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Nature, Water

Bangladesh gave all its rivers their own legal rights

By Sigal Samuel

Bangladesh is sometimes known as the “land of the rivers.” It’s got hundreds of them — and over the years, they’ve been getting more and more polluted. But as of early July, every single one of them has a remarkable new level of protection: The Bangladeshi Supreme Court has given all rivers in the country legal rights.

Now, people who damage a river can get taken to court by the government-appointed National River Conservation Commission. They’ll be tried as if they’d harmed a living entity, because each river now has the right to life. That means the river’s government-designatedhuman representatives can sue on its behalf when it’s being endangered.

Bangladesh isn’t the first placeto pass such a law. In the US, Ohio voters in February granted Lake Erie the legal right to “exist, flourish, and naturally evolve,” and recent years have also seen national and state laws granting rights to rivers and forests from New Zealand to India to Colombia.

It’s all part of the nascent “rights of nature” movement, which argues that instead of viewing nature as property to be owned, we should recognize that it has its own inalienable rights similar to the ones we enjoy. Activists in the movement want us to give the environment a more central place in humanity’s expanding moral circle — the imaginary boundary we draw around those we consider worthy of moral consideration.

But even among the countries that have embraced the rights of nature, Bangladesh now stands out as having done something unprecedented. “What’s unique about Bangladesh is that they declared all rivers to have this status,” said Ben Price, the national director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), a nonprofit public interest law firm that helps people facing threats to their local environment. By contrast, other countries have granted rights only to individual bodies of water.

“In Bangladesh, the river is considered as our mother,” Mohammad Abdul Matin, general secretary of the Dhaka-based environmental group Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, told NPR. “The river is now considered by law, by code, a living entity, so you’ll have to face the consequence by law if you do anything that kills the river.”

The country already had fines in place to discourage people from harming the waterways, but those penalties weren’t working well enough to prevent pollution, illegal dredging, and the encroachment of human settlements. The Supreme Court hopes its landmark ruling will change that. Noting that “water is likely to be the most pressing environmental concern of the next century,” it called for rivers to be protected “at all costs.”

That’s music to the ears of environmentalists, but others argue that granting rights to rivers does come with real costs, and that they’re too high. With more communities getting interested in enshrining the rights of nature in law — Price said that activists in Europe, Asia, and Australia have reached out to CELDF for help — now is a good time to explore the difficulties that are likely to arise as this movement spreads.

Three problems with enforcing the rights of nature

Even as the rights of nature movement has inspired new legislation around the world, it’s also made clear how ill-equipped governments are to enforce it.

For one thing, once a river gets rights, what happens to all the people who live off it? In Bangladesh, millions — fishers, farmers, and their families — live in informal settlements or slums alongside the rivers and depend on the waters for their livelihoods. Now some are being evicted.

“The government must take stock of poor communities who need resettlement or protection from industries and real estate developers,” said Matin. “If enacted well, the verdict will be helpful in returning the rivers to the people who have historically depended on them.”

It’s also important to note that in some countries where these laws have been enacted, including Bangladesh, nature may now enjoy more rights than some humans in those societies do.

Bangladesh is currently hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees who have been driven out of neighboring Myanmar; these refugees, many of them women and children, lack legal status in Bangladesh and are restricted from attending Bangladeshi schools or working. The Bangladeshi government is also trying to find ways to get rid of the refugee population — through forced repatriation to Myanmar or sending refugees to a remote island accessible only by boat. Local officials have sought to justify this by saying the refugees are destroying the local environment.

A second problem is jurisdictional. Rivers don’t obey borders — they often traverse more than one country. If a certain country has granted rights to a river but a neighboring country hasn’t, that makes it difficult to legally protect the waterway from environmental harm. Bangladeshi environmental activists are already talking about how they won’t be able to compel India to comply with the new law on rivers.

Children collect plastic bottles from a polluted river in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Children collect plastic bottles from a polluted river in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

India itself dealt with this conundrum after the high court in Uttarakhand state granted personhood status to the Ganges and Yamuna rivers in 2017, appointing the state government as the rivers’ legal guardian. The state government soon challenged this law in India’s Supreme Court on the grounds that it was impractical because the river stretched far beyond Uttarakhand.The court agreed and stripped the rivers of their short-lived legal rights.

