Goa: Mhadei and Netravali get separate ranges

PANAJI: Eleven years after Mhadei and Netravali wildlife sanctuaries were notified, the state government on Wednesday created separate ranges for the two sanctuaries which according to the additional principle chief conservator of forests Dr Shashi Kumar will help in “intensive management” of the areas.

Announcing the creation of new ranges, the government through a notification signed by under secretary (Forests) Maria J R Pires, said that Netravali wildlife sanctuary range will have its headquarters at Netravali and Mahadei’s headquarters will be located at Valpoi. The jurisdiction of Netravali wildlife sanctuary and range has been transferred from deputy conservator of forest, South Goa, to deputy conservator of forests, wildlife sanctuary & Ecotourism, South Goa.

By another notification, the government has bifurcated the existing wildlife and eco-tourism divisions into two. Accordingly, three wildlife sanctuaries – Mahadei, Bhagwan Mahaveer and Bondla besides Dr Salim Ali bird sanctuary (Chorao) and Bhagwan Mahavi national park will come under wildlife and eco-tourism (North) division with headquarters in Panaji. The other division – wildlife and eco-tourism (South) division will consist of two wildlife sanctuaries -Netravali and Cotigao. According to the notification, the bifurcation is done mainly for better administration and management. Earlier this month, TOI had reported plans of additional principle chief conservator of forests to have separate ranges.

Agreeing that it’s been 11 years since then governor J FR Jacob notified Mahadei and Netravali as wildlife sanctuaries, Dr Kumar said that the forest department had been on the job for quite a long time. Hitherto, Mahadei and Netravali were managed by territorial range officers. Sources in the know said that the separate ranges should have been created long ago.

Succcessive governments tried to denotify the wildlife sanctuaries partly or fully. The “grievances” of the villagers there had been highlighted by MLAs for long with even promises made that they would take up the matter with the Centre.Perhaps after the supreme court ruling that, once notified, no wildlife sancturay would be denotified, the political class gave up their demand for denotification. tnn

From TOI

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Eco Tourism Park in Visakhapatnam

DRUNK WITH BEAUTY: Butterflies mud-puddling at the Kambalakonda Eco Tourism Park in Visakhapatnam. Photo: K.R. Deepak

The Eco Tourism Park in Visakhapatnam is adorned with the beauty of butterflies, tribals in Jharkhand fight for their rights, and a retired Saudi Arabian teacher enjoys his Indonesian prison life. A collection of images from India and around the world.

From THE HINDU

Arbitration & Kishenganga project

It should not be extremely difficult to arrive at a negotiated settlement on the reconciliation of the conflicting interests of the Kishenganga and Neelum-Jhelum projects, as also on the extent of agricultural use that needs to be provided for, and on the ‘ecological flows’ that must be maintained.

The Kishenganga Hydroelectric Project in Jammu & Kashmir is proceeding towards arbitration under the Indus Treaty 1960. This article is an attempt to explain the issues involved for the information of the general public, without expressing any personal opinions on the issues that are going before a judicial body.

While water-sharing in the Indus system stands settled by the Indus Treaty 1960, divergences are possible, and have occurred, over the question of the compliance of Indian projects on the western rivers with certain stringent provisions of the Treaty which were meant to take care of Pakistan’s concerns as a lower riparian.

The Treaty recognises three categories of such divergence: ‘questions’ to be discussed and resolved at the level of the Indus Commission, or at the level of the two governments; ‘differences’ (that is, unresolved ‘questions’) to be referred to a Neutral Expert (NE) if they are of certain kinds (that is, broadly speaking, differences of a technical nature); and ‘disputes’ (going beyond ‘differences,’ and perhaps involving interpretations of the Treaty) that are referable to a Court of Arbitration. In the Kishenganga case, both ‘difference’ and ‘dispute’ come into play. Pakistan has proposed the reference of certain technical issues to a Neutral Expert, and the submission of a couple of other issues to a Court of Arbitrators.

The Jhelum river in Srinagar. File photo: Nissar Ahmad

The Kishenganga is a tributary of the Jhelum. It originates in J&K, crosses the Line of Control, runs for some 150 km in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and joins the Jhelum (in PoK). India proposes to build a dam on the Kishenganga shortly before it crosses the LoC, divert a substantial part of the waters of the river through a tunnel to the hydroelectric project (330 MW, that is, 110 MW x 3) located near Bonar Nala, another tributary of the Jhelum, and then return the diverted waters, after they have passed through the turbines, to the Jhelum via the Wular Lake.

