Friday, April 1, 2011
WASHINGTON (AFP) – More than one billion urban residents will face serious water shortages by 2050 as climate change worsens effects of urbanization, with Indian cities among the worst hit, a study said Monday.
The shortage threatens sanitation in some of the world's fastest-growing cities but also poses risks for wildlife if cities pump in water from outside, said the article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The study found that under current urbanization trends, by mid-century some 993 million city dwellers will live with less than 100 liters (26 gallons) each day of water each -- roughly the amount that fills a personal bathtub -- which authors considered the daily minimum.
Adding on the impact of climate change, an additional 100 million people will lack what they need for drinking, cooking, cleaning, bathing and toilet use.
"Don't take the numbers as destiny. They're a sign of a challenge," said lead author Rob McDonald of The Nature Conservancy, a private environmental group based near Washington.
"There are solutions to getting those billion people water. It's just a sign that a lot more investment is going to be needed, either in infrastructure or in water use efficiency," he said.
Currently, around 150 million people fall below the 100-liter threshold for daily water use. The average American has 376 liters delivered a day, although actual use varies widely depending on region, McDonald said.
But the world is undergoing an unprecedented urban shift as rural people in India, China and other growing nations flock to cities.
India's six biggest cities -- Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad -- are among those most affected by water shortages. The study forecast that 119 million people would face water shortages in 2050 in the Ganges River delta and plain alone.
With an annual monsoon, India does not lack water. But it struggles to preserve the water from the wet season to the dry season, McDonald said.
West Africa, which sees some of the world's heaviest rainfall, will also face water shortages in cities such as Lagos, Nigeria, and Cotonou in Benin, the study found.
The study warned of threats to ecosystems if developing nations take water from elsewhere. India's Western Ghats region, a potential source for thirsty cities, is home to nearly 300 fish species, 29 percent of which are found nowhere else, it said.
"If cities are essentially drinking rivers dry, that has really bad effects on the fish and the reptiles and everything else in the river," McDonald said.
Instead, the study recommended reforms to agriculture -- usually the top consumer of water -- and improved efficiency, as nearly half of the water in some poor countries is wasted due to leaks.
"There is a lot of potential for increase in water-use efficiency in the agriculture sector, or indeed in the residential sector, to solve most of this challenge," McDonald said.
The study said there would be a need for international funding to help poorer nations "to ensure that urban residents can enjoy their fundamental right to adequate drinking water."
UN-led talks last year on climate change agreed on practicalities to set up a global fund to assist poor nations most hit by climate change, with a target of 100 billion dollars a year starting in 2020.
Other cities forecast by the study to face a water crunch include Manila, Beijing, Lahore and Tehran.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Clarity lies in the eyes of the beholder
A photograph may tell a thousand stories but let us be cautious while spinning them around maneaters, encroachers or co-existence
__by Jay Mazoomdaar
This Sunday, I woke up to a rare photograph. A friend of mine from Kolkata clicked it in Ranthambhore and posted on a social networking site. It frames a tiger walking within a few metres of a group of labourers, mostly women, who were being herded away by a forest guard to let the big cat pass by. The tiger looks unconcerned and the labourers are all smiles. My friend has graciously shared it for the readers.
A fine documentation of a not-so-rare phenomenon in most of our tiger forests where people spend long hours repairing roads etc without getting harmed, the photograph tells a reassuring story. Social network sites allow comments on posts and such a rare post deserved all the appreciation. But soon all hell broke loose.
In the last four days, almost 200 people have commented on the photo. Quite a few sensible or innocuous ones apart, the rest seem to be surprisingly polarised. One group blasted humans (or labourers, in this case) for encroaching upon the tiger’s territory. The other hailed the tiger as an apostle of non-violence. Then, somewhere around the 165th mark in the comment queue, came this poser: “WOW! But still all news papers (sic) are full of Men N (sic) Animal Conflicts (sic) don’t understand why?”
Allowing the question some benefit of doubt (could it possibly be sarcastic?), I felt it brought out the duality inherent in most truths.
Yes, tigers, or other carnivores for that matter, do not consider us food. Our great, great forefathers were very much on their menu just like the primates still are in the wild. But carnivores have learnt to respect (and fear) us over time as able adversaries. So they generally follow a no-risk policy and maintain a respectable distance from groups of people, like they do from, say, an elephant herd or a pack of dholes.
But carnivores do defend themselves aggressively if they feel disturbed or threatened. They are nature’s most efficient killers. A defensive slap from a tiger can kill; it is hardly any consolation that the tiger is unlikely to eat its victim in such cases.