A third, related problem is that rights of nature laws tend to get tied up in court — and not everybody has the kind of money required to file a lawsuit. The risk, then, is that whoever has the funding may get to impose their will.

We’ve already seen an example of this in Ecuador, where an NGO called the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature sued a construction company that wanted to build a road over a river. The NGO won in court, but the company didn’t obey the ruling — and the NGO reportedly didn’t have enough money to launch a second court case against the company. So the ruling wasn’t properly enforced.

In Ohio, the Lake Erie Bill of Rights — the groundbreaking legislation that allows citizens to sue on behalf of the lake when it’s being polluted — is caught up in legal wrangling right now. The day after Toledo residents passed the bill in a special election in February, a corporate firm representing agribusiness interests filed a federal lawsuit against the city.

“We expect this kind of pushback because there are competing interests: The community needs healthy drinking water, while the business community has an interest in making money,” Price told me. The lake is currently experiencing severe algae blooms, and the city of Toledo just filed a new motion trying to get the lawsuit against the bill of rights dismissed.

How the rights of nature idea took off

In 1972, the case of Sierra Club v. Morton came before the US Supreme Court, leading to a deliberation over whether nature should have its own rights. The Court decided the answer was no, but Justice William O. Douglas dissented. “Contemporary public concern for protecting nature’s ecological equilibrium,” he wrote, “should lead to the conferral of standing upon environmental objects to sue for their own preservation.”

That same year, law professor Christopher Stone made a splash with an article titled “Should trees have standing?” It catalyzed other academics to write a slew of articles and booksconsidering whether natural environments ought to have rights enshrined in law.

In 2006, that question left the ether of academia and came to bear directly on toxic sewage sludge, which had been dumped in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania. Residents fought for — and won — the first rights of nature law in the world. Two years later, Ecuador became the first country to enshrine the rights of nature in its constitution, thanks in large part to the work of indigenous activists.

Since then, the victories have come fast and furious. In 2014, New Zealand recognized the legal rights of the Te Urewera forest. In 2017, it also declared the Te Awa Tupua river to have legal personhood. That same year, Colombia granted rights to the Atrato River and India recognized the Ganges and Yamuna rivers as legal persons.

In 2018, the Amazon rainforest got rights, and for the first time, so did a specific plant species: the wild rice known as manoomin, one of the Anishinaabe people’s staple crops. And this February, Ohio voters passed the Lake Erie Bill of Rights.

Granting the status of personhood to a natural environment may seem like a bizarre legal fiction, but it’s no more bizarre than the idea that corporations should enjoy that same status, which has been with us since the 1880s.

If we find it strange to view nature the way we view people, that may just be because we’ve grown up in an anthropocentric intellectual tradition that treats the natural world as an object to be examined and exploited for human use, rather than as a subject to be communed with and respected.

“The idea that we can be separate from nature is really a Western reductionist way of looking at the world — we can trace it back to Francis Bacon and the scientific method,” said Price.

He told me that just as women’s suffrage and the abolition of slavery were once unthinkable but gradually became accepted and normalized, the rights of nature idea seems odd now but will eventually gain social currency. “For the rights of nature to be understood and become something we’re comfortable with is going require a paradigm shift, just like the end of slavery did,” Price said.

That paradigm shift may entail nothing less than a total rejection of capitalism, according to Eduardo Gudynas, the executive secretary of the Latin American Center for Social Ecology in Uruguay. He argues that attempts to reduce environmental devastation while staying within a capitalism framework won’t be enough to address the climate crisis.

“The debate around the rights of nature is one of the most active frontlines in the fight for a non-market-based point of view,” Gudynas told me. “It’s a reaction against our society’s commodification of everything.”

