directed the MoS to carry out necessary dredging to restore navigability of the approved route.

The PMO said the current short route used by vessels under the pretext of saving costs and reducing distance posed a threat to the ecology of the Sundarbans.

Of the 10,000 square kilometres of the Sundarbans, according to officials, 6,500 square kilometres are considered naturally sensitive.

A senior MoEF official said the Sundarbans was already under a threat from the climate change. The sea level rise squeezed habitat for the wildlife of the mangrove forest.

Quoting some scientific predictions, he said about 28 centimetres of sea level rise may eliminate nearly 96 per cent of the remaining habitat for Royal Bengal tigers in the Sundarbans. “So, we need to be more cautious about saving the forest and its wildlife as much as we can.”

“The forest has been battered by the two super cyclones Aila and Sidr. We should not further destroy it by creating manmade hazards,” the official added.

Pakistan’s mountain farmers struggle with erratic weather

By Saleem Shaikh
Thu, 31 Oct 2013
Thomson Reuters Foundation

Short climate video story
Pakistan’s mountain farmers struggle with erratic weather


Farmer Bibi Baskiya describes the sudden cloudburst that damaged her maize crop just a few days from harvest time in Danyore, a village in Gilgit district in Pakistan’s Upper Indus Basin area. TRF/Saleem Shaikh

Weeping sea : Documentary on climate change

Weeping sea 
 Duration: 21 minutes
 Language: Malayalam (Subtitled in English)
 Direction: K Rajendran
 Camera: K Rajendran, Rahul R Chandran, Muhammed Basheer
 Editing: Jayakrishnan


An investigation on
How does climate impact marine and fisheries sector?
How does it affect fishermen?

How does human intervention precipitate climate change impacts?

1. Depletion of Mussels.
Location: Elephant mussels hill, Thiruvanandhapuram.
Two varieties of mussels are found in Kerala;Brown mussels and green
mussels. This (September-December) is the season of mussels. Huge
depletion of mussels is being found this season. Depletion is being felt
during last 3 years. According to marine expert this is due to the climate

2. Fishes disappearing

Location; Kovalam beach, Thiruvanandhapuram
Many varieties of fishes are disappearing in Kerala sea shore.. Kilimeen (Mesoprion) is the best example. According to Central Marine and Fisheries research institute, it is one of the best examples of climate change impact on fisheries. Kilimeen is known as the ideal fish for poor. Because of it’s less
cost and good taste. So it’s depletion is widely effected the poor who doesn’t have enough money to purchase fishes of high cost.

3 .How islanders are affected?

Location: Lakshadweep
How lonely islander is being affected? .Lakshadweep is the best example.
Three islands in Lakshadweep, Pitti(Fastest sinking Island) ,Kavarathi,
Agathy are telling their stories.
Here 3 climate change impacts;
A . Water level is rising marginally.
B. Depletion of fishes is being felt
C. Corals are vanishing.
4. Salty water
Location; Mavilakadavu village, Poovar

This is a new phenomenon in many of the villages in Kerala. Water in the well became alty although it is situating 5 or 6 Km away from sea. According to marine expert this is an excellent example of climate change.

5. Human intervention expedites climate change

Location: Puzhikara beach
Once, the beautiful beach Puzhikara, was known for the varieties of fishes. Now it has become a “beach of Eagles”. The beach has been turned as a dumping place of waste. Eco system in the seashore is being scuttled.6. Encroachments

Location; Vembanadu backwater, Alapuzha
This backwater is converted as a lake of Tourism and encroachment. All existing laws are being violated. Encroachments are being done by big corporates. Authorities act as mute spectators.

Kindly watch the filmPlease click here

Pakistan’s mountain farmers ‘helpless’ in face of erratic weather

By Saleem Shaikh 
Thu, 3 Oct 2013 01:03 PM
AlertNet Climate, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Farmer Bibi Baskiya describes the sudden cloudburst that damaged her maize crop just a few days from harvest time in Danyore, a village in Gilgit district in Pakistan’s Upper Indus Basin area. TRF/Saleem Shaikh

DANYORE, Pakistan (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – One night was all it took for Bibi Baskiya’s fortunes to be reversed. In June the young farmer had sown maize on half an acre of land in Danyore, a scenic mountain village in northern Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan province.

On Sept. 12 it was sunny and the skies were so clear that Baskiya watered her crop from a nearby spring, certain there would be no rain. But that night, her hopes of a good harvest were destroyed.

“A sudden rainstorm and heavy winds flattened 80 percent of the standing crop,” she said. The maize is now only good to be used as fodder for her cattle, and she will not recover the cost of cultivating it.

