Time Bomb Ticking
The graph below shows the share of different sectors (Industry, Agriculture, Forestry etc.) in total GHG (green house gas) emissions in 2004 in terms of CO2-eq*. (Forestry includes deforestation). Global GHG emissions due to human activities have grown since pre-industrial times, with an increase of 70 percent between 1970 and 2004
Source: Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report brought out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Note: * CO2-equivalent emission is the amount of CO2 emission that would cause the same time-integrated radiative forcing, over a given time horizon, as an emitted amount of a long-lived GHG or a mixture of GHGs. The equivalent CO2 is obtained by multiplying the emission of a GHG by its Global Warming Potential (GWP) for the given time horizon.
Share in global CO2 emissions (%) United States versus rest of the world
Source: International Energy Outlook 2005, US Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration of Government of United States of America, 2005.
Key findings and recommendations of the report titled: Gajah: Securing the Future for Elephants in India (http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/ETF_REPORT_
FINAL.pdf), prepared by the Elephant Task Force, Ministry of Environment and Forests that comprised of distinguished scholars and environmentalists such as: Dr. Mahesh Rangarajan, Ajay Desai, Dr. R Sukumar, Dr. PS Easa, Vivek Menon, Dr. S Vincent, Suparna Ganguly, Dr. BK Talukdar, Brijendra Singh, Dr. Divya Mudappa, Dr. Sushant Chowdhary and AN Prasad are as follows:
• The population of elephants found in the wild is over 26,000 in India. There are 3500 captive elephants, with ancient traditions of captive care. The male population of elephants has shown a decline vis-a-vis females that has led to sex ratios heavily skewed towards females. Large developmental and infrastructural projects are fragmenting elephant habitats.
• The Indian sub-continent has an estimated population of about 27000-29000, which is about 50 percent of the Asian elephant population. Elephants in Andaman and Nicobar islands are considered to be feral, as they are the descendants of the captive elephants used in timber felling operations.
• The land area occupied by elephants is estimated to be around 110,000 square km, which is composed of Protected Areas, Reserved and other categories of forests, plantations, agriculture, and non-forest areas, the report finds.
• Every year over 400 people lose their lives to elephants, and most of them are cultivators or labourers. However, the bad news is that more than half of the 100 elephants are killed every year to save standing crops in the fields. Since 1987, India has lost 150 elephants due to train hits.
• Since 1987, the country has lost 150 elephants due to train hits. These include 36 percent cases recorded from Assam, 26 percent in West Bengal, 14 percent in Uttarakhand, 10 percent in Jharkhand, 6 percent in Tamil Nadu, 03 percent in Uttar Pradesh, 03 percent in Kerala and 2 percent in Orissa.
• The Task Force has expressed deep concern over the loss of habitats of elephants and the selective killing off of tuskers in key populations by ivory poachers. While the Task force in its report has praised the achievements of Project Elephant, which has been in existence since 1992, it has recommended for the creation of National Elephant Conservation Authority (NECA) on the lines of the structure for tiger conservation. A new Consortium of Elephant Research and Estimation (CERE) has also been recommended so as to develop and apply the best methods for enumeration. The Task Force has also recommended for scientific methods for elephant population monitoring and landscape assessment.
• In order to reduce human-elephant conflicts, the report has asked for preparing Conflict Management Task Forces that would comprise of experienced foresters, scientists, wildlife vets and social scientists. It has recommended for mandatory taluka-level hearings at different times in the sowing and harvesting season in all conflict areas that can bring together affected citizens, officials and elected representatives.
• The new Elephant Landscapes that are recommended by the Task Force are as follows: 1. Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong-Intanki; 2. Kameng-Sonitpur; 3. East Central; 4. North Western; 5. Brahmagiri-Nilgiri-Eastern Ghats; 6. Eastern South Bank; 7. North Bengal-Greater Manas; 8. Meghalaya; 9. Anamalai-Nelliampathy-High Range; and 10. Periyar-Agasthyamalai.
• The Task Force has recommended to declare elephant as a National Heritage Animal, which will give it due place as emblem of ecological sensitivity.
• Over 40 per cent of the Elephant Reserves is not under Protected Area or government forest. The Task Force favours Ecologically Sensitive Area status under the Environment Protection Act to regulate activity that may be ecologically negative.
• The role of Elephant Reserve Committees has been emphasized so as to enable redress, consultation and transparency.
• The Task Force has ranked the Elephant Corridors that link critical populations according to priority and feasibility for action. The main emphasis is on innovative methods to secure habitats beyond the Protected Areas. These could include Community or Conservation Reserves, Ecosystem Services payments and conservation easements.
• The resource earmarked over the 12th Five Year Plan is Rs. 600 crore. A third of the allocation will be to secure vital habitats that serve as links between populations that may be cut off. One sixth of resources asked for are earmarked for conflict issues.
• Citizens Elephant Welfare Committees are expected to take care of elephants in captivity. Gajah Centres and an elephant awareness campaign are on the agenda. An International Elephant Congress of the fifty elephant range states and an Asian partnership for Gajah will see India play a positive role for scientific and ecological cooperation.
• The Task Force has noted that Human-elephant conflict is on the rise despite Project Elephant running in the country for the last 18 years and is currently at an all time high, but financial allocations to deal with the problem have not increased proportionally.
• A major task is promotion of measures for mitigation of human elephant conflict in crucial habitats and moderating pressures of human and livestock activities in crucial elephant habitats.
• The Task Force has found that the prevailing system of monitoring of Asian elephant populations in India focuses on population size, sex ratio and population structure (in calves, juveniles, sub-adults and adults categories). However, little thought has been given to estimation of numbers and associated sampling-based variation or on the power of any estimate to detect demographic changes in elephant populations (such as increases and declines). In spite of this perturbing fact, estimates for monitoring elephants are made mainly to know the total number of elephants (population size).
• Occupancy, abundance index, density and demography of elephants across the ranges could be key parameters for correlating them with habitat and anthropogenic and ecological variables to draw meaningful conclusions important for conservation and management.
• Degradation, fragmentation and shrinkage of forest cover to accommodate the increasing human population largely characterized by various developmental activities have severely threatened Indian wildlife. Long ranging species such as Asian Elephant and Tiger that require a large landscape to fulfill their ecological needs have been the most affected ones. Hydroelectric and irrigation projects, roads, railway lines and mining have severely depleted and fragmented the elephant habitat.