IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 11 Issue X

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 11 Issue X

ISSN 2394 – 6946

Download the full Newsletter PDF by clicking the below button –
IndiaWilds Newsletter-October-2019 (5.5 MB, 133 downloads)

Forest: New Expendables

IndiaWilds Newsletter PDF-October-2019

IndiaWilds Newsletter PDF-October-2019

The Central Government for some reason has decided to view plantations as forests. This action was severely criticized, as no monoculture can become forests. Forests are living ecosystems with complex interrelationships between various species, most of which are yet to be completely deciphered by scientists. You can plant trees but can’t create forests. Classifying plantations as forests doesn’t provide an accurate reflection of India’s biodiversity in our natural forests.

According to the current definition of Government of India, an area of one hectare (ha) or above, irrespective of land use and ownership, will be considered as a forest if it has at least 10% canopy cover. So according to this definition any fruit orchards like mango, apple, guava etc, bamboo cultivation, monoculture eucalyptus plantations for pulp industry, rubber and palm oil plantations and any other agro forestry can be called as forest. This definition of forest clearly increased the total area under forest cover to about 21%.

Due to this blatant misuse of definition the Government is comfortably claiming that the area under forest cover is increasing even though the Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change has virtually become a clearinghouse for all projects and is diverting huge swathes of forests for industries and various projects.

Exotic eucalyptus plantation which depletes ground water is planted in the Shola forests of western ghats, India

Exotic eucalyptus plantation which depletes ground water is planted in the Shola forests of western ghats, India

The situation has come to such a pass that the ruling party in its election manifesto for the Loksabha elections had stated “we have ensured speed and effectiveness in issuing forest and environmental clearances for eligible projects due to which we have added around 9000 Sq. Kms to the forest cover of the country. We are committed to maintaining this pace through adoption of cleaner practises to make our nation a greener country”. In fact the Government has said in Parliament that a total of 20,314.12 hectares of forest land was diverted in three years from 2015 to December 2018.

Though the Government was immune to protests about this, there have been some uncomfortable questions posed by a UN body. The data was submitted to United Nation’s REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) which needs the forest data to evaluate the amount of carbon that is stored in the forests of various member countries so that incentives can be provided to the developing countries to protect the forest areas. Clearly they were not amused as including plantations and farms would have distorted the overall Forest Reference Level for India.

If this gives an impression that the Government is not serious about forests, then there is more to it. The Central Government constituted Forest Advisory committee has stated that the states need not seek clarification from the Centre whether any unclassified land is forest or not.  It has said “States, having well established forest departments, are in a better position, rather than MoEF&CC, to understand their own forests and needs, and should frame criteria for their forests… criteria so finalised by a state need not be subject to approval by MoEF&CC”.

So if a State Government is willing to protect its forests, then it can technically declare the fallow lands, various scrublands, grasslands and wooded areas as forests. In the recent days the way the Government wants to clear up areas with dense tree cover for some projects, like the Aarey colony for creating a metro car parking shed, the chances of its misuse is high.

When one looks at all these incidents, one can start to see the common linkage and makes the intention of the Government appear suspect.

The MoEF&CC has recently sent a letter to all forest secretaries of various Union territories and states, that the local DFO can allow temporary activities like exhibitions, cultural activities, film shoots, weddings etc. which earlier needed prior permission from the Central Government. The letter states that “the matter has been examined in detail in the ministry and it has been decided that temporary work in forest land which does not involve part of any protected area, breaking up or clearing of forest land or portion thereof, assigning by way of lease or otherwise to firm, organization or a person and does not create any right over such forest land…will not require prior approval of central government under the FC Act”.

Basically this is a way to bypass the stringent permissions required. Earlier, the Ravi Shankar led Art of Living foundation had created a massive cultural programme on the banks of Yamuna river where they compacted the flood plains and caused massive damage to the area. (IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 9 Issue IV, April 2017, ) Now the local authorities (Divisional Forest Officer) can allow these kinds of projects. Temporary tents and facilities can be set up to give the nice exotic location feel. A wealthy industrialist or politician can now hold a wedding in such places. Huge Bollywood and regional film shoots can also be taken up where they set up massive sets. There would be no environment impact assessment and the ecological impact would be huge. A few years ago, in one case in Tamil Nadu, local film crew deposited all the plaster-of-paris mix in a forest pond and that led to death of deers and other herbivores. Such kind of scenes are likely to be common place due to this move of the Union environment and forests ministry.

Yamuna AOL debris

Yamuna AOL debris

When ecologically fragile lands are being allowed to be exploited for earning money, each DFO would start talking about how much revenue he/she earned in a year. The focus will clearly shift from preserving the ecology of the place to earning money. As such, many premier national park managers boast of their tourism revenue. Instead of patrolling and other actions required for the scientific management of the wilderness areas, our forest officers are focused on tourism revenue. So way more tourists are permitted to enter into forests than the carrying capacity of the forest.  The move to allow temporary activities will exacerbate the already massive anthropogenic pressures that our wilderness areas are facing.