Nature

Eco-China: Tibet sees significant progress in restoring biodiversity

Aerial photo taken on July 16, 2019 shows trees planted along banks of the Yarlung Zangbo River in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. Tibet has seen significant progress in restoring biodiversity, with a forest coverage rate of 12.14 percent, said a white paper released in March this year by China’s State Council Information Office. The population of Tibetan antelopes has grown from 60,000 in the 1990s to more than 200,000 and Tibetan wild donkeys have increased in numbers from 50,000 to 80,000, noted the document, titled “Democratic Reform in Tibet — Sixty Years On.” Since the Qomolangma Nature Reserve was established in 1988, Tibet has set up 47 nature reserves of all kinds, including 11 at state level, with the total area of nature reserves accounting for more than 34.35 percent of the total area of the autonomous region, the white paper said. Tibet has 22 eco-protection areas, including one at state level, 36 counties in receipt of transfer payments from central finance for their key ecological roles, four national scenic areas, nine national forest parks, 22 national wetland parks, and three national geoparks, figures showed. The central government has continued to increase eco-compensation for Tibet in return for its cost for protecting the eco-environment and the consequent losses in development opportunities. The white paper said that since 2001, the central government has paid 31.6 billion yuan (4.71 billion U.S. dollars) in eco-compensation to the autonomous region for protecting forests, grassland, wetland, and key ecological reserves.

Xinhua/Purbu Zhaxi

Animals, Nature

5 new species of fish discovered in Arunachal Pradesh

There are numbers of flora and fauna species in Arunchal Pradeshified yet.   reserchers and conservationists find them out them out sometime.Researchers of the Rajiv Gandhi University here have recently discovered five new fish species in various districts of the state.

The scientific names of the newly-discovered fish species are Mystus prabini, found in Sinkin and Dibang rivers in Lower Dibang Valley district and Exostoma kottelati, found in Ranga river in Lower Subansiri district, a release by the university said.

Other discovered species are Creteuchiloglanis tawangensis, found in the Tawangchu river in Tawang district, Garra ranganensis, found in Ranga river and Physoschistura harkishorei, found in Dibang and Lohit rivers in Lower Dibang Valley district, it said.

The team was led by Prof D N Das of the fisheries and aquatic ecology research wing of the Zoology department of the university.

“Majority of the water bodies in remote areas of the state are still not easily accessible to the researchers due to a difficult terrain that includes rain forests, steep hills besides communication problems,” Das said.

He, however, said his research team is optimistic that meticulous exploration may result in more discoveries of new fish species from the state in the future.

Indigenous People, Nature, Water

Meghalaya Cabinet approves draft water policy

The Meghalaya Cabinet has approved a draft water policy to address water usages, issues of conservation and protection of water sources in the state.

Chaired by Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma, the cabinet on Friday discussed at length the various aspects of the policy before approving the draft policy, Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong said.

“All issues related to utilization of water and livelihood and how to preserve water bodies have been outlined in this policy including community participation in the implementation of this policy by constituting a water sanitation village council at the village level,” Tynsong said.

The policy was drafted by the state Water Resources department in consultation with experts in water conservation and protection of water bodies.

The deputy chief minister said that Meghalaya being a hilly state, receives a lot of rainfall but the same water cannot be retained and all water reach Bangladesh in no time.

Among the other issues discussed on the policy was the need to optimize usage and conservation of water, steps needed to protect water bodies and water sources including ground water and protection of catchment and springshed areas.

Recently, the state government has launched the Jal Shakti mission to address the problems related to water.

The state cabinet has also approved the proposal of the Finance department to hike the salary of chairman and members of the Meghalaya Public Service Commission based on the recommendations of the fifth Meghalaya Pay Commission.

Water Mission

The Water Resources Department is implementing one new initiative which is the Integrated Water Resources Management Programme (IWRMP) which covers the activities under the Water Mission under the aegis of the IBDLP through the Meghalaya Water Resources Development Agency (MeWDA). This Programme is a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of the eco-system. Under this Programme, activities for management and maximum utilization of the available water resources through the implementation of water harvesting structures, Jalkunds and Multipurpose Reservoirs are being taken up. Further, other Programmes relating to water quality, capacity building and awareness, monitoring and evaluation of projects, policy and regulation have also been initiated.

Activities under the Mission

Briefly the present status of the different activities and Programme taken up under the Integrated Water Resources Management Programme is as follows:

Multipurpose Reservoirs (MRs)

During March 2013, an amount of Rs. 29.15 crores was sanctioned under Special Plan Assistance for development of Multipurpose Reservoirs (MRs). Multipurpose Reservoirs (MRs) are water bodies created in a cascade that will cater to the different water needs of the community. It may be mentioned that the Multipurpose Reservoirs (MRs) will have the following components:

  1. Structural components having a combination of components for different uses such as Drinking & Domestic Water, Irrigation, Fisheries, Livestock, Micro hydel (< 100kw; where ever feasible) etc.
  2. Non-structural components like capacity building, institution building, Management Information System (MIS), monitoring & evaluation, entrepreneurial promotion, etc.
  3. Ancillary Components like water filtration, soil fertility testing, water testing kits, improvement of traditional sources, improvement of catchment areas, conveyance systems through canals and pipes, etc. Presently, the District Water Resources Councils (DWRCs) have been instructed to identify feasible sites for which this Programme can be taken up shortly. The consultant engaged to support the Meghalaya Water Mission is also helping out to carry this work forward.

