Today's News

Today's News [OCTOBER 15, 2003]

  • Govt. to allow quarrying in forest areas

  • E.U. aims to stem illegal rainforest timber trade

  • Startling Deep-Sea Encounter With Rare, Massive Shark

  • Govt. to allow quarrying in forest areas

    THE HINDU [15TH October, 2003]
    By Our Staff Correspondent

    MYSORE, OCT. 14. The Minister for Mines and Geology, V. Muniyappa, today said quarrying in forest areas would be allowed in the State, based on certain conditions, and the matter would be placed before the Cabinet shortly for approval.

    Mr. Muniyappa told presspersons here: "Under conditional quarrying, mining activities in forest areas will be allowed only if the Forest Department approves it. The mining will be restricted to the periphery of the forests." He clarified that quarrying would not be allowed in the fragile Western Ghats. He pointed out that Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh had allowed quarrying in forest areas.

    The Minister said that the State's share in the country's granite exports had declined to 15 per cent from a peak of 75 per cent. The State occupied the third position after Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in terms of granite exports.

    Giving reasons for the decline in exports, he said better quality granite blocks were available in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. While the granite available in Kollegal was good, the black granite available in Chamarajanagar area had limited demand as it was used only for monuments. Pink granite, another variety available in the State, did not have much of a market abroad now, he said.

    He also said that the Government did not intend to permit the resumption of quarrying in the Kollegal area where quarrying was banned in 1992. Quarrying would not be permitted until the Veerappan menace ended.

    Mr. Muniyappa said the State had witnessed a progressive increase in the amount of royalty collected from the mining industry. While the total fee collected during the financial year 1999-2000 was Rs. 126 crore, during 2002-03, the amount collected was Rs. 167 crore. The target for the financial year 2003-04 was Rs. 184 crore. However, the target was likely to be exceeded and the royalty could be around Rs. 200 crore. The collection as on date stood at Rs. 85 crore, he said.

    On the reasons for the increase in royalty collection, Mr. Muniyappa said the State had been witnessing a spurt in road construction, fuelling a demand for construction material. Further, he said that the area of mining in the State had gone up by five per cent leading to increased income to the department.

    The Minister said the area under illegal quarrying had come down drastically, and claimed that 99 per cent of the illegal quarrying had been stopped.

    This, he said, was due to the introduction of mobile squads for checking and monitoring illegal quarrying. A sum of Rs. 14.42 lakh had been collected as penalties for illegal quarrying in the south zone alone, he said.

    Mr. Muniyappa also announced that gram panchayats would be soon allowed to impose royalty for sand mining in their area.

    The decision to approve sand mining would be made by the respective gram panchayats, which would be allowed to keep 50 per cent of the royalty collected from sand mining.

    He said the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd. had sought land near Hospet to undertake mining. The existing lease for KIOCL to conduct mining in Chikmagalur district would end in 2005.

    Earlier, he presided over the quarterly review meeting of the performance of the department's south zone.


    E.U. aims to stem illegal rainforest timber trade

    Environmental News Network [15TH October, 2003]
    By Jeremy Smith, Reuters

    LUXEMBOURG - E.U. countries plan to deal a blow to a billion dollar trade in illegal logging in endangered rainforests whose profits often fuel organized crime and conflict in some of the world's poorest countries.

    European Union farm ministers meeting on Monday instructed the E.U.'s executive commission to draft legislation for certifying legal timber imports in a bid to clean up the US$150 billion global forest product trade.

    A key part of the E.U.'s battle against illegal logging is to stop the trade's laundered profits from being diverted into organized crime. One problem to be addressed in the commission's draft law is that only a handful of E.U. states designate crimes relating to illegal logging under current money-laundering legislation.

    "In some forest-rich countries, the corruption fueled by profits from illegal logging has grown to such an extent that it is undermining the rule of law, principles of democratic governance, and respect for human rights," an E.U. statement said. "In some cases the illegal exploitation of forests is also associated with violent conflict. Profits from the illegal exploitation of forests and of other natural resources are often used to fund and prolong these conflicts."

    Environmental groups estimate that European imports of illegally sourced timber are worth 1.2 billion euros a year.

    Under the planned scheme, once a country or regional bloc has signed up to a Forest Law Enforcement, Governance, and Trade (FLEGT) agreement, the E.U. will refuse to accept imported timber from that state unless it is certified as legal.

    The E.U. is an important market for both legal and illegally harvested timber entering international trade. It is the largest importer of plywood and sawnwood from Africa, the second largest from Asia, and a key market for Russia.

    "Although the supply-side of the problem lies in timber-producing countries, strong international demand for timber can be exploited by unscrupulous operators and traders ... encouraging illegal logging operations," the ministers said. "As a major source of this demand, important measures can be taken by the E.U. and other major consumers of timber products to direct demand towards only legally harvested timber," they said.

    In the draft law to be prepared by mid-2004, the E.U. will target southeast Asia, South America, central Africa, and Russia.

    Half of global trade in tropical timber is illegally produced and causes severe environmental consequences, environmental groups say, citing estimates for 1990-95 that show a net forest loss equal to 33 soccer fields per minute.


    Startling Deep-Sea Encounter With Rare, Massive Shark

    Environmental News Network [15TH October, 2003]

    During a recent submersible dive 3,000 feet down in the Gulf of Maine a HARBOR BRANCH scientist and sub pilot had the first face-to-face meeting ever in the deep sea with a rare Greenland shark. The docile 15-foot creature gently rammed into the submersible's clear front sphere before turning and swimming slowly away. The entire encounter was captured on video, a clip of which can be viewed by clicking under the shark's photo at:

    HARBOR BRANCH researcher Marsh Youngbluth and his team were in the region studying a large jellyfish known as Nanomia cara, which can cause commercial fish catch declines by out-competing fish larvae for certain foods and by filling and fouling fish nets. He and submersible pilot Tim Askew, Jr. were startled by the huge shark's appearance and feared at first that it might damage the submersible or its scientific sampling equipment, though no harm was done. After the shark swam away from the submersible Askew followed it for several minutes.

    Though in the early 1900s Greenland sharks were fished commercially, they have rarely been captured on video and never before from a manned submersible in the deep sea or under natural conditions. All past filming encounters involved sharks lured with bait or captured on fishing lines and brought near the surface.

    Greenland sharks, also called sleeper or gurry sharks, have been known to grow as long as 21 feet, and are outsized only by great white, basking, and whale sharks. Greenland sharks are poorly understood but known for their lethargic swimming and a unique fishing technique. Small marine crustaceans known as copepods generally attach themselves to the sharks' eyes (and are visible in the new footage), possibly blinding them, but giving off light that attracts curious fish.

    It is not clear how the sluggish animals are able to catch the fast-moving fish and squid commonly found in their stomachs. Some scientists have theorized that the sharks are able to swim rapidly in bursts, but there is also evidence that they are able to suck nearby fish into their mouths. Greenland sharks also eat seals, dead whales, and other animals, including in at least one documented case, an entire reindeer. They are typically found in Arctic waters at depths down to 1,800 feet, but have been recorded as far south as the coast of South Carolina and at nearly 7,000 feet down.