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Where Man meets Nature: Bittu Sahgal

May 23, 2013 • Posted in: News
INdia is one of the most biodiverse nations in the world. Though, we are fast losing this natural wealth on the name of  unchecked conventional forms of 'development'. Image: Harsh Piramal

India is one of the most biodiverse nations in the world. Though, we are fast losing this natural wealth on account of unchecked conventional forms of ‘development’.

Conserving our planet’s surviving biodiversity, in the face of today’s misguided developmental ambitions, is undoubtedly one of the most crucial challenges that threatens the very survival of life on earth. This battle is umbilically connected to the climate crisis that has now come to be accepted as a reality by even the most hard-headed economists and scientists.

Image:Harsh Piramal

Sanctuary Asia, the magazine I edit, believes that the only rational and economical way that we can bring the carbon that has been injected into the atmosphere, back safely to the ground is by working to regenerate, restore and refresh the natural ecosystems of the planet. This in turn is a task that can only be achieved by allowing biodiverse species to ‘build’ the planet back again. Both aquatic and terrestrial lifeforms can help clean, restore, expand and maintain our oceans, shores, wetlands, rivers, forest, deserts, grasslands and montane ecosystems better than all the scientists of the world put together.

Every tiny little creature has its role to play in nature.

Every tiny little creature has its role to play in nature.

One very practical way to achieve this objective is the concept of creating a swatch of Community Nature Conservancies (CNCs) around all our existing biodiversity vaults where tigers, elephants, rhinos, lions, birds and insects of all descriptions and a host of aquatic life forms exist. By ensuring that local communities are the primary filter through which all resources, inward and outward, flow, we would be in a position to alter the current relationship of antagonism between people and parks, even as we create lakhs of sustainable livelihoods and jobs founded on the restoration of biodiversity.

 A symbol of India's rich heritage. Image:Harsh Piramal

A symbol of India’s rich heritage.

Basically we advocate turning marginal and failed farms back to forest status. This in truth is a hypnotic possibility in a country where almost half-a-million farmers have already committed suicide, because their farms failed to yield their promised produce, leaving them to deal with debt and social strife beyond human endurance. In essence, community conservancies seek to turn the ‘ball pen dots’ that are our existing PAs into ‘ink blots’ of biodiversity.

Creating the future custodians of our forests.

Creating the future custodians of our forests.

This fits perfectly into the mission of Conservation Wildlands Trust in the Pench Tiger Reserve landscape. Here the E-Base that has been established represents the hope that younger people living around our most valuable parks and sanctuaries might not only be treated justly and fairly, but that they understand the rationale for the conservation measures upon which their own future depends.

Studnets adopting unconventional methods in the kitchens with their Solar Cookers

Students adopting unconventional methods in the kitchens with their Solar Cookers

At Sanctuary, we believe in kids. They are the future of India. They are incredibly intelligent. They are free from cynicism and are ready to work for the planet. The children around the Pench Tiger Reserve are no different and in a few short years, working with CWT Sanctuary would be delighted to mobilise the children living in and around tiger habitats. They will soon be in charge of the reins and with their help , we can foresee a time when tigers and and humans are able to broker the kind of truce that once prevailed before human greed got in the way.

Bittu Sahgal
Editor, Sanctuary Asia

Image: Harsh Piramal

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