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.

Concerns growing over worsening food security in Sri Lanka – Thomson Reuters


Long-term interventions are essential to stem deteriorating food security among victims of frequent extreme weather events in Sri Lanka, experts warn.

In the last 20 months, parts of Sri Lanka have been hit by a severe drought and two bouts of floods that experts at the World Food Programme (WFP) and the government say have worsened the food security of victims.

In the last five years, according to UN estimates, between 3.5 million and 4 million people out of a population of little over 20 million have been affected by natural disasters in Sri Lanka –

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.

NC Holds Major Discussion On Mining: No New Leases Till Impacts Are Assessed

The National Council discussed the follow-up report on the Impact Assessment of mining activities during its session on September 12.

The discussion on the issue was divided into three parts: recapitulation of the 10th session resolutions, implementation status of the recommendations and recommendations from the Natural Resources and Environment Committee (NREC).

The 10th and the last session of the NC of the first Parliament had deliberated at length on the Impact Assessment of mining activities in the country, whereby eight- recommendations were made.

It had primarily called upon the government to undertake geological mapping of the country before embarking on further mining and quarrying activities; define clear responsibility for the concerned authorities; revisit the existing policies and see whether the mines and quarries are being operated as per the provisions of the law.

The Upper House also discussed the cost benefit analysis and socio-economic and environmental impacts of mining and quarrying, reviewing the effectiveness of environmental restoration measures currently under practice and ensuring mining and quarry companies file annual tax return properly.

The recommendations also states that with increasing developmental activities, there should also be adequate measures for conservation of natural resources, following the middle-path strategy.

And finally, it asked the government to freeze issuing new licenses till all the concerns outlined above are resolved.

Under direction of the NC to the NREC to follow-up on the implementation status of these recommendations as resolved in the 10th session, the latter had initiated follow-up activities with relevant ministries and agencies.

After presenting the review reports, the NREC submitted the recommendations to the House for further recommends and amendments. After a long deliberation the House resolved to revisit the fresh recommendations in consultation with the Legislative Committee and other interested members.

The House will re-deliberate on the recommendations on 19 September 2013.

NREC also shared the earnings reported by Department of Revenue and customs under the CIT/BIT category by the mining and quarry companies for the past three years. In 2010, CIT/BIT generated was 148.63mn, in 2011 it was 163.15mn while last year it increased to 169.59mn.

NREC submitted the review reports on the legality of banning mining activities by local governments (LG) within their geographical jurisdiction and report on the follow-up on impact assessment of mining activities.

The issue on the legality of banning mining activities by the LGs in certain areas in Samtse was raised by the Samtse NC, Sangay Khandu.

Later in the afternoon, the House conducted its first Question Hour session of the Second Parliament with the minister of agriculture and forest, Yeshi Dorji.

During the Question Hour, the House asked questions on human-wildlife conflicts and leasing/reinstating of sokshing and tsamdro rights to the people.

The minister submitted that the questions require extensive research and holistic considerations by all the stakeholders. However, he assured the house that the ministry will submit more comprehensive answers during the next session.

The deliberation on the review report on Changjiji Towa Theatre and Performance audit of Constituency Development Grant (CDG) will continue on 17 September 2013.

Bangladesh is getting smaller!

Bangladesh is a country recognized with is delta plain behavior. But nowadays, the country is losing its length. Within last 10 years, the southern part of this country faced river erosion several times.

Recently Australian journal of coastal conservation has been published an article named ‘Planning and Management Rates of shoreline change along the coast of Bangladesh’ by Dr. Md. Golam Sarwar.

He stated that,   the sea shore of Bangladesh every year going to120 meter inwards, that means every year there happens a huge the land loss. The researcher at present works in Bangladesh Unnayan Porishad. He studied with satellite images from 1989 to 2009 and the study area was Teknaf, an upazila of Cox’s Bazar. The result of the research gives a result, the area lose 2.4 KM area within 20 years.

Sorry, skeptics: Arctic ice is still melting quickly this summer

First the good news: Arctic ice melt has not been as extreme this summer as during last year’s historic collapse.

The bad news is that the melt has been more extreme this summer than the 20-year average — no surprises there, given the icy clime’s rapid decline.

The Arctic’s August 2013 ice coverage is shown in the image on the right. The black cross shows the North Pole and the magenta outline shows the average ice cover at the same time of year from 1981 to 2010.

Continue reading at Grist …

Himalayas need many disaster warning systems


Athar Parvaiz

This summer’s flash floods spread across the Himalayas –in India, Pakistan and Nepal – have underscored the urgent need to install early warning systems

Paradise Lost: Kashmir’s Resorts of Filth and Concrete

Athar Parvaiz 

India’s seventeenth century Mughal emperor Jehangir is probably best known for his comment on the valley of Kashmir: “If there is paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.”

For about two decades, few outsiders could see this paradise, as insurgency and anti-insurgency rendered Kashmir a global trouble spot. But now that the violence is on the wane and there is talk of ‘paradise regained’, haphazard hotel construction and unattended rubbish threaten to spoil this heavenly abode. The idyll of Kashmir is ill-prepared for an influx of tourists and the features that attract visitors could well prove its undoing.

Regulations to manage sewage, rubbish or solid waste were totally ignored during the atmosphere of violence that reigned for around 15 years. But even after Kashmiris witnessed almost a decade of governable era since 2003, those who have been at the helm all these years could hardly do anything for Kashmir’s treasure trove – its environment and ecology.

Recent improvements in the security situation have led to a surge in tourism. Around three million tourists visited Kashmir in the last two summers, according to official figures. With half a million people directly or indirectly involved in the valley’s tourism industry, this is now easily shaping up into a major contributor to the local economy. Thus the swelling up of tourist numbers is certainly a cause for joy, but has also led to a boom in hotel construction, especially in the famed resorts of Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Sonamarg.

