The field of Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation has always been challenging. This is because while humans need Nature and Natural Resources for our survival, we work to protect them only when these resources become too scarce for us. In the delay that follows, we destroy ecosystems to a great extent, often losing precious resources and hurting other species with whom we share Planet Earth.
It is therefore important that Environmental Professionals remain constantly active and aware about their immediate environment and take pro-active steps for preservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Delhi Greens catches up with one such Environment Professional, Dr. Satya Prakash Mehra, who is presently based in the Delhi NCR district of Bharatpur in Rajasthan. Dr. S.P. Mehra is an Environmental Professional who is associated with the Rajputana Society of Natural History (RSNH). He has dedicated his life to Conservation Science with a focus on developing Conservation Practices for Sustainable Livelihood.
Delhi Greens: Congratulations for choosing the green path and helping protect and preserve the environment for today and tomorrow. Would you please share with our readers what motivated you to take the RSNH initiative in 2006?
Dr. S.P. Mehra: The government departments (like Dept of Sc. & Tech. and Dept of Forests) and the mentors (our parents, Dr. Girdhari Garg, Dr. Satish Kr Sharma and many other Gurus) who had seen our voluntary activism in the past (before 2006) motivated us to take the RSNH initiative.
Delhi Greens: What are some key environmental challenges being faced by Bharatpur and Rajasthan? How is the society coping with it and what kind of impact do these challenges have on the society?
Dr. S.P. Mehra: Bharatpur, the Eastern Gate of Rajasthan, was flood prone area where people were adapted for waterlogged conditions. All of sudden in the last decade of the twentieth century, the water passages were altered or checked resulting into the surface water scarcity conditions at Bharatpur. Since people were not aware at all in terms of water harvesting techniques and water conservation, the monsoon water here remained unutilized leading us to intervene on such issues.
Rajasthan is always considered as the land of harsh conditions or tough terrains giving scope to locals to innovate to earn. Local livelihood is the prime concern of the masses which induced migrations. Thus, giving scope to the development sector to work. RSNH linked conservation practices with the livelihood and developed site-specific Socio-Ecological Models of global application.
Delhi Greens: Could you please shed some light on recent initiatives of RSNH and also some defining moments that made you realize that you were on the right path.
Dr. S.P. Mehra: The first and most important initiative was protection of globally threatened bird species Green Munia/ Green Avadavat (Amandava formosa) at Abu Hills. The livelihood of the local tribal youth was linked with the specialized skilling on ecology of such birds. Success of the initiative was measured through the increase in the head counts and protection of the habitats of the birds.
Further, the success achieved through linking the livelihood of women through revival of eco-profile of the rural environ around World Heritage & Ramsar Site – Keoladeo National Park (KNP) (Bharatpur, Rajasthan) confirmed the that the approach is in the right direction.
Delhi Greens: Please share with our readers as to how is your academic background helping in all the good green work that you are doing?
Dr. S.P. Mehra: The academic background was important in the green work to certain extent. The theoretical knowledge gained from the formal degrees clarified our basics. Though the experiences gained through the ground challenges were quite different from the theoretical knowledge but the basic understanding played crucial role in understanding and resolving those challenges.
Delhi Greens: At a time today, when there is a mad rush in people to run towards cities, you have chosen to create a nature filled abode for yourself away from the city. Surely you could have settled in any city if you wanted to.
Dr. S.P. Mehra: Our aim was to apply our knowledge on the self to create awareness on the issue of environment protection, conservation, livelihood, green landscaping etc. It is through such initiative that we were able to win the trust of the local population and make them realize how small initiatives at individual level could protect the local natural heritage and develop platform as a source of income. Thus, we thought of creating a successful example for masses by living in the similar conditions which are otherwise considered as the challenges in the development and growth of any person.
Delhi Greens: Bharatpur is famous for the Keoladeo Ghana National Park. Can you share something from your experience inside the National Park. Please also let us know any interesting interaction(s) you may have with the visiting tourists.
Dr. S.P. Mehra: The most interesting fact of the KNP is its origin and further development steps. It is the natural depression which was developed as the human managed ecosystem. It needs human interventions at every step. Thus, the faith of this Park lies in the action taken by the Park Management. As per the interactions with the visiting tourists, I had different observations – the foreign nationals are known to the facts and ethics of the birding which was found lacking in the major portion of the visitors from our nations.
Many times, due to high expectations, the information of avifauna furnished by the local Nature Guides is based on the interpretations and imaginations irrespective of the scientific references.
Delhi Greens: Since a clean environment is a basic human requirement, why do you think people are not able to keep their own environment clean? What do you think are the reasons behind the environmental challenges being faced by India today?
Dr. S.P. Mehra: In the blind race of development (not the sustainable ones) people are becoming materialistic & self-centric. The common values and moral duties towards national interest are no more to see in the first school of child, i.e., the family. Further, the educational institutes are becoming business hubs instead of Knowledge Temples.
Major portion of the modern and intellectual community have more or less dualistic approach towards Nature Conservation and Environment Protection. The high-energy demanding consumeristic approach is the part of the lifestyle. The policy framework lacks the holistic and integrated approach. The eco-cultural traditions and customs have been replaced by the modern glamourous events losing their basic logics. The last but not final, lack of political will.
Delhi Greens: Do you think the policies of the Government of India, and that of Rajasthan Government/ Bharatpur administration adequate to address the local and regional environmental challenges of this place? What can be improved at the policy level?
Dr. S.P. Mehra: I personally feel the policies have the lacunae in the sense that it targets the human community of the local habitations without giving the proper representation. Justified representation has to be given to local mass. The Root Cause Analysis is the need of the policy framers. Further, policies are framed in the closed rooms from the Top Level of hierarchy for the people of open land from the Bottom Level.
The challenges are hardly undertaken from the grass root level. The improvement in the policy is required: – Root cause analysis of the conflict issues – Representation of the people which constitute major portion of the stakeholders – The action-oriented plans from the bottom line up to the top level – Involvement of the grass root level workers at every step of policy framing process
Delhi Greens: Bharatpur has now become part of the Delhi NCR. How do you think this change will help Bharatpur, if at all and what precautions must the main city area take to ensure that Bharatpur does not become as polluted as the Delhi city?
Dr. S.P. Mehra: The ongoing development processes undertaken by various agencies are short term which lacks sustainable approach. On the name of beatifications, the pucca roads are replacing the open spaces. The water passages are being blocked through various alterations. The drainage system and water supply system lack the vision of sustainable water management or rather to state that the administration lacks the vision of the WATER MANAGEMENT. The Disaster Management planning to mitigate ongoing storms is still awaited.
The District Administration are more focused on protecting the Government Vote Bank rather than the sustainable infrastructural development. The Park Management is also concretizing its natural pavements and open spaces on the name of facilitating tourists. Thus, I hardly believe that the Bharatpur, especially Keoladeo National Park will revert to its original state. Only natural calamities such as floods and storms could clean the Bharatpur in near future.
Delhi Greens: What message would you have for our readers, especially those who want to make a difference by doing something for the environment?
Dr. S.P. Mehra: The people interested in working for “Mother Nature” should not expect any support and/or help from the governance or administration at any level since no plant or animal votes for the political parties. If anyone wants to contribute for Mother Nature than step ahead at the grass root level with the people and community.
The Head Office of RSNH – Rajputana’s Shakuntalam at village Chak Ramnagar/ Ramnagar (Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India) is open for all such volunteers/ workers/ activists/ researchers/ scholars with the action-oriented plans and willing to work for such causes.