Jalkunds/Water Harvesting structures

A total amount of Rs. 28.00 crores has been sanctioned for the construction of Jalkunds and Water Harvesting structures for which the funding is as shown below:

  1. Under Special Plan Assistance – Rs. 15.00 crores
  2. Under Special Central Assistance – Rs. 10.00 crores
  3. Under the State Plan – Rs. 3.00 crores Total – Rs. 28.00 crores
  4. Out of this available fund, Rs. 7.99 crores has been allotted to the 164 schemes as proposed by the Water Resources Department, while Rs. 10.00 crores has been sanctioned for 385 schemes proposed by Soil & Water Conservation Department. The schemes are being implemented through the District Water Resources Councils (DWRCs). In order to sensitize the public on the implementation of Jalkunds and Water Harvesting structures, capacity building Programme have been taken up in the 7 district head quarters. A separate Programme on this subject was also held at Mawkyrwat in collaboration with the Mawkyrwat Farmers’ Association. Officers from the MeWDA, the Water Resources Department and the Soil & Water Conservation Department were deputed as resource persons for the Programme. Further, it is also proposed to implement Roof Top Rain Water Harvesting projects in Government and School buildings, PHCs and CHCs and accordingly the District Water Resources Councils have been instructed to identify and submit proposals.

Capacity Building & Awareness Programme

MeWDA and Water Resources Department, in collaboration with Central Soil & Material Research Station (CSMRS), New Delhi, has organized Awareness Programme on the topic “Save Water , Save Earth” in Khliehriat & Tura. The Programme at Khliehriat was held on 17th May 2013 and 200 students from different schools in the district had participated. In Tura, the Programme was held on 21st May 2013 with 250 students participated in the Programme. Competitions were held and prizes were distributed to the winners. Apart from competitions, presentations relating to water were made by the resource persons from Central Soil & Material Research Station (CSMRS), New Delhi.

Investigation, Planning & Preparation of Water Resources Projects

MeWDA has procured 2 (two) nos. of Light weight reflectorless Total Stations for the Soil & Water Conservation Department, one each for the Garo Hills and Khasi-Jaintia Hills Circle amounting to Rs. 9.2 Lakhs. These instruments will help the Department to take up more survey & investigation works and also help in preparing Detailed Project Reports (DPRs).

Monitoring & Evaluation of projects

MeWDA through the Integrated Water Resources Management Programme has funded an amount of Rs. 13.77 Lakhs for engaging an agency for third party monitoring of projects under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP), implemented by the Water Resources Department and Soil & Water Conservation Department. The work is under progress.

Others

Others MeWDA with the assistance of the engaged consultants are in the process of preparing two proposals for funding by Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for the creation of Multipurpose Reservoirs (MRs) in the State.

Chandan Kumar Duarah

Nature

Assam to get its sixth national park

Assam is all set to get its sixth national park in a lush forest cover in Dima Hasao district.

As per reports, the national park will cover a proposed protected area of Simleng River Impenetrable National Park of 100 sq km area and will form a large contiguous conservation belt together with the adjacent Borail Wildlife Sanctuary of Cachar district and the Nampuh Wildlife Sanctuary near Megahalaya.

The State already has five national parks at KazirangaManasNameriDibru-Saikhowa and Orang.

The district currently has Langting Mupa Reserve Forest (497.55 sq km), Krungming Reserve Forest (124.42 sq km) and Barail Reserve Forest (89.93 sq km).

The forests of the district also comprise a variety of fauna like tiger, leopard, elephant, barking deer, black bear, wild dog, wild buffalo, reptiles etc.

The important flora of the district include Haldu, Gamari, Titachopa, Nahar, Bonsum, Bogipoma, Bola, Koroi, Bhelu, Makri, Sal etc.

With varieties of flora and fauna in abundant green covers, the State is now ready to get a sixth national park soon.

