Wildlife conservation and its importance
New Delhi, Aug 18: The importance of wildlife conservation in India dates back to time immemorial. The roots can be seen in the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, Atharva Veda, and in scriptures of other religions. A passage from Mahabharata states: "Do not cut down the forest with its tigers and do not banish the tigers from the forest; the tiger perishes without the forest, and the forest perishes without its tigers."- Mahabharata, 400 BCE, Udyogaparva.
Dr A Ramaswamy Iyengar, a Philosopher and a Sanskrit scholar, in his paper presented at a National seminar on 'Environmental Awareness in Sanskrit Literature', 1990 has highlighted the 'Environmental Awareness in the Mahabharata'.
In the modern era, the importance of wildlife conservation grew in the late 60s and early 70s. One of the best wildlife protection statutes were introduced in India-- the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
The forests of India are home to many wild animals and plants found nowhere else in the world--to mention a few: the Tiger, Elephant, Single-horned Rhino, Blue Nawab butterfly etc. Currently, India is left with only 19% of forests out of the entire geographical area. Out of that 19%, it is only 5% protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 as National Parks, Sanctuaries, Conservation Reserves, Community Reserves and Tiger Reserves. The vegetation type is as diverse as desirable, with dry deciduous forests, scrub forests, evergreen forests, mangrove forests, swamps, grasslands, deserts and the like.
Threats and Conservation:
Hunting wild animals remain to be one of the biggest threats to conservation. As per the Interpol report, wildlife crime is second only to narcotics and the demand for trophy hunting, body parts of the Tiger etc., are on the rise. In India, the provisions to curb illegal wildlife trade are stringent under the wildlife act.
Ill-planned developmental activities such as roads, railway lines, encroachment powerlines, planting trees in the forests through unscientific methods, dams, and other activities that convert forests into non-forestry purposes create a lot of lasting damage to the ecosystem. Many projects in the name of development break large blocks of forests into tiny fragments that disrupt the animal movement and hampers the hydrological cycle. Every river takes its birth in the forests. With forests getting chopped, it is impossible to conserve water. Conservation of forests is the conservation of the catchment area.
Forest fires are often considered natural, where the clumps of Bamboo rub against each other and the impact of global warming and climate change. But the reality is that forest fires are not natural but man-made. Fire wipes out everything in its way, and smaller insects and animals burn where replacement is impossible. The reason could vary from the negligence of the law enforcement agency-- forest department or by any act of vengeance by a group. There are a few areas in India where fires ravage the same place annually.
A river ecosystem is crucial for many aspects, from drinking water to the conservation of oceans-interlinking rivers, construction of back-to-back dams, planting trees, sand mining etc., cause irreparable disaster to the rivers. India is home to three types of Crocodilian species-- Mugger, Saltwater and the Gharials. The movement of these reptiles will be hampered due to interlinking, which causes habitat destruction.
With a coastline of almost 7,500 km, Peninsular India is as beautiful and diverse and diverse as the forests. The threats are immeasurable and uncontrolled, like over-fishing, oil spillage, habitat degradation, ill-planned development, plastic dumping, noise pollution and the like. India is one of the major marine biodiverse regions in the world. More than 100 species of Sharks and Rays, 450+ species of Corals, Turtles, Seagrass, Mammals etc.
Grasslands and deserts are often described as wastelands, which not true. Deserts regulate the climate and have a direct impact on ocean currents. There are many talks of planting trees in deserts and grasslands -- this approach is unscientific, and planting trees in the wrong place creates more damage than doing good.
Conservation is imbibed in our culture deeply, for example, the famous 'Hulivesha' of coastal Karnataka depicting the power of the big cat. Likewise, many small statues and temples are built for tigers and leopards in Gujarat and other places. The Elephant God Ganesha is one of the most worshipped Gods in India speaks a lot about the relationship between man and animals. People in India adore animals which one sign of a good population of wild animals for the future.
Conservation of forests, wildlife, seas and oceans etc., requires tremendous political will and public pressure.
There are many constitutional provisions for conservation, like the DPSPs, Article 21 of the Fundamental Rights and Article 51A (g) of the Fundamental Duties.
Individuals should understand India's wildlife and its management, which is key for any successful conservation campaign. Associating with wildlife groups is the first step for a successful wildlifer.
Through lenses, one can contribute a lot through conservation photography by clicking any untoward incident and not upsetting the natural environment.
Development should happen but not at the cost of the environment, and anything can wait but not conservation.