Q&A: The great green hopes of the new head of the Bombay Natural History Society
Bivash Pandav, a professor at the Wildlife Institute of India in Dehradun, discusses greening a concrete jungle, planting a tree today, and the people that are Mumbai’s greatest natural asset.Updated: Sep 25, 2020, 20:57 IST
The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), which works in the fields of research and conservation, appointed a new director this month. Bivash Pandav, a professor at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in Dehradun, has been a field biologist and researcher for 30 years.
He’s known for marching into new territories and finding hidden treasures — his greatest feat so far has been the discovery of a mass sea-turtle nesting site near the mouth of the Rushikulya River in Odisha, in 1994. He has also been awarded for his work in the field of tiger research and conservation.
His new pet subject is behavioural ecology — the study of how people and communities compete and cooperate within the constraints of what is naturally available to them. It’s part of what he teaches at WII. We sat down to ask him a few quick questions about his new stomping ground — the concrete jungle of Mumbai.
* What does Mumbai have that other cities don’t, when it comes to natural history?
A great community of humans who are environmentally conscious and already aware of the importance of conservation. There is an enthusiastic and vocal crowd that cares deeply for the city, be it its marine life, mangroves, remaining wetlands with their flamingoes, or the leopards at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
* What is the greatest natural history loss Mumbai has faced, in your opinion?
We have lost quite a few things, but I prefer to focus on what we’ve gained. Like the egg laying and hatching of around 80 Olive Ridley turtles on the city’s Versova beach in 2018. We must never give up hope and never give up on nature.
* What’s your greatest wish for 2021?
For Mumbai, I wish for all its people to develop a deep bond with their trees. Our survival is intimately related to the survival of the trees that surround us.
* What’s your advice to those looking to play a role in greening a mass of grey like Mumbai?
Find a space, plant and nurture a tree. That’s how beautiful avenues are born; that’s how a beautiful city becomes even more beautiful.
* What’s the first thing you’ll do when you move to Mumbai?
Uncover a few secrets. There are at least a few natural history marvels hidden in every city.