The ‘differences’ to be referred to a Neutral Expert will be regarding the compliance of the project features with the conditions and restrictions laid down in the Treaty (design of the project, quantum of pondage, need for gated spillways, placement of the gates, etc.). This reference, which will be somewhat similar to the reference to the NE in the Baglihar case, will not be discussed further in this article.

The main ‘dispute’ to be referred to a Court of Arbitration is on the issue of whether the diversion of waters from one tributary of Jhelum to another is permissible under the Treaty. Art. III (2) of the Treaty requires India to let flow all the western rivers to Pakistan and not permit any interference with those waters, and Art. IV (6) calls for the maintenance of natural channels. If we go by these provisions, the diversion of waters from one tributary to another seems questionable. On the other hand, there is another provision (Ann. D, paragraph 15 (iii)) which specifically envisages water released from a hydroelectric plant located on one tributary of the Jhelum being delivered to another tributary; this seems to permit inter-tributary diversion. The correct understanding of these provisions and the determination of the conformity of the Kishenganga Project to the Treaty is a matter for the two governments to agree upon, or for the Court of Arbitration to decide.

Any diversion of waters from a river is bound to reduce the flows downstream of the diversion point. It is true that the diverted waters will be returned to the Jhelum, but there will certainly be a reduction of flows in the stretch of the Kishenganga (some 150 km) before it joins the Jhelum. This will affect not merely certain uses of the waters but also the river regime itself and the ecological system. It may be true that only a small part of the waters (30 per cent or so) flows from the Indian part to the Pakistani part and that the rest (70 per cent) of the flows arise after the river crosses the LoC. However, the diversion of a substantial part of the former by India will undoubtedly have some impacts downstream.

Assuming that diversion from the Kishenganga to another tributary is found permissible, there is a condition attached: the existing agricultural use and use for hydro-electric power generation on the Kishenganga in Pakistan must be protected. There is indeed some existing agricultural use along the Kishenganga (Neelum) in PoK. Pakistan is also planning the Neelum-Jhelum hydroelectric project at a point on the Neelum before it joins the Jhelum. These claims of existing uses will probably be contentious issues between the two countries, with reference to (a) the crucial date for determining ‘existing use’ and (b) the quantum of existing use.

Arbitration is action under the Treaty and is therefore not a matter for concern. In this case, the arbitration process has already been initiated. However, it seems to this writer that even at this stage an effort should be made to reach an agreed settlement on this project. The reasons for saying so are as follows:

First, arbitration by a court of seven arbitrators of the highest international standing will be a very expensive process; it may also take a long time — possibly several years.

Secondly, arbitration is essentially an adversarial process. Each side will try to make the strongest possible presentation of its own case, and question the other’s. The media in both countries will keep reporting developments in the case, probably in a partisan manner. All this will definitely cause an accentuation of strained relations between the two countries.

Thirdly, the outcome of the process is uncertain. There are three possibilities: a clear negative finding (that is, the diversion of waters is impermissible under the Treaty), in which case the project will have to be abandoned; or a clear positive finding (that the diversion is permissible) in which case, the project can go ahead as planned; or a mixed finding that the diversion is permissible but must be such as to minimise adverse downstream impacts, in which case India may have to reduce the planned diversion and let a larger quantum of waters flow down. It would be very rash to predict the outcome of the process, but undertaking that rashness, the author would venture to suggest that a mixed finding seems more likely than a categorical one (positive or negative).

If that tentative forecast seems plausible, is it really necessary to go through a costly and time-consuming process of arbitration to arrive at that result? Is it not possible — and more sensible — for the two countries to try for an agreed settlement of the dispute even at this stage? It should not be extremely difficult to arrive at a satisfactory, negotiated settlement on the reconciliation of the conflicting interests of the Kishenganga and Neelum-Jhelum projects, as also on the extent of agricultural use that needs to be provided for, and on the ‘ecological flows’ that must be maintained.

A second issue that Pakistan proposes to refer to the Court of Arbitration is the legitimacy of drawdown flushing of the reservoir for sediment-control. This is not specific to the Kishenganga project but is a general issue applicable to all future projects. In the case of Baglihar, the Neutral Expert had strongly recommended periodical drawdown flushing of the reservoir as a means of sediment control, which (in his view) was part of proper maintenance, and had observed that while the dead storage could not be used for operational purposes, there was no objection to its use for maintenance purposes. Pakistan has been unhappy with that recommendation, but could not challenge it as the NE’s findings are final and binding. It is now raising this as a general issue before the Court of Arbitration. Three questions arise:

(i) Can an issue on which a NE has given a final and binding finding be raised again before another NE or a Court of Arbitration?