Adventure

Traffic jams making Everest deadly

The reward for climbers who ascend Mount Everest is a view like none other, an expansive vista of the Himalayas from the highest point on the planet. On Wednesday, those who made it to the top saw something else: Hundreds of other climbers.

The final leg of their journey to the summit was a traffic jam of trekkers enticed by good weather, the route clogged by a single-file march of 250 to 300 people along a precarious cliff that caused delays of about three hours.

Nirmal Purja, who photographed the scene, was among the climbers who scaled the peak on Wednesday, despite what he described as “heavy traffic”.

Everest graphic

The long, winding line to the peak added another element of risk to what is already one of the most dangerous mountains, raising the possibility of frostbite and oxygen depletion. At least two climbers died after having reached the summit on Wednesday, and their deaths may have been related to the delays.

Donald Cash, 54, an American, died after collapsing on the mountain following an unusually long summit, according to Pioneer Adventures, a Kathmandu-based organisation that leads expeditions on Everest.

Cash was traveling with Sherpa guides from Pioneer Adventures, the organisation said, and fainted from altitude sickness. He could not be revived by the Sherpas.

The other fatality, Anjali Kulkarni, 54, an Indian, collapsed while returning from the summit with her husband, according to Arun Treks and Expedition, which led the trip.

“Due to the huge traffic yesterday and the delay in being able to return back, she couldn’t maintain her energy,” said Phupden Sherpa, the tour group’s manager.

Sherpa, who recalled similar episodes in 2017 that resulted in climber deaths, said it took the group an additional three hours to return to camp, a wait that he believes contributed to her death. Several of the climbers with Kulkarni returned to their camp with frostbite and other injuries.

Nivesh Karki, the manager of Pioneer Adventures, attributed the congestion at the summit to good weather. The frequently changing conditions mean that there is often only a small window of time for climbing, so on Wednesday, more groups than usual chose to push ahead rather than wait and risk harsh weather. “It was such a clear day, everyone was rushing to the summit,” he said.

“Once the weather is bad, no one can summit. So in good weather, everyone will try to go for the summit.”

Karki said the crowding on the mountain increased the peril for all climbers, even under normal circumstances. Two climbers are believed to have died on Everest last week: An Indian man was found dead in his tent and an Irishman went missing after a fall.

“This is a huge problem because the route is already dangerous, and there is always risk,” he said. “And a lot of traffic makes the journey quite difficult.”

But despite the risks, Everest has grown increasingly crowded. In 2018, a record number of climbers made it to the summit, according to figures from Alan Arnette, who chronicles the journeys of climbers on the mountain on his blog. 

Three Indian climbers have died on Nepal’s Mount Everest this week, bringing the death toll this season on the world’s highest peak to six.

Nihal Bagwan, an Indian climber who was part of a two-member expedition, died at camp four after descending from the summit late on Thursday, expedition organiser Babu Sherpa said on Friday.

“He reached the summit at 8am [02:15 GMT], but lost his energy while descending. So four Sherpa guides brought him back to the lower camp, where he died inside the tent,” Babu told media

Kalpana Das, a 53-year-old woman from India, who was part of a three-nation women’s expedition team, also died on Thursday, said Meera Acharya, an official at the department of tourism.

Anjali Kulkarni, 53, who was returning from the summit of Everest with her husband Sharad Kulkarni, died during her descent on Wednesday, according to Acharya.

Earlier this month, a US climber and an Indian mountaineer had died on their descent from Everest. An Irish climber who went missing is presumed dead on the mountain.

Babu, the managing director of Peak Promotion, said overcrowding had congested the route from camp 4 to the top.

“There were only short weather windows and everyone was trying to climb at once,” he said.

Nature, Pre- History

Bones of mysterious extinct Neanderthal-like humans discovered in the Himalayas

An extinct race of Neanderthal-like humans populated the Tibetan plateau more than 100,000 years ago and passed on genes that help modern-day Sherpas survive at high altitudes, a ground-breaking new discovery suggests. A 160,000-year-old Denisovan jawbone unearthed in a cave in Xiahe, China, is the oldest hominid fossil ever found in the vast Himalayan region that has an average altitude of 4,500 metres (14,800ft). Until now physical evidence of Denisovans had only been known from fossils from a single cave site in Siberia. But traces of Denisovan DNA have been detected in present-day Asian, Australian and Melanesian populations, suggesting that they may have once been widespread.