Many of our pseudo religious Babas would be salivating at the prospect. Some such celebrity Gurus can now give a call to their followers to come for a holy yajna in some forest for 10-15 days and people will come in droves. Those kinds of actions will choke the last remaining breath out of our wilderness areas.

Interestingly the MoEF&CC officials have stated that they had issued a guideline in this regard in 2014 and are now merely reissuing it. So first the ministry comes out with a guideline and keep it under wraps. Then years later pull it out from the files to say that the protests have been too late as this policy has been in place for years. Even if that was not intentional, all these forest related notifications and actions by the Government shows that there is a design involved, a method in the madness. It is increasingly becoming clear that the central Government has decided to decimate the wilderness areas and wildlife with a vengeance.

Forests are the soul of India. Our religion and culture is based on our forests. The mountains, rivers, forests and wildlife are all sacred in our religion. We go to extreme lengths to proclaim the greatness of our religion and culture and are ready to silence and kill people who we believe are not believers. So it is indeed strange that the Government is ready to sacrifice our forests, rivers and all that we call as sacred in the altar of industrialization.

Book Review:

Book Review: The Untold Stories of Indian Tigers


Conservation News:

First National Protocol to Enumerate Snow Leopard Population in India:

First national protocol to enumerate snow leopard population has been launched in India on the  occasion of International Snow Leopard day.

Please click on the below link to read more:

First National Protocol to Enumerate Snow Leopard Population in India Launched

Joint Statement Issued on the conclusion of 29th BASIC ministerial meet on Climate Change:

Please click on the below link to read more:

India to shift to BS VI vehicular emission norms by April 2020:

Please click on the below link to read more:


Equipment Discussions:

GoPro Hero 8 Black launched

GoPro Hero 8 Black launched


Sony launches A9 II full frame camera with 20fps burst speed

Sony has launched A9 II with 24.2 MP 35mm full frame sensor with a burst speed of 20fps in electronic shutter for up to 361 JPEG images or 239 compressed RAW images, with no viewfinder blackout. For times when mechanical shutter is preferred or required, the new Alpha 9 II has been improved to shoot at up to 10 fps.

This camera also has 5 axis optical in body stabilisation system.

The Autofocus is advanced and has 693 focal-plane phase detection AF points covering 93% of the image area. There are 425 contrast AF points as well.
Sony A9II also has Real-time Eye Af with right eye or left eye selection.

This camera is aimed at professional sports photographers and photojournalists.
Price: $4500 US Dollars

For more details click on the below link –


Canon has announced the development of EOS 1DX Mark III DSLR camera:

Canon launches RF 70-200 f2.8 L lens and RF 85mm f1.2L USM DS lens: 

Canon launches IVY REC clippable outdoor camera

Canon launches IVY REC clippable outdoor camera


Natural History

COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: M. Krishnan: ‘Wallowing in the mire‘ shared By Saktipada Panigrahi


Wildlife Photography

Tigress-in-Kabini by Mrudul Godbole

Leopard by Shyamala Kumar

Serpent Eagle by Mrudul Godbole

Waterfall by Prajwal Ullal

Mantis by Arun Acharjee

Spitting spider by Prajwal Ullal’s-den

Cheetal by Sabyasachi Patra


This is the 130th issue of IndiaWilds. The photo of a wild tiger adorns the cover page. The photo depicts a tiger in a clump of bamboos stepping down to an open area which has been excavated with the help of earth moving equipment. That is the general state of our forests and hills today. Man, a species which has no natural in built weapons, uses its mind to create tools to lord over other species and nature. We can destroy and flatten a hillock within a day. We can cut off the trees and convert a jungle into an open land. We can demarcate and reclassify land as forests and non-forests on our own sweet will. We are answerable to none. How will the wildlife species cope up with such sudden change?

We pick up a single species from the forests, like a bamboo or tea and create monoculture plantations close to forests so that we can exploit those bamboos for our own use. And when wildlife species like tiger or elephant pass through those plantations, we get scared and start tranquilising those animals. We brand them as problem animals. How will animals read our mind and understand the manmade laws? Conflict is inevitable unless we create inviolate wilderness areas and link those so that wildlife can move from one wilderness area to another. Even though India has 3.287 million square kilometers of land mass, we have destroyed most of our forests and India is now staring at desertification. To stop our land from becoming desert and to stop the impact of climate change, we have to protect our forests. The sooner we realise that our wellbeing is linked with forests, the better it will be.

I look forward to your inputs and support in preserving the last tracts of wilderness and wildlife left in our beautiful country and raising awareness about it. For other interesting articles and images check –

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Sabyasachi Patra

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IndiaWilds Newsletter-October-2019 (5.5 MB, 133 downloads)
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