Seychelles seeks better air links with India

Air connectivity will help to improve economic ties and promote tourism: James Alix Michel

Seychelles has sought better air connectivity with India to improve economic ties and promote tourism.

President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with President of the Republic of Seychelles James Alix Michel (centre) during a ceremonial recpetion at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: V.V. Krishnan

Speaking to industrialists here on Wednesday, Seychelles President James Alix Michel pointed to the “urgent need” to establish flights between Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai and Mahe.

He hoped negotiations later this month on the Bilateral Air Services Agreement between Seychelles and India would lead to an increase in exchange between business persons of the two countries, greater people to people contacts and tourism.

Earlier in the day, India and Seychelles signed a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement following delegation-level talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mr. Michel.

Business opportunities

Mr. Michel said that with the improvement in the balance of payments position and the signing of the BIPA, investment opportunities had opened up for India in offshore oil exploration, fisheries, marine and aqua culture projects; renewable energy, eco-tourism projects; IT and ICT business and specialised restaurants.

Official sources said the talks saw both sides touching on Indian assistance for a tighter security grid that would be able to stave off pirate attacks as well as make the seas around Seychelles safer for tourists.

India has stationed military advisors in Mahe and replenishes logistics for military hardware supplied by it.

From The Hindu

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India, a safe place for foreign tourists

Toronto, May 21 (PTI) India is fast emerging as Asia’s top spiritual, medical and rural tourism destination and is a safe place for foreign tourists, Tourism Secretary Sujit Banerjee has said.

“India holds a strong appeal for Canadians to explore inexpensive Indian spiritual, cultural heritage and medical tourism,” Banerjee yesterday said at a road show organised by Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Indian Chapter to attract North American tourists.

The road show in which top 12 Indian tour operators participated is aimed at selling India as an exotic place to North Americans to further raise foreign tourist traffic from 5.1 million last year.

Top Canadians tour operators and civil aviation companies have shown keen interest in various Indian tourism products ranging from glimpses of India’s spiritual and cultural heritage, ecotourism, medical tourism, and wild life to rural tourism.

From PTI

Sighting beautiful Asiatic ibex

Ibex crossing the nullah - © Aishwaraya Maheshwari/WWF-India

From WWF-INDIA

WWF-India: Change through education

The ongoing journey of Pardi children joining mainstream society

Background:
Pardis are a nomadic tribe of Central India who are traditional hunters and make a living by killing wild animals. They are thought to be behind many poaching incidents in and around Madhya Pradesh’s Panna Tiger Reserve (TR) in the recent past. WWF-India has supported Panna since 2003 when winter jackets were distributed among the staff. This has continued in the form of small support like wireless handsets, solar panels, remote surveillance systems as well as large support in the from of a tractor, truck and recently, vehicles. Along with this support, rehabilitation of Pardis into mainstream society is critical for the survival of wildlife not only in Madhya Pradesh but also in many other parks across the nation. WWF-India has been closely working with Government agencies to provide education to children of Pardis.

WWF-India is engaging communities around tiger reserves in Central India, through education.© Ameen Ahmed/WWF-India

Engaging Pardhi children:
Two batches of ‘Residential Bridge Courses’ (RBC) are being currently conducted in association with the State Forest Department under the Government supported ‘Sarva Shiksha Abyiyaan’ (‘Education for all’ scheme). By completing a 9-month bridge course, the kids are enrolled into formal education. For example, after completion of the first RBC started in November 2007 by the Forest Department, sixty four boys and forty four girls were admitted to Grade 1, 2 and 3 classes in the tribal schools at Dhangad and Indrapuri colony respectively, in Panna District. This was done on the basis of individual assessment of these students.

Inderbhan Singh Bundela has been working with WWF-India for these kids around Panna TR since August 2008. According to him, “Three batches have been enrolled at the Pardhi School in three years. There are about thirteen girls and fifteen boys in the second course which is currently running. While the first two batches were mainly from Panna District, the third one is from Katni. The children’s age is between eight to fourteen years and in some cases there are even six-year olds”. He says, he is very attached to these kids and their innocence makes one ask if these people really poach wildlife. He further adds “It’s a question of motivation and once they are guided in the right direction, they should be as good a people as any other in the society.”

