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Indo-Bangladesh: Climate Change, tourism causing ‘irreversible damage’ to Sundarbans Reserve

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Sundarbans
Bengal Tiger of the Sundarbans. Image source: blogspot.com/

New Delhi: Unregulated tourism and rapidly increasing temperatures are posing “irreversible damage” to the Sundarbans biosphere reserve, one of the largest mangrove habitats in the world, environmental groups warn.

Uncontrolled tourism is polluting the reserve, which is shared by India and Bangladesh, to an extent that is “beyond rectification,” Belinda Wright, executive director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), told reporters.

“Tourism, especially for tiger viewing, is increasing exponentially in the area and needs to be monitored. It is causing major pollution, as huge quantities of plastic material and other debris are dumped into the water,” she said.

The Sundarbans, a delta of the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna river basin, is spread over 9,630 square km (3,718 square miles).

The Indian side of Sundarbans covers a 4,000-square-km (1,544-square-mile) area with a population of around 5 million.

Out of 102 islands within the Sundarbans, 54 are inhabited while 48 are forested. The forested part has three wildlife sanctuaries and a national park, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Image source: benarnews.org
Image source: benarnews.org

‘A heightened state of danger’

The largest habitat of the Royal Bengal Tiger, the Sundarbans is home to five critically endangered reptiles, including the Hawksbill Sea Turtle and River Terrapin.

The endangered and near-threatened species in Sundarbans include the Asian Giant Softshell Turtle, Indian Rock Python, King Cobra, Greater Adjutant Stork, Black-headed Ibis, Fishing Cat and Gangetic Dolphin.

According to official figures, about 175,000 tourists visited the Sundarbans tiger reserve, while another 42,000 people visited the biosphere reserve in 2015.

Besides large-scale tourism, climate change is also posing a threat to Sundarbans, according to World Wildlife Fund-India (WWF-India).

A Climate Adaptation Report released by the group warned that Sundarbans was “already in the midst of a heightened state of danger.”

Atmospheric warming is causing thermal expansion of waters, inducing a sea-level rise of about 12 mm per year, the report said, adding that surface air temperatures over the Bay of Bengal have been rising at a rate of 0.019 degrees Celsius (0.034 degrees Fahrenheit) per year.

“Given the disproportionately heavy impact that climate change is expected to have on this delta area, the need to improve adaptive management and develop more appropriate solutions for this unique system has become acutely urgent,” the WWF report said.

Ratul Saha, who heads WWF’s Sundarbans Landscape team, said, “The current policies and patterns of development have to be completely revised, or else the situation would be catastrophic. The livelihoods and the survival of the people are at risk.”

Climate change has been found to be responsible for several cyclonic storms and increased frequency of extreme weather events in the recent past in the Sundarbans, Saha said. It has also been causing coastal erosion, change in embankments, acidification of waters and submergence of islands, he added.

Cross-border infiltration

Another major threat to the habitat is the increasing salinity in the waters, which is resisting the growth of mangroves, locals said.

Besides rising salinity levels, infiltration from Bangladesh into the Indian side of Sundarbans in West Bengal state is a matter of concern for wildlife conservationists.

“Infiltration does take place. We cannot dispute that. But these intruders come only during the honey season [April-May],” Pradeep Vyas, Chief Wildlife Warden in West Bengal told reporters.

“We are jointly patrolling the border areas with the Border Security Force and Indian Coast Guard to check infiltration,” he said.

Vyas said his department was doing its best to protect the habitat.

“We have banned the use of polythene bags. We are also trying to develop new tourism destinations to take pressure off the over-utilized parts [of the Sundarbans],” he said.

(The article was originally published in benarnews.org)

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Ex-French Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay Elected to Head UNESCO

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Audrey Azoulay, a French-Jewish woman
Audrey Azoulay, a French-Jewish woman of Moroccan descent, as its next Director-General. Wikimedia

United Nations, October 14: A day after the US and Israel announced they were withdrawing from the Unesco alleging anti-Israel bias in the organization, it elected Audrey Azoulay, a French-Jewish woman of Moroccan descent, as its next Director-General.

In the final round of voting by Unesco’s Executive Board on Friday at its headquarters in Paris, Azoulay defeated Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari of Qatar, winning 30 votes to his 28.

Audrey Azoulay will succeed Irina Bokova, a Bulgarian who ran unsuccessfully for Secretary-General of the UN last year.

In her vision statement or manifesto, while campaigning for the post, Azoulay wrote, “Unesco must assert itself with ambition as the conscience of the United Nations.”

Through “the defense of humanist values” the Unesco can bring new life to the UN’s “universalist project of peace and democracy,” she said.

