Ajit was a dear dear friend. He was one of the finest human beings and the most dedicated Indian Forest Service Officers I have come across. He lived within his means and believed firmly in the tenet “justice with fairness”. He lived with a purpose and his commitment to enforcement of the law of the land when it came to protecting forest and wildlife was ultimate.
I saw closely and marvelled Ajit’s expertise regarding wildlife from close range and am amply aware of the vested interests that did everything to keep him at a distance when it came to wildlife management in Madhya Pradesh at the senior level. The vested interests were so deeply entrenched that at one stage an attempt even was made by a Principal Secretary Forest to block his promotion for good at the CCF level through an adverse CR. He had brilliantly contested the diabolic action and assessment by the bureaucrat in question. Ultimately his reasoned interjection won him the day. The irony was, this bureaucrat was later rewarded with a post-retirement sinecure and was made a Vice Chancellor.
I will never forget the long (after office) hours, Sundays and other public holidays he used to spend with me in the decade of the 90s discussing threadbare the factors threatening forest. A large part of these marathon exchanges were always focused on the tiger habitat and endangered species. That’s when during one of my tours as a journalist, I learnt how ex-Chief Minister Kamal Nath, who was then Union Minister and unquestioned leader from Chhindwara, was patronising those engaged in illegal fishing in the Totladeh reservoir in Pench Tiger Reserve. Exclusive reports by me in The Hindu to expose this had led to the intervention of the Supreme Court in this matter. I will always remain indebted to Ajit Sonakia for suggesting the name – Crusade for Revival of Environment and Wildlife (CREW) – and helping in framing the objectives of our NGO. CREW took off by conducting ground level investigation into factors threatening the tiger habitat and more particularly the problem of poaching and releasing the path breaking report Vanishing Stripes in June 1999. Next year we had released the sequel, Vanishing Stripes II.
Ajit played a leading role in turning CREW into a think tank and remained closely associated with Central Indian Highlands Wildlife Film Festival.
Bhopal: “Soch Aur Samwad” – A think tank spearheaded by a group of leading ladies in the State capital – organised a brainstroming session at Bhojpur Club here on Friday, 7 June 2019, to address the issue of water. The marathon discussion revolved around the theme “Boond Boond Jindagi, Jeevan Amrit” (life in every drop, water- the elixir of life)
Ajit Sonakia, a 1979 batch Indian Forest Service Officer, who has retired as Principal Chief Conservator of Forest M.P. and is a former Director Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Madhav and Sanjay National Parks delivered the keynote address. He spoke about Climate Change and said that water is an integral part when we talk of the crisis of global warming.
Sonakia laid special stress on the need to plant trees and underscored the importance of proper and controlled use of water by one and all. He was particularly critial of those who live in posh government bungalows and use water recklessly to wash their vehicles and pavements. This is in sharp contrast when it comes to the common people who are being denied even the basic supply of water.
At the outset, Ms. Arti Sharma, the progenitor of “Soch Aur Samwad”, a not for profit social organisation devoted to addressing and suggesting solutions for issues confronting the people, had set the tone for discussion.
Water is a natural resource. We cannot manufacture but only conserve it. – Arti Sharma, founder of Soch Aur Samwad
Ms. Sharma said water is an essential requirement. It is not possible to think of the food we eat without water. Our population is growing at a rapid pace and we are unrelently using water and at times, instead of saving, wasting it, she observed.
Continuing, she said, it is wrong on our part to think that it is the government’s responsbility to find ways and means to conserve water. It is actually our responsibility – no matter which sector we belong to, whether one is running an industry or one is a housemaker, it is everyone’s duty to save water.
Ms. Sharma spoke about the importance of water bodies and rivers and drew attention to the river valley civilisations of ancient times. All big cities over several millennia were built along major rivers, she said undescoring the importance of water. It is uinfortunate that we are wasting this precious resource.
Ms. Sharma cited the example of the drought affected region of California in the US, where she had the opportunity of staying for some time. She especially noted that in California, two types of piped water is being supplied to the citizens – one is potable water that’s fit for drinking and other other is untreated water thats used for watering the plants. Even the supply of non-potable water is rationed and days are fixed when one can water the plants there, she informed the audience.