(ii) If the NE’s finding is applicable only to the particular project in question and not to others, should we accept the position that there can be substantially different (even contradictory) principles (laid down by different NEs) applying to different projects?

(iii) If drawdown flushing is ruled out, then must the corollary of heavy siltation and reduction of project life (as in the case of Salal) be accepted as inevitable? If so, does this not amount to ignoring the words “consistent with sound and economical design and satisfactory construction and operation” and again “unless sediment control or other technical considerations necessitate this” in the Treaty?

These questions will no doubt be argued before the Court by the two countries.

Ramaswamy R. Iyer – From THE HINDU

Buddhist tour connecting India, Nepal

Kathmandu: Nepal will soon launch a bus tour from Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha, to different Indian cities having important Buddhist pilgrimages, to lure over a million tourists to the country during the Tourism Year 2011.

The Eco-tourism Buddhist Circuit pilgrimage tour will start from Lumbini in Western Nepal and take a round of Indian cities Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar before concluding at where it started, said Nepal Tourism Board chief Prachanda Man Shrestha.

The ten-day tour aims to promote Nepal’s tourism, which had suffered a lot during the decade-long insurgency, by luring Buddhist pilgrims from around the world, Shrestha said.

The pilgrims would get to see Buddhist stupas, chaityal, monasteries, mahaviharas, arts and architecture and religious literature from different parts of India and Nepal during the tour that would cost around 400 US dollar per person.

At the initiative of the Nepal Tourism Board, two 42-seater deluxe buses will be arranged as per the packaged tour programme that would start its trial run in November.

The regular bus service will start from January 2011 to coincide with the Nepal Tourism Year.

Lord Buddha was born in Lumbini some 2,554 years ago and he got enlightenment in Bodhgaya, preached his first disciple in Sarnath and died in Kushinagar of India.

Though Buddha was born in Nepal, the country has not received its proper share from the Buddhist pilgrimage tour due to lack of publicity and lack of connectivity, the minister claimed.

Through the packaged tour Nepal aims to get its share from around 300,000 Buddhist pilgrims who are currently visiting mainly Indian cities annually, Shrestha said.

From Zee News

Mango exhibition from today

KRISHNAGIRI: Collector V. Arun Roy has instructed the officials to construct ramp and western toilets for the differently-abled persons visiting the 18th All India Mango Exhibition to be inaugurated on Friday.

Inspecting the preparatory works at the Government Boys Higher School ground here on Wednesday, he told reporters that 30 government stalls, a stall for SHGs, a stall by women SHGs undertaking agriculture, private stalls and enhanced entertainment facilities would be provided for the public.

Special buses would be operated for the exhibition and protected drinking water would be kept ready for the visitors.

Cultural programmes by leading artistes and school children had been arranged.

P. Prabhakar, District Revenue Officer, K. Rajan, Deputy Director, Agriculture, N. Nachiappan, Personal Assistant to Collector (Agriculture), T. Manoharan, Public Relations Officer and officers from Horticulture Department accompanied the Collector.

From THE HINDU

Do Kerala needs eco-tourism ?

While the houseboat industry has brought a welcome source of income for the Kerala backwaters, their uncontrolled proliferation is having a dramatic impact on the fragile coastal ecosystem. Prasanam, a boatman who takes tourists through the Alappuzha backwaters on a traditional ‘kettuvallam’, explains why eco-tourism, already in some areas of Kerala, should spread throughout the region

Boatman Prasanam (left) in his traditional kettuvallam. Photograph: Lily Philipose

I have lived in Alappuzha since the day I was born. There was practically no tourism here till about the 1990s, when things started to change quickly. The backwaters became the hot spot for Kerala tourism. As boatmen we had used our thatched-roof wooden “kettuvallams” [literally meaning “stitched boat,” a traditional country boat made with wooden planks, stitched together with coir ropes, steered only with a punting pole] to transport rice. Then we realised we could make much more money by taking people to tourist resorts and spice farms.

On the whole, the tourist industry has helped boatmen. But I worry about the condition of the backwaters. Neither the tour operators or the government are paying much attention to its worsening quality.

The backwaters suffer from pollution because water hyacinths are growing so rapidly that they have taken over the waterways in some parts. The clusters of these mauve flowers make for scenic photographs but in actuality the hyacinths are choking the water.

Boatmen see how fast these plants grow from week to week, and how they disrupt the natural water flow. Once they cover the surface of the water, they block off the sunlight, and the fish and native plants below become starved of oxygen. When the plants decompose they add to the pollution and soon mosquitoes start breeding. That is the reason why there have been malaria outbreaks in some of the backwater areas.

