Bangalore: Ulsoor dig unearthing 1,200-year-old pond

BANGALORE: The excavation site of a kalyani (pond) in Ulsoor is a rather happening place. Not long ago, it was just an encroached patch of craggy land. With 20 feet of earth removed, the ten-day excavation is finally close to uncovering the 1,200-year-old kalyani (pond) closed by the British over a century ago.

Neglected for decades, it’s now the centre of attention of a huge crowd which looks on eagerly through the day. “We knew there was a kalyani but none of us have seen it. The steps around the pond were hidden!’’ an excited Jayanti, who has been living on the same lane for 25 years, told TOI on Thursday.

Even old-timers like Yuvraj, who stays right next to the site, didn’t know about the pond till excavation started at 9.10 am on April 19. “We’re happy that the kalyani is finally in sight. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that the digging doesn’t extend to my house,’’ he said.

There are rumours aplenty of valuable treasures and artefacts being unearthed and that’s drawing people from all over, giving police a tough time. “It’s hard to keep them away. The crowd starts coming in at 8 am and stays patiently till evening. Many women bring their children along and in their excitement, they forget about their kids who wander all over,’’ said an officer.

Temple trustee S Gunashekhar said the excavation has also attracted many outstation visitors. “Many people are coming here from far-off places like Mysore and Tamil Nadu,’’ he said.

BACK IN TIME
There are no records but legend has it that this pond (belonging to the ancient Someshwara temple, the oldest temple in the Mandavya Kshetra) was closed down by the British almost 150 years ago as the tank had dried up.

The excavation struck water at 20 ft and the pond could be at 42 ft. “We don’t have any records about this pond, not even its physical dimensions. We’re eagerly awaiting the findings of the dig based on the survey conducted by the BBMP, muzrai department and Survey of India,’’ V Govindaraj, organising committee president of the temple, told TOI. The rejuvenation exercise is estimated to cost about Rs 4.5 crore.

Some old-timers recall there was a dairy on this plot some time ago but it was shut down in 1992. The cows and a few sheds continued to remain. There was also a small veterinary clinic here, but it faded away over time.

History has it….
There are no records but legend has it that this pond (belonging to the ancient Someshwara temple, the oldest temple in the Mandavya Kshetra) was closed down by the British almost 150 years ago as the tank had dried up. Some old-timers recall there was a dairy on this plot some time ago but it was shut down in 1992

From TOI

Ooty: NMR weathers yet another storm

Along with local people, tourists waiting for resumption of service on the sector

Udhagamandalam: Having weathered many a storm during its long and chequered existence, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) is all set to emerge triumphantly from yet another major setback.

The breathtaking sight of the toy train chugging through the hills between Coonoor and Mettupalyam which had been conspicuous by its absence for the past about six months will return soon.

Along with the local people for whom the NMR is a prized possession, the tourists are also waiting eagerly for the resumption of services on the sector.

Prized possession:The passenger train of Nilgiri Mountain Railway, which connects the town of Mettupalayam with the hill station of Udhagamandalam in the Nilgiris, is seen chugging through the Glendale Estate, near Coonoor. — File Photo: K. Ananthan

They are also hoping that the return would be marked by some announcements relating to improvement of services.

Long considered as the Pride of the Blue Mountains, the NMR, which came into being in 1899 between Mettupalayam and Coonoor and extended to Ooty in 1908 lived through many challenges which confronted it over the years including several attempts to dismantle the line on account of it being uneconomical, a major accident during the early 1980s involving a freight train and its locomotives developing technical problems frequently on account of old age.

Hence, when a major natural calamity in the form of landslides triggered by heavy rains hit the NMR, particularly on the Mettupalayam-Coonoor sector on November 8, 2009, the people here were filled with agony and apprehension but were confident that the marvel of engineering skill which had been recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005 would bounce back despite speculation to the contrary.

Living up to the confidence reposed in it, the Southern Railway rose to the occasion notwithstanding odds of a varied kind.