Ms. Sharma focused attention on the use of a basic technology to save water and said special taps are being used in developed countries to ensure wate flows with such force that a very little volume can serve the purpose and this helps in saving water. Utilisation of water in the proper way is vey important, she emphasised.
Well-known conservationist, Meera Das said that more than two thousand years ago, the neighbouring Vidisha district had taken the lead in water harvesting. There are Buddhist archeological sites in this area depicting the progress that made in building reservoirs and structures to conserve water in ancient times, she said and gave the example of the fifth Century Ganga Devi idol associated with the Gupta period. This reflects their sensibilities with regard to the need to conserve water.
Professor at Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM) Dr. Madhu Verma threw light on special reservoirs that have been built to collect natural water from the catchment areas and supply it (without any treatment) as drinking water to the residents of New York City.
Dr Verma cited the example of China to underscore the importance it gives to preservation and conservation of biodiversity. She said that development projects are shelved if they threaten the biodoversity. She also focused attention towards some communities of Meghalaya State in India that do not interfere with the ecosystem.
Senior journalist and environmentalist, Abhilash Khandekar laid stress on the need for everybody to save water. He said that experts and a large section of the media has been raising the alarm about the water crisis and all connected environmental issues for a long time. It is important for people to realise that if they fail to act now, the future of humankind would be gravely threatened.
Lalit Shastri, Editor-in-Chief Newsroom24x7 and founder president of CREW, an NGO devoted to conservation of environment and Wildlife, who also addressed the gathering said it is important to have an understanding of the different factors responsible for depletion of forest cover, especially in the catchment of rivers and water bodies. NGOs working for environment should lobby for the cause of future generations at the decision, policy and law-making levels, he said and went on to underscore that such organisations should be ready to speak up what may be “politically incorrect” but is necessary for saving the forests, biodiversity and the future of not only humankind but all species and forms of life.
Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt General (Retired) Milan Naidu, spoke about the need to treat grey water for serving recreational and sporting purposes. He gave the example of the golf course at the Local Army area in Bhopal in this regard.
There was a special presentation on the “green building” constructed by the NGO – Eklavya – with locally available material and scrap procured from the Railways. This building has been designed in such a manner that it reduces the temeperature inside by 4 to 6 degrees. Its highwater mark is the especially built water harvesting tanks and the greay area treatment plant.
The audience had a special word of praise for a poem on water recited by Arti Agrawal.
School Kids – Mishti Sharma and Ishan Jatti, distributed seed balls to the participants on behalf of Purple Turtle with the message “Save Environment for Us”.
New Delhi: A new study has found that the mean temperature in India has risen by half a degree Celsius over a period of 60 years. This rise corresponds to 146% increase in the probability of deaths due to heat wave.
This means that even moderate increases in mean temperatures may lead to large increases in heat wave-related deaths, notes the study conducted by researchers from Indian Institutes of Technology in Delhi and Bombay, along with University of California and Boise State University in America. Based on the findings, researchers have urged the government to put in more efforts to build resilience among vulnerable populations in regions with severe heat waves.
In the years—1972, 1988, 1998 and 2003— when there were more than 10 heat wave days on average across India, there was a corresponding spike in heat-related deaths of between 650 and 1500 people. The substantial increase in mortality rates due to 0.5°C increase in summer mean temperature or two more heat wave days suggests that future climate warming could have a relatively drastic human toll in India and similarly in developing tropical and subtropical countries.
The study is based on temperature data from 395 weather stations from Indian meteorological department between the years 1960 to 2009. “Our data will create awareness about the impact of rising temperatures in India on health, and this needs to be urgently communicated to the society,” pointed out Dr Subimal Ghosh, a member of research team at IIT Bombay. The research findings have been published in journal Science Advances. .
“Our results suggest that future climate warming will lead to substantial increases in heat-related deaths, particularly in developing low-latitude countries, such as India, where heat waves will become more frequent and populations are especially vulnerable to these extreme temperatures” the researchers have said. (India Science Wire)
The research team included Omid Mazdiyasni, Amir Agha Kouchak, Steven J Davis, Shahrbanou Madadgar, Ali Mehran, Elisa Ragno, Mojtaba Sadegh, Ashmita Sengupta, Subimal Ghosh, CT Dhanya, and Mohsen Niknejad.
