India richer by 349 new species

According to the list of new discoveries by the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) and the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), 349 new species of flora and fauna were discovered in the past one year — 173 species and genera of plants and 176 species of animals.

  • Of the new plants, some of the significant findings include nine new taxa of wild Musa (bananas), four species of black plum (jamun), three species of wild gingibers and 10 species of orchids.

Details:

  • Western Ghats accounted for 22% of the new discoveries, while the Eastern Himalayas and the north-eastern States each accounted for 15% of the species found.
  • In Arunachal Pradesh alone, 25 species of seed plants were discovered.
  • 176 new species were added to the list of animals of India. These include 93 species of insects, seven species of collembolans, 12 species each of arachnidan and crustacean and one species of mollusca. Two species of reptiles have also been located for the first time in the country — one in Tamil Nadu and another in Madhya Pradesh.
  • As in the previous year, insects outnumbered other animal groups this year also.
  • A large number of amphibians and fish have made it to the list with 24 and 23 new species respectively. While most of the new species of amphibians were discovered from the Western Ghats, majority of fish species were from north-east India.
  • Apart from the new species, the BSI has also added 105 new records and ZSI 61 ‘new records.’ Animals and plants that are found elsewhere in the world but have been spotted in India for the first time are called ‘new records.’

Scientists of both BSI and ZSI agree that the Western Ghats and the northeast are biodiversity hotspots where most new species were found.

In India, 96,891 species of animals and 47,791 species of plants have been recorded so far.

Sources: The Hindu.

Dandeli Elephant Reserve notified

The Karnataka State government has officially notified the Dandeli Elephant Reserve, spread over 2,321.119 sq km — including 475.018 sq km as core and the remaining as buffer areas.

  • The notification follows the Government of India approval for establishing the Dandeli Elephant Reserve under Project Elephant.

Project Elephant:

  • Project Elephant was launched in 1992 as a Central-sponsored scheme to protect elephant habitats, including its corridors, and resolve human-elephant conflicts rampant in many States.
  • The Project is being implemented in 13 States / UTs, namely, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
  • Under Project Elephant, States that have a free-ranging population of wild elephants are being given financial as well as technical and scientific assistance to ensure long-term survival of identified viable populations of elephants in their natural habitats.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, MoEF.

Songbird may be eaten to extinction

According to a study, Songbird in Europe and Asia is being hunted to near extinction because of Chinese eating habits.

  • The study said that the population of the yellow-breasted bunting has plunged by 90% since 1980, all but disappearing from eastern Europe, Japan and parts of Russia.
  • China in 1997 banned the hunting of the species, known there as the “rice bird“.
  • The study says that the consumption of these birds has increased as a result of economic growth and prosperity in East Asia, with an estimate in 2001 claiming one million buntings were consumed in China’s Guangdong province alone.

About Songbird:

  • A songbird is a bird belonging to the clade Passeri of the perching birds (Passeriformes).
  • This group contains some 4,000 species found all over the world, in which the vocal organ typically is developed in such a way as to produce a diverse and elaborate bird song.

  • Songbirds form one of the two major lineages of extant perching birds, the other being the Tyranni which are most diverse in the Neotropics and absent from many parts of the world.
  • Songbirds are alike in having the vocal organ highly developed, though not all use it to melodious effect.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

Tipaimukh project

Prime Minister Modi recently made it clear that the Indian government will not take any unilateral decision on the Tipaimukh Hydro-Electric Power Project which may adversely affect Bangladesh. This was stated in a joint declaration between Bangladesh and India.

  • Bangladesh has been demanding to stop the construction of the Tipaimukh Hydro-Electric Power Project on the Barak River on the eastern edge of Bangladesh.

About Tipaimukh project:

  • The project aims to construct a dam on the river Barak in Manipur, India.
  • The purpose of the dam is flood control and hydroelectric power generation.
  • It has been subject to repeated delays as the project developed, as there has been controversy between India and Bangladesh over water rights, in addition to questions of environmental effects of the huge project, as well as the need to relocate Manipuri people to make way for a vast reservoir.