As a result, services between Ooty and Coonoor were resumed on January 5.

Soil

With the total estimated cost of restoration put at Rs. 12.45 crore, the workers guided by senior officers of the Railways had to remove over 48,000 tonnes of slipped soil from about 150 locations, rebuild two badly damaged bridges, construct a new bridge, strengthen two bridges, renew tracks over about 2 km, repair damaged rack bars at 50 places and put up retaining walls at three places apart from removing uprooted trees and setting right damaged pipelines, signals, electrical and telecommunication lines.

Among the various challenges the workers and officials of the Southern Railway had to grapple with before putting the prestigious NMR back on the rails were hostile terrain and weather, threat from wild animals and labour shortage.

D. Radhakrishnan From THE HINDU

Kaziranga has the world’s highest tiger density: report

It is 32.64 tigers per 100 sq.km., highest in any known tiger habitat; one of the key reasons is abundance of prey

Guwahati: The Kaziranga National Park, famous for one-horned rhino, has the highest density of tigers in the world.

This was revealed in a report titled ‘Monitoring of Tigers and Prey Animals of Kaziranga National Park,’ released by Assam Forest and Environment Minister Rockybul Hussain at the State Zoo here on Thursday. The report says that the density of tigers at Kaziranga is 32.64 tigers per 100 sq.km., the highest in any known tiger habitat.

Previously, this status was held by the Corbett Tiger Reserve in northern India which had 19.6 tigers per 100 sq.km. The usual density varies from three to12 tigers per 100 sq.km. in different tiger reserves throughout the country, the report states.

One of the key reasons for the high density in Kaziranga is the abundance of prey, including the hog deer ( Axis porcinus), the sambar ( Rusa unicolor), the swamp deer ( Cervus duvauceli Cuv) and the wild buffalo ( Bubalis arnee), according to the report.

The 50-page report was compiled on the basis of a study carried out by Aaranyak, a society for biodiversity conservation in northeast India, the Assam Forest Department and the Kaziranga National Park Authority.

Aaranyak Wildlife Biologist M. Firoz Ahmed, who led the study, said it was conducted using the ‘camera trap’ method of tiger estimation and covered an area of 144 sq. km. of the central and western parts of the park.

A Royal Bengal Tiger

1998 study

Earlier, Karanth and Nichols (1998) had indicated that tigers attained their highest possible density in Kaziranga. According to Karanth and Nichols, tiger density of Kaziranga was 16.8 tigers per 100 sq.km. Their efforts involved 525 trap-nights over 167 sq.km. The present study, involving 1,250 trap-nights of camera trap efforts, however, recorded almost twice the density compared to the last estimation made by Karanth and Nichols.

Explaining the reasons for using camera trapping, Mr. Ahmed said: “Stripes of tiger never lie. Tigers have different stripe patterns just like our fingerprints. By carefully observing the unique stripes all the photographed tigers of an area can be individually identified.” He said that Kaziranga is the only viable source population of tigers in the northeast region and it is important to know tiger population and ecology to scientifically manage prey, predator and habitats and also understand dispersal mechanism of tigers.

Mr. Hussain said the study results rekindled the hope for the protection of the tiger, which is fast disappearing from its range States throughout the world. He attributed Kaziranga’s achievement to the dedication and relentless efforts by frontline staff to protect and preserve the wildlife and unique ecology of the World Heritage Site.

The study team has recommended regular monitoring of tigers and prey populations in the park to understand population dynamics and ecology in such a high-density tiger habitat. They also cautioned that considering the high density of tigers, human-tiger conflict on the fringe areas of the park may increase and recommended that the park management take necessary short-term and long-term steps to mitigate such conflicts and train more frontline staff in the park in regular monitoring of camera traps and also in recording sighting data of tigers and other animals on a regular basis.

The Aaranyak team worked under the supervision of their secretary-general Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, while the park staff were coordinated by director S.N. Buragohain.

