Kerala EcoTourism: A night out in the forest!

After beaches, backwaters and massages, Kerala is offering tourists a night deep in the forest with members of the local Kani tribe.

“Vanavasam” (forest stay), the latest tourism lure of Kerala, is becoming a hit, says MA Altaf, head of new travel and tour company Vyomayan Holidays.

The scheme was launched in the forests of Thiruvananthapuram district and is now spreading to the forests in Wayanad and Idukki districts, said Altaf, former country manager of a leading international airline.

“This tourism product is the outcome of team work by the state-owned Kerala Forest Development Corporation (KFDC) and Pugmark, an organisation of retired senior forest department officials,” Altaf said.

“We are the facilitators between the tourists and these two organisations. Our role is to get the tourists. Then the two organisations take over to give the tourists a unique experience deep inside the forests, mingling with the tribes there.”

The first destinations in the package are the forests in Kottoor and Arippa, each about 50 km from this state capital.

“Tourists have an option of either staying in the rooms of the KFDC. Or they can stay in tents. Those who opt for a night package are treated to the cultural programmes of the local tribes. The local cuisine is served and the tourists can choose their food because we have a cook at our beck and call,” said Altaf.

There are various add-ons. Those interested in exploring the flora and fauna are free to do so. There is an expert accompanying the tourists who holds classes in bird watching and wildlife, besides the butterflies which are in profusion in the area.

“We are not looking into margins and our business model in this eco-tourism product is a win-win situation for all the players. Our prime concern is protection of the environment besides the upliftment of the tribal community and value for money for the tourists,” said Altaf.

The success of the first destination has prompted the firm to go into the forests near Munnar and Wayanad and similar packages are now ready there.

“This is a product for nature lovers only and not for every tourist who arrives in our state. And we want it to be that way because only the real nature lover will enjoy this,” added Altaf.

There are day-long packages and one-night-two-day packages that cost between Rs 1,700 and Rs 3,300 per head.

From TOI

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Ooty: Action plan to combat bush fires

Udhagamandalam: An action plan has been drawn up to prevent the occurrence of bush fires during the current dry season, said the Conservator of Forests, Coimbatore, R. Kannan while speaking to presspersons here on Saturday.

Instructions have been issued to all the divisions to accord high priority to combat bush fires. He added that stringent action will be taken against people who started bush fires.

Measures

A number of steps are being taken to reduce man-elephant conflict. Pointing out that the areas affected include Coimbatore, Sathyamangalam, Sirumugai, Mettupalayam and Thadagam, he said that farmers have been requested to change agricultural practices in areas bordering the forests.

Fence

Solar fences have also been erected in places prone to such conflicts. To another query, he said that a system of de-worming wild elephants has been put in place.

When asked about the proposed public hearing with regard to the recent publication of a map of the Elephant Corridor in the Sigur Plateau of the Nilgiris district, Mr. Kannan said that so far about 150 objections have been received.

He added that along the Kallar-Jakkanarai elephant corridor some persons have offered to hand over 69 acres to the forest department.

The value of trees and land were in the process of being assessed.

From THE HINDU

Ramanathapuram: Forest department launches first-ever synchronised bird census in the State

RAMANATHAPURAM: The Forest Department on Sunday launched its first ever synchronised bird census in all 12 bird sanctuaries in the State.

Winged visitors: Birds nestling at Keela Selvanur-Mela Selvanur sanctuary near Kadaladi in Ramanathapuram district. — Photo: L. Balachandar

As many as 1500 bird watchers, ornithologists, forest officials, nature lovers and students have been involved in the two-day programme. They have been camping in different locations of the State for sighting as well as recording the species of winged visitors from different continents who have come here for breeding and nestling.

The Chief Wildlife Warden and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, R. Sundararaju, who personally monitored the process of bird census at the Mela Selvanur–Keela Selvanur bird sanctuary near Kadaladi told The Hindu that the synchronised bird population estimate had been undertaken in the State for the first time in the country.

It was aimed at estimating the total number of birds, which had visited the State in the season, as correct as possible. The department had attempted the synchronised estimation as the earlier census conducted in different dates in different sanctuaries did not give the correct picture of birds.

