Bengal Tiger Consultation

Last week I had the good fortune to attend this fascinating conference which was supported by The Shri Ram School. However, on this occasion, rather than write about it myself, I asked some of the students who attended to do so. What follows is the write-ups from two of them, Priyanjali Mitra and Rishika Sahgal, both of Aravali.

Their observations are thoughtful, articulate and reflective of the very full and interested role they took in the discussions over the two days. The students of TSRS were not mere bystanders and observers. They asked searching, probing questions and took a full and active part. They also conducted themselves in ways that brought great respect for our school and were a credit to TSRS.

We are hoping for many interesting things to come out of the TSRS presence at this conference including a possible online collaboration with a school in New York on environmental issues.

Here are their articles;

For over 25 years Sanctuary has been writing and campaigning for India’s wilderness areas. The Fifth Consultation-Ecosystems, Climate Change and National Development was held on July 28-29th at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, Teen Murti House in New Delhi.
The inaugural session had eminent speakers and parliamentarians namely Mr. Jairam Ramesh(MOEF ),Dr. Karan Singh(Member Of Parliament) and Mr. Salman Khurshid(Minister-Corporate Affairs).Bittu Sahgal-Editor of the Sanctuary Asia magazine delivered the keynote address where once again he stressed on the importance of conservation and preservation especially in an era of climate change.
The conference was spread over 2 days and had a host of agendas from critical wildlife habitat, wildlife trade, internal security, science and conservation to ecosystem services ,legal frameworks, the Ministry of Environment and Forests(MOEF) and the Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority(CAMPA).
There were certain very exciting and informative sessions and we as students took note of certain points that we pondered over the course of the conference.
In the inaugural session, Valmik Thapar presented a simulated view of the Panna Chhatarpur area in Madhya Pradesh which is now a completely degraded land. He wanted to devise a plan to renew this land within 2 days of the conference. This seemed an interesting idea and it finally boiled down to the creation of a Green Forest Zone or a Green Economic Zone the principle of which everyone agreed on as there was a need for controlled managemnet.state of the art protection, air and just settlement for villagers as they are important stakeholders and subsidy for non-carbon energy use.
Some interesting points came up during the course of the day like Dr. Ullas Karanth pointing out that we need to prioritize our battles and that science and technology will be an imperative to protect forests.
Naturenomics by Mr. Samir Menon is a very important concept which relates to capital formation for a region or organization through the creation of ecologically driven assets in a sustainable manner.
Dr Annupriya Gundameda( IIT B) stated that payment for ecosystem services is a plausible way out.
Belinda Wright(WPSI) spoke extensively on tiger trade and poaching and its relation to India’s internal security. She gave absolutely relevant examples of poachers hand in glove with the timber mafia, cannabis growth in Corbett and armed insurgency in Simlipal.She rightly said that Indian trade in endangered wildlife was a ‘wildlife version of blood diamonds’; it being a 10-20 million dollar industry.
Dr. Ullas Karanth also spoke of the need to have inviolate spaces and a sound core buffer strategy.
On day 2,related agendas were discussed where Salman Khurshid stated that preservation of forests and tigers had an inherent link with preservation of eco-systems. The most important comment he made was the need for political empowerment as regards conservation of wildlife.
Later in the day, Vinita Rai,Former Member Secretary of Administration Reforms Commission brought up the issue of a flawed examination system for the Indian Forest Services. She stressed on the need to test aptitude in the examination. The ministry should be open to scientific input and expertise from abroad. A healthy tiger population in a particular park did not necessarily imply that the officers were efficient and functioning well. There was need for innovation in the service and specialization at least 10 years into the service. This would also help bring back the public spirit and the attractiveness of the service would increase. Another very interesting point that was discussed especially for me was the fact that intake of candidates should not be restricted to science gradates as a lot of experts felt that management skills, public relations etc were equally important in the service.
Finally at the end a few suggestions that were agreed on in principle were the creation of a Green Forest Zone(GEZ),a cess to be levied on energy and raw material usage and environmental education as a subject to be evaluated with the correct curriculum and teacher training.
In the evening at the closure of the conference,Mr. Kapil Sibal came in for an interactive dialogue. It was solely based on environmental education and education in our country-how it is at present and how it ideally should be. He says that there was no use in having a 9%GDP growth in the economy if it did not sustain the earth. He also stated that the government and the community were not engaging in enough dialogue. We need to look at communities as sustainable units. He very rightly pointed out that communication of scientific principles was based on theorems whereas the correlation between nature and science matters the most.
These were the valuable pointers that I took back from this conference. For someone who has been doing the little that she can in this field which is extremely politicised,polarised and where passion can sometimes lead to deadlock as matters are brought to the table, this conference enabled me to gain a lot of knowledge that was way beyond what any textbook could have taught me. It has broadened my horizon on matters pertaining to ecosystems, climate change and tiger conservation. Mr. Jairam Ramesh was truly impressive as a speaker and what remains to be seen is whether he converts this honeymoon into a long lasting relationship by fulfilling his promises.Mr Kapil Sibal made me rethink about a lot of things and as I pondered over the meaning of education and how much we have truly learnt, a thought came into my mind. Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild, and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech.”

