Editor’s Note: In today’s piece, we bring to you two issues from New Delhi, India. First, the Dwarka forest is being threatened with deforestation for redevelopment projects. Second, the spotted deer in Deer Park are being relocated to a different state because the authorities now believe that the deer have become “unmanageable.” The eco-suicidal drive of our collective culture is what makes decisions. The needs of nature and life come secondary. Both of these issues are a reflection of the same trend. The two issues are followed by a video from one of our readers. We thank Tannuja for providing us with the stories and David for offering the video.
Deforestation in Dwarka Forest
An obscure 120 acre forestland in Dwarka, New Delhi, India.
This dense forest, hardly known to the public of Delhi, is located right behind New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport’s T3 Terminal. It is a newly grown forest that is under the threat of eradication due to rapid urbanization taking place in the area.
Home to several species of both flora and fauna. Wildlife such as spotted deer, nilgai, local species of birds and many other animals have been thriving in the jungle peacefully.
This forest is close to Sahibi river, though it is newly grown forest (around after 2008), it falls in the migratory route of Birds arriving at Great Najafgarh Lake.
It also decreases the habitat concentration (overpopulation stress) from Najafgarh Lake.
Delhi airport emissions are on a constant rise. So, this natural forest soaks up all that massive carbon emissions as it is situated pretty close. Shielding Dwarka citizens from jet fumes.
Delhi airport is an urban heat-island and this forest helps regulate the rising temperature.
Reports state that due to excessive groundwater extraction – nearby areas are going to SINK! This forest falls in low lying area so it recharges so much water to keep the Dwarka & Kapashera areas from sinking.
What is the crisis that has struck?
Recently, it was reported by a local resident named Mr. Naveen Solanki, that the forest is rapidly being destroyed by the Railways Authority for Bijwasan Railway Terminal Redevelopment Project. Since January 2022, he has been defending the forest on his own and has even filed a complaint in the Forest Department of New Delhi against the same. Yet the complaints have been going unheard.
Even earlier, the Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA) had been slapped with a fine of almost 5.9 crore rupees (750,000 USD) by the Forest Department for felling 900 trees in the forest. The aggressive and rapid deforestation in the area continues to take place to this date for the Railways Project.
The wildlife that live in the forest, are at large risk of not only losing their home but being killed off as well by having no other option but to come out on the roads and into nearby areas with human settlements.
“Will the Government of India and authorities involved, do the right thing by putting an end to this atrocious eradicating of our forest lands?”
Link to complaints made by Mr. Solanki made public via. his Twitter account
— Naveen Solanki #BANCARS #CyclingRevolution🇮🇳 (@Solanki666N) July 4, 2023
Relocation of Deer from Deer Park
Hauz Khas, South District, New Delhi, India.
This is a 60 year old, sprawling 60 acre bio-diversity park that is situated within the heart of the capital city. It was named after activist and social worker Aditya Nath Jha and popularly known as “Deer Park” because of the significant population of spotted deer — which it has been home to for the last six decades.
A landmark place in the capital, it is home to not just the spotted deer population but hundreds of local species of birds, most notably the Indian peafowl, ducks and also a significant population of Indian monkeys and rabbits, along with a variety of flora as well.
For the last 60 years, the wild animals in the park have been thriving without any direct human intervention so far. Which is a matter of great feat considering Delhi has lost almost its entire wildlife population throughout the courses of its history.
One of the largest green belts to exist in New Delhi, it would be right to call it as one of “the lungs of Delhi” because it, collectively with other green belts, provides clean and fresh air in the otherwise heavily polluted capital city.
Plus, the existence of wild animals and to see them thriving within the park premises, is a sight to behold.
What is the crisis that has struck?
Very recently, The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, India, along with The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has passed an order deeming the existence of spotted deer population in the park as unmanageable.
So, it not only stripped-off the park of its “mini-zoo” title, but has decided to shut it completely by relocating its entire deer population (over 600 in number) to their “natural habitat” in the western state of Rajasthan — to be served as prey to other wild animals there. The place where the government wants to dump them (Rajasthan) is a desert state, with extreme arid climate throughout the year. These deer are used to living in the bearable, if not pleasant climate of New Delhi throughout their hundreds of generations. Now imagine getting dumped somewhere where there are no water sources readily available along with no grassland. The deer would come into a state of shock from not just the animals who’d want to hunt them but also the scarcity of their regular diets which they have been used to for years. The rise in the number of deer should’ve been a matter of pride and celebration, not an excuse to kick them out of their own home and take it all over.