Unesco is the science, education and culture arm of the UN family.

Audrey Azoulay has had a long career in arts and culture administration before becoming Culture Minister last year and leaving the job after the national elections last May.

She has been the deputy Director-General of the French National Centre of Cinematography and a legal expert on culture and communication for the European Commission.

When she takes over the helm of Unesco she must grapple with the fallout of the US leaving the organization.

US membership in the Unesco will formally end in 2018 but already in 2013 Washington had lost its voting rights because Congress stopped paying the dues to the organization starting in 2011 because it had admitted Palestine as a full member.

The US contribution was 22 percent of Unesco’s budget and the organization had to cut its programmes with US arrears in excess of 600 million.

The breaking point for the US came in July when Unesco called the Old City of Hebron and a sanctuary considered holy by both Jews and Muslims in the West Bank a part of Palestinian territory while designating them World Heritage Site.

The area is under Israeli control and Israel claims the area. Palestinians call Hebron Al-Khalil and the sanctuary is called the Tomb of the Patriarchs by Jews and Ibrahim Mosque by Muslims.

The campaign for Unesco’s top job started with 10 candidates and the list was whittled down to three this week.

Egyptian Moushira Khattab was the third candidate in Thursday’s fourth round ballot where Azoulay and Al-Kawari led and moved on to the final round.(IANS)

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National Book Trust (NBT) Chairman: Nurturing Creativity and Innovation in Children at an Early Age are Much Needed

How should current school curriculum be modified for an overall development of Children?

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Nurturing creativity and innovation in children
Nurturing creativity and innovation in children. Pixabay
  • Education should work in the direction of expanding the horizon of knowledge children
  • There is a need to shift educational learning for school goers from content mastery to competency mastery
  • To compete with the children worldwide, they need to have an understanding that is beyond books

New Delhi, August 21, 2017: There is a need to look beyond the world of text books and inculcate in children qualities like empathy towards society, humanity, sensitivity towards other human beings and nature.

Baldeo Bhai Sharma, Chairman of National Book Trust (NBT), talked about nurturing creativity, innovation in young minds for nation’s economic and spiritual development.

He was speaking at the FICCI’s first-ever Children’s Publishing Conclave called ‘Scrapbook’. Mr. Sharma said that it is crucial to observe and spot the creativity in children. To not just bound them to the school curriculum. The Supplementary books in school should teach them about the life lessons, that they should be good human beings. Such books will help them in the developing a good and positive personality; it will also strengthen their thinking and imaginative skills.

ALSO READ: 11 Facts about Education System Around the World: Do they prove to be Beneficial for Children?

In the conclave, he talked about how brave soldiers can inspire kids to be like that when they grow up and fight for their country someday. If not, even then such books will inculcate a feeling of patriotism in them. According to ANI reports, Mr. Sharma (pointing towards NBT’s efforts) said, “‘The Veergatha’ series had been introduced by NBT, which talks of the great acts of bravery by Indian soldiers.” The first series has a set of 5 books in English and Hindi, they are written so as to inspire the young minds and evoke feelings of patriotism in children from an early age.

Children are sometimes overburdened with books.  UNESCO encourages learning in mother tongue, especially at the early stage.  Sharma said that education should work in the direction of expanding the horizon of knowledge in a child and he agrees with UNESCO that teaching a child in mother tongue should be encouraged to retain cultural values.

Dr. Hrushikesh Senapaty, Director of NCERT, said: “There is a need to shift educational learning for school goers from content mastery to competency mastery, where competencies should be classified into character, intellectual and social.” He stressed upon the need to make the classroom environment vibrant where teachers would play the role of a facilitator- will provide them with an opportunity where they can develop and strengthen their competencies as well as communication ability. He added, “The Indian education system is moving from knowledge construction to knowledge processing with the help of technology, enabling children to explore, innovate and create.”

ALSO READ: Ragas for Preschool Children: Combining Classical Music with Fun Exercises

Appreciating FICCI’s initiative, Dr. Senapaty said that the goal of this publishing conclave is to produce content which is rich in quality and is innovative. It will enable them to learn in a collaborative environment. He added, “Indian children have performed well when they follow a prescribed school curriculum but to compete with the children worldwide, they need to have an understanding that is beyond books and focus on skills like building their applied knowledge.”