A virtual reconstruction of the Denisovan jawbone that was found (Picture: Jean-Jacques Hublin/PA) Both Denisovans and their sister human sub-species, the Neanderthals, are known to have interbred with the ancestors of people living today. Most intriguingly, modern Sherpas and Tibetans appear to have inherited Denisovan genetic variants that help them cope with high altitudes. The new find suggests that they settled on the Tibetan plateau thousands of years before early modern humans, and the two groups later interbred. Baishiya Karst Cave, where the jawbone was discovered, is at an altitude of 3,280 metres (10,760 feet). A view of the cave where the bones were found (Picture: PA) Scientists were unable to find any DNA preserved in the fossil, but managed to extract proteins from one of the molars. Analysis showed that it was clearly Denisovan. Dr Dongju Zhang, from Lanzhou University in China’s Gansu province, who co-led the research, said: ‘Archaic hominins occupied the Tibetan plateau in the Middle Pleistocene and successfully adapted to high-altitude, low oxygen environments long before the regional arrival of modern Homo sapiens.’ The well-preserved jawbone is robust with very large molars, features shared by Denisovans and Neanderthals, according to the study reported in Nature journal. A heavy carbonate crust covering the fossil allowed scientists to date it to at least 160,000 years old. The oldest specimens from ‘Denisova Cave’ in Siberia are from a similar time period. However, the Siberian site is only 700 metres (2,296ft) above sea level. Modern day humans are not thought to have arrived on the Tibetan plateau until around 40,000 years ago. Sherpas in Nepal (Picture: Alex Brylov/Getty Images) Sherpas have lived in the Himalayas for at least 6,000 years. Studies have shown that they have developed a physiology similar to that of a fuel-efficient car. Their muscles get more mileage out of less oxygen than those of the average person. Sherpas have mitochondria – tiny rod-like power plants in cells – that are extra-efficient at using oxygen. While their red blood cell count is increased in thin mountain air, it remains below the point at which the blood thickens and strains the heart, causing altitude sickness. The Denisovan jawbone was originally discovered in 1980 by a local monk. He donated it to the sixth Gung-Thang Living Buddha, a Buddhist Lama, or teacher, who passed it to Lanzhou University.

Environment, Nature

People’s biodiversity registers will collate data on plants, animals, trees, crops, traditional knowledge

By: Gulshan Ahuja 

India is among the 17 mega bio-diverse countries of the world. Four of the 34 biodiversity hotspots identified in the world are in India — the Western Ghats, the Eastern Himalayas, the Indo-Burma region and the Sundaland (includes Nicobar Group of Islands). India has 10 bio-geographic zones with 46,000 plant species and 96,000 species of animals recorded so far.
The steep decline in biodiversity is a major cause of concern across the world. Plants and animals become extinct in a gradual process but this decline has increased manifold due to human activities. Many regions in the world have seen a major dip in the biodiversity owing to changes in climate and increasing pollution levels and overexploitation of bio-resources for commercial use. Tasmanian tiger, golden toad, Caribbean monk seal, ivory-billed woodpecker, western black rhinoceros are some of the examples of animals species that have gone extinct and mountain gorilla, sea turtle, Amur leopard and tiger are on the verge of extinction. Similarly, plants and trees like Lepidodendron, Araucaria Mirabilis, wood cycad and Kokia cookei are extinct and many others are endangered.

Rio de Janeiro convention on biodiversity 1992

Realizing the need to conserve biodiversity, the world community met during Earth Summit in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and signed the convention on biological diversity (CBD), a landmark treaty that set the framework for conservation of biodiversity and its sustainable use. The treaty was ratified by 196 countries and India became signatory in 1994. The convention recognizes sovereign rights of the states over their resources with three objectives — conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of its components, fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of biological resources.

In India, the Biological Diversity Act was passed in 2002 and the Centre formulated Biological Diversity Rules in 2004. The National Biodiversity Authority, headquartered in Chennai, was constituted and all the states set up State Biodiversity Boards. Now, biodiversity management committees are being set up local body levels across the states.

Conservation of biodiversity

It is vital that everyone contributes to the conservation of biodiversity by reducing overexploitation of natural resources, planting trees and avoiding activities that lead to pollution as pollution is the largest single factor responsible for climate change leading to loss of ecosystems and biodiversity.