By Sushanta Talukdar From THE HINDU

Melagiri Sanctuary

A troop of five people descend down the narrow trail juggling their glances between the sky to look out for birds, the trail to look out for scat and pug marks and everywhere else to soak in the heavenly view of the towering hills all around. The call of the Common Hawk Cuckoo also called the Brain Fever Bird reverberates all around.

Melagiri Sanctuary

We are the members of a Kenneth Anderson Nature Society, named after the erstwhile legendary hunter turned conversationalist Kenneth Anderson who roamed these very forests of Melagiri. The Melagiris are a range of hills on the Eastern Ghats, bound by the river Cauvery on the west. The total reserve forest area is around 1295 sq. kms. Inspired by the stories of Anderson the first KANS members ventured into these forests to feel the wild in first person. Over the years however the forests have been infiltrated by the locals for cattle grazing and to obtain the forest produce. The reserved forests are shrinking at the rapidly encroaching agricultural lands , the fauna disappearing by the unrestrained poaching activities.

KANS decided to take on the task of securing this habitat for the Tiger, to restore the region back to its original state.This is being achieved through a mix of passive and active conservation activities like community interaction programmes (afforestation, educational programmes, alternative agricultural practices), equipping the ground forest staff (uniforms, torches), field work to control Man-Elephant conflict, removal of invasive species etc.

Last weekend saw the the bio-diversity survey conducted at Anchetty, The objective of the surveys have been to take stock of the forests. To bring to public light the beauty and diversity of these forests and also highlight the socio-economic issues facing conservation in this region. The inventory of the species and inputs on the human-forest interaction issues are to add in to help to achieve the goal of securing Sanctuary status to the Melagiris.

Dodahalla river - Melagiri Sanctuary

As we reached the bed of Dodahalla river, that has been a witness to the glorious past, a time when Majestic Tigers roamed this land, a time when Kenneth Anderson set float his hair raising adventures, We grew excited as we IDied the pug marks of leopards. At least one of the bigger carnivore has escaped the same fate as that of the Tigers, although that could be due to the fact that leopards are tinier than its cousin, have an excellent camouflage, very shy but intelligent creature that can live on smaller prey base and very adaptive. We also spotted pug marks and scat samples of Civet, Chital, etc.,However our joy was shadowed by the presence of large amount of Cattle dung scattered everywhere in generous quantity. Cattles are a menace to the forests. Their rampant grazing not only means less grass cover, dwindling the wild herbivore population but also causes seasonal outbreak of diseases to which the wild animals have no resistance. The tigers in this region have been single-handedly wiped out largely by the locals by poisoning the cattle kill (Tigers finish their food in several sittings thus becoming an easy target.) diminished prey numbers and a variety of other reasons due to the never ending interferences by man.  If the forests are to be revived their is no go but to stop cattle grazing withing the boundaries of the forests.

We trekked a stretch of 8km approx along the Dodhalla river that is being fed by several small streams originating in the forests. This river finally joins the Cauvery, that forms western boundary of the Melagiri forests. While the forests on the other side of the Cauvery within the Karnataka state borders are Sanctuary the Melagiris are only Reserved forests. While the protection provided by the Sanctuary tag has helped sustain the Tigers in the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary they have vanished from the Melagiris.

The Tiger census that yielded the numbers 1411 has created a huge wave of alarm and people across the country have risen up in arms to protect them by raising funds through running marathons and what not. While money is continuously pouring into already protected Tiger Sanctuaries securing them and tightening the protection, we have sadly not hit the mark. The numbers 1411 are of the number of tigers that can be accommodated in the Tiger Reserves. You cannot stuff in more, in fact the recent Tiger Cub deaths we have been reading are by the Adult Tigers is to reduce the competition for territory. Internal fighting have become common, the excess tigers have began to search for new territories and are frequently seen on the fringes of the Sanctuary boundaries inadvertently going for the cattle kill and what happens? A Ranathambore episode is inevitable. Man-Animal conflict is on rise. And here its just not Tigers, Elephants are seasonal migrants. They do not recognize the boundaries set by man.