  • Bangladeshis say that the massive dam will disrupt the seasonal rhythm of the river and have an adverse effect on downstream agriculture and fisheries.
  • The Tipaimukh area lies in an ecologically sensitive and topographically fragile region. It is within one of the most seismically volatile regions on the planet.
  • Green activists say that Tipaimukh area is a habitat of many endangered species including barking deer, gibbons, leopards, grey sibia, serow and the rufous-necked hornbill–the state bird of Manipur.
  • Experts say that the construction of the proposed 1500 MW Tipaimukh Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project (HEP) downstream of the confluence of river Barak and the Tuivai in Manipur would lead to massive destruction of ecology.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

Cyclone Ashobaa: Weather department issues warning to fishermen in Gujarat

The deep depression over east- central Arabian Sea has further intensified into a cyclonic storm “Ashobaa“. The weather department has issued a warning to fishermen along the Gujarat coast, which is expected to receive heavy rainfall in the next 48 hours.

  • The depression is at about 590 km west-southwest of Mumbai.
  • The cyclone is gradually moving away towards Oman. Thus, it won’t have much impact on India. However, strong winds and heavy rainfall would make the sea conditions very rough.

Naming of Cyclones:

The North Indian Ocean region tropical cyclones are being named since October 2004. The region, comprising Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand, each of them suggest seven names. The names given by the countries are used alphabetically one after the another.

  • The name Ashobaa was given by Sri Lanka.
  • The name of the cyclone that comes after Ashobaa, whenever that happens, will be Komen, and this name has been given by Thailand.
  • The last cyclone ‘Nilofar‘ was suggested by Pakistan.

Sources: The Hindu, skymetweather.

Centre eases process to declare wildlife vermin

Vermin : समाजकंटक, नुकसानकारक आणि अपायकारक प्राणी (उंदीर घुशी इ.), आणि कीटक (गोचिड इ.)

Increasing man-animals conflict that causes damage to crops and other human property has led the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) to ask states to send proposals to declare wild animals vermin for specified period in a given area.

Implications:

  • Once declared vermin, that particular species can be hunted or culled without restriction.
  • If implemented, it will apply to wild animals listed in various Schedules of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) 1972, other than Schedule I & Part II of Schedule II that lists most endangered and iconic species like tigers, leopards, and elephants.

MoEFCC has asked states to send proposals to declare wild animals or herds of them as vermin if they have become dangerous to human life or property, or if they have become so disabled or diseased as to be beyond recovery. While declaring animals as vermin, officials will not have to give any justification to hunt them as is the case with Schedule I animals like tigers and leopards.

Problems associated:

Officials and environmentalists fear that protected species could be hunted in the name of eliminating vermin. They point out it is not easy for field staff to differentiate meat of chital from nilgai’s or wild boar.

Existing legal provisions for objective management of man-animal conflict:

  • Section 11(1)a of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) authorizes chief wildlife warden to permit hunting of any problem wild animal only if it cannot be captured, tranquillized or translocated.
  • For wild animals in Schedule II, III or IV, chief wildlife warden or authorized officers can permit their hunting in a specified area if they have become dangerous to humans or property (including standing crops on any land).
  • Section 62 of Act empowers Centre to declare wild animals other than Schedule I & II to be vermin for specified area and period.
  • To mitigate man-animal conflict outside the protected areas (PAs), the Centre has also sought proposals to grant aid to deal with conflict as part of the annual plan of operations under the centrally sponsored scheme (CSS) for Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (IDWH).

The issue has come up amid pressure from politicians who have been raising man-animal conflict in Parliament, specially the problem of crop depredation by wild boars and nilgais.

Sources: The Hindu, TOI.

No more horse-driven carriages in Mumbai: HC

Terming illegal the use of horse carriages for joyrides, the Bombay High Court recently banned them in Mumbai and directed the authorities to phase them out in one year.

What else has the Court said?

  • The Court also said that no wheeled vehicle hired for joyrides could be used for public conveyance. Therefore, no licences can be granted for the victorias or carriages drawn or propelled by the horses in Mumbai.
  • The court further said that the carriages did not fall in the category of “public conveyance” under the Bombay Public Conveyance Act 1920, and were only meant for joyrides.

What about those families whose livelihoods were dependent on these carriages?

  • The court has directed the State to identify the number of families whose livelihoods were connected with the running of horse carriages and come up with schemes for their rehabilitation by December 2015. The government would also have to formulate schemes for rehabilitation of the animals. There are approximately 700 families operating the business.
  • After the expiry of the one-year period, the Mumbai Corporation would have to close down all the stables meant for horses and ponies and take action under the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

The decision came based on the petition which said the horses were forced to overwork.

Sources: The Hindu.