Ashoka Trust for Research in
Ecology and the Environment
Branches@ATREE(A Bimonthly Newsletter)
Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment
Eastern Himalayas Office
CONFERENCE ON THE ‘WESTERN GHATS: CONSERVATION AND HUMAN WELFARE’
The main themes of the conference were: Ecosystems, communities, and species; Land-use, people, economics, and trade; and Policy, law, awareness, and communication. These themes were used as focal points for discussions on reviewing current initiatives, identifying gaps in information, discussing emerging priorities, and outlining future strategies. The conference was the first activity of the newly formed Western Ghats Forum. The forum envisions bringing together a diverse cross-section of individuals and organizations that are concerned for the health of the Western Ghats as an inter-linked ecosystem. All participants at the Conference affirmed the need for such a broad-based Forum.
Essential aspects of sound long-term conservation planning and management were identified as biodiversity inventories, rigorous monitoring, accessible databases and information exchange. The effects of exotic flora on the biodiversity of this region were also identified as a major threat. The need to study the effects of global climate change on the flora and fauna of the Western Ghats was also expressed. In addition, the economic value of biodiversity in terms of trade of medicinal plants and non-timber forest products (NTFP) was discussed. The impacts of anthropogenic activities such as dams, mining, and plantations were examined in relation to their impacts on forest contiguity and fragmentation of habitats. Another topic of discussion was the importance of creating
public awareness through
effective communication and increasing people’s perception
of biodiversity in terms of policy and law.
THE WESTERN GHATS FORUM – SYNERGY OF EFFORT AND ACTION TO CONSERVE THE WESTERN GHATS HOTSPOT
The Western Ghats constitute one of the 25 global hotspots of biodiversity with an array of unique plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Despite the ecological and economic importance of the forests of the Western Ghats, these ecosystems have been subjected to great stress, and continue to face multiple threats. Organizations, both governmental and non-governmental are involved in research, conservation and economic development activities in the six states over which the Western Ghats are spread. However, the opportunities for interaction and exchange among the various groups working in the Western Ghats are extremely limited.
The Western Ghats
Forum was envisioned as a collaborative effort uniting organizations
and individuals committed to the conservation and health of the
Western Ghats. It seeks to provide an environment conducive to creative
exchange and active co-operation between multiple stakeholders.
The objectives of the Western Ghats Forum are to promote an exchange
of research results and findings, identify gaps in information,
determine research needs and priorities, and identify areas for
co-operation and sharing of resources among those working in the
area. ATREE will serve as the secretariat to the Forum, and plans
are underway to identify a coordinator from one of the partner organizations
to implement the vision of the Forum. The next meeting of the steering
committee will be held at the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and
Natural History (SACON). For more information on the Western Ghats
Forum and its activities, please visit us at http://www.westernghatsforum.org.
ASIAN MOUNTAIN ASSESSMENT (GAMA)
SEMINARS AT ATREE, BANGALORE
“Ash Wednesday,” the ATREE weekly discussion group, was (re)initiated in October, 2003. The forum will include presentations of recent papers, reviews, ideas, critiques, work, etc. It is expected that presentations will be followed by raucous discussion and debate. So far, speakers have included Bharat Sundaram on “Effect of soil on plant populations and communities,” Dr. Mohammed Irfan Ullah on "Comparison of GARP and DIVA-GIS for species distribution modeling,” and Dr. Seema P on "Conservation, Development and Economics: A dialogue.” Jai Ranganathan, a Ph.D. student at the Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University gave a talk on “The long-term trajectory of avian communities in human-dominated landscapes.” A film, 'The Turtle People' was shown by the director, Surabhi Sharma.
NEW OFFICE AT GUWAHATI
ATREE-Eastern Himalaya Programme has a new North East office at Guwahati from November 2003. The new office will oversee the project on
Regional Approach to Tropical Forest Conservation in North East India, supported by NCIUCN for two years. We welcome Mrs. Nandini Ray Baruah as the Office Executive for the North East office at Guwahati.
KENDRIYA VIDALAYA STUDENTS PARTICIPATE IN OUTDOOR ENVIRONMENT LEARNING INITIATIVE IN NEW DELHI
Four groups of 45 students each from 4 Kendriya Vidyalayas of Delhi attended outdoor learning modules at Churdhar Environmental Learning Facility (CELF) in Himachal Pradesh. CELF is one of the four environmental learning facilities now operational under ATREE’s plaNETwork program. The special program was sponsored by the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS). The National Museum of Natural History, an ATREE partner in the Outdoor Environment Learning Initiative, provided transportation between Delhi and Churdhar. The four modules were conducted from September 20 to October 2, 2003.