Concerted efforts are being made to build capacity as well as sensitise the teachers and care takers at the schools for Pardi kids. The knowledge these kids have on their natural surroundings is also being recognized and acknowledged through workshops in Panna TR.

Eyewitness accounts:
Here are stories of two Pardhi children whose lives have changed due to the above interventions.

Bamina: “I like it here in the school’’© Diwakar Sharma/WWF-India

Bamina, Nine years
(She is from the 1st Batch of RBC)
“My name is Bamina. My father’s name is Daryami. I’ve done the nine-month Residential Bridge Course (RBC). I’ve been studying in the school in Kunjwan for the past 2 years. Before I started schooling I used to stay at home though I never liked that. My father and mother used to roam around a lot to provide us food. Even then, we had to go hungry many a time. Sometimes, we even had to stay back in jungles. But that has changed now. I like it here in school. We play a lot of games and also study. I’m learning many new things. My three brothers study at Dhanghad. I’ve three elder sisters who are not in school.”

“I now ask my parents not to hunt. They used to hunt wildlife like tigers, birds and wild boars. Now, my friends and I are educating them about the importance of not hunting wild animals. They now sell Kesar.”

Chiranga, Eleven years, 3rd Batch of RBC
“My name is Chiranga. My father’s name is Parwat Singh. Before I started going to the government school I lived with my family and helped my mother in cooking. I’ve three sisters and three brothers. When I was brought to school for the first time, unlike the other children I never cried. I lived in the school for two months.”

“My father used to shoot wild boar earlier. Members of my family used to hunt tigers and partridges. But now they no longer hunt. My mother now sells ‘manihari’ (traditional cosmetics) like bindis, kumkum and traditional medicines, while my father sells ‘rudraksha’ beads (talismans).”

A story of change for good
According to Dr. Diwakar Sharma, Associate Director of WWF-India’s Species Programme, it took 2 years of continuous encouragement to get Chiranga into school. He says “After her, many more children came forward and joined the school. Once they join the school they do not want to return to their old lifestyle that was filled with hardship and poverty. They are now filled with a desire to learn, succeed and get out of the vicious cycle of poverty that has crippled the lives of their parents. The children joining schools has also led to many of their parents giving up hunting of wild animals thereby aiding wildlife conservation. Success stories like those of Bamina and Chiranga are being used to inspire more Pardi children and families to give education a chance.”

Says, Mita Goswami, Director, Environment Education, WWF-India, “These children are bright and energetic. I am amazed at their aptitude to learn. They are a treasure trove of information on our wildlife. During the nature walk we had with them, we were pleasantly taken aback by the wealth of knowledge they had on nature; from insects to trees and birds to mammals.”

Sangita Saxena, State Director, WWF-India, M.P. & Chhattisgarh State, informs that the project is aimed at developing Pardhi children educationally, socially, culturally and economically, in order to make them forgo their traditional livelihood. She says, “They have an inborn quality to learn fast apart from hunting skills. When they grow up their in-depth knowledge about wild flora and fauna can develop them into excellent nature guides, nature interpreters or researchers. Their skills can also be utilised in law & order services, sports and in the entertainment world as they are also good at dance, folk singing and artisanship. These legally sustainable vocations will convince their parents to lead a settled life.” She adds, “WWF-India is planning to support similar initiatives in Katni, Itarsi and Seoni districts of Madhya Pradesh. A reformed life for children of hunter communities is our Motto.”

Children like these need a chance to change their lives for the better. And WWF-India along with the Madhya Pradesh Government agencies like Forest Department is helping them do it through creative engagement and formal education. By turning the children of Pardis away from hunting, we are giving our nation’s wildlife a good chance to flourish.

From WWF-INDIA

India to study impact of global warming on coastal areas

NEW DELHI: India Wednesday said it would initiate “hazard mapping” across its coastline to study the impact of global warming and assist in protecting coastal communities and infrastructure.