There is least of desirable planning in the construction procedure. Most hotels try to maximise the number of rooms even if they block the best views of the Himalayan peaks in the process or, woefully, sit on the banks of erstwhile pristine waters of Lidder and Sindh. The three major resorts are fast becoming concrete jungles.

With tourists from all over India and the world moving into Kashmir in droves, rubbish now threatens not just the ecology but the tourism industry itself. Environmentalists have expressed their concern about the policy paralysis saying the construction should be prohibited within these resorts. But the government has not only allowed construction of hotels right on the most scenic spots, but has also failed to provide adequate disposal systems for solid and liquid waste.

According to the official records in Pollution Control Board (PCB), only two out of over 100 hotels in Gulmarg and only three out of over 150 hotels in Pahalgam have secured No Objection Certificates from PCB; the rest are functioning without the standard norms. The only waste disposal site in Pahalgam has been set up right at the bank of a stream which flows into Lidder River, an important tributary of Jhelum.

In Gulmarg, garbage is thrown under the forest trees, which has caused huge damage to them. The high-altitude meadow that turns into a golf course every summer and a ski-slope every winter has no waste-treatment facilities either. Thousands of tourists throng to the meadow throughout the year, especially in summer. The growing number of tourists visiting the heath resort, especially those high-end tourists who come for playing golf at world’s highest green golf course, means more greed for those who remain in hunt of high business. An influential businessman has recently built a huge hotel here, having chopped down hundreds of trees to make way for the project.


The directorate of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing has recently issued notices (which this writer exclusively gained access to) to Sonamarg Development Authority calling for immediate measures to undo the environmental damage caused by unplanned construction at the famous Sonamarg resort, but nothing has changed except the scenic beauty of that charming resort often called “the golden meadow.”

“While development of modern infrastructure is of paramount importance for meeting the needs of the tourism industry, it is important to design such development in an eco-friendly fashion to preserve and conserve the fragile ecology and environment of Sonamarg,” warned one of the notices.

“The development which has already taken place at Sonamarg or is in progress has a serious adverse impact on the ecology and environment.” The waste generated by hundreds of thousands of tourists is thrown around without any treatment or scientific management, as per the survey of the department officials.

And all untreated effluents find their way into the Indus River which straddles the beautiful resort. “This causes extensive pollution in the river because no Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) is in place,” the officials have observed.

In terms of popularity, Sonamarg is a relatively recent addition to Kashmir’s tourist map. Areas outside the town remain idyllic. But many people worry the area will soon suffer a similar fate to the better-known tourist resorts of Pahalgam and Gulmarg, where unconstrained tourism has caused havoc.

Though a few conscientious citizens have started raising their voices against the environmental mess, yet things look far from getting better. A few years back a local NGO in Pahalgam, Pahalgam Peoples Welfare (PPF) filed a public interest lawsuit in the High Court against illegal construction in Pahalgam. As a result, the court served several notices to the government and its official limb, Pahalgam Development Authority.

“We said in the petition that building permission laws have been thoroughly violated,” said Reyaz Ahmed, member secretary of Pahalgam Peoples Welfare.

A local teacher, who did not want to be identified, said the bureaucrats and influential businessmen have converted the green zone in Pahalgam into an area permissible for construction in the master plan of the tourist resort after purchasing chunks of land in Pahalgam.


A consultant from outside Kashmir, who was part of a team from a Consultancy Agency which is helping Jammu & Kashmir government to form an action plan on climate change, recently refused to accept the accommodation at a houseboat in Dal Lake when he learnt that the liquid waste from houseboats in Dal Lake was going into the lake without any treatment.

“He asked us to change his accommodation without any delay saying his conscience won’t allow him to stay there,” confided an official of the Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing department.

Two years back, revelations by Wikileaks included a cable in which an American diplomat had used a striking simile about Dal Lake’s pollution and Kashmiri politics saying Kashmiri politics was “as filthy as Dal Lake”.

For people like Kashmir Houseboat Owners Association president, Azim Tuman, who demands that the government should announce a special package for the houseboat owners for installing Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) in their houseboats, the government is unfair in dumping the blame on the houseboat owners rather than taking a stock of its poor policies.

“Instead of devising a solution for preserving the great heritage of Kashmir’s houseboats, the government is hell-bent on forcing the closure of houseboats,” Tuman said.

“It is not only the matter of securing the livelihoods of thousands of families, but a question of protecting our heritage as well.”

Houseboats were first built by British rulers in the 19th century on the pristine waters of Dal Lake to allow their officials in India to take a break from the scorching heat of Indian plains in summer months.

Since then, the houseboats have been the most preferred accommodation sought by the tourists who come to Kashmir. So Tuman has reasons to worry. “We don’t want them to die because of the government’s failure to provide a solution,” he said.

Houseboats alone are not responsible for the environmental devastation caused to Dal and other major water bodies in the city. The 372 hotels registered with Kashmir’s tourism department in Srinagar city, have no sewage treatment facilities either. Having 10785 rooms with 21073 beds, these hotels remain chock-a-block with tourists especially during summer and drain their sewage directly into Jhelum, Dal Lake and Nagin Lake.

For the past three years, Srinagar has been facing a serious space crunch to accommodate the tourists in summer. According to official figures, more than 3.5 million tourists have travelled to Kashmir during the past two and a half years. This has forced the tourism department to allow residents of a number of areas to convert their houses into guest houses in Srinagar where most tourists prefer to stay. This would mean the disposal of additional untreated sewage into our water bodies.