As we work to further strengthen the Arctic Council as the premier intergovernmental forum for addressing Arctic challenges, we’re also going to strive to expand awareness of the links between this region and everywhere else – and we do mean everywhere. – John Kerry, US Secretary of State
Iqalit, Canada: On assuming the chairmanship of the Arctic Council by the US on Friday, the US Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. chairmanship will focus on addressing the issue of climate, the impacts of climate change, promoting ocean safety, security, and stewardship and on improving economic and living conditions for Arctic communities.
Addressing the Arctic Council Ministerial at the Legislative Assembly of Nanavut Iqalit in Canada, Kerry said the theme of our chairmanship is “One Arctic,” One Arctic, is a phrase long used by the Inuit Circumpolar Council, which embodies the belief that the entire world – not only the Arctic, not only the eight here plus, but the entire world shares a responsibility to protect, to respect, to nurture, and to promote the region.
Defining the road map for next two years, Kerry observed: “as we work to further strengthen the Arctic Council as the premier intergovernmental forum for addressing Arctic challenges, we’re also going to strive to expand awareness of the links between this region and everywhere else – and we do mean everywhere.”
Arctic glaciers in the Greenland ice sheet are shrinking substantially and driving global sea level rise. And this in turn threatens to unleash flooding and storm surges, causing immeasurable harm not only to Arctic communities, but to urban and rural settlements along the coasts of every ocean
The observer states know well that all countries have a reason to care about the future of the Arctic, kerry said adding it’s a critical part of the global climate system, literally ensuring a stable, livable environment from Barrow, Alaska, to Beijing, China, and the fact is it is rapidly changing. “How we as Arctic states, and indeed as a global community, respond to those changes over the coming months and years can literally make all the difference”, he emphasised.
Drawing attention to the great emergency, Kerry talked of climate change as one of the biggest challenges and said the Arctic is warming faster than any other region on Earth. Temperatures are increasing at more than twice the rate of the global average. And what these rising temperatures mean is that the resilience of our communities and our ecosystems, the ability of future generations to be able to adapt and live and prosper in the Arctic the way people have for thousands of years is tragically but actually in jeopardy.
Drawing a picture of the climate linked crisis, Kerry said Arctic glaciers in the Greenland ice sheet are shrinking substantially and driving global sea level rise. And this in turn threatens to unleash flooding and storm surges, causing immeasurable harm not only to Arctic communities, but to urban and rural settlements along the coasts of every ocean. over the last three decades, both the increase in temperatures and the corresponding decrease in sea ice observed in the Arctic are unprecedented in at least the 1,500 years that we can measure. In the American Arctic summer, sea ice could very well disappear almost entirely by mid-century, which would alter marine ecosystems and increase the vulnerability of communities in the Arctic – in the system as a consequence of coastal erosion. And as permafrost thaws at alarming rate, one is witnessing more and more wildfires, collapsing infrastructures, and the potential release of vast amounts of greenhouse gasses that only speed up the warming, because methane, is 20 times more potent in the damage it does than CO2.
Kerry went on to underscrore: This is not a future challenge. This is happening right now. collectively, Arctic Council members in observer states contribute more than 60 percent of black carbon pollution, kerry said asserting if we want to know where the problem begins, all we have to do is look in the mirror. During its chairmanship and particularly in the run-up to COP 21 in December in Paris , Kerry said, the United States intends to press for the full implementation of the Framework for Action on Enhanced Black Carbon and Methane Emissions. And that includes the compilation of national black carbon and methane emission inventories, national reporting on domestic mitigation efforts, and greater international cooperation on reducing these dangerous pollutants.
Carbon dioxide does not just drive climate change. It also gets absorbed by the ocean, although we saw the first regurgitation by the ocean of CO2 in the Antarctic this past year, so we don’t know what the limits of that absorption are, which is another challenge for all on Earth. But to the degree that it does get absorbed by the ocean, it winds up threatening marine ecosystems on which we all depend. And the cold temperatures of the Arctic Ocean make it particularly vulnerable to acidification, Kerry pointed out as he went on to state that ocean acidification is often an overlooked impact of climate change. A lot of people don’t even focus on it.
Improving the lives of the Arctic indigenous peoples means expanding access to clean, affordable, and renewable energy technologies that will provide local communities with alternatives to the costly and dirty diesel-based electricity that too many are forced to rely on today, said Kerry.