The study will be done within a span of four-and-half years using an aerial mapping system by the Survey of India through a World Bank-funded project — Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM).

The environment ministry and the ministry of science and technology signed a memorandum of understanding in this regard Wednesday.

The project in the first phase will focus on three of the eight coastal states — Orissa, Gujarat and West Bengal.

“The elaborate and extensive exercise of mapping, delineation and demarcation of the hazard lines along the coastline, which is being done for the first time at a cost of Rs.125 crore, will greatly assist in protecting coastal communities and coastal infrastructure,” said Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

Under the project, the hazard line for the coasts in three states will be mapped and delineated. This will include collection and presentation of data on identifying flood lines over the last century and predictions of the erosions to take place over the next 100 years.

The special focus of the project will be identification and demarcation of coastal fragile areas like mangroves, brackish water wetlands and coral reefs, based on which a new category of “Critically Vulnerable Coastal Areas” (CVCAs) would be designated and appropriate management plans implemented for their preservation and regeneration.

“The project assumes special significance in the context of climate change since one of the definitive findings of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) relates to the increase in mean sea levels as a result of global warming,” said Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

Ramesh said the hazard mapping will mark the danger areas due to global warming and will be based on four factors — receding shore lines, waves, tides and mean sea level rise.

From TOI

Must make sustainable tourism possible

Environmental protection and sustainable tourism are closely linked to each other and all those related to the hospitality or tourism industry must endeavour to make sustainable tourism possible.

This was the idea that dominated the 25th annual Somnath Chib Memorial lecture, organised by the Inder Sharma Foundation, on Saturday.

Talking at the day-long event, which included a panel discussion, Union Tourism Minister Kumari Selja said the Department of Tourism was committed to conserving the environment and promoting sustainable tourism. The minister said her department has already come up with a set of policies and guidelines for development of eco-tourism and take into account a selective approach, scientific planning, effective control and continuous monitoring to help preserve, retain and enrich our “worldview, lifestyle and cultural expressions”.

The welcome address by Inder Sharma, Managing Trustee, Inder Sharma Foundation and Chairperson, Select Group, was followed by a keynote address by Dr Donald E Hawkins, Professor of Tourism Policy School of Business, George Washington University, USA.

At the subsequent discussion, moderated by Sharma, panelists deliberated upon sustainable tourism and the role of tourism in conservation.

Geoffrey Lipman of the Dehaan Institute, University of Nottingham, UK, said “while Europe remains the dominant tourism destination currently, by 2050, Asia will emerge as the largest tourism host. Hence, there was an imminent need for us to move towards more renewable energy. The shift, he said must necessarily be made over the next four decades”.

Panelists like PATA chairperson Hiran Cooray, Foundation for Aviation & Sustainable Tourism director general Gurcharan Bhatura, ITC-Welcome Group vice-president Niranjan Khatri and IBEX Expeditions chairperson and MD Mandeep Singh Soni said for integrated development of the environment and tourism local community should be involved and economic development of the area ensured.

They said physical planning and design should integrate eco-friendly measures, and a suitable balance must be established among environmental, economic and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development to guarantee its long-term sustainability. The speakers said it should thus make optimal use of environmental resources, maintain essential ecological processes and help to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.

From Indian Express

India: Govt rules out blanket ban on use of plastic bags

New Delhi, Apr 28 (PTI) The Government today ruled out a blanket ban on plastic bags and said waste management at the local level should be improved to ensure that the waste did not become an environmental hazard.

Replying to a question on plastic waste, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said in the Lok Sabha that “a blanket ban (on plastic bags) is not advisable.”

He said plastic is inherently not a public health hazard, but the inability to collect plastic waste leads to health hazards.

Ramesh recalled that 20 years ago plastic bags were introduced to check deforestation.

He said economic incentives like charging money for plastic bags could dissuade people from using it.

The minister said several pilgrim centres like Tirupati, Dwarika, Sabarimala and Vaishno Devi have banned the use of plastic.

From PTI