NAGPUR: Nagpur, with its mix of infrastructure and culture, has the potential to become the centre of development of the country, President Ram Nath Kovind said on Friday. The President, who was on a day-long tour of Nagpur on Friday, visited Deekshabhoomi, where Dr. B.R. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism with lakhs of his followers in 1956. Mr. Kovind also inaugurated the Suresh Bhat Natya Sabhagrah and a vipassana meditation centre at the Dragon Palace Temple complex in Kamptee area on the outskirts of Nagpur. This was his first visit to Maharashtra after assuming the office of President. “Maharashtra is the karmabhoomi of many revolutionaries, social reformers, and saints. The list of great social and political leaders produced by the State is a long one. Maharashtra was one of the main centres of the freedom struggle. Many important chapters of the freedom movement, including the Quit India movement of 1942, were written in Maharashtra. Mahatma Gandhi regarded Gopal Krishna Gokhale as his guru, and made Wardha his workplace,” Mr. Kovind said at the inauguration of the Suresh Bhat Natya Sabhagrah. He added, “Maharashtra is not only a hub of industry and business of the country, but that of its culture and art as well. Mumbai is described as the economic capital of India. By linking its heritage of education and culture with trade and technology, Maharashtra is giving strength to the entire country in the 21st century. In the quest for development and economic change, we have to take care to keep our cultural moorings intact. In this context, Maharashtra is setting an example for the nation.” He appreciated “the rapid development of modern infrastructure in Nagpur”. “The Zero Mile Nagpur, traditionally regarded the geographical centre of the country, has the potential to become the centre of development of India as well,” the President said. Earlier, at the inauguration of the vipassana centre, Mr. Kovind called vipassana an effective way to cleanse our mind and body. He said the ideals of Buddhist philosophy were reflected in the Constitution.
HOME, SWEET HOME: Western Ghat grasslands are tahr’s natural habitatAmidst news of spiralling conservation crises, the endangered Nilgiri tahr, a species of mountain goats, is today the bearer of good news. Found along the 400-km range of the southern end of the Western Ghats in Kerala and the grasslands of,HOME, SWEET HOME: Western Ghat grasslands are tahr’s natural habitatAmidst news of spiralling conservation crises, the endangered Nilgiri tahr, a species of mountain goats, is today the bearer of good news. Found along the 400-km range of the southern end of the Western Ghats in Kerala and the grasslands of Tamil Nadu, tahr numbers now touch 2,000. This is a significant improvement from a low of 1,200-the tahr count in early 1970s. It has taken 30 years and a unique participatory management conservation programme in the 97-sq-km Eravikulam National Park (ENP) near Munnar, Kerala to push numbers up from 500 to 800 in this single park.In a first of its kind public-private cooperation in wildlife conservation, the watershed programme was run by the High Range Wildlife and Environment Preservation Association (HRWEPA), made up mostly of nature buffs from the Tata Tea plantations that dominate the Kannan Devan Hills (KDH), and the Forest Department of Kerala. Under the programme, tea planters informally doubled as wildlife wardens keeping extra vigil even as concepts like nature education and participatory management of wildlife gained currency amongst the local people.”Conservation of the tahr must include the ecosystems and the protection of its habitats as also participation from local people,” says Mohan Alembath, president, Nilgiri Tahr Trust, Kochi. Alembath is a former wildlife warden of Kerala who oversaw conservation measures launched at the ENP. This private-public partnership is a dramatic turnaround from the days when shooting the tahrs was a favoured sport among planters and hunters. At that time, the planting of eucalyptus on the grasslands too had adversely affected the tahr as it led to the erosion of its habitat.advertisementA key group involved in the conservation programme were the Muthuvans group of tribals, the original inhabitants of Munnar. Some of them are enlisted as watchers by the state forest department. “People’s participation in environmental preservation and their interest in the tahr have contributed significantly to its conservation,” says M.K.Prasad, environmental activist of the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad.When the Kerela Goverment declared the ENP as a protected sanctuary in 1972, it set in motion a chain of events that have led to healthier tahr numbers today. The expanse of the tea gardens in the region have inadvertently aided the conservation effort. The agro-ecological system, where tea was the prime produce with a large expanse of interspersed wilderness, provided ample space for the tahr and other fauna.”Conservation of the tahr must include the ecosystems and the protection of its habitats.”MOHAN ALEMBATH, PRESIDENT, NILGIRI TAHR TRUST, KOCHI The tahr is among the few species of mountain goats that have adapted to a cold and wet tropical environment of the kind that is confined to an area not bigger than 5 per cent of the Western Ghats. The tahr prefers a habitat that is predominantly of grasslands adequately sheltered by rocky cliffs, enjoys a short dry season and receives over 1,500 mm of rainfall a year. Such a unique tropical habitat is restricted to just seven of the high altitude landscapes (1,200 m to 2,600 m above sea level) in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, particularly the one found in the southern Western Ghats between the Nilgiri Hills and Kanyakumari Hills.Yet, in spite of the increase in numbers, the tahr still faces many threats to its survival: habitat destruction, competition and disease transmission from domestic livestock and poaching for meat or commercial products. In order to protect the species, experts believe other issues too need attention. Some of these include institutionalisation of the management system, increasing the size of the tropical grassland ecosystem and developing the landscape approach as also the preparation of a comprehensive ecosystem plan still needs to be put in place.Experts on the tahr and other hoofed grazers, who had gathered for the fourth World Congress of Mountain Ungulates at Munnar, have recommended the extension of the ENP to the ecological boundary of the Nilgiri