The participants were exposed to various aspects of Himalayan Ecology during each of the 4-day residential outdoor learning modules. Activities included nature treks, study visits to apple orchards and potato farms, films on environmental issues, a quiz contest on environmental issues, and in-camp activities and games focusing on conservation of natural resources. The feedback received from participants was extremely encouraging and it is likely to be the basis of future collaborative programs with KVS.
SCIENCE IN NATURE CAMP
ATREE collaborated with the National Council for Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC), the Department of Science and Technology and the Government of India to organize a Science in Nature camp from November 8-11, 2003 at the Aravali facility just outside Delhi. The 49 participants for the 4-day residential program were drawn from 11 government run schools located in various parts of Delhi.
The focus of the camp was to connect curriculum concepts with natural realities through hands on activities and simple experiments. The topics covered during this special program included
The Natural World, Solid Waste Management, Insects and Microbes, Water Conservation, and The Solar System. A team from Nehru Planetrium, New Delhi, conducted a special session on astronomy. On the last day students had the opportunity to interact with Dr. Anuj Sinha, Head of NCSTC.
TEACHER TRAINING PROGRAM ON OUTDOOR ENVIRONMENTAL LEARNING
ATREE joined hands with
the Department of Environment of the Govt. of Delhi and the National
Museum of Natural History at New Delhi to conduct a 4-day training program
on Outdoor Environmental Learning at the Churdhar Environmental Learning
Facility in Himachal Pradesh. Forty-five teachers selected from schools
linked with the Govt. of Delhi’s Eco-Club program participated
in the program. ATREE invited Mr. Sudhakar Soloman Raj a noted environmental
education specialist from Wilson College, Mumbai, to conduct the technical
sessions on the first 2 days of the program.
ECO-PULSE: A VACATION PROGRAM ON ENVIRONMENTAL RESOURCES
ATREE, New Delhi, and
the Department of Environment of the Government of NCT Delhi plan to
conduct the first Vacation Program on Environmental Resources for Delhi
students. The program would be conducted in 2 modules to avoid conflict
with academic schedules. The first Module involves course work and institutional
visits and is planned from December 20-30, 2003. Module 2 involves an
outdoor learning camp at Churdhar Environmental Learning Facility (CELF),
Himachal Pradesh, and is planned from March 22-30, 2004. The period
in between the two modules will be used to make all participants work
on a small project. Forty-five participants will be selected on the
basis of a written test and an interview. The last date of application
is November 15, 2004. Application forms can be downloaded from www.atree.org
NATURE CAMP FOR BANGALORE STUDENTS
150 students from the
National Junior College, Bangalore participated in day-long nature
camps in October at Navadarshanam, an ecological ashram near Bangalore.
Students were given an exposure to the natural world through treks,
nature games and hands on activities on insects, butterflies and plant
identification. The program was developed by Joyeeta Das (ATREE),
Matt Preece, a visiting intern from Brandeis University, and Joseph
V (ATREE). Students also learned about eco-friendly housing, rainwater
harvesting techniques, renewable energy and alternative organic foods.
These camps exposed urban students to the life-style of people living
in harmony with nature.
Talukdar, B.K. "Current
State of Man-elephant conflict in Assam: Solution still elusive"
at the International Symposium on Human-Elephant Conflict at Colombo,
in relation to species distribution and dynamics in Indian tropical
dry forests. Funded by: The Research Grants Program of the
Center for Tropical Forest Science of the Smithsonian Tropical Research
Institute. PI: Dr. Ankila Hiremath.
Management and hatchery programmes’, A GOI UNDP Project Manual. Centre for Herpetology/ Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, Tamil Nadu, India.
Tripathy, B., Shanker, K. & Choudhury, B.C. (2003) ‘Sea turtles and their nesting habitats along the Andhra coast, India: status and conservation needs’, Oryx, 37: 454 – 463
Shanker, K. (2003), ‘Battles Over
Nature’, in V.
Shanker, K. (2003), ‘Seeking a
Shanker, K. (2003), ‘Using wildlife:
farming out the problem’, Down to Earth, 12
Dr. Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, Regional
Director of ATREE-EHP has been nominated as a member of Advisory Board
of Regional Science Museum, Guwahati.