WWF sees “severe risk” in Arctic oil exploration

PARIS (Reuters) – The World Wildlife Fund is urging governments in the Arctic to suspend all oil exploration due to “severe risks” of spills or blowouts until a comprehensive plan to deal with disasters is in place, a senior official said.

Bill Eichbaum, a WWF vice-president, said extreme weather, icy conditions, lack of regulation and the absence of a coordinated plan of action between nations could lead to a crisis even worse than in the Gulf of Mexico.

“What we’re seeing in the Arctic is the beginning of a major new industrial activity with variable standards from country to country and the potential for an accident,” he told Reuters Television at the Global Oceans Conference in Paris.

BP Plc is struggling to stop oil gushing unchecked from a ruptured undersea well in Louisiana at an estimated rate of 5,000 barrels a day, threatening shipping, wildlife, beaches and one of the most fertile U.S. fishing grounds.

Eichbaum, who is vice-president of the WWF’s Arctic policy, said the events in the Gulf of Mexico had made it even more important to suspend the licenses in the Arctic.

“One thinks exploration is simple, but you don’t know what those pressures are … you can have a guess, but when you go in it’s unknown,” he said. “We think the risk is so severe, there should be a stop to further exploration.”

Canada, Russia, Norway, the United States and Denmark, the only nations with Arctic coastlines, are racing to file territorial claims over oil, gas and precious metal reserves that could become more accessible as the Arctic ice cap shrinks.

“This (Gulf) accident was in a place where every resource was available to respond, but that’s not the case in the Arctic,” said Eichbaum. “The conditions there are severe and we in the environmental community are concerned that oil and gas exploration not be allowed there until there is an understanding of how to respond.”

Oil majors such as BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron are investing millions of dollars to lease tracts of Canada’s Beaufort Sea, north of the Northwest Territories.

In the United States, Royal Dutch Shell spent $2.1 billion on Chukchi Sea leases in 2008, and ConocoPhillips, the third-largest U.S. oil company, paid $506 million for its Chukchi leases the same year.

U.S. President Barack Obama gave the nod in March for companies with licenses awarded under the previous Bush administration to pursue exploration in the Arctic, although it stopped new licenses until more scientific research is done.

By John Irish and Noemie Olive From Reuters India

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Lucknow: Mukhdumpur stretch to get 100 gharials

As many as 100 gharials currently being bred in the Kukrail Breeding Centre in Lucknow will be released in the Mukhdumpur stretch of Meerut district later this year.

The decision was taken by the state forest department after the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-India) assessed the Mukhdumpur stretch and termed it as a ‘favourable’ habitat for the reptile.

“We will release them during winters as it is the most suitable time for them to adapt to the new surroundings. The water level is less during winters and it helps the gharials get used to the habitat,” said Eva Sharma, Director, Endangered Species, UP forest department.

According to WWF-India’s assessment, the Mukhdumpur stretch in Meerut district was found to be most suitable for the rehabilitation of gharials.

It has favourable water quality, three sand banks, shallow water, deep pool, fast water current and presence of shelter in the form of shoreline vegetation.

The favourable habitat along Mukhdumpur stretches to about 6 km till Jalalpur Johara.

Of the total 291 gharials to be released this year, 75 are from Chambal while the rest are from Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary.

“The gharial eggs were brought in from Katerniaghat area in 2008 after floods had caused havoc in the area. The eggs from Chambal were brought in following reports of mass deaths from the area,” said Sharma, while adding that the department plans to release the gharials in Gerua and Ghaghra rivers as well.

To monitor the movement of the gharials after they are released, WWF-India boats will be used to record the ocular sighting when the gharials bask in the sun. Also, the daily count of the sightings will be recorded.

Earlier, 131 gharials were released in the area in 2008. In 2009, the figure stood at 69. “Through workshops, we will also create awareness in the community as their support is essential for conservation of gharials,” said Sharma.

From Indian Express

Call to conserve water resources

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  KU Syndicate member Dr Padmakumar on Friday asked students to take all possible measures to conserve the precious water resources in the State. He was inaugurating a one-day seminar on Water Resource Management organised jointly by the Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Kerala and WWF-India at the KU Department of Environmental Sciences, Kariavattom.

 In his inaugural address, Padmakumar highlighted the international, national and local scenario of water resource, availability and management. He stressed on the fact that even though figures show that much water is present, the real availability is very much doubtful.  George Chackacherry from CWRDM spoke on the general aspects of water resources of Kerala. A.S.K. Nair from CESS detailed on the decentralised approach of water source management with case study from Thiruvananthapuram.

