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Global_18

Inbox News in brief India set to develop Asia’s largest forest network Tigers, elephants and a host of endangered species in the southern Indian state of Karnataka could soon enjoy access to Asia’s largest unbroken forest network, as conservationists work to interconnect protected forest areas. The state, which is home to 25 per cent of the country’s elephants and 15 per cent of its tigers, has protected nearly 2,600 sq km of forest land, which host a series of national parks and wildlife reserves. It has already built three unbroken forest landscapes along the Western Ghats mountain range, which runs from Goa to Bangalore. The scheme would benefit conservation efforts in the region, as connected forest landscapes allow free movement of animals for breeding purposes and increase the likelihood of wildlife settlement. However, the Indian government has so far shown reluctance to officially protect any of the Western Ghats, as it is unwilling to raise concern among local communities who fear losing their traditional rights. Local conservationists protest that the government has misconstrued the intention of protection orders, as the focus is intended to be on protecting the land from destructive development such as heavy industry. “The protected area expansion covers only reserve forests where people’s rights were already settled. Even in those areas, we did not force our decisions on people,” Vinay Luthra, principal chief conservator of forests in Karnataka told the BBC. The expansion plan was accepted by Karnataka state wildlife officials in July 2011, with approval from the National Board for Wildlife in Delhi following in January 2012. But the state forest department encountered difficulties in some areas, including the Pushpagiri wildlife sanctuary, where plans for a series of small hydroelectric power projects threatened to disrupt the natural environment. In April 2013, the Karnataka government cancelled the land lease on two ongoing hydroelectric projects in the Western Ghats region and announced that no new projects would be permitted. While dreams of a completely unbroken Bangalore-Goa landscape are far from being realised, the current plans to connect southern and central Karnataka could nevertheless result in Asia’s largest protected forest network. A quarter of India’s elephants live in the state of Karnataka Nepal to police Everest’s climbers Numbers of climbers on Mount Everest have reached such high levels that nine Nepali officials are to be posted at the mountain’s base camp throughout the spring climbing season to police the visitors. One initiative being considered to regulate congestion on the world’s highest peak is to have separate fixed ropes for ascending and descending the final section before the summit. Another issue that needs to be tackled is the waste that climbers leave behind on the mountain’s slopes. More than 4,000 people have reached the summit since the first successful attempt in 1953. But hundreds of others have died trying. Independence fever seizes Scottish Isles In the run-up to the referendum on Scotland’s independence from the UK, three groups of Scottish islands are bidding for independence in their own right – from the UK and Scotland. The Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands and Western Isles are petitioning the Scottish parliament for their own vote on independence. One scenario could see them independent from Scotland, but remain part of the UK. If their bid was successful, the island nations would be among the smallest countries in the world – each group of islands has a population of between 20,000 and 30,000. Falklands conundrum Argentina has been wooing Caribbean countries with promises of co-operation, aid and the prospect of opening embassies on the bigger islands, in return for support for its bid to govern the Falkland Islands, currently under British rule. However, Caribbean Commonwealth countries are wary of being caught up in a dispute between two much larger nations – one a geographical neighbour and the other a Commonwealth partner. Grenada has given its tacit support to Argentina’s Falklands claim, while the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines has spoken of a need to solve the issue through UN mechanisms. 4 l www.global -br ief ing.org second quar ter 2014 global


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