Bannerghatta National Park (BNP), Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS), Nagarhole (Rajiv Gandhi NP), Bandipur Tiger reserve, BRT and the Hosur forest Division ( Melagiris) forms a continuous region making it a major bio-diversity belt and Elephant corridor. With Melagiris assuming the Sanctuary status, the excess Tigers from The CWS, BNP and  BRT can be soaked by this region. This indeed is an viable option since securing the Melagiris is cheaper than trying to extend the already existing tiger reserves that have swarms of villages littered on its fringes. Not only the Elephant Corridor is secured minimizing Elephant-Human conflict but also sustains the life-source of Karnataka-Tamil Nadu, Cauvery.

With the Anchetty Survey, ends the last of the bio-diversity survey by KANS. KANS with ANCF has found both direct/indirect evidences of the rare Grizzled Giant Squirrel, Four horned Antelope and Leopards. The Flora contains almost 20 Red listed species, these were discovered during the survey, considering the Melagiris are almost 1200sq km (An area covered by putting Nagarhole and Bandipur together) there could be many more surprises waiting to be discovered. Unless this region is declared immediately with effect – Sanctuary, the poaching/ extraction of non-timber forest produce and infringement of the Forests by the local farmers and cattle grazers will only deteriorate them further snatching away the last chance for the Tigers in this zone to grow back to respectable numbers, increasing the Man-Elephant conflict , depleting the Cauvery – a death-blow to the farmers in Tamil Nadu and increasing tension between the two states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

From High On Wilderness

Simplify Your Life by Using Less Plastic

1) Bring your own grocery bags to the store and stop taking plastic produce bags. You don’t need a separate bag for each item. Apples and oranges get along fine together during the short ride home, as do broccoli and green peppers. If you need a produce bag for smaller items, you can use cloth bags or wash and bring back the plastic bags you already have.

2) Cut out bottled beverages and carry your own stainless steel water container or travel mug. I myself prefer a travel mug because it is so versatile. I can get hot or cold drinks in it. Your mileage may vary. Make friends with water fountains and have the gumption to go into eateries and ask for free water in your own container.

3) Look at all the processed foods, frozen foods, energy bars, cereals, etc. that you buy and figure out which things you can cut out. Eating whole foods instead of processed is healthier and helps us reduce waste, plastic and otherwise. If you have stores that sell foods in bulk bins where you can bring your own bags and containers, use them. If not, skip individual serving sizes and buy the largest size packages you will actually be able to consume. They use much less plastic than individual servings.

From Beth Terry

Shrinking of Renuka Lake concerns Himachal locals

Sirmour (Himachal Pradesh), Apr 29 (ANI): People in Himachal Pradesh’s Sirmour District are very concerned over the shrinking of the state’s Renuka Lake.

Renuka Lake, Himachal Pradesh.

Many feel the lake’s shrinking would affect business, as the area is a major tourist spot.

“A lot of tourists come here to see the natural beauty of this lake. In case it dries up, the business which is generated by this lake will also come to an end,” said Sandeep Sharma, a local photographer.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal has said steps are being taken to protect the lake, beginning with a ban on plastic bags.

“In order to protect it, we have banned the plastic bags as wherever there is a river or a lake, people throw plastic bags. This ban should preserve the lake. The society and the government should come together to take the initiative,” said Prem Kumar Dhumal.

Renuka Lake is seen as an embodiment of the Goddess Renuka. It is the largest natural lake in the state, and is shrinking due to silt deposition and dumping of waste materials. (ANI)

From ONE INDIA

New children’s medicine guide released by UNICEF and WHO

29 APRIL 2010 | GENEVA — A new publication that lists medicines formulated for children is being made available online by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, to help doctors and organizations obtain some of the 240 essential medicines that can save the lives of children.