Dr P.S. Harikumar from CWRDM spoke on the various aspects of water quality, particularly in the Kerala scenario.  The seminar was held for the graduate and post-graduate students of the various departments of the University. Around 120 students from various departments and nearby institutions participated in the one-day programme.  Subash Chandra Bose, former director, CCDU, Kerala Water Authority,  explained to the audience in simple language the various technical aspects of water conservation tools and techniques. Jojo T.D., Programme Officer, ATREE, an NGO working in Alappuzha, explained his experiences with regard to the conservation of Vembanad lake.  V. Sobha, Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences and Renjan Mathew Varghese, State Director, WWF-India also spoke on the occasion

From Express Buzz

At Sangam, WWF plans to come up with dolphin sanctuary

After its ‘Save Tiger’ campaign for protecting the Big Cat in India, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is now channeling its resources to protect the Gangetic Dolphin — another endangered species in the country.

The Sangam in Allahabad would soon be declared as an international tourist spot as the WWF, the world’s leading organisation for wild conservation, plans to assist the Indian government in developing a world-class Dolphin sanctuary at Sangam.

“A team of six WWF members headed by Sandeep Behna, in-charge of Indian Dolphin, surveyed the entire Ganga stretch in this region up to Mirzapur. The survey found an abundance of Indian dolphins in the region with their number being around 300,” said District Forest Officer S N Mishra.    

The WWF team stayed in Allahabad for five days and surveyed stretches across river Ganga, Yamuna and other tributaries in Fatehpur, Kaushambi, Allahabad, Pratapgarh and Mirzapur areas, said a team member, adding they would soon submit a report to the WWF committee.

“If the Centre gives its nod to the WWF proposal for partnership in conservation of dolphins, the organisation will soon start work for the conservation, promotion and protection of dolphins besides developing Sangam as a world-class dolphin sanctuary,” said the team member.

The Forest department, in association with the district administration, would now make a fresh project for the dolphin sanctuary at Sangam in light of the WWF survey report.

After being sent to the state government, the proposal would be forwarded to the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment for approval, said District Magistrate Sanjay Prashad.

It was in September that the state government had sent a Rs-60 crore proposal to the Centre for the proposed dolphin sanctuary in Sangam. The proposal, however, is still pending with the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment, which had recently declared the dolphin as the National Aquatic Animal.

According to the report of the Forest department as well as the WWF survey, dolphins inhabit a particular area falling between Sangam and Sirsa. It’s a 20-km stretch from south east of Sangam up to Sirsa.

The Gangetic Dolphin is found mostly in Bihar — between Patna and Bhagalpur. Environmentalists have for long raised concerns on their dwindling numbers. There are only 2,000 dolphins in South Asia, it is learnt.

From INDIAN EXPRESS

Meat-free diets may not be good for planet: Scientists

London: Giving up meat may not be as green as it seems, claims a new research that could put a dent in the green credentials of vegetarians and environmental activists.

The Cranfield University study found that switching from beef and lamb to meat substitutes such as tofu and Quorn in Britain would increase the amount of land cultivated, raising the risk of forests being destroyed.
 
Production methods for meat substitutes can be energy intensive and the final products tend to be highly processed, found the research, commissioned by the environmental group WWF, the Daily Mail reported.

According to the researchers, “A switch from beef and milk to highly refined livestock product analogues such as tofu could actually increase the quantity of arable land needed to supply the UK.”

Donal Murphy-Bokern, one of the reports authors and a former coordinator at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “For some people, tofu and other meat substitutes symbolize environmental friendliness but they are not necessarily the badge of merit that people claim.”

 But Liz O Neill, of the Vegetarian Society, said: “If you’re aiming to reduce your environmental impact by going vegetarian then its obviously not a great idea to rely on highly-processed products.”

Environmentalists have been claiming that livestock farming is a major source of harmful gases and one of the main menaces of the environment today.

A spokesman for the WWF said it was important to remember that livestock produce large amounts of methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

According to a recent UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, livestock production is one of the major causes of the world’s most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.

 Using a methodology that considers the entire commodity chain, it estimated that livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a bigger share than that of transport.

However, the report said, the livestock sector’s potential contribution to solving environmental problems is equally large, and major improvements could be achieved at reasonable cost.

PTI – Zee

Call for saving the tiger raised as China gets into year of the tiger

BEIJING: Wildlife conservationists have stepped up pressures on the Chinese government to do more to protect the tiger as the country went about celebrating the advent of the year of the tiger on Sunday.

Wang Weisheng, director of the wildlife management division of China’s State Forestry Administration, recently said there are 50 wild tigers – in four subspecies in the country. SFA believes there are 20 Siberian tigers, 10 to 20 Bengal tigers and 10 Indochinese tigers in the country.