Also, it would completely be put under the management of Delhi Development Authority (DDA) once the deer are relocated, which means that its landscaping would be altered or changed, to make it more accessible to humans/public.
“If the population of deer has become unmanageable, then why are the entire deer being relocated and not just a percentage of them?”
The concerned people of Delhi also fear that once the deer population is gone, then DDA also might start indulging the catering/event mafias in the park — to host private events and parties of the South Delhi elites in the park premises. The park would become a human-infested picnic spot and the talks about the authorities indulging catering/event mafias in its premises later on just might be right.This would only lead to littering and pollution in the park and impact/disturb its other wildlife residents that have been living peacefully there for the last six decades. Plus, many who have grown up in Delhi, have sentimental memories/values attached to the Deer Park. Hence, losing such a wildlife haven that has been there for the last sixty years in the heart of our city, has become nothing less than an utter shock to all of us.
Editor’s note: one of the worst environmental disasters that nearly no-one has heard of is “habitat fragmentation.” Many ecologists believe that habitat fragmentation is the single most serious threat to biological diversity and is the primary cause of the present extinction crisis.
Fences, roads, utility corridors, and other linear human disturbances increasingly shatter habitats into smaller and smaller pieces, with drastic consequences. This crisis is not being addressed, and it gets worse every day. This article explores one part of this problem: the effects of fencing on Pronghorn.
By Tara Lohan
With the arrival of spring each year, pronghorn that winter in the Upper Green River Valley of Wyoming begin a journey of more than 100 miles to their summer habitat near Grand Teton National Park.
It’s one of the longest migrations of large mammals remaining in North America. But their trek — and a similar one made by mule deer — is made more difficult by human developments along the way, particularly fences.
“The total length of fencing around the world may now exceed that of roads by an order of magnitude, and continues to grow due to a global trend towards land partition and privatization,” wrote researchers of new U.C. Berkeley-led study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology.
Wyoming is no exception. There the researchers found nearly 3,800 miles of fences in their study area alone — twice the length of the U.S.-Mexico border. Their research tracked GPS-collared pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) and mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) during two years of their migrations to better understand how fences affect the animals’ movements and which kinds of fences may be most difficult.
Fences aren’t always bad for wildlife — some can keep animals off roads, for instance — but they can also pose threats. [Editor’s note: to use precise language, these fences aren’t “good” for wildlife; they partially mitigate some of the harms of roads]
For animals like pronghorn and mule deer, fences can halt or change migration routes. Animals that attempt to go over or under also risk becoming entangled and perishing. Juveniles are particularly at risk. A 2005 Utah State University study of ungulate migration across Colorado and Utah found the youngsters died in fences 8 times more often than adults. Many others died of starvation or predation when they weren’t able to cross fences and were separated from their mothers.
Most of the fences the animals encounter run along the edges of livestock pastures, private property lines or roads, and are composed of four or five strands of barbed wire. Some have woven wire at the bottom, the most common type of fence for corralling sheep but also the most lethal to wildlife.
“A better understanding of wildlife responses to fencing is … critical to conservation,” the researchers of the U.C. Berkeley study wrote.
But here’s what we do know: The study found that both pronghorn and mule deer “were extensively affected by fences.”
Each year an average mule deer encountered fences 119 times and pronghorn 248 times. In about 40% of those encounters, the fence changed the animal’s behavior. And that behavior, they found, was more complex than simply crossing or not crossing the fence.
Often the animals “bounced,” or rapidly moved away from the fence when they couldn’t quickly cross. “Such avoidance of fences can drive animals away from high‐quality resources and reduce habitat use effectiveness,” they wrote.
Other times the animals paced back and forth along the fence line, a behavior that could strain energy resources. And occasionally they became trapped in areas with a high concentration of fences, like livestock pastures.
This can create other problems.