“An estimated 9 million children die each year from preventable and treatable causes. Improved availability and access to safe child-specific medicines is still far from reality for many children in poor countries. This one-of-its-kind publication will be useful for organizations and personnel involved in procurement to identify where medicines may be found and what they cost,” said Hans Hogerzeil, Director Essential Medicines and Pharmaceutical Policies at WHO. More than half of these deaths are caused by diseases which could be treated with safe essential child-specific medicines: acute respiratory infections – pneumonia (17%), diarrhoeal diseases (17%), neonatal severe infections (9%), malaria (7%), and HIV/AIDS (2%).

Sources and prices of selected medicines for children

The second edition of Sources and prices of selected medicines for children offers current details on 612 different paediatric formulations of 240 medicines selected from the ‘WHO Model List of Essential Medicines for Children’, as well as therapeutic food, and vitamin and mineral supplements, to treat major childhood illnesses and diseases. The information is vital for development and health partners who procure and supply essential medicines for children.
Challenges to obtain child-specific medicines

The guide notes that the number of sources is limited for the paediatric treatment of diarrhoea and HIV/AIDS, and there is still a serious challenge to obtain child-specific medicines to treat tropical infections endemic in Africa and Asia. The guide ranks the availability of the identified medicines, and notes that 75% of the formulations included are available for purchase. There are several sources for children’s medicines and treatments to address opportunistic infections, palliative care, pain and pneumonia. Availability of paediatric formulations for treatments of malaria, maternal and newborn care, and tuberculosis was fair.

Newborn care is often lacking in poor countries, particularly in hard to reach communities. At the time of publication, there was no information from manufacturers for respiratory stimulants and pulmonary surfactants for the treatment of apnoea and respiratory distress syndrome in newborns.

Although diseases such as schistosomiasis, filariasis, and parasites transmitted through soil, are endemic in some parts of Africa and Asia, there are few manufacturers who produce child-specific medicines to treat these neglected diseases. Broadening the market search for essential medicines in this category is a serious challenge.

“While effective medicines exist to fight disease and treat life-threatening conditions like malnutrition, formulations suitable for children are often difficult to source,” said Francisco Blanco, Chief of Medicines & Nutrition, UNICEF Supply Division. “The data in this edition confirms that much more research and effort needs to be made to make medicines for children more available and accessible for those who need them most.”

As an alternative to missing paediatric medicines, health-care workers and parents often use fractions of adult dosage forms or prepare makeshift prescriptions of medicines by crushing tablets or dissolving portions of capsules in water. This is not always safe or effective as the dose will not be accurate. Other challenges include the need for more clinical trials and research to be carried out on paediatric medicines.

WHO recommendation

WHO recommends that wherever possible, medicines for children should be provided as flexible, solid, oral dosage forms that can be administered in a liquid when it is given to the sick child. Liquid formulations are more expensive to purchase compared with dispersible tablets and are also more costly to store, package, and transport safely.

Sources and prices of selected medicines for children is part of UNICEF/WHO work to make essential medicines for children more universally available. Since the launch of the campaign “make medicines child size” in 2007, WHO and UNICEF have been working in partnership to raise awareness and accelerate action to address the serious gaps that contribute to nine million preventable child deaths every year.

About WHO

WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends. The Essential Medicines and Pharmaceutical Policies department’s vision is that people everywhere have access to the essential medicines they need; that the medicines are safe, effective and of assured quality; and that they are prescribed and used rationally.

About UNICEF

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by voluntary contributions.
For more information contact:

Liz Finney
Communications Officer, World Health Organization
Geneva, Switzerland
Telephone: +41 22 791 1866
E-mail: finneye@who.int

Joan Howe
Communications Specialist, UNICEF Supply Division
Copenhagen, Denmark
Mobile: +45 29 65 71 94
E-mail: jhowe@unicef.org
From WHO