He said that the simultaneous estimation had been conducted in all sanctuaries including Vedanthangal, the oldest bird sanctuary in the State, Point Calimere in Nagapattinam district, Kunthankulam in Tirunelveli district, Vettangudi in Sivaganga district and all major tanks and water bodies. A few teams of officials had been sent to the 21 islands of Gulf of Mannar, which was one of the ideal centres for migratory birds, for estimation.

Mr. Sundararaju added that officials were asked to compile the reports within a few days and send them to the headquarters as quickly as possible. Though the State wide figure would be known in a week, the preliminary information revealed that the bird population including migratory and inland was satisfactory. Several rare species including pelicans, darters, cormorant, flamingos, white ibis and others were sighted in large numbers.

He said that a comprehensive analytical study would be undertaken based on reports of bird population in different sanctuaries.

Follow up actions including provision of waterholes, planting of perching trees favourable for breeding and nestling and others would be undertaken.

H. Mallesappa, Conservator of Forests, Virudhunagar range and M. Sundarakumar, Wildlife Warden, Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, said direct sighting method had been followed for counting the population of birds.

C. Jaishankar From THE HINDU

Erode: Do not use land under food crops for cultivation of other crops

Officials told to ensure that farmers get a good price for their produce

ERODE: In promoting various crops, Horticulture Department officials should ensure that they do not take away land under food crops, C.V. Sairam, senior scientist, Zonal Project Directorate, Indian Council for Agriculture Research, Bangalore, has said.

“In the interest of the society, the Department officials should not use land under food crops for promoting any other crops, as food crop production is on the decline,” he told the Department officers at the one-day master training programme on Technological Options in Production, Post Harvest Management and Marketing of Aromatic Crops, the MRADA Krishi Vigyan Kendra conducted here on Friday.

“I understand that other crops should also be promoted and that Horticulture Department officials have targets to meet, which can be easily achieved by working in coordination with other departments.”

Mr. Sairam also asked the officers to ensure that farmers get a good price for their produce, as they “win on farms but lose out in markets.”

V. P. Alagesan, assistant director, Horticulture Department, Erode, said under the National Mission on Medicinal Plants, the Department had promoted gloriosa cultivation on 150 hectares and provided subsidy for the same to farmers.

The Department provided 50 per cent of the estimated cost of cultivation of Rs. 1.35 lakh a hectare and had given the subsidy to135 farmers, he said and added that gloriosa seeds were used for preparing medicines to cure knee pain.

Mr. Alagesan said in the current year, the Government had given a target of 200 ha and the Department had achieved the target by promoting the same plant.

He conceded that gloriosa cultivation was concentrated in and around Moolanur and Dharapuram, areas that were part of Tirupur district, but under the jurisdictional control of the Erode office of the Department. Once the control of the areas was transferred to the Tirupur office, the Erode office would have a tough time meeting the targets as in rest of the areas of the district, there was hardly any cultivation of medicinal plants and herbs.

The programme would provide the right opportunity for the Department officers to take up cultivation of medicinal plants, herbs and aromatic plants in other parts of the district, he added. G. Santhanam, assistant general manager, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, Erode, said under the Banks tribal development programme to be taken up in Thalavady, Bargur and Kadambur hills, the Department officers could consider promoting herbs and aromatic plants.

M. Balusamy, professor and head, Agriculture Research Station, Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, Bhavani Sagar, said the University was committed to providing support to initiatives of the Department by giving quality seeds and saplings.

MYRADA-KVK Programme Coordinator P. Alagesan spoke on the activities of the organisation and explained how it had promoted rosemary cultivation in the hills and also offered marketing assistance for the farmers.

From THE HINDU

Vellore: Hostels planned for forest schools

Meeting held to create awareness of District Forest Right Protection Act 2006 

PUDURNADU: The Forest Department has plans to provide hostel facility for 11 forest schools in Vellore district, A.V. Venkatachalam, District Conservator of Forest, said here on Tuesday.

He was participating at a meeting to create awareness of District Forest Right Protection Act 2006, organised by the Tamil Nadu Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department. He said that at present, students coming from interior areas found it difficult to continue their education. A demand for the hostels was put forth by a section of tribals in the district.

