Friday, June 21, 2019

Tiger Conservation - Urbanization The Deadly Menace

Minimizing Destruction of Our Natural Lands

It keeps spreading its tentacles all around, and you cannot blame anyone except us. You cannot blame the politicians, planners and developers. Anyway they do not plan they just fulfill. It is we who have multiplied like rats and taken over our natural lands which the Earth had nourished for centuries right from the day evolution came into the picture.


Traffic congestion
People who read history of civilizations know that towns and cities will come and go but now in their wake they will leave back ravaged lands that may take eons to recover. In order to settle thousands of families, cities, towns, villages keep on spreading without planning and with total disregard for nature. A builder least admires an eco-niche in the neighbourhood nor does he feel guilty of placing concrete structures over them stifling microcosm of life forever. In fact we are so impressed by concrete structures that we concrete everything around us even natural gardens, wild bushes, small jungles, beautiful lakes and ponds where in lot of organisms and avian life depends upon the natural embankments and depth as well. 

Our eyes glow bright when we see magnificent edifices the concrete structures embracing our towns and cities. That is development! (Sic). When the structures start to decay we continue living there, a stoic and helpless attitude that we have developed as a matter of consequence.

Cities are rotting, there is water shortage, dirt, smog, pollution living conditions are like hell. Deadly pollution thanks to smoke belching industries, cars uncountable, congestion, drying lakes and water bodies polluted to the brim and over all the looming climate change ...there you have it! Slowly you come to understand what is unplanned development that damages the environment and invites disease, mental disorder and more.

The ill planned overwhelming urbanization is taking over the remaining natural lands in all settlements now from metros to even small towns. The latter come under the scanner of infrastructure development in forms of rail lines, highways and dams. This affects the wildlife and can be disastrous for endangered species like the tiger, lion and elephant to mention a few.


Grasslands + Forests

The sharp reduction in number of tigers in India has been mainly due to loss of habitat. Tigers need specialized habitats which only dense forests containing untouched wilderness can offer. Unfortunately in India forests have been converted to agricultural fields, industrial belts, ravaged by mines and now urbanization which is creeping into even small places auguring a dark future. If we do not reduce our carbon footprints global warming can become serious where sustenance of life may not be possible. Hence we humans are also at risk and perhaps face extinction too?

Where will the buck stop nobody knows? Man animal conflicts, extinction of species, water shortages due to destruction of rivers and due to climate change all are as a result of man's total disregard for nature conservation.

We should consider destruction of nature as an impending disaster, and accord importance to its preservation. In governance this should be a major issue there should be debates and discussions on this. But this does not happen people are not aware or simply do not care, and politicians take advantage and do not take environmental issues into consideration except accord some lip service.

What future awaits our gen next? What about climate change knocking at our doorsteps? What are we doing to minimize fossil fuel consumption? What are we doing to stop the production of pollutants, toxins and hazardous chemicals. All this should be taken into account during the political discourse? Is it being done? Ask yourself, write or raise your voice before it is too late.

Uday works as a naturalist in India and blogs on environment and conservation issues.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Tiger Conservation and Locals - PAs - A Paradigm Shift!

On popular platforms some expert writers, advocates, blogger and NGOs time and again suggest vociferously the greater involvement of the local communities in the conservation of our precious ecosystems i.e those remaining. Ironically what they mean is do away with the protected area system...that has successfully shaped conservation in India, and brought many species out of extinction. Little do they know that the local communities on many instances have unintentionally damaged the natural lands and have brought many species on to the brink of extinction. Our small tiger reserves are a shameful example of land shrunken drastically due exploitation of forests by ever growing population of humans and subsequent denudation.

Swamp Deer

The threat perception is real and their (authors/advocates) understanding of species survival is at best limited, and they have no cognition of critical habitats and or protected areas that should and must remain inviolate. 

We need thinkers, policymakers and activists who understand the predicament that other life forms are facing in this human centric World. Conservation management is scientific, bound by rationale and not by emotions and in the present context certainly not by human history. 

PA concept is not at all elitist or discriminatory as many would advocate, it is based on scientific rationale and most important it provides succor to other life forms, and does away with omnipresent human footsteps considering the massive population bulge we have in this country. The sore point for some is that it facilitates tourism which many consider as elitist without giving a thought to conservation impetus it creates among the masses and the revenue and much needed employment it generates among the locals. In years of its popularity the ecosystems have benefited by regulated tourism and should now be an issue of least concern.   

The forests for example were always pristine and literally inviolate since the population span was contained in the centuries gone past. Not so in the contemporary times whence the population span has expanded beyond means and hardly any space for the survival of species is left inviolate. If this had not been the case the concept of protected area would have not come into the picture at all. The PAs are certainly required now and delimiting would prove to be disastrous especially in the case of animals like the swamp deer and the tiger.     

Well to be honest not only the locals, many of us irrespective of the location of domain have contributed to extensive damage to our ecosystems. The locals have contributed their share of destruction by tilling few remaining natural lands and creating immense biotic pressure through the live stock rearing in an unscientific manner. There involvement in poaching though not on large scale cannot be negated either. This is certainly not a spirit of coexistence a favourite phrase used by the enlightened who consider local communities as still living in a stone age. The local communities have undergone a paradigm shift during this century and look forward to be a part  of the mainstream.  The next gen is certainly headed for the urban surroundings as no suitable or alternative source of income exists for the erudite in the remote surroundings. 

The NGOs or some of these writers/researchers have conjectured a picture of tribal in their minds of static, lifeless, assemblage of flesh and bones, who will remain fixed to a time long gone past and be immobile for ever. The local communities are evolving too and need to assimilate the way whole country is doing. They do not wish to remain stuck in the past living in isolation.  They do not wish to be pushed deeper into the inaccessible wild realms with no infrastructure and modern facilities.

Tribal - Neeraj Vegad
Most of those who write on this subject have no understanding of issues pertaining to conservation as a holistic model and are keen to provide a panacea through their emotional tag lines. Many of those who understand this issue are bound by their own emotions which ends up restricting their perspective and miss the imperative.  They are not aware of conservation practises being pursued by the wildlife managers and they certainly do not know about scientific approach that lies behind the involvement of local communities in and around our tiger reserves to be more precise. Just the flair for writing is not enough a writer should have an in depth understanding of the topic before holding the pen.  

We have to understand that conservation in our country has two facets, one is the human conundrum which now includes the indigenous communities, and second are the ecosystems and wildlife within. We are ruthless whence wilderness creeps into our urbanity but wish to share a large chunk of ecosystems belonging to other life forms. Hence the two are now separate entities and the spirit of coexistence is limited to live and let live principle. Coexistence cannot take place by sharing the tiger reserves or National Parks with local communities. These ecosystems will remain inviolate and strictly. On the contrary more inviolate space will have to be allocated especially for conservation of endangered animals like the tiger, Asiatic Lion, swamp deer and more.   

Till so called experts do not accept the separation of the two entities mentioned above, the fate of the big cats and the tribal will remain precarious.
Uday works as a naturalist and loves to blog on conservation.
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