tahr population. This is easier said than done. It will mean establishing protected corridors in the Western Ghats and ensure that forest tourism and other activities respect conservation measures. There is also a plan to extend the ENP by 30 sq km and reintroduce the tahr in some areas from where it had disappeared. Further, a protocol for monitoring the tahr population and its habitat has to be developed to evaluate the economic impact of tourism and put in place a preventive action plan against accidents such as an outbreak of fire in the ENP.Call of the WildThe Nilgiri tahr, Nilgiritragus hylocrius or goat antelope to biologists, is red-listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. A full grown male stands 100 cm tall at the shoulder and weighs about 100 kg. Females are slightly smaller in size and weight. Both sexes have curved horns, which are larger in the males, reaching up to 40 cm for males and 30 cm for females. Grey in colour, the animal is paler on the under-surface. Older males are known as saddlebacks due to the whitish hair that develop on the rump in the shape of a saddle as they age. The Nilgiri tahr live in herds ranging from six to 104 animals, with average group sizes of nine for all-female groups and 27 for mixed herds. Nearly half the population is in the Eravikulam National Park near Munnar. There is also the fear that any disease of epidemic proportions could wipe out the animal. That is why experts are against the tahr tracts being opened for tourists except the Rajamalai fringe of the ENP where visitors are taken up the slopes in the park’s vans. The tahr in this area of the park is not alarmed by the presence of human beings, which is also a grim pointer of its vulnerability to hunting and poaching. Also, the staff strength of the national park is very poor considering its remoteness and rugged terrain. “Protected areas have become the only beacons of hope for the long-term survival of the Niligiri tahr as with all wild animals of Asia,” says M.K. Ranjitsinh of the Wildlife Trust of India.A DNA profile of the tahr and a stock-taking of its scattered population outside the ENP is critical to guard against what Alembath calls “genetic erosion”. In order to obtain DNA samples of the tahr, researchers from the Centre for Ecological Sciences of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, have begun non-invasive sampling by collecting the tahr’s dung from locations across the Western Ghats.advertisementThe state governments too have begun to show greater interest. R.J. Ranjit Daniels, director, Care Earth, Chennai, points out that Kerala has set up the Nilgiri Tahr Trust and Tamil Nadu has put the animal on the cover of a book on the state’s biodiversity suggesting that the tahr occupies a significant position in the state’s wildlife conservation plan.However, the pioneers in protecting the tahr, Tata Tea and HRWEPA favour conservation through better management of the flora and fauna. “The tahr has contributed to tourism and generating funds for management through regulated eco-tourism is the only way,” says T. Damu, vice-president, Taj Group of Hotels. They are keen to promote private ownership and management of the tahr tracts and going by their track record in this project, few would bet against their success.
A new hope Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.netPhoenix Pulse rolled to the best start of its PBA life on Wednesday night, but coach Louie Alas wants his charges to drop all of their bad habits if they are to become a force later on in the Philippine Cup.“We again fell into our [bad habit] relying on our offensive firepower after we take big leads,” Alas said after the Fuel Masters plastered Columbian, 108-98, at Smart Araneta Coliseum for a 3-0 card that now stands as the new team mark. “It happened twice [in this game] and we failed to execute after that.”ADVERTISEMENT MOST READ Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next LATEST STORIES Oil plant explodes in Pampanga town US judge bars Trump’s health insurance rule for immigrants Private companies step in to help SEA Games hosting SEA Games hosting troubles anger Duterte PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games PLAY LIST 02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games02:11Trump awards medals to Jon Voight, Alison Krauss Oil plant explodes in Pampanga town Grace Poe files bill to protect govt teachers from malicious accusations Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. “We want to win because of our defense,” said Alas, who admitted to being the most surprised in the team over their 3-0 start, especially after going winless in three tune-up games and losing two of those by wide margins.Next up for the Fuel Masters is Blackwater, and Phoenix will have a 10-day break before that game, which Alas said they would use “to learn more things and correct their mistakes.”John Paul Calvo scored 18 points to lead the Dyip, who will next slug it out with red-hot NorthPort, which is on a 2-0 run and is also enjoying its finest all-Filipino start under Pido Jarencio.Later in the night, RR Pogoy dropped the biggest points in the stretch and saved TNT KaTropa from imploding, with an 85-80 nipping of NLEX giving the Texters their first win.Pogoy hit a triple with 43 seconds left for five-point lead and then sealed the deal with two free throws with 2.6 ticks to play as the Texters finally broke their silence while dealing the Road Warriors a third straight defeat.ADVERTISEMENT Lacson backs proposal to elect president and vice president in tandem ‘We are too hospitable,’ says Sotto amid SEA Games woes Despite what Alas said, his Fuel Masters looked impressive in handling the Dyip and their super rookie CJ Perez, whom they held to just 10 points after he debuted with 26 in an upset 124-118 conquest of four-time defending champion San Miguel Beer.“We are still young, enjoying situations like that,” Alas continued in Filipino, referring to his wards holding a 19-point lead at one stage before allowing the Dyip to creep closer in the second half.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSUrgent reply from Philippine football chiefSPORTSWin or don’t eat: the Philippines’ poverty-driven, world-beating pool stars“We (coaching staff) need to instill it in the minds of the players” to keep playing hard even with a big lead, Alas said. “And we won’t tire reminding them (players) what to do.”Matthew Wright scattered 22 points, Calvin Abueva accounted for 16 and three others tossed in 12 or more for Alas. View comments