REPORTS have emerged of widespread burning and cut tingof forests in the protected forest area around Mandhip Khol in Khairagarh Chhuikhadan-Gandai district form a king newsettlement.The area,which has been declared a protected forest, is home to the Mandhip Kholcave,which is of great geological and eco logical importance.
According to experts, the pressure on natural resources like forests, soil, andwaterhas increased due to population explosion in the area. As a result,peoplearecomingfrom adjacent states and clearing forests to settle in the area, causing significant damage to the environment. This is a major cause of concern and the State Government has been urged to take imme diate action to stop the burn ingand cutting of treesin pro tected forest areas.
The Mandhip Khol cave is particularly important, with the larger of the two caves characterised by two levels of galleries, one of which is active during the rainy season.The small er cave, named Python cave, contains a perennial stream, the Swet Ganga,which resurges in the upper reaches of the Sheonath valley.The caves are home to a variety of unique floraandfauna,includingSwet Ganga fishes and frogs, bats, and insects.
Dr Jayant Biswas of the National Cave Research and Protection Organisation, Raipurhasconducted the first study of the cave system at Mandhip Khol, which is developed along bedding planes and has a very deep cavesystem inside it. Itisimperative that the authorities take swift and effec tive measures to protect this valuable natural resource and pre vent further damage to the environment.
A new species of cricket from a cave of Chhattisgarh "Kurra Cave" has been discovered and given new status by cricket specialist of India Dr. Ranjana Jaiswara of Punjab University in association with Prof. Laure Desutter-Grandcolas of France. The species name is Archnomimum (indimimus) jayanti . The paper published in Zootaxa in the month of April, 2021.
A TEAM of international researchers, including Dr Jayant Biswas from Chhattisgarh, unraveled the actual cause of the extinction of Megafauna on Mascarene and Madagascar archipelagoes. Courtesy of Dr Biswas, name of Chhattisgarh has been featured for the first time in the internationally acknowledged magazine ‘Science Advances’, which is a peer-reviewed multidisciplinary open-access scientific journal established by American Association for Advancement of Science.
Mascarene and Madagascar archipelagos are among the last islands inhabited by humans which makes of special interest to the researchers. Extinct Megafauna such as Dodo bird, Gorilla-sized Lemurs, Giant Tortoises and the Elephant Bird which towered up to 3 meters and weighted close to half a tonne, believed to have been vanished between 1500 and 500 years ago
NATIONAL Cave Research and Protection Organisation team revealed looming threats on the eco-systems of the caverns of Chhattisgarh in their survey and research of the cave systems across State. NCRP Central laboratory Dr Jayant Biswas told The Hitavada that the 15-day-long survey and research ended with an exploration of the Sonadai cave in Kanker District. The team primarily focused on natural caves of the dense jungles of South Dantewada, Bastar after staffing from Northern Surajpur, Surguja Special attention was given to biodiversity and threats posed by the growing human intervention. Since surveyed caves are mostly out of the Administration's sphere of influence these caves are being controlled in a very unscientific manner by religious persons. They are not just misleading the villagers but also causing damage to the ecosystem up to some extent. In the same way, Kurra caves of Lailunga Block in Raigarh District are home 1,25,000 small bats. Their droppings are extremely high on phosphate, which makes them much more fertile in comparison to other natural manure. These bats also prey on insects that attack the crops and (hereby act as a natural insecticide. However. in the survey, it was discovered that these religious men sitting outside the caves wouldn't allow anyone in for offering worships without their consent. This has led to natural water pools inside the caves extremely polluted. On top of it, villagers have even dug a well inside this cave, perhaps for some religious purpose. But, the facts remain that the bat droppings will mix into this well in the rainy season and it will lead to the contamination of just well but also the aquifers. Worse yet, the bats found in -Shinghanpur caves of Raigarh and almost all cases of the Bastar are poached and eaten by the local people. Bat population is rapidlydeclinin&Theorganisation had previously revealed the polluting water stream in the caves in the past survey and request-ed Government takes cognizance of it. NCRP is considering running an awareness campaign to raise awareness among villagers for the conservation of bats by citing their utility to the farmers and overall ecosystem. NCRP team led by Dr. Jayant Biswas was comprised of Jitendra Nakka, Amit Banafar, Siddhartha Biswas, Rajendra Gupta and Punjab University Professor Ranjana Jaiswara. Some vigilant citizens namely Aditya Shrivastava from Kawardha.Yashwani Son of Mungell. Jayatsu Dutta of Ambikapur and Sarad Yadav from Jashpur also took part in the survey.
