Tuesday, May 23, 2017

220 deer, 8 blackbucks died on campus in 2 years: IIT(M)

The Hindu: Chennai: Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
Under threat: The RTI applicant says solid waste, especially plastic material,
on the campus has led to the death of a large number of deer.
 File   | Photo Credit: M. Karunakaran
After obtaining info through RTI application, activist moves NGT.
In a shocking revelation, Indian Institute of Technology - Madras has disclosed that 220 deer and eight blackbucks have died in just two years on the sprawling campus of the premier educational institution.
The disclosure came in reply to an RTI application filed by Antony Clement Rubin seeking details of animal deaths on the campus. To a query, IIT(M) replied, “As per our records, 220 deer deaths and 8 blackbuck deaths were recorded between 2014-2016”.
Blackbuck is a Schedule-I species under the Indian Wildlife Act, 1972, making it one of the most endangered species.
To a query seeking information on road accidents on the campus that led to wildlife being injured or killed, IIT(M) said one accident occurred on September 20, 2014. It did not specify whether it led to just an injury or loss of life.
To another query on measures recommended by the Forest Department to reduce the number of fatalities, IIT(M) replied: “No document available”. It gave the same reply to another question that sought to know how many times the institution called the Forest Department to record wildlife-related incidents.
Mr. Rubin, an honorary welfare officer with the Animal Welfare Board of India, has now moved the National Green Tribunal claiming that inaction on the part of IIT(M) authorities had led to a serious decline in the number of spotted deer, blackbucks and various other animals on the 236-acre campus that was once part of the Guindy National Park.
In his application, Mr. Rubin said, “The principal issue raised here is the irresponsible dumping of solid waste on the IIT Madras campus, which is a habitat for a large number of wild animals native to the natural forest here. The huge quantity of plastic in the waste and consumption of the same by animals has led to the death of a large number of spotted deer.”
The applicant also charged IIT(M) with improper disposal of waste. “Dumping of waste is taking place in complete violation of the provisions of the Solid Waste Management (SWM) Rules, 2016, and the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016.”
He has sought a “complete ban on non-recyclable plastics on the IIT(M) campus, including but not limited to, multilayered plastic packaging, thermocol and styrofoam packaging for food, IT products, plastic cutlery, plastic bags, polyethylene garbage liners and bags.”
Student fests
Quoting a report by the university journal The Fifth Estate- The Students’s Voice of IIT Madras, the application said that about 21 deer died and three injured in January 2014 alone – the month when the student fests Shaastra and Saarang are organised. “The causes for such deaths were declared as dog attacks, accidents and ‘natural’. Further, the stress caused by noise pollution from the fests and vulnerability of mothers and offspring to dog attacks (January is the fawning season) could cause casualties,” the application said.
Mr. Rubin said during the cultural fest, thousands of vehicles pass through the campus, causing a lot of disturbance and danger to the wildlife. “In the year 2011, on the last day of Saarang, January 29, three spotted deer were hit by speeding vehicles,” he said.
He has also prayed that IIT(M) “ immediately stop disposal of waste on the campus, direct them remove the dumped waste from the common land in order to prevent further health hazards and death of deer, including plastic and construction material”.
He also sought a direction to IIT(M) “to ensure restoration of the ecosystem damaged due to improper waste management on campus to its original position,” while seeking a direction to the Greater Chennai Corporation to constitute appropriate fine and fee collection mechanism under the SWM rules.
Mr. Rubin also sought a direction to shift the cultural fests like Saarang and Shaastra or other such events which draw large crowds and vehicular traffic to another location, identify stretches found vulnerable for crossing of wild animals and declare them as “Silent Zones”.
The application has been admitted by the NGT and is likely to be heard on July 17, Mr. Rubin told The Hindu.