water check for animals

Many places barrages have been built to store, direct and release water as per human need. However, the impact these barrages make on biodiversity or ecosystem is unseen for many. In a recent talk by a scientist of Wildlife Institute of India who had been working on the only floating lake, the Loktak lake of Manipur, and the dancing deer or Sangai deer, the unique character of “phumdis” was mentioned. These phumdis / grass mats donning the lake would sink to the bottom of the lake during the dry season, pick up nutrient from the lake bed and rise to the top with the rainfall. However, with the Ithai barrage construction, the dynamics of water level and phumdi interaction is on hold. The “phumdis” are reducing affecting the whole ecosystem and the fish/ dancing deer /human community and in turn the unique culture which people spend humongous money to go and see.

2006
The beautiful phumdi in loktak lake as seen from Google Earth image of 2006
2016

The beautiful phumdi in loktak lake as seen from Google Earth image in 2016

Similarly, working in Okhla bird sanctuary, Gautambudhhnagar I observed the habitat to be maintained for water birds, flamingoes and ducks could not suffice by the barrage authorities. The water level was entirely maintained by the demand from Agra and hence irrigation department. The shallow waters required by flamingoes on their arrival in winter in NCR region is not fulfilled by Okhla barrage and hence they stick to banks which are too close to human intrusions and hence risking the life of bird too.

The construction of the dam and barrages are very much requirement of human development. However, in construction and maintenance, a holistic approach is lacking. Growth agenda should have sustenance of nature and biodiversity also as a primary factor. 

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Oriental honey buzzard

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Delhi Ridge and Najafgarh drain have been an ecological stronghold of various animals. The fast development, pollution, and urbanization are leaving no place for small animals like mongoose and fox (certain road kills one can still see on Sardar Patel Marg. However, till the last tree stand, which won’t be far much as most of them are also cemented on the roots to “space out car parking”, the birds especially the big ones can still be spotted in these areas. The Oriental Honey Buzzard was seen in Delhi Cantonment on the afternoon of October (which is quite hot now). Perched on the branch, it was on lookout…..possibly for food? or that drink which is impossible to get in nowadays due to most wetland being cemented. Will it come to your building tanks to drink water? I highly doubt.

Understanding the elusiveness

To understand any animal whose presence has been minimally or least reported, one should try to see a pattern in existing information. Tiger has been confirmed reported above a particular height with characteristic vegetation and habitat. However, for the vast Himalayan range, these confirmed reports/ scientific papers are a starting point. Whenever we come across such case, its best to write down the available information. When, What, Why, How is what we try to figure out and that can be done by understanding a pattern.

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While searching for the recent reports from the high Himalayas, I came across 3 “areas”. Towards the west is Askot WLS, central is Neora and Torsa Strict Nature Reserve and east is Dibang. The forest type and prey of these research studies give me some insight apart from other ground and satellite information.

So if its a bird, butterfly, lion or tiger, first ask When, What, Why, How. Jot down the information first. Homework will open eyes to see any pattern!

can we all be lucky?

The #metoo campaign, (no it’s not a trend or fashion!), is a right and an expression of thought which needed the support of many women to raise the tide high and wash the shore. Guess the frightful and shaky words expressing the sad humiliating experience of others gives more strength to women than what one herself undergo. Its very right that victim can be of any gender. Majority most of the time expresses women being victimized but isn’t it natural? How else we are maintaining a male-dominated workforce? isn’t it a reverse consequence of “women sho away and stay at home attitude”? One is scared or feels aversion so high that she feels staying at home reading books cooking defines her Cinderella story.

