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The wildlife conservation needs a mass movement urgently

The field experience suggests incentivising the local communities for conservation provides better results

analysis Updated: Feb 24, 2019 18:54 IST
Parveen Kaswan and Akash Deep Badhawan
Parveen Kaswan and Akash Deep Badhawan
wildlife,wildlife conservation,mass movement
Women from a Rampur-based self help group have composed a song to sensitise people about forest and wildlife conservation(HT)

It may seem as arguably the biggest irony of the century that despite the majority of the world’s population knowing well about the ill effects of pollution, wildlife habitat destruction, climate change and deforestation, they are not able to translate into mass public movements. The hullabaloo about these issues remain limited to discussions among a group of intellectuals already well versed in the subject. It’s like preaching to the converted.

As far as the wildlife conservation is concerned, we face a dichotomy between the issue’s over-romanticisation by the elite and lack of knowledge among some of the poorer sections of society. A large part of India lives in villages and is unaware of the melting polar ice or Himalayan glaciers and the ramifications it has on their daily lives. A farmer working on the field is more worried about crop yield than the worsening ground water level due to his/her overdraw.

Governments do not work with a long-term vision either. They are worried about the short-term development goals such as roads, bridges, canals, etc. That is because they will be judged on the basis of new projects rather than for protecting something which will have positive effects years down the line. This non-wholesome judgment by the public combined with the electoral-political system only makes us miss the wood for the trees.

The air pollution levels in Delhi are a glaring example of the deleterious effects the stubble burning in the villages of Punjab and Haryana bring. In the current scenario, there seems to be some realisation to work at grass root levels in order to combat the pollution arising out of agricultural practices. The stakeholders have realised this and the action has shifted to sensitising the farmers about the ill effects of stubble burning.

The disaccord is not prevalent on the field only. The recent Davos summit saw a record number of private jets — a 15% increase over the last year — ferrying the leaders to talk on climate change. This gap between climate talks and climate action is disturbing and needs to be addressed at the earliest by a greater involvement of the masses. Though such talks and conventions do play an important role in increasing awareness to a certain extent, but for a country such as India — where the masses suffer from the aforementioned lack of awareness — increasing their proactive participation is of prime importance.

The field experience suggests incentivising the local communities for conservation provides better results. About eight million residents of Bogota city get water from Chingaza and Sumapaz National Parks. The New York Watershed Protection Program is a bright example of how protection of water at source through regulations and incentives can reduce the investment on filtering — the city’s nearby watersheds provide drinking water to nine million people since 1990s. The Bishnois’ tradition of protecting the nature has survived decades without any annual summit and fancy conference. Mass movements that focus on active conservation is what the world needs today.

Parveen Kaswan and Akash Deep Badhawan are officers of the Indian Forest Service

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Feb 24, 2019 18:54 IST