“Constraining animal movements for prolonged periods within limited areas may trigger human–wildlife conflicts,” the researchers found. Pronghorn, for example, have been seen in new developments in Colorado Springs, where they’ve been hit by cars and shown up at the airport.
Mule deer and pronghorn also behave differently when encountering fences. Mule deer are more likely to jump a fence, and pronghorn to crawl under.
“The reluctance to jump means that pronghorn movements can be completely blocked by woven‐wire sheep or barbed‐wire fences with low bottom wires — the two most common types of fences across their home range in North America,” the researchers found.
Considering that the American West may have upwards of 620,000 miles of roadside and pasture fences, “fence modifications for conservation might be more urgent than currently recognized,” they wrote.
Efforts are underway to encourage or require more “wildlife-friendly” fences that “are very visible and allow wild animals to easily jump over or slip under the wires or rails,” according to recommendations from Colorado’s Parks and Wildlife agency.
Further guidance from Sustainable Development Code, an organization that works on sustainability issues with local governments, recommends using smooth, instead of barbed wires; limiting the height of fences 42 inches; allowing 16 inches of clearance at the bottom; and including wide spacing between wires.
“There are other forms of wildlife-friendly fencing, including ‘lay-down’ or temporary fences that permit wildlife crossing during critical migratory seasons,” the group reports.
Making fence lines more visible is also helpful to other animals, including birds. Low-flying birds, like grouse, also die in fences across the West’s rangelands.
That’s why wildlife managers are beginning to push for removing or modifying fences, but the effort can be costly. To address this concern, the researchers developed a software package, available to wildlife managers and other researchers, that highlights fences posing the biggest threats to animal movement. They hope it will help make the best use of limited conservation funds and help protect critical migration pathways.
“We demonstrate that when summed and mapped, these behaviors can aid in identifying problematic fence segments,” they wrote. And that could help save a lot of pronghorn, mule deer and other animals.
Ths story first appeared at The Revelator. Banner image: Pronghorn encounter a fence line in New Mexico. Photo: Johnida Dockens (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
A gold mine project in Veracruz that has run into local opposition envisions a low CAPEX, simple heap-leach open pit mining operation targeting approximately 100,000 ounces of gold production annually. Gold reserves at the project are estimated at 575,000 ounces which assures high pollution and destruction of the land in order to yield as much of the precious metal.
A new gold mine in Veracruz, Mexico, will be the first one in the world to be opened only two miles away from a nuclear reactor and from many pipelines – all in the middle of a densely populated, touristic area that is also the most important migratory route in North America. These are some of the main reasons why local activists are strongly opposing the project.
A History of Colonial Extraction
Mexico has a long mining history. Before the conquest, gold and silver were sought mainly to make jewelry and offerings. Tin, lead, and copper were also mined in the state of Michoacán after the Purembes (Tarascans) found a way to extract and work it. All these minerals were used to make certain tools, utensils and weapons.
But the history of extractivist mining in Mexico begins with the Spanish invasion. Most of the mineral resources were exported to Spain, and it is stated in the General Archive of the Indies (an important Spanish colonial archive housed in Seville, Spain) that 185,000 kilos of gold and 16,000,000 kilos of silver arrived in Spain from America between 1503 and 1660 alone.
“La Paila” and Other New Projects
Despite the efforts of the Spanish crown, however, Mexico still retains vast mineral wealth, and there are currently 21 mining projects about to start up. The project that concerns us was once known as “Caballo Blanco” and now as “La Paila,” which is the name of the hill where the project is to be located. This would be an open-pit gold mine on the hill of “La Paila” in the municipality of Alto Lucero, Veracruz.
The mining company is a subsidiary of the Canadian Candelaria Mining Corp., which reports that it has 12 concessions on 19,815 hectares of land (roughly 76.5 square miles) for the main project. The company has also identified four “high priority targets” for further exploration in the surrounding area: Bandera Norte, Bandera Sur, Las Cuevas, and Highway North. If permits for these additional projects are approved, it would significantly increase the footprint of Candelaria’s activity in Veracruz.