There is a simple and natural way to get rid of the water hyacinths without using any chemicals, and many boatmen know how. If we channel the sea water to enter the backwaters for a few months, the salt kills the hyacinths and keeps the water clean and weed-free for a long time. If only people in authority would listen to us, they could easily improve the situation.

An even more serious pollution is created by the houseboat industry. The tourists come mostly for the backwater tours, so the boatmen have begun to build bigger and fancier boats. Look along the shores and you can see how many wooden hulls are being constructed this very moment.

There are about 2,000 houseboat “kettuvallams” today, and some of them are floating palaces. All have living/dining rooms, kitchens, bathrooms and verandas. The kitchens use kerosene stoves for cooking, and there is a generator for electricity and an outboard motor that runs on diesel. The luxurious versions even have two storeys, air-conditioned bedrooms, conference rooms, flat screens and whirlpools.

I’m all for attracting visitors to enjoy this natural beauty. Many of us have well-paid jobs because of the stream of visitors. Besides, I enjoy taking tourists on my boat, and many of them stay in touch with me from all over the world. I’ve kept all their letters and cards in this book, and I read them from time to time. I have a beautiful card from a young couple from France who were here on their honeymoon.

But I have chosen to ply the simple traditional version of the “kettuvallam” with no outboard motor and no overnight accommodation. I tell tourists who choose this kind of boat that they leave smaller footprints on the natural environment.

The tourism board is simply ignoring the environmental effect of the increasingly numerous and luxurious houseboats. The diesel from the outboard motors and the kerosene from the stoves leak into the water, and sometimes we can actually taste the kerosene in the “karimeen” [also known as pearlspot fish] that the fishermen catch here. The cooking water from the kitchens and shower and bathwater also end up as pollutants.

Remember, the backwaters are not only here for the tourists. There are village people who live on the shores, and they use the polluted water for their cooking, cleaning and washing. The tour operators of the fancy houseboats make good money, but the people in the villages whose waters get polluted don’t see any of the profits.

We know Kerala does not have many other industries that will bring us money to live well. So, yes, we want development and economic opportunity. Yes, we want to open up to tourism. But we need the kind of tourism that will not destroy the natural beauty of the backwaters that makes Kerala so attractive for travellers and for the people who have lived here all their lives.

• Prasanam was talking to Guardian Weekly reader Lily Philipose. – From Guardian UK

New eco-tourism policy offers much promise

Focus on creation of environmental awareness among all age groups

MADURAI: The new Eco Tourism Policy of Tamil Nadu, made public by the Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on June 7, promises to provide a new dimension to tourism in the Temple City.

The 50-page document, which envisages major role for local communities in promoting their localities, will focus on creating environmental awareness among all age groups, especially youth.

PLACE OF ATTRACTION:A view of Kutladampatti waterfalls in Madurai district. — Photo: S. James.

The Department of Tourism will work with the Forest Department in identifying a shelf of eco tourism projects. A nine-member official committee, headed by Chief Secretary, will be formed to monitor the implementation and coordinate various stakeholder agencies.

Of particular importance is that the policy would accord priority to develop places closer to existing popular destinations and lesser-known eco tourist spots so that infrastructure development will be kept at bare minimum.

Two places that readily fit the bill are the Kutladampatti Waterfalls, located about 40 kilometres near Vadipatti in the district, and Alagarkoil, about 20 km from here.

A reserve area under the Forests Department, the Kutladampatti Waterfalls is located in a secluded location of the national highway to Dindigul. Harbouring tonnes of potential, the picturesque location can become a major site provided a few amenities are ensured.

A tourism stakeholder in the city says the place needs a watchtower for security reasons as it is an isolated spot. Dressing rooms and other basic amenities should also come up.

K.P. Bharathi, programme leader, Tourism for Development division, Dhan Foundation, says the usual perception of eco-tourism need not remain confined to the much stereotyped hill stations and beaches. The serene village atmosphere, its rich culture, heritage and undisturbed nature could also be packaged well.

Madurai has many places such as Thenkarai and Tiruvedagam near Sholavandhan which would attract foreign tourists.

The nine places having Jain monuments in the district can also be promoted well as they are all located in calm locations.

“Local people participation is a must for sustainable development of tourism in these areas as they have to show interest to make the project a success,” he adds.

K. Muralidharan, GM, GRT Regency Hotel, and a member of Travel Club, says the new policy can help develop villages as ideal eco-tourism destinations. However, infrastructure such as good accessible roads, conveyance and parking facilities have to come up first.

“Madurai and the surrounding regions stand to benefit from this policy. Even local residents can come to know of hitherto unknown places and visit them. Lesser known tourist spots can now be brought under the spotlight,” he says.

Sairam – From THE HINDU