Vol 2:3
May 2004
For private circulation only
Branches@ATREE (A Bimonthly Newsletter)

Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment


Bangalore Office
659 5th A Main, Hebbal
Bangalore 560 024
Tel: 080-2353 3942, 2353 0069
Fax: 080-2353 0070

Delhi Office
B-80 Shivalik
New Delhi 110 017
Tel/Fax: 011-266 93299
266 93190

Eastern Himalayas Office
Bungalow No.2, Bhujiapani
Bagdogra 734 422
Tel/Fax:0353-255 1110
255 0093

Advisory Board
Dr. Kanchan Chopra
Dr. Anil K. Gupta
Dr. R.A. Mashelkar
Dr. Jagmohan Maini
Dr. Peter Raven

Executive Board
Dr. K.S. Bawa (chair)
Dr. K.N. Ganeshaiah
Dr. S.N. Rai
Dr. R. Shailaja
Dr. R. Uma Shaanker
Mr. Darshan Shankar
Dr. Gladwin Joseph

Executive Staff
Dr. Gladwin Joseph
Ms. Suparna Biswas
Dr. Bibhab Talukdar
Mr. Manoj Dabas

An ATREE-UAS-HP Initiative

Following the Indo-US Eco-informatics workshop, held last June, ATREE secured an equipment grant from Hewlett-Packard (HP) to set up an Eco-informatics centre. The vision for this centre is that it should be a web-enabled, publicly accessible data resource for integrated and value-added information on ecology and the environment and, that it should actively promote collaboration in applied research and capacity building in the area of ecoinformatics.

The centre will be guided by a Steering Committee, chaired by Dr. K.S. Bawa and coordinated by Dr. K.N. Ganeshaiah, which will be responsible for policy formation and ensuring progress on the centre’s activities. The technical functioning of the centre will be executed by three teams: one on Databases, one on Computational Ecology/Biology and finally one on Applications and Services. The primary objectives of the Databases team, led by Dr. Irfan Ullah, are to standardize spatial and other data formats, link existing databases and incorporate newly emerging datasets that have implications for conservation. The types of data to be incorporated include: geophysical, biological and socio-economic datasets with a relevance to conservation. One of the unique features of the centre is that there is to be a strong emphasis on spatially referenced information as well as the integration of socio-economic data with biophysical data. The Computational Ecology/ Biology team, led by Dr. K.N. Ganeshaiah will focus on the development of new tools and techniques, analysis of patterns and processes in landscapes and watersheds and research in Eco-informatics. Much of its work will involve looking at existing datasets and generating new knowledge from them. The Applications & Services team, led by Dr. J. Krishnaswamy will be responsible for packaging information and analysis done by the other teams into forms that are appropriate for the variety of end-users that the centre will assist. It will also look at the possible applications of new tools and techniques developed to the field of natural resource management and conservation. Finally, this team will conduct training and capacity building activities, such as the upcoming course on the application of GIS/RS to landscape ecology.

Over the next six months, the goal for the Eco-informatics centre involves compiling and building on existing datasets and ongoing research efforts at ATREE such as the database on plants for the Western Ghats and the already launched website www.plantsindia.org, as well as finding ways to make more of this information available over the internet to a wide array of end-users. As part of the equipment grant, HP has donated a server to ATREE which will be used to facilitate exchange of datasets and host the official website for the Eco-informatics Centre.

- Arundhati Das



Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in Southern Western Ghats is a hot spot for endemic plants and also harbors animals such as Lion Tail Macaque and the Tiger. It has diverse forest types, of which mid-elevation wet forests is the most intact and contiguous. In contrast, the dry forests adhering the 145 villages, although protected, have witnessed large scale disturbance in the past from of plantation forestry such as teak and NTFP collection. Today the dry forest still suffers stress from fuelwood collection and livestock grazing. These and the forests in the mountain tops are important watershed for the agriculture based community that inhabits the fringe villages.

Singampatti villages in southern Tamil Nadu lie in the rain shadow region of Western Ghats but are assured of good irrigation due to the canal system prevailing in this region. Because of this there is intense paddy cultivation in the region and other crops which existed in the past have vanished. We have initiated a study which assesses the level of farmers perception of the water shed services offered by the forest. Many farmers do not realize the extent of forests needed to assure them of good rain and good irrigation for the diversity of life that they sustain. As an awareness building campaign, the village farmer who leads the water committee in the village, was taken on a tour into the forest and the entire watershed was shown. He was surprised to see the extent of forests, many streams flowing into the Manimuthar basin and some species he never thought existed in his backyard. A series of interaction meetings are planned with the farmers to make them conscious of the links between forest, water and agriculture.

- Soubadra Devy


People living in or near forests eke out marginal livelihoods. They are living repositories of traditional knowledge and wisdom about plants, animals and the forests. With the degradation of forests, however, and the growing impact of globalization, natural resources and traditional knowledge are rapidly disappearing. Poor communities have to struggle harder to meet their basic needs.Lantana, which has been considered as one of the ten worst weeds in the world is now contributing to the livelihoods of these people, especially those communities that were earlier dependent on bamboo. Tribal folks in certain parts of South India, who have been traditionally dependent on bamboo, have now found that Lantana also could be crafted into baskets. This discovery seems to have come at a time when the communities are facing extreme difficulty in procuring bamboo from the forests. Lantana camara, a widespread invasive weed could be used as a readily available ‘resource.’