Impact of Extraction
To operate just one of these projects, thousands of liters of water are required for the leachate lagoon. These are the waste products of the process. They remain in the tanks and contain cyanide, sulfuric acid, mercury and other solvents that will be used to obtain 0.03 grams of gold for each ton of soil. Gold is associated with quartz rocks that must be ground, placed in large mounds, and washed with water mixed with cyanide. This represents a great risk for the populations living downstream from the mine. In addition, the water used for these projects is extracted from the nearby aquifers, leaving the local populations without water.
To extract the rock, large tajos (quarries) are opened that will remain there permanently. Such a process gives no thought to the layer of soil and vegetation that have to be destroyed in order to open these large holes in the earth, leaving a lunar landscape in which life would be impossible.
According to research presented in 2015 in La Jornada Ecoloógica, the following is necessary in order to obtain one ounce of gold, or what is contained in a “US Golden Eagle”:
extraction of 150 tons of rock
40 kilos of explosives (enough to demolish a five-story building)
processing of 25 to 50 tons of earth leached with cyanide solution
release into the environment of three kilos of cyanide salts (enough to kill 60 thousand people)
consumption of 100,000 to 150,000 liters of fresh water (enough to provide services to an average family for one year)
consumption of 1300kws of electrical energy (enough for an average family for a month)
consumption of 450 liters of fossil fuels to maintain water supplies and move mine equipment
emission of 650 kg of CO2 into the atmosphere along with other greenhouse gases such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide
The researchers also report that this type of project offers only 15 person-hours of income to the region, or “the salary of one person working for two days” (La Jornada Ecoloógica 200, August-September 2015).
Meanwhile, over a 20-year period, a gold mine uses 500 thousand tons of explosives, or roughly 40 percent of the explosives used in World War II. And in this case, those explosives would be used at a distance of only three kilometers from the Laguna Verde nuclear plant and two kilometers from five gas pipelines that pass through the region.
Ecological and Cultural Destruction
The area around the “La Paila” project is also an important migratory corridor known as “el rio de rapaces” (“the river of raptors”). It is the migratory route of hundreds of raptor species that travel between Canada and Central America, as well as a large number of hummingbirds and butterflies. In addition, there are 51 endemic and endangered species that live in this area year round.
There is also a community of 1231 cycads, which have an estimated age of between 2,000 and 3,000 years and are the oldest living vegetation in Mexico. These kinds of large-scale mining projects also have disastrous repercussions for the historical heritage of the region. In this case, the archaeological heritage of Quiahuixtlan and its surroundings would be destroyed.
And all this without even mentioning the 87 communities that would be directly affected by the project through the destruction of agriculture, livestock and fishing in the region.
We would be left without land, without water, without vegetation, without animals, and without spirit.
Nicolas Casaux outlines the history of humankind, the domestication of animals, and how easily we share disease—the real origins of coronavirus.
By Nicolas Casaux
There’s an apocryphal aphorism, often attributed to Rousseau, which states that “Civilization is a hopeless race to discover remedies for the evils it produces”. Every day that passes is a new chance to realize this.
The spread of pandemics such as that of the Wuhan coronavirus is one of the many threats to which globalized techno-industrial civilization inevitably exposes itself; one of the many potential disasters it generates and which threatens to destroy it. However, it is vital to consider the real origins of pandemics such as this. As an article recently published on the website of the famous American History Channel points out, they constitute a recent phenomenon on the scale of human history, peculiar to “civilization”:
“Communicable diseases existed during humankind’s hunter-gatherer days, but the shift to agrarian life 10,000 years ago created communities that made epidemics more possible. Malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, influenza, smallpox and others first appeared during this period. The more civilized humans became, building cities and forging trade routes to connect with other cities, and waging wars with them, the more likely pandemics became.”
“Before extensive human travel, migratory birds that nested together combined long-distance travel with crowding to constitute, perhaps, the main vector for the spread of disease over distance. The association of infection with crowding was known and utilized long before the actual vectors of disease transmission were understood. Hunters and gatherers knew enough to stay clear of large settlements, and dispersal was long seen as a way to avoid contracting an epidemic disease. (…)
The importance of sedentism and the crowding it allowed can not be overestimated. It means that virtually all infectious diseases due to microorganisms specifically adapted to Homo sapiens came into existence only in the past ten thousand years. Many of them perhaps only in the past five thousand. They were, in the strong sense, a “civilizational effect.” These historically novel diseases—cholera, smallpox, mumps, measles, influenza, chicken pox, and perhaps malaria—arose only as a result of the beginnings of urbanism and, as we shall see, agriculture. (…)
No account of the epidemiology of the Neolithic is complete without noting the key role of domesticates: livestock, commensals, and cultivated grains and legumes.