Children should explore, innovate and create
Children should explore, innovate and create. Pixabay

Ms. Urvashi Butalia, Chairperson, FICCI Publishing Committee and Director, Zubaan, said that the conclave focused on:

  • promoting book reading amongst young minds
  • government and children’s publishers- enhance learning outcome in educational space
  • policy advocacy- nurture collaboration between schools
  • addressed- gender misrepresentation in children’s books
  • concerns- children’s content in school books
  • implementing theory of multiple intelligence on children’s content- enhance learning outcome
  • changing role of technology in children’s content and its impact on K-12 (kindergarten (K) and the 1st -12th grade) education

Dr. A. Didar Singh, Secretary-General, FICCI, said that this platform will help to explore possible collaboration between children, content creators, offline and online service providers, publishers, technology disruptors, schools, teachers, parents, and policymakers. The conclave focused on the important aspects like learning requirements of an individual child, crucial role publishers can play to address it.

The conclave also had some interesting workshops for school children. The workshops had activities like creative writing, story-telling and received appreciation from the young minds.


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Ancient Caves, Ice Age Art and Bauhaus buildings in Germany to be considered for World Heritage Site by UNESCO

UNESCO has to decide on the addition of ancient caves and Bauhaus buildings to the World Heritage Sites

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This, Tuesday, June 27, 2017 photo shows the Bauhaus main building in Dessau.The Bauhaus World Heritage is to be extended to include the Houses with Balcony Access on the Dessau-Toerten housing estate and the ADGB Trade Union School, (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
  • Caves in Baden-Wuerttemberg, the oldest piece of art by humans
  • Archaeologists discovered ancient musical instruments, flutes made from mammoth-ivory, water bird figure
  • Bauhaus Building revolutionized the design and aesthetic concepts of architecture
  • These cultural treasures fulfill the universal heritage values and could be considered as one of the World Heritage Site by UNESCO

Ancient site dating back to Ice age

The ancient limestone caves with art dating to the ice age and buildings designed by a Bauhaus master less than 100 years ago are Germany’s cultural treasures.

Separated by more than 40,000 years they are the oldest piece of art ever produced by humans and highlight Germany’s submissions for the prestigious ‘World Heritage Site’ title by the United Nation’s, cultural agency- UNESCO. A World Heritage designation helps sites in their protection from pollution, development and other threats. This also helps raise the profile of a region and attract more tourists.

Also Read: ONGC and Unesco Join Hands to get India’s Largest Coastal Lagoon ‘Chilika Lake’ the World Heritage Site Tag

In the southwestern part of Baden-Wuerttemberg, there are six caves where archaeologists have discovered hundreds of personal ornaments, ancient instruments, carvings and 40 small flutes made from mammoth ivory. According to archaeology professor Nicholas Conard, whose team found a 40,000-year-old mammoth ivory figure known as the Venus of Hohle Fels said that these ancient caves fulfill the universal cultural value that UNESCO is looking for.

The executive director of the Blaubeuren’s Museum of Prehistory, Stefanie Koelbl said the Venus of Hohle Fels is the oldest known image of a human. “This figure has a very special charisma also carved from ivory – she has this typical pattern for artworks from the younger Paleolithic Age here in southern Germany, these notch lines, and cross lines,” Koelbl said. “She has no head but a loop to carry her and probably was carried as an amulet. It belonged to one special person.”

Conard said, “It was an exceptional area where each year we find new examples of Paleolithic artworks that can be up to 40,000 years old or even a little bit older. And they are typically beautifully formed objects cut with stone tools and made from mammoth ivory.”

“They have produced the most abundant, richest and oldest record of early art works and also musical instruments, along with a whole range of other innovations, that are part of the cultural development at the time when modern humans spread across Europe and the Neanderthals went extinct,” said the University of Tuebingen professor.

Some other findings in the caves include approx. 32,000 years old 8-inch phallus carved from siltstone, a water bird figure, unique in early Ice Age art, and a broken art piece of a half man-half lion carved from mammoth ivory.

Archaeological site of the 20th century

The Bauhaus building which is in the northeastern part of Germany was designed by Hannes Meyer- the school’s second director. The architecture of Bauhaus school revolutionized design and aesthetic concepts between 1919 and 1933 while some Bauhaus buildings were already included in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1996.

Buildings designed by Meyer was known as Laubenganghaeuser – literally “housing with balcony access” – in the housing estate in Dessau, southwest of Berlin, as well as a trade union school he designed in Bernau, north of Berlin, are under consideration for the world heritage site this year.

UNESCO World Heritage Committee Meet

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meeting is set to take place in Poland this month. The nominations for World Heritage sites 2017 include 27 cultural sites, 7 natural sites and one both natural and cultural site. Some other cultural sites like the Valongo Wharf in Rio, the Sambor Prei Kuk archaeological sites in Cambodia, the Kujataa subarctic farming landscape in Greenland, and the landscapes of Dauria in Mongolia are also being considered.

– by Shabnam Mangla of NewsGram. Twitter @Sabnam_mangla