In Haryana, the Haryana State Biodiversity Board is working to achieve the objectives of the convention on biological diversity by educating people and spreading awareness on the importance of conserving biodiversity. The biodiversity management committees across the state will be imparted skill development training in biodiversity management on the importance of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. They will also be made aware of their rights in use of bio-resources by traders and manufacturers and will be helped in getting their share of benefits through the access benefit sharing (ABS) mechanism that was decided in the Nagoya Protocol signed by the CBD nations in Japan in 2010.

The biodiversity management committees will also be involved in creating people’s biodiversity registers (PBRs) to collate data on plants, animals, trees, agricultural crops (agri-biodiversity) and traditional knowledge existing in the area about use of bio-resources, particularly herbal plants. This information will help them become partners in benefit sharing in bio-resources occurring in the area in case of commercial utilization of bio-resources.

Bio-resources are plants, animals and micro-organisms, but not human genetic material, according to the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.

The theme of the International Day for Biological Diversity being celebrated across the globe on May 22 this year is “Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health.”

Haryana is organizing essay writing and photography contests, and painting competitions by professional painters and nature lovers as well as school children. On this day, it becomes imperative for all of us to start thinking about conservation and sustainable aspects of biodiversity. The conservation of biodiversity is a necessity and we must make efforts to conserve it rather than contributing towards its decline.

(The writer, a former IFS officer, is chairman of the Haryana State Biodiversity Board, Panchkula)

Health, Nature

What is Kush cannabis and why is it so popular?

by ALEX TRPKOVICH, GREENCAMP.COM

You may have heard Kush being mentioned in many popular hip-hop songs. Time for an education on everything there is to know about the strain.

Hindu Kush—historically grown only in the mountain range of the same name, which mostly runs along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan—is one of the most potent landrace strainsavailable. The Himalayan slopes gave birth to the strain, which over time, brought about many other strains that inherited part of its name—Kush.

What does the slang Kush mean?

In the last decade or so, the word “Kush” has become synonymous with premium cannabis strains; high-quality street cannabis is often called Kush among users. Kush became the go-to term for high-quality cannabis in the U.S., quickly replacing its contemporaries.

What is Kush?

Kush is primarily a cannabis indica strain, which has risen in popularity in the last decade, and played a pivotal role in creating dozens of modern-day hybrid strains. One will rarely see a Kush strain that is a purebred sativa, although this can occur with proper growing conditions, combined with relentless cross-breeding.

Macro view of the Black Lotus Kush bud. ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS

When Kush is grown under specific conditions, its unique phenotypes come out in a different light. Kush plants are known to evolve and acclimate in order to survive. Nowadays, Kush is grown all around the world, but its tough Himalayan genetics endured and continue to follow the strain, giving it both durability and potency.

It is most likely true that Kush is a lost strain and that its precise genetics are unknown. That said, the next best thing is available, namely OG Kush, also known as Ocean Grown Kush.

The rise of OG Kush

OG Kush first appeared in California during the 1990s, right around the time Dr. Dre dropped his The Chronic album, which took the cannabis community by storm.

There are two stories that explain the strain’s mysterious genetics. The first is that a breeder claimed to have gotten the seed from a bag of Chemdawg 91 strain, in the Lake Tahoe area in 1996; the second goes that it was brought to California from Florida, by a grower who now operates a company known as Imperial Genetics. He reports the parents of this strain were a male cross of Lemon Thai and Old World Paki Kush, and a female Chemdawg plant.

Unfortunately, OG Kush is a clone-only strain and, at that time, one couldn’t simply plant a seed of this strain. Rather, a cutting from an existing plant is needed.

There is a lot of confusion about the origin of the name, and what OG exactly stands for. Given that it was bred in California, many users thought it meant Original Gangster, or just Original Kush. However, the truth is the grower who first bred OG Kush in California was asked by a consumer if it was mountain-grown, complimenting the quality of his buds. The grower responded with a simple, “This Kush is ocean-grown, bro.” The rest is history.

Quickly after that, cuttings of various OG Kush plants began making the rounds around Los Angeles and the rest of California. Those cuttings made way for new, closely-related strains.