The key principle of crowding is again operative. The Neolithic was not only an unprecedented gathering of people but, at the same time, a wholly unprecedented gathering of sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, geese. To the degree that they were already “herd” or “flock” animals, they would have carried some species-specific pathogens of crowding. Assembled for the first time around the domus, in close and continuous contact, they quickly came to share a wide range of infective organisms. Estimates vary, but of the fourteen hundred known human pathogenic organisms, between eight hundred and nine hundred are zoonotic diseases, originating in nonhuman hosts. For most of these pathogens, Homo sapiens is a final “dead-end” host: humans do not transmit it further to another nonhuman host. (…)
The multispecies resettlement camp was, then, not only a historic assemblage of mammals in numbers and proximity never previously known, but it was also an assembly of all the bacteria, protozoa, helminthes, and viruses that fed on them. The victors, as it were, in this pest race were those pathogens that could quickly adapt to new hosts in the domus and multiply.
What was occurring was the first massive surge of pathogens across the species barrier, establishing an entirely new epidemiological order.
The narrative of this breach is naturally told from the (horrified) perspective of Homo sapiens. It cannot have been any less melancholy from the perspective of, say, the goat or sheep that, after all, did not volunteer to enter the domus. I leave it to the reader to imagine how a precocious, all-knowing goat might narrate the history of disease transmission in the Neolithic.
The list of diseases shared with domesticates and commensals at the domus is quantitatively striking. In an outdated list, now surely even longer, we humans share twenty-six diseases with poultry, thirty-two with rats and mice, thirty-five with horses, forty-two with pigs, forty-six with sheep and goats, fifty with cattle, and sixty-five with our much-studied and oldest domesticate, the dog. Measles is suspected to have arisen from a rinderpest virus among sheep and goats, smallpox from camel domestication and a cowpox-bearing rodent ancestor, and influenza from the domestication of waterfowl some forty-five hundred years ago. The generation of new species-jumping zoonoses grew as populations of man and beasts swelled and contact over longer distances became more frequent. It continues today. Little wonder, then, that southeast China, specifically Guangdong, probably the largest, most crowded, and historically deepest concentration of Homo sapiens, pigs, chickens, geese, ducks, and wild animal markets in the world, has been a major world petri dish for the incubation of new strains of bird and swine flu.
The disease ecology of the late Neolithic was not simply a result of the crowding of people and their domesticates in fixed settlements. It was rather an effect of the entire domus complex as an ecological module.
The clearing of the land for agriculture and the grazing of the new domesticates created an entirely new landscape, and an entirely new ecological niche with more sunlight, more exposed soils, into which new suites of flora, fauna, insects, and microorganisms moved as the previous ecological pattern was disturbed.”
It is therefore with the advent of civilization, several thousand years ago, that these problems emerged. Subsequently, it was with the beginnings of globalization, several centuries ago, that they gained in intensity, importance and danger. Ray Grigg, a Canadian author, explains it admirably in a short text that I will reproduce below, in full:
“About 250 million years ago, all the distinct continents on Earth existed as one large land mass called Pangea. Over millions of years, at a speed comparable to the growth of fingernails, the shifting tectonic plates of the planet fractured and separated Pangea into the different continents we know today. Some of the puzzle’s pieces still fit together, although many of the shapes are now deformed by various geological dynamics. The east side of South America, for example, fits nicely against the west side of Africa, and North America can be moved across the Atlantic so that the Caribbean snuggles into the northwest bulge of Morocco.
The division of Pangea into separate continents had huge environmental implications. First, and perhaps foremost, it meant that species could no longer move freely around one large land mass. The fractures that filled with oceans isolated them, the drifting segments slowly developed very unique ecologies, and distinctive plants and animals evolved in adaptation to those local peculiarities.