Baskiya is one of many farmers in this remote region whose livelihoods are threatened by the effects of erratic weather and climate change. Experts say measures are desperately needed to help them adapt to unreliable rainfall, but few – if any – are available so far.

“We farmers are really helpless before the inconsistent weather,” said Baskiya. “We are thinking to abandon growing maize and wheat, and cultivate cash crops like tomato and potato instead that are short-duration and less water-intensive.”

Maize is the most important summer crop after wheat in northern Pakistan’s Upper Indus Basin (UIB). The grain is harvested to eat, while the stover (dried stalks and leaves) is used to feed livestock during the winter.

“Owing to erratic weather patterns, the area under the staple crops in most of Gilgit-Baltistan province in UIB has shrunk alarmingly, and vegetables are now being grown as cash crops,” said Asmat Ali, director of the province’s agriculture department.

An estimated 70 percent of the wheat consumed locally must now be imported from Punjab province in eastern Pakistan and Sindh in the south, Ali added.


Cash crop farmers are also suffering the consequences of extreme weather.

Ali Da’ad, 50, a vegetable farmer in Danyore, said his potato and tomato crops have been struck by lightning several times.

“There has been a significant escalation in lightning activity and thunderstorms over the last 10 years, particularly during summer months,” Da’ad said.

The lightning has triggered fires, damaging crops and endangering populated areas. At the same time, rainfall is increasingly unpredictable, causing crops to fail.

“In Gilgit district, rains are no longer even and fall patchily during the summer months,” Da’ad explained. “Sometimes it is intense and sometimes not.”

Muhammad Iqbal, chairman of Local Support Organisation Danyore (LSO-D), a nongovernmental group working for rural development, said rains are unequal even within Danyore village. “When it rains in the eastern part of the village, the west remains without it,” he said.


Gilgit-Baltistan is home to the world’s largest frozen water reservoir, which feeds the Indus river system – a lifeline for Pakistan’s agro-based economy.

Farmers in the province depend on melting snow from April onwards to replenish streams, enabling them to sow seasonal vegetables and maize from late May. But Da’ad said prolonged winter weather is causing the snows to melt later, making it difficult to plant crops in time.

Nek Parveen of LSO-D said this year streams filled 50 days later than expected.

“Women wheat farmers in Sultanabad village (adjacent to Danyore) suffered substantial financial losses early this April, as they had to prematurely harvest after farmers sensed (the crop’s) growth had halted,” Parveen said.

According to Ghulam Rasul, a scientist at the state-owned Pakistan Meteorology Department in Islamabad, rainfall in the province has become less frequent but more intense over the past 50 years.

The decrease in winter precipitation and snowfall due to rising temperatures in the area is affecting Pakistan’s hydrological cycle and hampering the country’s agricultural growth, Rasul said.

“Investing in farmers’ climate adaptation capacity building and knowledge development can help them cope with impacts of climatic variability on their crops,” said LSO-D’s Iqbal.


Iqbal sees a need for the construction of small or medium-sized reservoirs in the foothills and plains, so that water from streams can be harvested for use during the dry season and the winter, both for farming and domestic purposes.

But there has been little progress in the province so far, where development agencies are hampered by the inaccessibility of much of the terrain, political inertia, and a volatile security situation due to conflict between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslim sects.

Jamil Uddin, who manages programmes in the Gilgit region for the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP), said his organisation plans to introduce climate mitigation and adaptation measures for the province’s farmers.

“Our experiences show that information-sharing programmes for mountain farmers and communities about better, proven adaptation and mitigation measures can enable (them) to cope with the aftermath of rapidly occurring climatic variability,” he said.

The AKRSP hopes to bring climate-resilient crop varieties and water conservation technologies to farmers.

According to LSO-D’s Iqbal, transmitting weather forecasts via FM radio and free SMS texts on mobile phones would help farmers, who now rely on indigenous techniques that are increasingly inaccurate as weather patterns become harder to predict.

Iqbal emphasised that helping mountain farmers adapt to the impacts of climate change is vital to support the livelihoods of rural people and maintain an acceptable level of food security.

Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio are climate change and development reporters based in Islamabad, Pakistan.


Bird Diversity And Distribution Survey To Begin In November

Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE) will conduct a training which will focus on surveying bird diversity and distribution in the Himalayas around Yongkola, Mongar in November.

The training will emphasize study design, field data collection, statistical analyses and interpretation, and effective communication of results.

Explaining the reason why the training will take place in Yongkola, a researcher with UWICE, Sherub said it was because the place was rich in bird diversity and it was also considered best bird watching place for the tourists.

“It is for the first time such training is being organized on the field to document bird biodiversity and around this time (November) congregation of birds, they would by this time of month have moved down,” Sherub said.