Mr. Venkatachalam said that many of the forest schools faced shortage of teachers. Initially, the government had recommended appointing teachers who had registered with the employment exchange on seniority basis. But, the teachers who were appointed hesitated to work in tribal areas. A petition was submitted to Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and the government, in the month of September, issued an order stating that teachers need not be recruited on seniority basis through the employment exchange. The Forest Department could recruit teachers by placing advertisement and the only criteria considered would be qualification.

To get over the problem of shortage of teachers, the department had taken steps to recruit qualified tribal youth on temporary basis, Mr. Venkatachalam said.

Further, the department had spent Rs.5 crore on construction of additional school buildings and maintenance of existing schools during last year. Infrastructure in forest schools had been upgraded. As a step to enable tribal youth to become engineers and doctors, computer course had been introduced in the schools since last year, he said.

Referring to bad road condition in forest areas where the tribals lived, Mr. Venkatachalam said laying of new roads in forest areas was not an easy task as lot of formalities had to be completed.

A total of 117 km of road in the district come under the forest area. If a new road is laid in an area, it is mandatory to set up a Forest Department check-post. Lot of cost was involved in this and some of the areas could not be opened to the public. Some of the forest areas were in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh border and increased vigil has to be maintained to check the movement of naxalites.

Mr. Venkatachalam said that despite the situation, the Forest Department had sought permission for lying 14 new roads in forest areas of the district. The demand to expand 15 km of road from Tirupattur to Pudurnadu would be considered. Roads would also be laid from Pudurnadu to Nellivasalnadu. This would help the Transport Department to introduce bus service from Pudurnadu to Nellivasalnadu. Some of the roads that would be newly laid are from Ambur to Nayakaneri, Polur to Jamunamarathur and Amrithi to Jamunamarathur.

Earlier, Mr. Venkatachalam handed over a sum of Rs. one crore to the Animal Husbandry Department to purchase milch cows and goats to the Scheduled Tribes. He also requested the Pudurnadu tribals to understand the District Forest Right Protection Act-2006 and make best use of it.

Tirupattur Sub-Division Sub-Collector Nandhakumar, Pernambut MLA A. Chinnasamy, Councillor A.K. Arunachalam and Pudurnadu panchayat president K. Natarajan spoke. District Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Officer V.Swarnalatha welcomed the gathering.

From THE HINDU

Kullu: Himachal’s First Wilderness Emergency Rescue Course

Kullu: The Forest Department is becoming proactive in its ecotourism training especially in the Great Himalayan National Park. A 10 day first aid cum Wilderness Emergency Rescue course sponsored by the Great Himalayan National Park began on the 5th of December 2009. It consisted of 20 persons belonging to the Wildlife and Forest department, Ecotourism members of the Society for Biodiversity Tourism and Community Advancement (BTCA) and staff of Sunshine Himalayan Adventures (SHA). The course is being overlooked by Jiteder Lal Gupta and members of the Kullu Medical center.

Rescue Course

This emergency course was designed by Dr. J L Gupta ( head of Kullu Medical Center) and Mr. Ankit Sood ( Ecotourism Consultant GHNP) seeing various problems that may arise in trekking in the GHNP. The syllabus of the Wilderness Emergency Course covers everything from gradients, snow blindness, acute mountain sickness, first aid, surgical management, camp hygiene, water related diseases and their prevention, snake and animal bites, bandage, Splint Usage Dressing of wounds, general medication, first aid kits, cleanliness, Mountain rescue to CPR and Mountaineering Rescue. The training is done with practical sessions of theoretical classes.

Use of drama and actual scenario training along with audio visual aids including LCD projector, first hand interaction with foreigners and site visits to local hospitals is makes the course intensive. The first aid course uses theoretical sessions in first half, practical after lunch and evening sessions taken by foreign volunteers belonging to the Kullu Project.

From Himachal

Ariyalur: Bird sanctuary to get facelift soon

ARIYALUR: The huge lake with a sprawling 454 hectares at Karaivetti village near Keezhapazhur in Ariyalur district that has been declared as a bird sanctuary by the Government seven years ago would soon get a facelift, said Collector T.Abraham, here on Wednesday.

Talking to The Hindu here, the Collector said that as many as 91 species of migratory birds including flamingoes, painted storks and spoonbill from countries like Siberia, Tibet, central Asia, and Russia, were coming in large numbers for about eight months beginning from November every year.

The Forest Department had planted nearly 17,000 saplings in the sanctuary.

From THE HINDU