This was the situation encountered by humans as they began moving around the planet about 70,000 years ago. Just a mere 500 years ago, during a surge of exploration and colonization, Europe was sending ships to North and South America, to Asia, Africa and elsewhere. The continents, once ecologically isolated for millions of years, were now being reconnected – not geologically by the movement of tectonic plates but by the physical movement of humans transporting commercial products, plants, animals, viruses and their own particular cultures. The world would never again be the same.
Clearly, this process did not suddenly begin with the arrival of Columbus on a remote Caribbean island in 1492. Commercial products and ideas were travelling between Europe and Asia before then. The Bubonic Plague reached Venice from an eastern seaport a few years prior to 1348, before ravishing Europe in successive waves of pandemic death. But the diseases to which Europeans had developed some immunity – smallpox, measles, mumps, chicken pox, rubella, typhus and cholera – were transported to the New World by later explorers, with devastating consequences to the native populations. Think of this as the beginning of globalization.
Globalization is, in effect, a return to Pangea. In the blink of a geological eye, all the barriers that once separated the continents into distinct ecologies are now being dismantled by the international movement of goods, species and people. Norway rats reached most of the world’s ports on sailing ships, traumatizing every ecology where they arrived – sometimes remedial efforts compounded the trauma by introducing other species that were supposed to predate the rats. Eccentric immigrants imported rabbits to Australia and starlings to North America, both species inflicting devastating damage across their respective continents.
Indeed, globalization is a kind of ecological short-circuiting that throws biological systems into pandemonium.
More than 250 foreign marine species now inhabit San Francisco Bay, transported there by ballast water discharged by freighters from around the world. The same process has brought an estimated 300 exotic plants and animals to the Great Lakes. The Asian carp that now threaten the entire diversity of the Missouri and Mississippi River systems came from a few fish that washed away from nearby ponds during a flood – these voracious fish are now poised to reach the Great Lakes, expanding their sphere of ecological catastrophe. Atlantic salmon, which belong in the Atlantic Ocean, were deliberately imported to the Pacific for commercial reasons, with complex impacts that could damage an entire marine ecology.
Globalization has essentially removed the barriers of time and space that once protected ecologies from contamination and disruption. Diseases, fungi, insects, mammals, amphibians, birds and plants are all distributed helter-skelter around the planet by ships, planes, cars, luggage, souvenirs, shoes, bodies and just about anything else that moves. The various results are species displacement, population explosions and extinctions.
Ecologies that are wholly incapable of dealing with oil get blanketed in it as international pipelines and global tanker traffic disperse this crude energy from sites of supply to demand. AIDS, a world killer of millions, escaped from an isolated African village because of the mass movement of people around the planet. An obscure disease such as West Nile virus spreads across North America after it inadvertently arrives in a mosquito aboard an airplane arriving in New York from southern Europe. Deadly influenzas skitter around the world with the tides of international travellers.
This globalizing process is even wreaking havoc on distinctive human cultures, as travel, technology and media contaminate unique ways of thinking and understanding.
Well-adapted lifestyles are destroyed during this great homogenization process. Languages, essential to preserving and perpetuating cultures, are being obliterated at the rate of one per week. And globalization confuses and debilitates national and local politics as every trade agreement erodes the democratic process by shrinking individual autonomy and robbing resident people of self-determination.
Large as Pangea must have been, it had valleys, deserts, mountains and rivers that would have constrained the movement of species. But, in the New Pangea, no obstacle is great enough to halt the massive tide of movement that is sweeping over the planet. The ecological disturbances it creates are unparalleled in Earth’s history.”
Having highlighted the real origins of the coronavirus it should be obvious that the Covid-19 pandemic is only one logical and unavoidable consequence, among many others, of globalization. Civilization,is a way of life that is harmful to all life on Earth. It has been constantly ravaging nature for several millennia. It is a culture which constitutes, both socially and ecologically, a real human and natural disaster.
The proper functioning of (industrial) civilization depends on (requires) the destruction of nature. The prosperity of humankind on Earth depends on establishing harmonious and respectful relations with nature. The survival of civilization is contrary to the survival of humankind and the natural world.
May covid-19 serve as an eye-opener.
May we find the strength, the will and the means to stop civilization in its tracks before it is too late.
Nicolas is a French environmental activist and member of DGR. He works as an editor and translator for the french publishing house Editions LIBRE, which he cofounded.