The art of Lantana crafting has slowly evolved from simple handmade baskets to sophisticated furniture and handicrafts today. ATREE is training the local Soliga community in Lantana crafting with the help of experts from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh. ATREE also assists them in developing rural and urban markets for the products and all proceeds are channeled back to the communities. ATREE is developing the concept of Conservation Labeling for Lantana products, which help conserve natural resources and assist the poor to live dignified lives. Conservation Labels raise the profile of such products in the urban markets and contribute positively towards their marketability.

- Ramamani
Some of the items made from Lantana are:



Marking the end of the last academic year's 'School butterfly Garden Programme ' , 'Warblers and Waders', a Thiruvananthapuram based group of nature lovers, organised a 'Butterfly Camp' on 7th & 8th Feb, for the participating schools. Sharing the experience of the observations made in their 'school butterfly gardens’ was the main objective of this camp. Butterfly watching, ant watching, insect photo exhibition, and talks were other highlights of this camp.
Fifty students from Loyola school, Chempaka School and Palode Primary School participated in this camp. The 'School Butterfly Garden Programme' was a joint venture of Warblers & Waders and ATREE . It was supported through ATREE's 'Small Grant Scheme’. Dr. Priyadarsanan and Ms. Merry Zacharias represented ATREE as resource persons in this programme.
'Keeta Prapancha-2004': This was an insect exhibition jointly organized by the Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens and the Mysore based Green club. ATREE arranged many exhibits for this exhibition. Dr. Priyadarsanan, Mr. Sinu and Ms. Merry Zacharias participated as resource persons in this programme.


The proposal submitted by ATREE and National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) for conducting outdoor learning programs for the Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) in Chandigarh, Jammu and Bangalore has recently been approved. This is the second time that KVS will work with ATREE and NMNH.

These outdoor environmental learning programs have a strong potential of stimulating young minds to analyze and unravel the importance of environmental foundations for human survival through direct observation. This grant thus enables students from different KVs to enjoy the benefits at a negligible cost.

This grant will enable KV students from the selected regions to participate in 4 nights and 4 days of outdoor environment learning camp at any one of ATREE’s dedicated camping facilities viz., Camp Churdhar, (At Churdhar Wildlife Sanctuary, Didag, Dist Sirmaur, Himachal Pradesh) Camp GHNP (At Great Himalayan National Park, Sairopa, Dist Kullu, Himachal Pradesh) and Camp BRT (At Biligiri Rangan Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, Dist Mysore, Karnataka). About 24 such camps will be organized in May 2004/ September – November 2004 and March 2005.

- Nayanika Singh


ATREE, New Delhi, inaugurated a 30 days Vacation Program on Bio Resources for the schools in Chandigarh region. Organized from May 26 to June 21, the program is attended by a group of 30 students (from class 11), selected on merit from about 250 applicants. The program is fully supported by the National Bio Resource Development Board, Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. In the past three years, ATREE has successfully organized three programs of similar nature and magnitude for the students of Bangalore and New Delhi.
The Vacation Program on Bio-resources seeks to facilitate a better understanding of bio-resources, their sustainable use and their conservation through hands on activities and experiments. The entire program is divided into four modules –to be respectively conducted at Department of Botany, Punjab University, Chandigarh; Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh; Dr. Y S Parmar University for Horticulture and Forestry, Solan; and, Camp Churdhar, Didag, Dist Sirmaur, Himachal Pradesh. The valedictory function will be organized in Chandigarh on July 16, where the three best participants will receive prizes for best performance in project work, quiz and maintaining discipline during the program as well as certificates to all participants.



Keeping up with its effort to effectively blend fun with environmental learning, ATREE, New Delhi, has recently initiated the Mountain Learning Program (MLP) for school students. It is a part of a series on Theme Based Environment Learning Programs and is conducted at ATREE’s camping site at Camp Churdhar (Didag, Dist Sirmaur, Himachal Pradesh).

MLP strives to expose young minds to the realities, rigors and excitement of a life in the mountains. It seeks to make them appreciate the importance of mountains. It also helps them to realize that many facilities that we take for granted are often unaffordable luxuries for those living in the mountains.

Penguin Books India has sponsored the quiz prizes for the first, second and third winners of this camping program. Some of the schools which have participated in this program are: Sanskriti School, Gyan Bharati School, Indian School, Delhi Public School, Salwan Public School (morning), DAV Public School, Ambala. Other programs to look out for are: The Forest Learning Program, The Desert Learning Program and The Tiger Learning Program.


Dr. Bibhab Talukdar, Director of Eastern Himalayas and North Eastern Programs has been inducted to the review board of “Environmental Management”–an international journal published from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Bethel Valley Road, Building 1505, Room 200, P.O. Box 2008, Oak Ridge, TN 37831-6036 USA.

The Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy – an international journal published by the Taylor and Francis Publications, ISSN 1388-09292, USA, has also inducted Dr. Talukdar as a member of its editorial board, recently.


Ravikanth, G., Vasudeva, R., Uma Shaanker, R. and Ganeshaiah, K.N. (2004), ‘Molecular Analysis of Semecarpus Kathalekanensis (Anacardiaceae) -A newly described species from the Myristica swamps of Western Ghtas, India’. The Indian Forester 130(1): 101-104

Ganeshaiah, K.N., Barve, N., Nilima Nath, Chandrashekara, K., Swamy, M. and Uma Shaanker, R. (2003), ‘Predicting the potential geographical distribution of the sugacane woolly aphid using GARP and DIVA –GIS’. Current Science, 85(11): 1526-28


Dr. K. N. Ganeshaiah. ‘Mapping and Quantitative Assessment of Geographic Distribution and the Population Status of Plant Resources of Western Ghats’. A grant from Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, New Delhi.