Vol 1:4
For private circulationonly
November 2003
Ashoka Trust for Research in
Ecology and the Environment
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: 080-353 3942, 353 0069
Fax: 353 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
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



A 3-day conference entitled “Western Ghats: Conservation and Human Welfare” was held in Bangalore from September 22-24, 2003. Participants included over 100 people from over 25 governmental and non-governmental organizations. It was jointly organized by ATREE and Care Earth in association with Foundation for the Revitalization of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT), Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF), Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES), University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advances Scientific Research (JNCASR), Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), Research and Natural Wealth Action (RANWA), Kalpavriksh and the Karnataka Forest Department. The Sir Dorabiji Tata Trust, Winrock-Ford Small Grants Program, and the Ford Foundation sponsored the conference.

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.
- Bharath Sundaram


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.
- Bharath Sundaram


The Millennium Assessment (MA) sub-global assessments covering mountain regions on the Asian landmass presents us with an opportunity to link these assessments together, now named as the “GREAT ASIAN MOUNTAIN ASSESSMENT” (GAMA). The GAMA meeting at Katmandu on September 15-16, 2003 agreed upon three focal areas: water, biodiversity, and soil. Water assessment will be based on highland-lowland linkages as well as links to socio-economic development. In the Eastern Himalayas, ATREE will lead one landscape-level assessment in each of the three following river basins: Arunachal, Assam and Sikkim Hills.


“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.


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.


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.


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.


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.
Ms. Naini Jayaseelan, Secretary of the Department of Environment, Govt. of Delhi, also participated in the program for 2 days in addition to being the chief guest at Valedictory Session conducted on the last day of the program. Each participant was given a certificate. The program was much appreciated.


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



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, Sri Lanka.

Shanker, K “Olive Ridleys in Orissa: caught in the cross fire” on 24-26 September 2003, at the National seminar on Reef Ecosystem Remediation, Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute, Tuticorin.


Soil Resources 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.

Action research study for developing rigorous design and approach to evaluating and implementing forest and natural resource-based enterprise. Funded by: Ford Foundation, New Delhi.

Conservation of the Myristica swamps – the highly threatened and unique ecosystem in the Western Ghats, India: Biodiversity inventory and prioritization of conservation. Funded by: Rain Forest Concern, UK. PI: Dr. R. Uma Shaanker


Shanker, K., Choudhury, B.C. and Andrews, H.A. (2003), ‘Sea turtle conservation: Beach

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.
Saberwal and M. Rangarajan (eds), Seminar 530, October 2003, pp. 71-73.

Shanker, K. (2003), ‘Seeking a brighter horizon’,
Srishti, September: 22-30.

Shanker, K. (2003), ‘Using wildlife: farming out the problem’, Down to Earth, 12 (7): 53.

Shivanna, K.R. (2003), ‘Management of honeybees for pollination services: A low-tech, eco-friendly approach to improve crop productivity’, Botanica: 53: 1-7.

Tandon R, Shivanna KR, Mohan Ram HY 2003.
Reproductive biology of Butea monosperma (Fabaceae). Ann Bot 92: 715-723.


Dr. Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, Regional Director of ATREE-EHP has been nominated as a member of Advisory Board of Regional Science Museum, Guwahati.

Dr. Kartik Shanker, Fellow, ATREE has been appointed as Regional Coordinator, Marine Turtle Specialist Group, IUCN/SSC.

The Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT), a sister organization committed to the conservation of medicinal plants and renewal of plant-based traditional medicine, has been honored with the prestigious Richard and Hinda Rosenthal award from the Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Columbia University for their crucial role on behalf of traditional systems of medicine. Our congratulations to Darshan Shankar, the Executive Director of FRLHT, who is also an ATREE Board member.