Hindu Kush—historically grown only in the mountain range of the same name, which mostly runs along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan—is one of the most potent landrace strains available. ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS

The strains that came from these plants all gained popularity, and developed into Cannabis Cupwinners themselves, including Bubba Kush, West Coast Dog, Larry OG, Tahoe OG Kush, Triple OG, Ghost OG, Diablo OG and so forth.

What does the Kush high feel like?

Kush strains are known to have the utmost relaxing effect, all while making the user giggly and joyous. These traits aren’t common among the different cannabis strains that came from Kush.

Kush strains with strong ties to their indica roots are very hard to come by these days, as the cannabis community moved towards growing highly resistant hybrids. However, those who still grow Kush with a higher indica presence are known to produce flowers with potent cerebral effects that “tranquilize” the user, and these buds are frequently recommended as a way to battle insomnia.

Popular Kush strains

There are 100-plus strains containing the word Kush in their names, and many more that came about by cross-breeding Kush strains with other strains. As previously mentioned, landrace Hindu Kush is known for its resilience and the ability to grow just about anywhere, a useful trait that made Hindu Kush one of the most sought-after strains by growers and breeders.

As it now stands, there are overwhelmingly more hybrid and indica Kush strains than sativa Kush strains. Additionally, most of the Kush strains aren’t pure indicas and sativas, but rather hybrids whose one trait is more dominant than the other.

With that in mind, here are picks of some of the best Kush strains by three separate categories. The most popular indica-dominant Kush strains include Kosher Kush, Bubba Kush, Critical Kush, Afghan Kush, Platinum Kush, Hindu Kush, Super Kush, Sin City Kush, Alien Kush, Purple Kush, Purple OG Kush and Master Kush; the most popular hybrid Kush strains include OG Kush, Pink Kush, Lemon OG Kush, Cali Kush, Royal Kush, Mango Kush, Pineapple Kush, Holy Grail Kush and Big Kush; and the most popular sativa-dominant Kush strains include Mickey Kush, Silver Kush, Quantum Kush and Heisenberg Kush.

What is the best Kush strain?

OG Kush is widely viewed as the best Kush strain because of its legacy. That said, it’s somewhat difficult to classify one strain as the absolute best, mostly because each crop varies in quality and cannabinoid and terpene levels. There are also many variations of a more or less same strain.

Given that OG Kush was originally a clone-only strain, growers named clones of different potency different names. This has produced confusion since, at one point, a person might have smoked the exact same weed from two different growers marketed under two different names.

If the best strain is characterized as “the one with the highest level of THC,” then the Oscar goes to Ghost OG. This strain is, without a doubt, the strongest Kush variety, at least so indicates Washington State I-502 data.

In that testing sample, Ghost OG, which is a cutting from the original OG Kush mother stock, consistently came in at a colossal 28.7 percent THC content. On the same test, OG Kush results came in significantly lower, averaging around 19.4 percent THC content.

In a study conducted by scientists Nick Jikomes and Michael Zoorob, they found OG Kush isn’t topping its competitors, at least as far as THC levels go. In their study, Gorilla Glue #4—now usually known as Original Glue—came in first place with an average of 21 percent THC. The researchers concluded that there’s still a lot of test result manipulation going on and that retailers often display cannabinoid levels much higher than they actually are.

With that in mind, THC levels should not determine which Kush strain is “best”, because the delicate balance of minor cannabinoids and terpenes also plays an important role in the effects of each particular strain. There is much more to a strain than just numbers on a piece of paper.

Greencamp.com is an educational website dedicated to shedding the light on many unexplored sides of medical and recreational cannabis. Aside from informing people of safe cannabis use, Greencamp also provides technology for finding optimal cannabis treatment. You can download their app from Itunes or the Google Play store.

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International, Nature

New species of orchid discovered in Tibet

Researchers have discovered a new species of orchid in southwestern China’s Tibet Autonomous Region and the finding has been published on a scientific journal.

Li Jianwu, senior engineer of the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and one of the authors said the new species was found during a botanical survey in 2017 in the Yarlung Zangbo River Basin in Bomi and Medog counties in Tibet.

Growing on trees or mossy rocks near the riverside with an altitude of 1,700 to 2,000 meters, the orchid has conical pseudobulbs, ovate-oblong leaves, and ovate-rhomnus petals.

Researchers transplanted the orchid to the tropical botanical garden in southwestern Yunnan Province and later confirmed it as a new species.

The new finding has been published on Phytotaxa. (Xinhua))