Conservationists also questioned the government’s policy that allows tigers to be bred in special farms. It is impossible to distinguish between the bones of farm bred tigers and those poached from forests once they arrive in the market, they pointed out.

China allows breeding of tigers in specially designed farms. There have been sporadic reports of tiger meat being sold in certain parts of the country. Tiger bones are still widely sold in China because many believe they contain special medicinal properties and are ready to pay an extremely high sum for it.

South China tigers are believed to be extinct in the wild after the species has not been sighted for more than 25 years, according to WWF.

It is believed there were 4,000 South China tigers 1950s and 200 Siberian tigers in the 1960s.

Some experts have questioned the government’s method of counting saying the number of tigers living in the wild could be a lot less in China. There is an over reliance on pugmarks and other methods of counting at a time when hardly any tiger is being sighted, they say.

“If urgent and proper measures are not taken, there is a risk that wild tigers will no longer be found on Chinese territory,” Zhu Chunquan, conservation director of biodiversity of WWF China Program Office, told the local media recently.

The loss of habitats and rampant poaching of tigers and their prey – mostly for illegal trade of traditional Chinese medicine – have contributed to the drastic decline of the wild tiger population in the country, Zhu said.

The number of captive South China tigers (Panthera tigris amoyenesis) living in special farms have risen to 92 in 2009 from 60 in 2007. But all of them are offsprings of six wild South China tigers, two male and four females, which were caught more than 40 years ago.

All that is available is extensive inbreeding that will lead to genetic freaks and poor physical makeup, according to Deng Xuejian, a professor with the Department of Biology of Hunan Normal University, based in Hunan Province.

Some experts like Xie Yan, director of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) China Program, believe there is hope for growth of Siberian tigers in China because they are part of the big family of about 500 in Russia.

From TOI

‘Save Our Tigers’ strikes an emotional chord through Stripey

The campaign could have been driven by hard facts (there are merely 1411 Royal Bengal Tigers surviving in India as against 40,000 at the turn of the last century), but it may not have evoked such a response. Save Our Tiger campaign urges us to look at the threat to tigers through the eyes of Stripey, the cub. Stripey is hungry, concerned and awaiting his mother, who’s fallen prey to poaching.

Save Our Tiger campaign by Aircel, in partnership with World Wildlife Fund, calls for immediate action to protect the national animal. The campaign went on air on January 30, has a dedicated site (www.saveourtigers.com) where the service provider’s brand ambassadors actor Suriya, cricketer Mahender Singh Dhoni and footballer Baichung Bhutia insist that we roar with them for the cause. A group dedicated to Stripey on Facebook has more than 1 lakh fans (the numbers swelled each day and as of Saturday, the group had more than 1,12,000 fans) and more than 3000 tweeple following Stripey on twitter. A meet held in Delhi on Valentine’s Day urged people to show their love for Stripey.

The number of Royal Bengal Tigers is diminishing

The idea of having an emotional campaign stemmed from Lion King, says Shivanand Mohanty, creative head, Dentsu Communications, the ad agency that designed the campaign. Remember how our eyes welled up watching Mufasa breathe his last trying to protect Simba? “We were considering many ideas and felt this would work,” says Mohanty. Since shooting in tiger reserves is not permitted, the agency used stock footage for the ad.

For once, celebs remain in the background and therein lay the campaign’s success. Says Mohanty, “Celebrities have been used thoughtfully, to create a sense of urgency and drive home the point that each one of us can do something.”

Long-term campaign

Now that the awareness has been created, the agency, along with Aircel and WWF, is working on the next phase. “It’s a long-term campaign,” says Rahul Saigal, chief marketing officer, Aircel. “Whether it is children wearing Save Our Tigers badges to school or youngsters discussing the issue, the campaign was designed to encourage public participation. The website informs how people can help monetarily or by visiting parks,” he adds.

In Hyderabad, the WWF chapter has been receiving calls in support of the campaign. “A plan of action will be drawn up. We are considering having a meeting where people can share their thoughts on how they can help save the tigers in AP,” says Farida Tampal of WWF, Hyderabad.

Aircel is not the first cellular service provider to highlight environmental issues as part of its corporate social responsibility. Idea has been doing various CSR activities for some time, the latest being urging people not to waste paper. Abhishek Bachchan, as a tree, endorses the go green campaign. Cell phone major Nokia is inviting users to exchange their old handsets, promising to recycle electronic waste and plant one tree for each old handset. The ‘green’ bus stop in Begumpet is part of the Idea campaign.

In the West, companies perceived to be environmental friendly stay in the good books of consumers. Though we haven’t had such precedence in India, perhaps this is a step in that direction, even if you were to cynically dismiss these campaigns as CSR activities that merely aim to earn goodwill.

Sangeetha Devi Dundoo – From THE HINDU