By Maxwell Pereira
Dang’s recent book on “Sariska National Park”,
I was invited to a brain storming session on the ‘mismanagement’
of our country’s forests and wildlife. This, aimed at building
public opinion on the need to ensure the conservation of India's
natural resources and its wilderness. There was urgency for rapid,
equitable, and sustainable development, to 'deliver' higher levels
of access to prosperity to the economically/ educationally disenfranchised
tribals, those ‘below poverty line’ and the remote
Prime Minister’s current personal interest for tigers, wildlife,
nature and forest conservation, formed the backdrop. The significance
of the Sariska book surfacing at a time of hue and cry over disappearance
of tigers from this sanctuary, was not lost – even as the
deliberators’ brains battled on Himraj’s concern over
Government’s latest move to pass a Bill in Parliament to
give land owning rights to exploitable tribals without addressing
actually the real issue of ‘wildlife management’.
outdoor man Avinash Kohli put the matter in perspective, by meandering
through developments since 1950 on the wild life scene in India.
Evolution of its depletion commenced with the terai regions put
to the plough, in pursuance of the country’s then foremost
priority to fight famine and boost agriculture. This drove wildlife,
including tigers, into mountainous forests and reserves.
the much needed Industry, with Agriculture, became the main themes
for development. While India benefited from USA's PL-480 with
new seeds, the forests, open areas and some waste lands got destroyed
due to misguided import of commercial trees like Eucalyptus, destroying
our eco-system and ‘foxing’ the Indian wild life.
Crop protection guns freely issued to farmers to protect crops
from wild animals - resulted in wiping out game, in addition to
loss of habitat. This, despite 'Shikhar' being allowed technically
only in earmarked blocks under a program earlier introduced by
the British for their “rich man's sport”.
indiscriminate game hunting was sought to be arrested in a new
wave of socialism of 'do gooders' by 1972. The growing concern
for wildlife conservation and protection, prompted the Tourism
Department to get players in the field like Kohli’s ‘Indian
Shikhar Outfitters’ to change the title to ‘Wild Life
Outfitters’. A moratorium for five years on Tiger Hunts
for Tourists was proposed, only to be revoked later to lure in
tourism’s super rich. Kohli points a finger at Vidya Charan
Shukla as responsible for this, as owner of “Allwyn Cooper
and Tourism Department” that specialised then in inviting
famous writers and hunters as guests, ostensibly to promote these
came Project Tiger with new experts from among the very same who
had hunted tigers in their earlier avatar as Forest Officers.
Suddenly all those famed hitherto for hunting and shooting became
culprits under the newfound concern for wildlife - members of
erstwhile 'princely families', the British and Indian officialdom,
including army and other services, and rich Indians.
industrial development, agriculture and new roads were issues
expectedly on an over drive. The concern over depletion of wildlife
did not curb the loss of habitat due to the plough, or the draining
of wet and waste lands by the eucalyptus. Instead, the core areas
of National Parks where Project Tiger was initiated gradually
became the only ones left for tigers, with Project authorities
developing vested interests, becoming celebrated authors overnight,
and refusing ‘outsiders’ including tourists (unless
they were friends, of course) to visit for Tiger viewing, wanting
not to ‘disturb’ precious wild life.
A new breed of Urban Society descended as protectors of wild life
and brought in the concept of "preservation" with “no
interference” – forgetting crucial ‘management’
and ‘conservation’. Also forgotten, the need to involve
locals especially the farmers and the tribals of the area, in
managing their ‘wildlife’. These white-collared dreamers
with political patronage and their own beliefs in preservation,
which ended up with a scenario of disappearing wildlife, is the
very same now being tasked to carry on with their final wipe-out
and annihilation, Kohli feels.
world over, things have been different. We need to emulate success
stories in wild life management by the main International centres
of game development, like in North America, Africa, certain areas
of Europe – where they have multiplied not only their own,
but also the imported Indian wildlife, introduced in Texas and
Hawaii in USA. To learn from the farmer-rancher in San Antonio
who has given up cattle farming to take up game farming, to multiply
animals by the thousands. To bring the concept of game management
where the excess, deformed or old are culled and used as an economic
resource. This ‘game’ to be treated as a sustainable
economic resource, and the local farmer/ tribal who has a stake
in its conservation and management, its major beneficiary.
professedly vegetarian, 69% of Indian population is non-vegetarian.
If the Indian farmer becomes aware of the added income over his
crops by ‘game management’ – with another say
25% increase in present earnings, he would jump to it. Tribals
living on the periphery of forests should be the main wards to
watch over wild life with proper training. The commercial benefit
with prospect of job opportunities for their youth in this venture
will make them ensure against poaching. This is happening not
only in Africa, but even in Chitral, Pakistan for the Markhor.
existing preservation policy has been a misnomer and a costly
affair. This should be shed in favour of new methods employed
to improve habitat rehabilitation, trans-location of game, and
to make tribals and farmers part of the conservation program to
treat wildlife as their economic resource – so that as beneficiaries
they become guardians of wildlife.
words: 31.05.2005: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23,
Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http://
www.maxwellperira.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
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