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Tag: forests

Who speaks for the Sundarbans?

The 2015 UNEP Champion Of The Earth‬ (Policy Leadership) award has gone to Bangladesh‘s PM Sheikh Hasina.

With a population of 140 million, Bangladesh is one of the world’s most populated countries. It is also one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Cyclones, floods and droughts have long been part of the country’s history but they have intensified in recent years. Her vision is to turn Bangladesh into a middle-income country by 2021 and a developed one by 2041 through implementing environmentally aware policies.

The Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan of 2009 made Bangladesh the first developing country to frame such a coordinated action plan. Bangladesh is also the first country to set up its own Climate Change Trust Fund supported by nearly US$300 million of domestic resources from 2009-2012.

Her government earmarks 6-7 per cent of its annual budget on climate change adaptation.

In addition, the Bangladesh Constitution was amended in 2011 to include protection of the environment and safeguarding natural resources for current and future generations. Prioritized in the constitution along with wetlands and wildlife, the forestry policies initiative by Prime Minister Hasina has provided a natural barrier from some extreme weather events and the country’s forests cover has increased by almost 10 per cent.

Here’s the irony.

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Is India selling out its tigers?

In the New York Times, journalist and co-author of Tigers Forever Sharon Guynup asks the question — and lists the reasons why the answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’.

But the Modi government’s aggressive focus on development threatens both the cats’ future and the nation’s environment. India is razing forests and flooding them with dams, giving the go-ahead for new mines and pushing rapid industrialization. The 2015 budget cut funding for the environment ministry by 25 percent and support for tiger protection by 15 percent.

Toward that end, the government is moving swiftly and systematically to alter environmental regulations. Last August, a high level government committee was given the impossible task of reviewing the country’s major environmental laws and suggesting overhauls, all within a few months. Most of the committee members lacked environmental expertise, recommendations were not reviewed by independent authorities and most outside input was “invited.”

It is, argues Guynup, a perfect storm. Laws are being changed to permit large-scale deforestation; dams are coming up in job lots that will wipe out large sections of forest land, including reserves; sane voices from the outside, that could warn of the dangers, are being deliberately shut out of the process…

“Maybe I’m exaggerating,” said Ashok Khosla, the first director of India’s Office of Environmental Planning and Coordination, “but it sounds to me as if we have a cliff ahead of us and we have our foot on the accelerator.”

More on these lines here.

Population zero

When a report recently declared that there were no tigers left at the Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal, it sent alarm bells ringing. On May 18 and 19, officials from the reserve got together with representatives of the Wildlife Institute of India, the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the West Bengal Forest Department to chart a plan to reintroduce the national animal there.

The reported count was particularly vexing because just three years earlier, the same reserve had announced the presence of 20 tigers. How did the tiger population of a reserve go down from 20 to none in under four years?

The most likely explanation is that those 20 tigers might never have been there.

The mystery of the missing tigers, via Scroll (to whom credit also goes for the lead image)