NATIONAL Cave Research and Protection Organisation team surveyed the Valley regions of Kabirdham district. During this survey period they visited, Bhanwartap cave exists in Maikal valley, near Pandariya. In this tour along with Dr. Jayant Biswas and Mr. Jitendra Nakka of National Cave Research and Protection Organization, India, Dr. Ranjana Jaiswara from Punjab University was associated. This survey was escorted by Mr. Aditya Shrivastava of Kabirdham, Mr. Rajesh Shivastava of Pandaria, Mr. Yashwant Soni of Mungeli and Awadh Tekam from Buchipara (local person).
During this survey, few more caves like Dataram cave, Devsara Cave, Sutiapath cave etc. were re-visited for biodiversity survey.
Following the concept of Arawali-Yamuna biodiversity park has been proposed in 11 districts of Chhattisgarh. Biodiversity board will form it where a separate director would be deputed. Presently it is under incharge of PCCF Mr. Rakesh Chaturvedi.
In this regard, an opinion from cave scientist Dr. Jayant Biswas, the well-known environmentalist of the state has been taken. On the basis of his own study, Dr. Biswas said that the biodiversity of Kanger Valley National Park (a vital range of Chhattisgarh) resembles with Western Ghat and Himalayan region and thus it is a must. Various species of which were identified from Kanger Valley National Park are either reported earlier from Western Ghat or Himalayan Region.
National Cave Research and Protection Organization, India organized an International Conference which was very beneficial to educationists and researchers from the agricultural and environmental sectors too. Eminent scientists, Prof. R.N. Baskar (Haryana), Prof. Jayachandran (Kerala), Prof. Poonam Kurve and Dr. Amol Patwardhan (Mumbai), Dr. Shailendra Lal (Bhopal), Prof. R.K. Pradhan (Raipur), Mr. Julian Fortin & Ms. Kira van de Sande, Dr. S. Manchi (Coimbatore) graced various scientific sessions.. Almost fifty scientists from all over the country presented their papers. Researchers and students got a golden opportunity to present papers and gain guidelines and ideas from stalwarts of the field. The light was thrown on various topics like edible nest conservation, diabetic fish, antibiotics made from cave-dwelling microbes and the beautiful world of underwater sea caves.
On the third and day of the conference during the validatory session International Sea Caver Luigi Casati deliver his lecture and told us how to face the challenges in sea cave research. He distributes the certificates to every participant. During this conference, the unauthorized picking of the cave resources by the teachers of higher education in the name of research has been strongly condemned which is identified as the biggest threat for the future of the caves. Dr. Jayant Biswas was the convener of the colloquium.
Discovery of Kailash cave of Kanger Valley National Park by the forest department completed its 25 years. The chief guest was Mr. Sriniwas Rao Maddi, President of Chhattisgarh Van Vikas Nigam and presided by the convener Mrs. Divya Gautam (IFS). It was attended by cave scientist Dr. Jayant Biswas who emphasizes the changes in the viewpoint of conservation of caves. He elaborated on the biological aspects and said that people should be made aware of it so that they become curious before entering the cave. Few senior stage artists from Bastar who played a drama inside the Kailash Cave 25 years ago were also invited to grace the ceremony. Environmentalist Dr. Satish Jain in local dialect appealed to preserve biodiversity. During this event Janpad member Mr. Gangaram Nag was also present.
During the occasion, students of Bastar University made a tracking group along with the residents of that area to raise awareness and promote the conservation of natural resources. This campaign not only created fondness towards nature but would also increase employment.
