ENVIRONMENT PRESERVATION: Zone III for Unesco status – Sikkim in World’s highest ecosystems, next step to enter world network status funds ?!!

KanchenjungHa reserve: ‘Transition’ for entry to exclusive network - more funds the merrier, but of'course ?!!


Gangtok, July 4: The Sikkim forest department has notified a transition area on the periphery of the buffer zone of KanchenjungHa Biosphere Reserve to strengthen its chances of inclusion in the exclusive world network of biosphere reserves under Unesco.

The KBR — that ranges from a height of 1,200m to 8,586m — is one of the world’s highest ecosystems spread over 2619.92sqkm in the South, West and North districts. The reserve that includes KanchenjungHa National Park and the buffer zone account for 36.92 per cent of the state. The notified transition zone consists of 44 villages on the periphery of the buffer zone. The updated area of KBR — covering the core, buffer and transition zones — is now 2,931.12 sqkm.

Among the three zones, transition is the outermost part of a biosphere reserve and includes settlements, cultivable land, and the area of economic activity characteristic of the region.

A transition zone is a concept where nature and man co-exist while respecting the needs of each other, a forest officer said.

In 2007, Sikkim had submitted a document to the Union ministry asking that KBR be nominated for Unesco world network status. But according to a requirement suggested by the international advisory committee of Unesco, the establishment of a transition zone is a must to enter the network.

For the past one year, the transition zone was marked and identified in a joint exercise by the state forest department and GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development’s Sikkim unit. The updated area of the KBR will now be submitted along with the Unesco nomination request to the MoEF. The ministry will then forward it to Unesco.

The world network of biosphere reserves under Unesco has 553 sites in 107 countries.

“We are trying to include KBR in the world network, and once it is done, we can then apply for Unesco world heritage status,” a forest officer said.

The KBR’s inclusion in the network could bring a number of benefits. “It could range from increased tourism revenues to funds for villages in the transition zone, conservation of rare species and money and aid to address natural calamities,” said a forester.

Green vanishes as highway expands – 9000 trees felled but no sign of re-plantation – naturally BengHal, more interested in hegemony than preservation or growth ?!!

On June 5, the last trees were felled along the state highway in Balurghat town; the stump of a tree chopped at that time - needs journalistic jogging, hue & cry from the public for action in BengHal ?!! (Photo by Mithun Roy)


Balurghat, July 4: Almost 9,000 trees, some of them over a century old, have been felled along a 110-kilometre state highway that is being expanded, but not a single sapling has been planted under the re-plantation mandatory for such a project.

Despite the project clause that 10 saplings have to be planted along State Highway 10 — that connects Hili in South Dinajpur to Gajole in Malda — for every tree felled, no one has come ahead to implement the greening of the road in the four years since the work began. Work on the 75-kilometre stretch between Gajole and Bolla in South Dinajpur has been completed over a year ago.

A local NGO, Dishari Sankalpa, has written to the state public works minister Kshiti Goswami, forest minister Ananta Roy, and environment minister Sailen Sarkar, drawing their attention to this neglected but environmentally crucial re-plantation.

The next ageold tree in line to get the axe - then wonder why the weather gets so unpredictable and water tables unstable ?!! (Photo by Nantu Dey)

“The ideal green cover for a district is 33 per cent and our district has only eight per cent. We have noticed that there has been indiscriminate felling of mature and young trees without anyone objecting. Given this situation, we are very worried to see that the planting of trees after the highway’s expansion has been totally neglected,” said Tuhin Subhra Mondol of Dishari Sankalpa. He added that the ministers were informed of the felling by fax messages on Friday.

Mondol said he and the other members of the organisation had met government officials many times. “We have seen that the officials of the public works department have washed their hands off the issue by saying that the money for re-planting trees has been handed over to the forest department and they no longer had any responsibility in the matter,” Mondol said.

“We have appealed to the ministers to look into the matter urgently so that the people of the district do not have to suffer the effects of a rapidly degrading environment. We have also emphasised the district administration’s lack of effort to stop the illegal felling of trees,” he said.

Arup Roy, executive engineer (state highways) of the public works department and the project in-charge of the expansion, confirmed that the money had been given to the forest department. “It was about eight or nine months ago that we had handed over two cheques of Rs 8.5 lakh and Rs 76,500 to the forest department. We are primarily engaged in construction and tree plantation should be looked after by the forest department,” Roy said.

Divisional forest officer Apurba Sen, whose office is in Raiganj in North Dinajpur, said he had recently taken charge and did not know about the funds being sent to the department. “I shall definitely look into where the funds have gone,” the divisional forest officer said.

Mondol alleged that there was total apathy as far as government officials were concerned. “Officers are transferred, but how can the activity of the department get stalled in red tape? This is very strange,” Mondol said.


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