Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A view and a thought...

Monsoon clouds cloak Anamudi--India's highest peak south of the Himalayas--it rises above the Western Ghats, surrounded by rain forests of the Anamalai Hills. Photographed here from the Valparai Plateau in Tamil Nadu, the TN-Kerala state border passes somewhere through the forests in the valley below... Not that it makes a difference to the tigers, elephants or hornbills who are the custodians of such great wildernesses. It will do us good to protect them and keep their forests alive, for, if not for anything else, these forests make the Monsoon possible. They harvest its water so that we can have it all year round.

Next time you buy that bottle of Bisleri, which we so take for granted, spare a thought for where that water came from and see if your conscience agrees to what we do in the name of growth and development to the forests that keep our rivers alive. Forget conscience, I bet you that even your best logic will disagree with our actions.

Valparai, August 2010.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The difference between conflict and onslaught

My standard morning begins with reading about an elephant getting electrocuted or a person being trampled to death in the morning papers. Hardly a day passes when there isn't news on human-elephant conflict. And this is just in local news, from just one state. As my day proceeds, of course, more biodiversity is usually added as more news pours in—typically of a leopard being pulped to death somewhere by a sadistic mob seeking an excuse for a thrill, or of a tiger getting mowed down on a highway that has cut through its forests. In this link is yet another scene from the alarming new routine across India's last remaining wildernesses, as mines drive away wild animals from their last asylums and highways come in the way of these refugees, on the run in their own home. All in the name of 'infrastructure' and 'development' to cater to a cancerously growing population of 1.2 billion people bent upon increasing their appetite for the planet (read GDP) at a minimum of 10 per cent per annum and in no seeming hurry to restrict their penchant for procreation.

Conflict is supposed to be two sided. A one-sided onslaught cannot be called conflict. I feel increasingly opposed to the use of this term in the context of humans and wildlife. I wonder why we call it human-tiger, human-elephant or human-leopard conflict, when the offensive is entirely ours. These animals, like the desperate elephants in the video in the link, just want the most basic of rights—the right of safe passage. They are as non-confrontational as non-confrontational can be. What we, as a race, are doing to the last remnants of our mega-fauna cannot, by any measure, be termed as mere conflict. It is plain and simple massacre—indiscriminate, brutal and criminal. And for all our 'humanitarian' values, we, as a race, have historically thrived on this massacre.

I am typically not the kind who gives up hope and rants in pessimism and am sometimes even ‘accused’ of choosing to see light in the most hopeless of conservation cases, or rather, gone-cases! The way things are, hope and optimism are the only weapons for those who battle for conservation. But after watching this video, for once, I can’t help yielding to that nagging feeling of helplessness despite which we must all fight on.