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India’s forest cover increased consistently over last 15 years: Environment Ministry at UN forum

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New Delhi, May 12 (IANS) India’s forest cover saw a consistent increase over the last 15 years, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) said at the recently concluded United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) in the US.

An Indian delegation, led by Jitendra Kumar, Director General of Forests and Special Secretary, MoEFCC, participated in the 19th Session of the UNFF, held at the UN Headquarters in New York from May 6 to May 10.

The delegation apprised the UNFF that the consistent increase in forest cover was due to the “country’s significant advancements in forest conservation and sustainable forest management,” MoEFCC said on Sunday.

“Globally, India ranks third in the net gain, in average annual forest area, between 2010 and 2020,” it added.

The Ministry further noted that “biodiversity and wildlife conservation” is of high priority for India. It can be seen in the “expanded network of protected areas to over a thousand wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, tiger reserves, biosphere reserves, and other wildlife habitats.”

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Recently, the country also marked 50 years of Project Tiger and 30 years of Project Elephant, underscoring its commitment to species conservation and habitat protection.

The delegation also highlighted the creation of the International Big Cat Alliance, along with the introduction of the ‘Green Credit Programme,’ to incentivise entities to take up tree plantation and restoration of degraded forest lands.

The UNFF 19 also witnessed a declaration by participating countries to take urgent and accelerated actions to halt deforestation and forest degradation and to prevent land degradation.

–IANS

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21 dead, several missing in stone quarry mishap in Mizoram; heavy rain adds to woes (Ld)

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Aizawl, May 28 (IANS) At least 21 people, including two minors, were killed and seven others were missing as a stone quarry collapsed in Mizoram’s Aizawl district on Tuesday following incessant rain triggered by Cyclone Remal, officials said.

Meanwhile, in different incidents across the state, at least two people were killed and a few went missing in landslides, which also affected transport and even left Aizawl cut off from the rest of the country.

Disaster management and police officials said that 21 bodies had been recovered so far from the quarry site between Melthum and Hlimen in the Aizawl district while several others are still trapped under the debris following the collapse in the morning.

Disaster management personnel, police and local people continued hectic efforts to rescue the trapped people or recover the bodies. Heavy rain and intense winds were affecting the rescue operations, a disaster management official said, adding that seven of the victims are locals, while the remaining are from outside the state.

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A minor boy and a minor girl were among the victims of the stone quarry collapse, while two persons were rescued alive.

Rain-triggered landslides were reported in several other districts, leaving two dead and a few others missing in different places and disrupting the movement of vehicles between the districts.

Aizawl has been cut off from the rest of the country due to multiple landslides on National Highway 6, the lifeline of the mountainous state.

Several buildings, houses, roads, and bridges were either damaged or swept away due to landslides and the heavy rain.

Chief Minister Lalduhoma held an emergency meeting with Home Minister K. Sapdanga, Chief Secretary Renu Sharma and other senior officials to review the situation. The government has also ordered all schools to be closed and government employees, except those involved in providing emergency and essential services, to work from home.

The Chief Minister and the Home Minister, accompanied by senior officials, also visited the stone quarry site. Lalduhoma announced a fund of Rs 15 crore to provide relief to the affected people and an ex gratia of Rs 4 lakh each to be given to the kin of those who died in the landslides.

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President Droupadi Murmu and Home Minister Amit Shah expressed their grief over the deaths at the stone quarry mishap. “Saddened to learn about the loss of lives in a stone quarry collapse near Aizawl in Mizoram. My condolences to the bereaved families. I pray for the success of rescue and relief operations and wish for a speedy recovery of the injured”, the President said in a post on X. “Deeply saddened to know about the tragic accident at a stone quarry in Mizoram. My sincerest condolences to the families of the deceased, and I pray for the speedy recovery of the injured,” the Home Minister said in a post on X.

–IANS

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'Shehzade will checkmate BJP', Akhilesh, Rahul attack PM at Varanasi rally

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Varanasi (UP), May 28 (IANS) Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav addressed a joint rally here on Tuesday, saying the BJP launched a negative campaign but the INDIA bloc would bring ‘happy days for the people’ once voted to power.

Stating that the Prime Minister is repeatedly addressing him and Rahul Gandhi as ‘Shehzade’, Akhilesh Yadav said, “This time, the Shehzade will checkmate the BJP.”

“We will also waive farmers’ loans, ensure legal guarantee for MSP of various crops, and ease GST norms for weavers and small traders,” said Rahul Gandhi.

The two leaders also promised to abolish the Agnipath scheme and ensure permanent employment in the army.

Addressing the gathering, Rahul Gandhi said that MNREGA wages would be increased to Rs 400 per day while the remuneration for Asha and Anganwadi workers would be doubled if the INDIA bloc is voted to power.

“BJP leaders have attacked the Constitution, saying that they will change it if they get 400 seats. This is their biggest mistake. This election is between the super-rich and the poor and we are with the poor,” the Congress leader said.

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Akhilesh Yadav, meanwhile, said that the much-awaited defence corridor in Uttar Pradesh has not even produced a ‘sutli bomb’ till now.

