Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Tiger Conservation Threats & History of Linear Development in India

When the British conquered India the exploitation was mostly of resources. They were physically perhaps not as brutal as the earlier invaders which were looters, Mogul megalomaniacs, bigots and usurpers. They did not sack the local populace resorting to senseless killings, rape, loot and forced conversions. Those were times of colonization and there was a purpose! 

The Raj was a manifestation of an advanced and comparatively modern civilization shaped by the industrial world of Europe. The natives were no match for them and the subjugation was complete. 

The disparity that prevailed was absolute because the Sahibs were contemporary with overpowering cultural traits, elite, educated, and yielded power that came easily with their superior force. The governance was aided by employment of  natives in various disciplines and the satraps due to whom a handful of them could easily rule over India. They had mastered structured governance in their domain albeit India too had a structure in place being a Vedic civilization dating five thousand year but we were helpless in front of such overbearing. During the Raj, the rulers writ ran large. 

Coming straight to the point in order to exploit the natural resources better, an infrastructure was required to be put in place. With a technology considered modern in those times, they invaded the hinterland all over. This was the culmination of disastrous unplanned infrastructure building were  only thing that mattered was reaching and unearthing the natural resources and dispatching them to their homeland. 

The aim was extracting maximum economic benefit of having a jewel in the crown - a subjugated civilization that was enormously rich in natural wealth and yet timid and impoverished. With modern infrastructure in place, the enslaved country was being milked incessantly.

In post independent India we benefited from the infrastructure created by the British...and till this day we are following in the footsteps of our erstwhile masters. Though the rulers have left in the year 1947 we are still living with the slave mentality which we inherited during centuries of foreign subjugation.  

We have lost our original ethos and our civilization is badly corrupted by traits of external civilizations that at the most has made us submissive and adaptable babus.  

Post independent India, the incursion into our hinterlands became linear development a contemporary terminology that describes invasion of our lands in lieu of development. We have not hesitated to emulate our erstwhile rulers by doing exactly what they did. 

In this assault on our natural spaces we are empowered to a great extent by education in foreign language and rigidly following the Western ethos, a civilization parasitism that is simply incomprehensible and irrelevant till this day.      

  1. During the Raj we had lost a large chunk of our natural spaces, and denudation and plantation of commercially viable species had already altered the remaining forever. When the rulers left, we did everything that they should not have done. And we still continue...the linear development that is taking a heavy toll of our tiger reserves, National Parks and other ecosystems continues unabated.  

The tiger is on verge of extinction so are many other species, we have no count of how many species that have become extinct, and the extent to which our forests have been denuded. Tigers need inviolate space to breed and live. But is there more space for them in this country? How many big cats does our land mass can support? Will development impact or alter our tiger reserves negatively? These are the questions conservationists are raising. 

Our geography has changed and become non-viable, climate change is affecting us badly with greater  ferocity every year, carbon footprints are enlarging every year, heat, water shortage, pollution and other life threatening factors are on increase. Yet we are in race for development that we perceive is good for us. 

Linear infrastructure development creates opening and easy accessibility to remote regions which were in an inviolate state since evolution due to inaccessibility. This impacts the linear connectivity and prevents corridor formations or makes existing corridors non-viable. Overall habitat loss and or fragmentation of our ecosystems can happen as a result of intrusion. Intruding humans can also cause problems like damage to the fragile species web of life, poaching and wood logging besides according access to foreign or alien species to overpower. Wind erosion and fires can be deadly and so can be territorial changes brought about by man. 

India is on a spree of infrastructural development and the haste can prevent or discourage the alternative, a less damaging methodology.  The impetus on road building, new settlements, urbanization and extraction of natural resources, power projects, dams etc are  like a death knell for species survival and conservation of our natural spaces.   

It is imperative for the Nation to develop sound policies that in spite of infrastructural development circumvent or safe guards our natural spaces and preserves crucial resources besides creating a harmonious environment good enough for our well being and maintain an equilibrium.
Uday works as a naturalist in India and writes on tigers and their conservation.
Contact: pateluday90@hotmail.com