Whither the Wilderness
After having retired from advertising and marketing field, Mohan Pai is now working to generate awareness and sensitivity towards wildlife and environment. Based in Bangalore, he has also authored several books, viz. The Western Ghats, Mahadayi/Mandovi River Valley, Flight of the Gods – Hindu Temples & Shrines of Goa and The Elderly (published in 2002).
Whither the Wilderness
There was a time when meadow, grove and stream
The earth and every common sight
To me did seem Apparell’d in celestial light,
The glory and freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it had been of yore,
Turn whereso’er I may,
By night or day, the things which I have
Seen I now can see no more.”
– William Wordsworth
I am tempted to quote here an extract from Civil Original Jurisdiction I.A.No.670 of 2001. In Writ Petition (C) No.202/1995 [K.M. Chinnappa (Applicant) in T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad (Petitioner) Versus Union of India and Others (Respondents):
About one and half century ago, in 1854, as the famous story goes, the wise Indian Chief Seattle replied to the offer of the great White Chief in Washington to buy their land. The reply is profound. It is beautiful. It is timeless. It contains the wisdom of the ages. It is the first ever and the most understanding statement on environment. The whole of it is worth quoting as any extract from it is to destroy its beauty.
“How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?
Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man.”
The wilderness scene is getting murkier and murkier. We have a billion population and even if an iota of this great mass could see the consequences of our rash attitude towards nature and its destruction and consequences, may be we will live in a better world. But nature is treated as a gold mine to be exploited for enriching the few.
To quote Valmik Thapar, “Forests in India are a treasure house. Everyone wants to grab a bit. There is the timber mafia; I know thousands of cases where tribal people were employed to cut down trees. There is the land mafia, out to grab forest land and encroach. There are miners – mining for marble, uranium, diamonds, whatever available. It is in their interest to have forest land denotified”.
Now the Tribal Bill is hanging over the country’s ecological future like the Democles’s Sword. The Bill is a politically motivated and ecologically suicidal proposal. It will mandate that each nuclear family of a forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribe receive up to 2.5 ha of forest land. This would really harm the Adivasis rather than helping them. Much of India’s remaining forests, protected areas, and wildlife would be highly decimated. This will have serious effect on country’s water sources as nearly 600 rivers originate from our forested regions. Much of India’s remaining forests will end up in the hands of land mafia and industrial companies with short-term financial gains. The Bill also proposes to reverse current laws. It would override the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), 1980 and the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) 1972. Enforcement power would rest with Gram Sabhas (Adivasi Community Leaders) and not with MoEF. The JPC has recommended that the Act be placed in the 9th Schedule of the Constitution, which would make it immune to judicial scrutiny and review.
The effects of Global Warming on the Wilderness are quite unpredictable but with the rapid melting of the Himalayan Glaciers which will first increase the volume of water in rivers, causing widespread flooding. But in a few decades this situation will change and the water levels in rivers will decline causing massive eco and environmental problems in northern India. Apart from human miseries, the effect of it on vegetation, forests and wildlife will be very drastic.
As a result of sea level rise, the massive flooding and submergence of the coastal areas will also mean submergence of vegetation and forests of the coastal areas. The unpredictable weather patterns will also see erratic Monsoons affecting the whole subcontinent and its ecology.
DECIMATION OF THE WILDERNESS – A brief history
The protection of wildlife has a long tradition in Indian History. Wise use of natural resources was a prerequisite for many hunter-gatherer societies which dates back to at least 6,000 B.C. Emperor Ahoka’s edicts of the third century B.C. depicts one of the earliest conservation laws.
Centuries later, the Mogul emperors, sportsmen, men of action and born observers that they were, displayed a deep interest in the animal life of the country. The ethos of conservation and reverence for nature and wildlife as reflected in some of the exquisite images depicted in Indian art, painting, sculpture and architecture and use of animal fables from early literature like Panchatantra and Hitopa-desha are more relevant today than they were centuries ago.
Pre-colonial rules had set up hunting reserves in man parts of India. In later years some fine sanctuaries were established in what was then British India, and in a few of the princely states. Well known examples are Bandipur in Karnataka, Corbett Park in Uttar Pradesh, Vedanthangal in Tamil Nadu. But for the protection given to the Lion in Junagadh State and to the Great Indian Rhinoceros in Nepal and Assam, these two animals would have been exterminated long ago…..Click here to read the rest of this article.