Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Tiger Conservation The Human Conundrum

This period of April and May were months of extreme upheaval in India as the nation was embroiled in a contentious parliamentary poll. The largest democracy naturally conducts the largest exercise at the hustings. The highlight of parliamentary elections in the country was of course the virulent campaigns that began and ended with unending fervor. The aftermath ended in a reverberating but gradually quietening atmosphere as the results were declared and winners took their seat.

For all political parties in India the propaganda revolves around many populist  issues, but completely neglects the conservation and environmental issues though as matter of principle they are ingrained in our policies albeit executed with scant regard.

The first to inculcate the order of nature and wildlife conservation in India where the Vedic literature, but we have conveniently forgotten them, the scientific journals have been relegated into back ground as forgotten and inconsequential part of our history.

The conservation ethos were carried forward by Asoka the Great, and after centuries of continuous destruction we had a leader in Smt.Indira Gandhi who rejuvenated the conservation practises by inducting laws that mattered. The tiger and the ecosystem as whole were the major beneficiaries of steps taken during her governance. Her zealous pursuit of protecting India's heritage was effective in conserving whatever that was left. But after her sad demise no one stepped into her shoes. 

In midst of the mind boggling exercise one issue as always took a complete back seat for nowhere was there a mention of environment and nature in a country where multitudinous masses live. All through the campaigning there was  worst kind of slander that included personal jibes, insults and revelations all at the lowest level possible.

Forget about the environment and our remaining natural heritage no issues of serious nature were ever brought forth or discussed. That is how the prospects irrespective of their drawing treat their subjects - gullible, downtrodden, ignorant and living in stone age. The appeal for the vote is more of a tamasha, steeped in loud promises of piquant favors, charismatic chest thumping and yes development.   

After the hustings all promises are forgotten except the development mantra which all parties think will offer a permanent majority in the parliament for decades. All the time the mantra of development was aimed at more than one billion people a promise if rightly fulfilled could lead to betterment of living conditions and emancipation from abject poverty the large populace is steeped in.   

The goggle eyed voters could understand the mantra of development very well but the related issues were not even in the picture. The emancipation that was promised was all that mattered - a panacea for all that ails the society.

Where would the succor come from with deteriorating climatic conditions, abject shortage of water and badly polluted environment without proper mix of air. The water shortage is a serious matter that should concern one and all especially those at the helm of governance.

We are constantly hurting our ecosystems (rivers, forests, deserts, grasslands) that deliver clean and fresh air, large tracts of forests are being decimated for linear development for highways, settlements and infrastructure expansion. Mining woes are not being mitigating at all. Environmental clearances are taking place in a jiffy with no serious thought to impending disasters, industrial belts and deadly polluting mega industries are taking their toll in this country with ever increasing haste.

Species endangerment is taking place with the blink of the eye. A large number of species have already been lost. Does all this not matter? Aren't the participants of the democratic process the citizens not entitled to enlightenment as to what safeguards are being put in place that would prevent further depredation. Should not they be revealed during the poll propaganda? Who bothers? 

Human centric development has always been the core practice of ruling polities with abject disregard for nature. This has been a global phenomenon and cuts across the vast spectrum of political establishments everywhere. India is not alone in this disastrous way of governance, we are in tandem with the World.

But ironically this does not alarm us. Nature is our life support system but we have taken it for granted. A denuded patch of forest does not raise eyebrows as it should hence climate change in worst form is imminent.

A radical shift has to take place among the rulers as to how development and urbanization should be carried out. All the hindrances which are genuine should be respected and alternative found. You cannot write off a strip of forest just to aid a highway or an industrial area. But this is happening and slowly we are destroying our green lungs and precious habitats which will augur climate change to extreme.

The effect of our haste will result in an environmental condition that would make species survival  (including man) extremely difficult. The tiger has been the worst sufferer being an indicator species sitting at the top of food chain we cannot let it go. Proper development policies without damaging the ecosystems, and keeping in mind the environmental consequences are imperative we should change over to.

For every step we take towards so called development we have to keep its impact on nature all the time. The institutions in India will play a major role in safeguarding our environment in times to come. Provided  there is the necessary radical shift in our perspective and less destructive paradigm sets in. 

The public should play an important role as a watchdog and be conscious about social ills like exponential population growth which has to be brought down. Not only as tourists, we should reduce the biotic pressures on our surroundings in day to day living with responsible lifestyle.

Uday works as a naturalist at Kanha National Park in India.
He oftens writes on conservation issues as blogger.
He can be contacted: