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Half of India vulnerable to alien invasive plant species: Study

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Picture credit: blenderartists.org
Picture credit: blenderartists.org

Kolkata: According to a new study, nearly half of India’s total geographical area is prone to invasion by alien plant. It shows that biodiversity hotspots in India are “especially vulnerable” and limiting human interference in remote forests is necessary.

Scientists from North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong, have created the first pan-India catalogue of regions most susceptible to invasion and identified the ‘hotspots’.

‘Hotspots’ are regions that are climatically and geographically most suited for alien invasive species – species which colonise, spread and invade new territories.

“Almost half of the total geographical area of India is prone to invasion by alien plant species with moderate and high levels of climatic suitability,” Saroj K. Barik, co-author of the study and a professor at the Centre for Advanced Studies in Botany, NEHU, told IANS.

In India, alien plant species constitute 40 percent of the total plant diversity, of which 25 percent are invasive (such as Siam weed, bitter vine, water hyacinth and mesquite).

Alien invasive species threaten the biodiversity hotspots, he said.

Key findings show most ecologically sensitive regions of India, including the biodiversity hotspots, islands, coastal forests, freshwater swamp forests, mangroves and protected forest reserves, croplands, rangelands and village biomes coincide with the identified ‘invasion hotspots’, indicating their vulnerability to alien plant invasion.

Barik said more than half of the geographical areas of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Goa, Kerala, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and West Bengal are at “high risk” of being invaded by alien plant species.

Some of the major port towns such as Mumbai, Ratnagiri, Panaji, Nagapattnam, Chennai, Kakinada, Paradip, and Haldia fall within the identified invasion hotspots. Such areas provide suitable habitats for colonisation of alien invasive species after being introduced through shipping routes.

The study (using modelling and GIS data), carried out by Barik, D. Adhikari and R. Tiwary of NEHU is published in ‘PLoS One’ journal and contributes to the comparatively little studied genre of ecological invasion.

Additionally, it sheds light on the fact that remote forest areas with high tree cover and low human population are “unlikely” to be invasion hotspots. This stresses on the necessity of minimum human interference, said Barik.

“Delineating the areas climatically suitable for invasion by diverse species would enable us to gauge the extent of damage the invasive plants can incur to the native biodiversity, assist to identify areas threatened by invasion and facilitate formulation of appropriate policy for their control and management,” said Barik.

Worldwide, alien invasive species cause an estimated annual economic loss of $314 billion in the agriculture and forestry sectors, of which India’s share is around $116 billion.

(IANS)

 

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Star ICC Asks Anonymous Accuser Of Sexual Assault Charges To Step Forward

The accuser said that while she was at the company, there were "clear instructions" given to make the sales team fulfil the targets.

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Star ICC
#MeToo: Star India internal panel writes to anonymous accuser to come forward

The Internal Complaints Committee of Star India on Sexual Harassment (Star ICC) has written to the anonymous accuser — who had alleged “sexual exploitation” of women employees — asking her to reach out to the committee or its external member on allegations made by her in tweets.

In a Twitter post on Friday, Star ICC, formed under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 said it had reached out to the accuser through two emails on the ID provided by her through her tweets. The committee’s external member is Veena Gowda, a Mumbai-based woman rights lawyer.

The accuser, who tweeted through handle @ApurvaS17 — saying she would remain anonymous — had made sexual harassment allegations against the company’s officials in an open letter.

Star ICC
Star believes that the allegations made in the tweet without the complainant coming forward and giving any further detail, is a malicious attempt.

Asked to comment on the allegations, a Star India spokesperson said in a statement that despite no response by the anonymous accuser to the messages sent, the Star ICC had “suo moto conducted a preliminary inquiry and found no basis or factual accuracy” in respect of the allegations.

“We strongly urge any genuine complainant to approach the Star ICC. At Star, we stand with women in drawing the line on any behaviour that violates human dignity or the ability for women to pursue their dreams with respect and freedom. We have a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment,” read the statement in response to an email query by IANS.

It also said that the anonymous tweet shared on October 13 raised an allegation that “runs completely counter to everything we believe in and the norms and values that we deeply embrace.”

The statement further said: “Star believes that the allegations made in the tweet without the complainant coming forward and giving any further detail, is a malicious attempt to malign and defame the reputation of the company and the CEO.” It said that Star reserves its right to initiate appropriate legal proceedings in this regard.

Star ICC
The Star ICC had “suo moto conducted a preliminary inquiry and found no basis or factual accuracy.

The accuser in her tweets had said that the #MeToo movement had encouraged her to come forward and that she had quit her job at Star India in the Airtime Sales section after 26 months and nine days and was now a homemaker, “taking care of my baby and hubby in a beautiful country, far away from Mumbai.”

The accuser said that while she was at the company, there were “clear instructions” given to make the sales team fulfil the targets in case they want to continue with their employment contract, “for which even if you have to take the clients to a hotel room and sleep with them for days.”

She said there were many instances when she and three of her female colleagues (interns) had clear instructions to reach a hotel after office hours for a private party hosted for influential friends.

Also Read: India’s Junior Foreign Minister M.J. Akbar Quits Following #MeToo Harassment Allegation By Women

She says the influential friends were “mostly bureaucrats and sometimes politicians and foreign nationals” who were “all ready to violate you, force you to dance against your wishes, drink with them, make drink(s) for them, exchange your numbers and even quietly accompany them to their respective rooms if they want you to”.

Veteran writer-director Vinta Nanda, who earlier this month accused actor Alok Nath of sexually violating her 19 years ago, wrote on Twitter: “I’m neither shocked nor surprised. I salute your courage to have come out and spoken out. The rot runs deep.” (IANS)