CHHATTISGARH has linked itself to latest research finding as the Meghalayan Age in the earth's history, by the role of National Cave Research and Protection Organization, Raipur, which is headed by a local man Dr Jayant Biswas as its director. A research has been done by USA based California University ProfessorAshish Sinha, who centered his work on a section of Stalagmite from Mawmluh Cave of Maghalaya. Prof. Sinha concluded from the stalagmite that about 4,200 years ago, a drought lasted continuously for almost 200 years in the earth. As a result, various civilizations including the Indus valley civilization crashed and shifted. Presently, the human beings and all other creatures are living in an age which as per Geological Time Scale (History of earth's existence) is called Holocene Epoch.
On the basis of proxy elements like rock sediment, fossils, speleothem and others, the geologists divide the 4.6 million years existence of earth into different time slice and classify a distinct age. The Holocene epoch began after extinction of Ice Age and beginning of the climate age. Earlier, the International Commissionon Stratigraphy had already sub-divided the Holocene epoch into two parts as the Greenlandian age and the Northgrippian age. But after the said research, the Holocene epoch is sub-divided into three ages with Meghalayan age as the latest addition. As the Indian state of Meghalaya contributed to the research because of its caves, the age has been named after it. The Greenlandian runs from 11,700 to 8,200 years ago, the Northgrippan from 8,200 to 4,200 years ago, and finally, the Meg,halayanfrom4,200 years ago to present, informed Dr Jayant Biswas, citing the research. Prof. Ashish Sinha from the Department of Earth Science, California State University, was Principal Investigator (PI) in the project and Dr Jayant Biswas as President of National Cave Research Organization has participated as Co-PI with him in a number of projects including the above said one. Thus a cave has so underlined its importance in terms evidence that an entire age has been named after an Indian state therefore it is imperative to protect the caves in Chhattisgarh as well, said Dr Biswas.
BEARING capacity of caves in the state is being ignored in the rush for tourist's attraction. Water pollution inside some caves has also come to fore but safety measures are not being taken for the visitors. The State Government has been urged to take steps for conservation of these caves. Any given landscape in the world has a carrying capacity, which means the burden or number of people it can bear. Caves have silence and the place inside is sterile and if there is much disturbance naturally or artificially, then there is danger to the very existence of the caves.
The tourists influx is large in Kotumsar Cave in Bastar region which is 150-200 metre long limestone cave, informed Dr Jayant Biswas, a notable cave researcher, from National Cave Research and Protection Organisation. It has become necessity to develop the near-by caves to distribute the load of tourists, he added. After doing a survey of the caves in the state, the National Cave Research and Protection Organisation has now suggested the State Government about its conservation and steps to be initiated. Chhattisgarh Science and Technology Council had allotted a project to the organization for studying animal biodiversity and its conservation status. Under the study, the organisation has done the survey. In 2014, an accident happened at the Bildwar Cave that is located in the Tamor Pingla Wild Life Sanctuary in Surajpur district. This cave was not only a religious site but also a picnic spot. Due to sudden collapse (caving-in), eight visitors died. Now, the organization has found that the walls and roof of this cave exist just on coal, sedimentary rock and kaolinite clay. In order to beautify this place, construction work has been done outside and concrete steps have been constructed inside. Suggestions from experts should have been taken before doing such construction works. Mandhip Khol Cave is located at Gandai block in Rajnandgaon district. In a religious programme and also a fair organised on every first Monday afterAkshayTritiya, there is too much rush of people. Way back in 2006, it was revealed that a huge python lives inside this cave. The local villagers knew about it, but they believe that the python will not harm them. Awareness is needed to keep the place pollution free. In all the caves there is huge rush of visitors and devotees at least once in a year during festivals and this results in pollution and natural disturbance. The water (Jal Kund) in Sondai cave in Bhanupratappur in Kanker district gets polluted. In Lailunga block of Raigarh, there is Kurra Cave and this cave is dwelling place for nearly 10,000 Microchiropteran bats. The small stream of water in this cave always remains polluted. If this cave is converted into a religious place then the existence of bats will be in danger and environment will be harmed. The study concluded that tourists and religious-minded people are coming to the caves even knowing about the persist-ing danger to life and to a great extent polluting the environment there. At least helmets should be made compulsory for entry because nobody knows when a rock will fall. No inflammable substances should be permitted inside and outside the caves. Along with Dr Biswas, Jitendra Nakka, Amit Banafar and Siddharth Biswas formed part of the study team.
■ By Sandeep Sengupta RAIPUR, July 31
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