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Problems of identification of camera-trapped tigers
Indian Wildlife - challenges in the new millennium
The greying of India
On the road to extinction
A Tribute to Rumbha - the elephant  
State development project threatens state bird - Sarus
Shahtoosh ban gains momentum worldwide
The road to disaster
Killing nilgais in the name of crop protection
Warring NGO's may spell doom for the tiger
Where have all the sparrows gone?
Cuckoos that fly out of crows' nests
Corbett park woes continue to mount
A question on post mortem examinations in the wild
Is it time to 'cry wolf' again?
Lifting of US sanctions may boost wildlife conservation
Migratory waterfowl may be hit by war in Afghanistan
UP wetlands to provide improved habitat to waterfowl
Anthrax as a potent wildlife killer
Man-elephant conflict takes heavy toll
Demoiselle cranes fly to safety in India
How long lasting are conservation victories
Fake tiger skins : a knotty disguise
Who cares for the wild here anyway?
A tribute to Charger - the long living tiger
Draining of wetlands threatening wildlife
Wildlife management needs rapid response units
Dudhwa loses another tiger
Indian Wildlife Board meets after five years

Hindustan Times, Lucknow | November 11, 2001


How long-lasting are conservation victories?


WHEN ONE considers the large number of NGO’s and individuals who are ostensibly engaged in the wildlife conservation movement in India, it should be both logical and safe for one to assume that either singularly or collectively, they would surely be achieving major victories in their ongoing battle against the combination of powerful commercial interests like mining, timber extraction, tourism and transport etc, which seem all too eager to rip through whatever little is still left of our wilderness.

Unfortunately, most of the feedback coming from the field seems to indicate that it is not so. With regular reports of destruction of wildlife at the hands of poachers, and denudation of forests by large-scale infrastructure development projects, it is increasingly becoming clear that the most frustrating aspects which the proponents of the conservation movement have to contend with, is the lack of any worthwhile victories – victories that are not just temporary, but which could withstand the passage of time, and still be tangible enough to be savoured as success.

It is probably a combination of two of the most clichéd reasons that is responsible for this state of affairs. Firstly, our country continues to have an uncontrolled population, which has bourgeoned out of all proportions even near and around the Protected Areas (PA’s), thereby bringing a huge pressure to bear upon the natural resources therein. Secondly, lured by profit, commercial projects like mining, timber, tourism and transport consistently make a beeline for these areas, and are equally responsible for creating destructive inroads into PA’s.

The conservation organisations try to battle it out with these government or corporate bodies in courts of law. They sometimes do achieve euphoric victories, like the ones achieved in Corbett national park where a proposed highway through its southern periphery was halted, or the one in Bihar, where local activists secured realignment of a proposed railway line from Hazaribagh to Koderma so that it did not pass through the Hazaribagh National Park. But it is another matter however, that subsequent reversal of rulings, amendments in law, or simply non-execution of judicial orders, takes the sheen away soon enough, veritably turning these temporary victories into permanent defeats.

In order to outline how ephemeral these conservation victories can prove to be with the passage of time, it may be pertinent to recall that in 1999, the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), a Delhi-based conservation organisation had sought intervention in an ongoing legal case between the state Irrigation and the Forest department, and had been able to secure a favourable order from the Lucknow High Court on the basis of the wildlife conservation issue raised in its intervention petition.

The judicial conflict involved the non-return of about 802.3 hectares of land belonging to the Corbett National Park (CNP) by the Irrigation department, which it was under agreement to do, subsequent to the completion of the Kalagarh dam on the Ramganga river within CNP. Although the Irrigation Department completed work on the dam in 1971, the land in excess of its requirement for maintenance and upkeep of the dam was not transferred back to the forest department. Gradually this chunk of land was reportedly colonised illegally by people who had nothing to do with the Irrigation department. Based on research it had conducted, the WPSI apprised the court that this bustling human colony was responsible for blocking the principal migratory route of the westernmost population of Asian elephants, between Corbett and Rajaji national parks.

Taking cognizance of this contention, the appropriate directives were issued by the court so as to facilitate the removal of the colony and restoration of this migration corridor to the wild elephants. But where human beings are concerned, human rights can’t be far behind. Quick on the uptake, the adversaries of these orders brought into play the argument that ejecting the residents would be against their basic human rights, as well as against natural justice. Since then, this has been the convenient smokescreen that has prevented the authorities from executing the court orders.

This is definitely not to aver that human rights are less paramount in comparison to those of wildlife, but one only wishes that those espousing the cause of human rights should also be aware that there is an equally vital need for wildlife conservation too. It is for them to realise that wildlife itself looks towards humans to manage it, and thereby is deserving of their sympathy in making concessions that contribute to its survival in whatever few areas that still remain.

It is for the amalgamation of this essential ingredient in our characters that the knowledge of ecological principles, and the concepts of ecological fragility, should be strictly made part of learning for our present and future generations.