Moreover, I (and many others) have records of tigers that usually avoid elephants or dholes but opportunistically kill lonely calves or defend kills against a smaller pack. So, nothing prevents an otherwise respectful carnivore from making an occasional human kill if the victim seems suitably lonely and defenceless. The fact that they usually do not should not be taken as an underwriting of sorts.
Within this limited scope, let me not get into the more complex issues of chronic conflict situations that we witness in places like Sunderbans and Tadoba. Suffice to say that a solitary, unarmed human is still the easiest prey for any large carnivore and they can anyway kill people in self-defence.
So it is dangerous to create an impression of the tiger (or any large carnivore) that may induce a false sense of safety. All wild creatures are gentlemanly but they are still wild. We take them for granted only at our own peril.
Now, were those people in the photograph taking the tiger for granted, or encroaching upon its territory? Probably not. The group was there to do necessary forest work. They were being watched over by a forest guard. In the photograph, they do not seem to be in panic and are rather orderly. My friend, the photographer, confirmed that the face-off did not last long. The workers kept walking away quietly, the tiger smelt their lunch boxes wrapped in clothes, urinated to emphasize its territory and disappeared. The smiles in the frame also convey a not-so-unpleasant, minor surprise. That is how life is and should be inside a forest.
But what about the larger issue of encroachment? Of course, tigers prefer inviolate breeding areas. But even after all core forests are freed of human settlements, tigers will keep moving in the peripheral forests where they will have to share space with people. In fact, large carnivores have been historically sharing space with people all over India and the quantum of recorded conflict does not really seem to be proportionate to the numbers on both sides.
We must remove the remaining people from core areas but no conservation effort can succeed anywhere unless large carnivores and people can share space without major conflict in fringe forests, buffers and corridors. With forests shrinking and our population booming, the scenario does not look too good these days. There are so many reports of conflict because people are no longer ready to do their bit for a possible, largely event-free co-existence.
Yes, the odd accident will still happen but adequate precaution can bring down the count significantly. We do not cross highways blindfolded or let infants venture out on their own. We do not grudge these precautions because we benefit from the road and it is part of our life. Similarly, if and when we agree that conservation benefits us, we will have to accept the presence of carnivores as a way of life in fringe forests around our reserves where we have no choice but to share space.
This frame does not tell us that tigers are “friends of men”. No wild tiger ever made that claim. No, this frame does not tell us that only “private space” can secure the tiger. Conservation demands that tigers roam free and we may need to claim land from the seas to settle people if we want to make all the places tigers may roam “private”.
If tigers breed happily in inviolate forests, we will have to share space with some tigers around those forests where we are not encroachers or the tigers stray. This frame tells us that mutual respect (and precautions) can make that co-existence possible.
Monday, June 14, 2010
A radio-collared Tiger in the Sundarbans has reportedly crossed over into Bangladesh, forest officials have found. A radio collar worth around Rs 6-7 lakh was placed around the neck of the Tiger on May 21.
“This once again confirms that wild animals do not understand political boundaries and often move across the international border,” said Sundarban Biosphere Reserve (SBR) director Pradip Vyas. Significantly, 60% of the Sundarbans falls in Bangladesh while 40% is in India.
Sources said this is one of the reasons why Union Environment and Forests minister Jairam Ramesh has taken up the India-Bangladesh joint initiative on the Sundarbans. Tiger conservation has to be done jointly, said senior forest officials. Interestingly, the forest officials are still receiving signals from the collar and have located it somewhere in the middle of Talpatty island in Bangladesh.
The Tiger had entered into Malmelia village in North 24-Parganas and was eventually trapped in the Arbeshi jungle on May 21. It was tranquillized and radio-collared before being released in the Katuajhuri forest of the Sundarbans. The radio collar signals revealed that on the first two days, it traveled only 6-7 km. But on the third day, the Tiger traveled more than double that distance.
The signals show that a Tiger crosses its command area and moves into new territory at will, even if there is enough prey. The forest department found that there was enough prey in the Katuajhuri jungle and forest guards, who examined the terrain, found carcasses of animals devoured by the Tiger. “So, we were a bit surprised when the Tiger suddenly started moving from south to east, towards Bangladesh. This hints that a Tiger can enter due to reasons other than the lack of prey base,” an official reports.
The Tiger started closing in on Talpatty. Finally, two days ago, it moved into the Bangladesh Sundarbans.
The officials are keeping a close watch on the movements of the Tiger with the help of signals from the collar. In recent times, a Tiger and a Tigress, which had entered into Shamsernagar, were also found to have entered Indian territory from Bangladesh.