“It’s a long time training process and there will be series of such events on different themes and next it will be on plants and the participants will be in-service from the department of forest. We will be taking about 20 participants who will be given DSA,” he added.

Further, Sherub also mentioned that in the long run, such trainings will be connected to climate change by studying the habitat of the birds and such trainings will be conducted repeatedly. He added, “If we do the data collection over many years, we will be able to detect change in bird species diversity, their population trend and then connect to climate change scenario and able to infer habitat change and threat.”

This training series will teach theoretical and practical approaches to monitoring biodiversity in terrestrial and aquatic habitats of mountain ecosystems. Field practical will focus on bird identification, mist netting, occupancy surveys, point counts, and distance sampling.

The 12-day practical training on biodiversity monitoring relevant to mountain ecosystems, will impart knowledge and experience for implementing scientifically credible monitoring programs in the Himalayan region.

Participants will be able to design and implement surveys for measuring bird biodiversity and species distribution by the end of the training.

The training on Measuring and Monitoring Mountain Biodiversity (M3B) will be conducted by Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment, Lamai Goempa, Bumthang and will begin on November 18.

Records say that there are about 688 different kinds of bird species in Bhutan while the foreign experts estimate the number to be about 770 birds based on the regional bird diversities.

The 12-days training will be funded by the government.

A Threat To The Survival Of White-Bellied Herons In Bhutan

While Bhutan plays a pioneering role to protect the critically endangered White-bellied heron, an endangered bird species across the world, with the establishment of the Punatshangchhu hydro project, ornithologists from Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN) say the habitat of this species has been affected.

RSPN’s ornithologist Rebecca Pradhan said birds have started to vanish from the place where they were spotted before, and the ever growing population along the Punatshangchhu each year has led to disturbance of the birds’ habitat.

The total number birds have now dropped to around 22.

Attacks on birds and their eggs by predators is a major threat as well. The pressure on the birds has further risen with the lack of scientific approach and lack of awareness among the local communities. Heron habitat could also be defragmented with pro-developmental activities such as, hydropower generation and road creation.

Forest fire was another factor affecting the habitat of the birds, though not on a major scale.

Rebecca Pradhan said back In April 2013, the nest in Bertichu was found destroyed and one of the birds was found dead. Though the cause of the death is not yet confirmed, but she said the bird might have been killed due to a landslide or due to natural predation.

Though hydropower construction may not be the single cause for the decline in the White-bellied heron population, but it can partly be attributed to such development, as the bird is highly vulnerable to disturbance (tolerance distance to human disturbance is estimated to 200 metres). The Punatsangchhu basin is the largest habitat for the White-bellied heron in Bhutan, and therefore, the survival of this bird will depend on how safe the basin is for them to feed, roost and breed.

While in the second nest at Burichu, the chicks could not be hatched till the end of June 2013. The reports in the past have indicated that the chicks normally hatched in April and by July they fledge out of nest. The reasons for the unsuccessful hatching were not known.

The other reason affecting the habitat of the birds is the disturbances caused by bird watchers, mostly by conservationist and visitors who kept visiting the area on regular basis to take photographs and monitor the nesting site.

The White-bellied herons were first spotted in 2003 along the Punatshangchu basin after which RSPN started monitoring them, although Rebecca Pradhan had personally started the monitoring of the birds back in 1991.

With just about 20 to 22 birds remaining of this species in their natural habitat, RSPN has initiated study on its ecology and breeding behavior, the rapid pace of development activities calls for immediate interventions that could provide quicker options for the survival of the bird species.

Measures are being taken by RSPN to save the birds, such as captive breeding funded by Punatshang chhu project 1 to increase the population of the birds.

“If there is no disturbance in their habitat then the chances of their survival and increase in the population can be increased,” Rebecca Pradhan said.

With roughly 200 White-bellied herons (Ardea Insignis) in the world today, herons are among the 50 rarest bird species on earth. Herons mostly dwell in Southeast Asian countries, and presumably Bhutan shelters a little over 30 herons in the nation.

In Bhutan, eight nesting sites have been identified amongst lofty flowing waters with pebbly substrates and Chirpine forests. Another characteristic feature of the White-bellied herons is their unique courtship system which begins in the winter from January to February as the river water recedes.

Shingkhar-Gorgan Debate Still On

The 67 kilometer Shingkhar -Gorgan highway construction that runs through a core tiger habitat at Thrumshingla Park, which is said to have been stranded because the previous government faced a budget shortage, is now underway.

The agriculture and forests ministry’s minister Yeshey Dorji said for the last ten years there was no record of tiger being seen in the park.

“I have been in that forest since my childhood, saw tigers, and even heard roaring of tigers during the mating seasons, but in the last years people said they did not see tigers which was also highlighted in the report,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo said he is not the only one vouching for the highway as people of both Trashiyangtse and Lhuentse need the road.

