Hope runs green

FPJ BureauUpdated: Wednesday, May 29, 2019, 01:04 AM IST
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Being born in a fauji family has many advantages. The most obvious being that you get to travel across the length and breadth of the country. And if you are blessed with parents who prefer outdoors to socialising – then you are going to have loads of green in your genes.

Thus the passion for outdoors and jungles in particular, came naturally. So did a lot of love and respect. Hence often I was pained to see the environment at the receiving end of our developmental activities. Loss of habitats and decline of species and numbers have been the obvious end products of our progress.

Amzari — youth displaying rappelling skills

Often at various platforms the discussions lead to the need for more stringent controls, use of technology and even weapons. Have these techniques not already been tried, without much success? In fact, post Independence, we continued most British policies of conservation – especially that of keeping local communities away from our forests.

For thousands of years, our forests and people had an extremely close bond. This was broken when the forests were suddenly ‘Reserved’ for the benefit of the crown of England. Post Independence, with the imperial powers gone, we should actually have revisited our conservation ideas.

Though a little late, Maharashtra and couple of other states fortunately started to see the obvious reason for the decline of forest cover and species. People like Pravin Pardeshi, the then Principal Secretary Forests understood that by keeping the forest neighbouring people away from education, livelihoods, medical care, good roads, drinking water and other parameters of basic developments – it was not possible to expect them to protect the forests. The communities were capable of eking out subsistence from forests in multiple ways. The ‘danda-raj’ had obviously failed.

Local youth being trained to be a naturalist

The time had come to make them stakeholders in conservation – to help them generate sustainable livelihoods and to help them access basic facilities. Only then could one expect them to protect their forests.

Having said this, it was also understood that the change would not come overnight. In fact the suspicion and antagonism of over 200 years would not go away so easily. But the beginning had to be made to build bridges of conservation.

Personally for me, it was a great experience to have been a part of this new acceptance in the Forest Department. Working with Forest Officers like Gajendra Narwane, M S Reddy, Jitendra Ramgaonkar, N R Pravin and many others, who were willing to share benefits with the communities, was in itself a new learning.

Exploring the forests on a Nature Trail

Many in the communities also saw the new opportunity and started to play a very positive role in conservation. Forests like Tadoba benefited with charismatic indicators like tiger numbers improving.

To me, the future of such forests looks bright – almost as an oasis in the desert of destruction elsewhere. Forests themselves also shield me against these destructive  forces like pollution and climate change. To be able to work in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve and be able to contribute in the building of these bridges between the Department and the People gives me hope in the replicability of the model. Gives me hope that tomorrow will be greener and safer for people and wildlife.

(March 21 is International Day of Forests)

Biologist, Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve and Ecologist-Director, Ran Mangli & Ecologics.in, Anirudh Chaoji lives and breathes forests

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