Priyanjali Mitra, The Shri Ram School, Aravali

Saving the Bengal Tiger Conference

Having been part of the conservation of tiger effort for 6 years, we always look forward to a tiger consultation, and this was no exception. During the consultation held on the 28th and 29th of July, we not only discussed some of the problems faced by the dwindling tiger population, but also discussed possible solutions. It was a platform for people from all walks of life to come together- forest officials, ministers like the minister of Environment and Forest, Jairam Ramesh, the HRD minister Kapil Sibal, eminent conservationists like Bittu Sahgal, Valmik Thapar, Fateh Singh Rathore, economists, scientists, police personnel and students. Of all the problems discussed during the 2 days, we knew some, learnt some and were motivated to work towards eradicating all.

Saving the tiger involves saving its ecosystem as well as curbing global warming and climate change, things which are all closely interlinked. An economist said, “Agriculture provides only 16.5% of our GDP and is growing at a measly rate of 3% per annum. It also contributes maximum to pollution because of the extensive use of fertilizers which pollutes the ground water. Agriculture also uses 80% of the water supply in the country. Yet, most government projects for rural development involve promoting increased agriculture production. However, India already has sufficient agricultural product to meet its food requirements, but 20% of food is wasted during storage and distribution. Thus, the government needs to increase efficiency of farming, food storage and transport, not increase production”

A hotly debated topic was the relocation of villages from inside national parks. Everyone reached consensus on the fact that resettlement cannot be forced on to the villagers and the villagers’ lives outside must be better after resettlement than before.

Another topic hotly deliberated was the growth of urbanization. For India’s development urbanization is inevitable. Thus, the government needs to build more cities instead of the current trend of expanding cities to bursting point. Sanjeev Sanyal of WWF said that we need to revive small town India, relook urban design and build small, dense efficient cities instead of the spacious garden cities we have been building till now. Also, there must be facilities to promote the most important mode of transport- walking!

One of the most important issues discussed was a need to revamp the ministry of environment and forest. In Bittu Sir’s words, “today, wildlife is like a tick on the dog of environment!” The ministry needs to be bifurcated into 2: a ministry for environment and another ministry for wildlife and forest. Also, there has to be a radical change in the IFS. The syllabus of the exam and the recruitment rules need to be changed. During the last year of the training phase for IFS officials, candidates must be trained for specialization in either of the following fields:
• wildlife,
• forestry,
• people oriented projects
• reclamation of degraded land.

We must also have GEZ (Green Economic Zones) just as there are SEZs to promote economic growth, we need GEZs to achieve the minimum forest cover required for a sustainable future.

Most of all, all the delegates realized the importance of innovation in the field of wildlife protection, especially for saving the tiger, because “if you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got!”

Rishika Sahgal
JTTF
Class 12 S
The Shri Ram School Aravali

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