“There has been no investment at the ground level. Even the milk plant in Varanasi was sanctioned during my regime,” he said, as the two leaders appealed to the people to vote for Ajay Rai, the INDIA bloc nominee in Varanasi from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking re-election.

–IANS

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'Na khaunga, na khaane dunga': PM Modi warns action against corrupt leaders will accelerate after June 4

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New Delhi, May 28 (IANS) From Barasat in West Bengal to Dumka in Jharkhand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday vowed to launch a thorough investigation against corrupt leaders once the results of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections are out on June 4.

This, he promised, was a “Modi ki guarantee” and an “X-ray so powerful” that it will deter future generations from indulging in corruption.

“Ten years ago, I pledged to eradicate corruption, and I’ve upheld that promise. Now, I assure the nation that ‘na khaunga, na khaane dunga’! The mountains of notes that have been recovered from TMC leaders will be accounted for, every single penny of it. Legal measures are being implemented to ensure justice,” said Prime Minister Modi during the election rally in Barasat.

In Dumka, as he slammed Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Congress of “looting Jharkhand from all sides”, the Prime Minister said that the resource-rich state is now infamous for its mountains of currency notes.

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“After June 4, action against corrupt leaders will accelerate, and this is the Modi ki guarantee,” he said while reiterating his commitment to combating corruption in the country.

On Monday, while speaking exclusively to IANS, Prime Minister Modi elaborated on how his government has been working tirelessly to weed out rampant corruption from the system.

“Today, when the big fish are being caught, questions are being raised by vested interests. It’s difficult to understand what is the motive of the Khan Market Gang and why it is framing such narratives to save the criminals from facing the law,” he said.

He had also made it clear that the independent agencies take action based on facts which are gathered after a lot of hard work.

“It is the Independent investigative agency which apprehends the accused and the judiciary which decides on their conviction or trial. The Prime Minister has no role in this,” said Prime Minister Modi.

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While addressing multiple election meetings in different parts of the country over the past many weeks, the Prime Minister has emphasised that the next five years will prove to be extremely important in the country’s fight against corruption.

Last August, while speaking from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the occasion of 77th Independence Day, Prime Minister Modi had mentioned that corruption, nepotism and appeasement are the three major challenges that have suppressed the aspirations of people in the country.

“Freedom from corruption, fight against corruption in every area and in every sector is the need of the hour. And countrymen, my dear family members, this is Modi’s commitment; it is my personal commitment that I will continue to fight against corruption,” said the Prime Minister on August 15, 2023.

–IANS

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61-day fishing ban implemented in Goa from June 1

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Panaji, May 28 (IANS) The annual 61-day fishing ban in the coastal state will be implemented from June 1, a Minister said.

Goa Fisheries Minister Nilkanth Halarnkar told IANS that the ban will be enforced from June 1.

“The ban is for 61 days, which is from June 1 to July 31,” Halarnkar said.

The Minister added that action would be taken against those who are involved in illegal fishing during the banned season.

“Due to the rough weather conditions in the sea, nobody goes for fishing. All the boats are anchored at jetties. However, we will take action if anyone is found fishing during the ban period,” he said.

During this period mechanised fishing is prohibited along the sea coast and territorial waters of Goa.

There are around 897 fishing trawlers in Goa.

The workers from trawlers leave for their hometowns during the ban season and come back to the coastal state at the end of July to begin with operations in August.

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Most of the workers working on trawlers are from other states, who get a break during the fishing ban period.

The ban is imposed annually in the coastal state to facilitate sufficient time for fish breeding.

–IANS

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4 killed as rains lash Kerala, cause havoc in state

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Thiruvananthapuram, May 28 (IANS) Heavy rains across Kerala, including a suspected cloud burst at Kochi, on Tuesday left four people dead and caused large destruction across the state.

Kottayam and Ernakulam districts have been the worst-hit and the IMD has announced a Red alert in these two districts. Likewise, an Orange alert has been announced for Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, and Idukki.

According to S. Abhilash, Associate Professor at the Cochin University of Science and Technology, a record 98.4 mm of rainfall was recorded in a matter of 90 minutes at the rain gauge on their campus.

The Infopark IT park at Kakkanadu in Kochi was another place badly hit by the heavy rains.

Several areas in Kochi, the commercial capital of the state, were left waterlogged and water entered numerous houses in some low-lying areas.

A Class 10 student, who had ventured out for a swim at Vengoor near Kochi, was drowned, while Aravind, who was standing outside his house in Alappuzha, died when a coconut tree got uprooted and fell on him.

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Fisherman Abraham, out on his fishing boat off the capital city’s Muthalapozhi suburbs, lost his life after it overturned in the rough seas while a death was reported in north Kerala.

Water entered the ground floor of the home of 97-year-old award-winning writer and literary critic M. Leelavathy at Kochi and destroyed her awards and her collection of books.

Authorities have closed down Ponmudi, a popular hill station in Thiruvananthapuram district besides destinations in high-altitude areas in the Kottayam district, where landslides and landslips have also been reported.

Relief camps have started functioning at a few places in central Kerala where the rain waters played havoc.

Meanwhile, with the southwest monsoon expected later this week, more rains are predicted by the IMD.

–IANS

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