“The people of Trashiyangtse and Lhuentse have discussed the issue during the DYT meeting and will be writing to the government on the need of the road,” he added.

Besides those concerns, the minister also said the Shingkhar-Gorgan highway was the initiative of the previous government and the present government was just continuing the work.

He said the highway would not only benefit Lhuentse and Trashiyangtse, but the entire six eastern dzongkhags.

If constructed, the road, which would cost government about Nu 890mn is expected to reduce distance by 100km from Shingkhar, Ura (Bumthang) and Gorgan in Lhuentse.  The journey to Mongar decreases by 30km.

The former Prime Minister Jigmi Y Thinley when met by President of Bhutan Ecological Society, Dasho Paljor J Dorji, Executive Director of RSPN Dr Lam Dorji and WWF country representative Kinzang Namgay, after a joint petition was submitted to the Prime Minister  on August 19, 2011 had said there is still  not enough evidence that the tiger population will actually decrease or its core habitat will be disturbed because of the road, but there is enough evidence that if this road is not built, people of Lhuentse will sink deeper and deeper into poverty, and the eight gewogs of Lhuentse which are well below the poverty line, some going as high as 50 percent.

The petition expressed environmental concerns over the proposed road, where about 36km will pass through the Thrumshingla National Park, a core habitat for the Royal Bengal tigers.

The completion of the construction could take about four years as per the department of roads.

However, conservationists have mentioned it would be in violation to the Nature and Forest Conservation Rule, 2006, which does not permit any kind of construction within the core area.

Dasho Paljor said, “To have highway is a luxury and waste of money too. The money which is being invested on highway could rather be used in some other important work or developments.”

“How many people in Lhuentse will use this highway, how many people in Lhuentse own vehicles?” questioned Dasho Paljor.

Dasho also said there are many other things to be considered rather than Shigkhar-Gorgan highway. He mentioned that having a road is not the problem, but his concern is in regards to constructing the road in a core zone would undermine Bhutan’s environmental image where the road will pass through the Thrumshingla National Park.

The agriculture minister acknowledged that there might be negative impact, but one have to look at the larger picture and there is need to revisit the national law on the conversation.

Forest fires a major threat to Bhutan’s biodiversity

Despite stern legislation and public awareness programmes in place to
curb forest fires, still the problem persists as it tops the list of threats
to the country’s forest coverage. Forest fires are a major environmental
problem in Bhutan.
There were 36 incidences of forest fires in 2010 alone which burned up more
than 9162.81 acres of natural forests in the country.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) said the main causes of the
fires are burning of agricultural debris by farmers who do not follow the proper
procedures and guidelines.
Tandin Dorji from the forest fires management section of MoAF said farmers
do not have the proper equipment to battle forest fires. “They do not monitor
the debris burning and leave as it is, unattended and they do not suppress the
fire at the end properly and while there is wind blowing the fire is carried away
to the nearby places causing forest fires,” he explained.
The second most common cause of forest fire is due to children playing with
fire near the forest areas. The short circuiting of electric wires is also another
cause of forest fires in Bhutan.
Explaining about short circuits, Tandin Dorji said, “When an electric pole is
being step up, the electrician is supposed to clear the line corridor up to 6 meters
or else till 9 meters if possible. We had an understanding with the Bhutan Power
Corporation (BPC) that they would clear the line corridor to avoid forest fires,
but in many cases it is not happening.”
Mass awareness campaigns have been conducted on how to safely burn the
agricultural debris before the onset of the fire season.
Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue Phodrang, Lhuentse, Trashigang, and
Bumthang are the districts in the country which are prone to forest fires.
The forest fire management strategy developed by the department of forests
and park services has incorporated both the beneficial as well as the harmful
effects of forest fires to the ecosystem, and the use of fire as an important land
management tool and recommended community based management of fire by
involving the local communities, volunteers, and religious leaders.
It is hoped that this innovative strategy of incorporating all possible tactical
options would be useful in managing forest fires in the country so that the
valuable forests, lives and properties of the people, important ecosystems are
protected as well as the communities can still have the opportunity to use fire
for their land management activities in the rural areas.
With the implementation of the strategies, the department would be able to
reduce the number of forest fires in the country and save many acres of valuable
forests in future.
Between 2010 and 2011, a total of 49 incidences were recorded with 10,139
acres of forest area consumed by fire.

Forest fire recorded in nine years
Year No. of Incidence Areas burn
2001 64 14644.16
2002 46 5425.99
2003 40 2711.21
2004 67 7965.51
2005 37 19580.683
2006 47 56280.747
2007 45 9617.17
2008 70 4501.33
2009 49 9162.81