However, I don’t know if ever I will be that courageous as the women on twitter, FB and every media. I didn’t go through what they went through. I had been in wildlife where a skewed gender workplace is always visible. I did face certain turmoil the baseless stalking and scanning of my privacy but by fellow colleagues morons or someone who was not my boss. It used to be very annoying to see my friends who knew my predicament and irritation sympathize with me yet party and do projects with people who were troubling me in the first place. Its very true such thing just makes one feel a victim. Although it should be that a disgraceful person should not be entertained anywhere and not that someone speaking up for me and picking my fight. That way one just highlights the victim and not the offender. As a society, a man or a woman should not be standing next to an “offender” if one wants a bit of improvement on the mental health of the society as a whole. Yet I picked up the courage to report against the person in question. And I realized a worse scenario is the absence of a “system”. Does a woman tears give one a proof? Won’t that just lead to sympathy with the lady in question? What is woman cell? Shouldn’t it be harassment cell? Why is it such a big deal to report to police while being inside an institution which doesn’t even have a harassment cell? Does beating up by BF and friends is considered a solution even? When one says educated society why is there no proper system of reporting grievance cell? A guy or a girl harassing someone won’t behave same as your friend and someone “I have known since 10 years”. Why is the person who attempts to report any harassment is questioned: “what did you say or do that he /she is stalking you”?

These questions are always there and it just frustrates one for the lack of a proper system.

In my last job, I had worked with 6-7 bosses. Some of them were young and others were quite mature. I never had any untoward experience and in fact, they had watchful eyes over all of us. It is not that the “alone/working late” option was not there yet, lucky never had the bad experience. The scientist I have known have a wonderful lifestyle too. They try to keep a life back home. Work hard till the office timing and they try to get a life and ask us to get one too. That kind of working style solves certain problems. Also, in today time when conferences are online and interactive, I feel unless a robust system is in the workplace , most of the work should be done online only. Off course it is a utopian thought and quite biased with my personality and profession. It’s not possible for everyone and also it means women shouldn’t have freedom. But a workplace not having a grievance cell (member being the team and not one person) should not be asking anyone to work on the weekend and after office hours.

A workplace should follow a certain protocol and a regular official check should be instated which is not a norm in India. If we appoint an officer to check the hygiene of a restaurant why can’t we establish officer to check the mental health of humans? The investment in lavish dinner is affordable but a happy soul is not?

wildlife awareness should be the primary idea

I have always believed in the fact that one should not reject an idea or opinion just because you don’t like the mouth. Hence when someone “great in wildlife ” gives idea and suggestions, I do lend my ear.

However, I also believe that such opinions take a toll on the awareness amongst layman. Many people complain about forest department inefficiency in managing the forests. The forest department or the people working in close association with the forest department lacks one thing tremendously for sure, outreach and opinions. I read one article long time back that Amitabh Bachchan is the most popular star even in his fading acting years because he reaches out to people. Not only he keeps a track of events going in the current environment, but he lets other people take a sneak peek into his life also hence people, young or old, feel connected. How did he master this art when many of his contemporaries and many powerful leaders inspite of being on twitter all the time couldn’t get a genuine understanding of people?

The history of forest management dates back to the Mauryan empire. Before that yes in our religious texts the reverence towards the forest and its inhabitants were there. But can one conserve what we reverend? If so was the case then snakes must not have been under threat or for that matter the harmless sarus crane. The forest management of Indian resources use must have been in the mind of the British who brought many “management plan” across India. Still, we can’t rule out the contributions of many Englishmen who highlighted and protected our parks like F.W Champion who would do his duties to show off the forest for hunting of tiger yet would deliberately avoid areas of tiger existence. Probably Valley of flowers would have been unknown to us had it not been for a foreigner. Yet management of forest comes with a legacy to the Indian Forest Services and hence the increase in areas under protected areas (PA) is a contribution of the Services only. The politicians have their own agendas every year. All our honorable prime ministers have contributed to Indian wildlife conservation in someway or other apart from the supreme support provided by Mrs Indira Gandhi but yes , for most of them natural heritage conservation is not the primary agenda. But if India has increased tiger reserve number to 50, guess we are doing our bit in bringing the forest under priority flag. Many people out of the ego and their vested interest would not accept the increase in tiger number a thing to applaud, Agreed. But a well thought design of umbrella species -habitat conservation and to protect the forest by declaring it tiger reserve is contributing in its own big way.

I believe appreciating what we have and contributing, engaging in the betterment of the science and species should be our criterion. I attended a meet in which panel was to discuss the loopholes between the functioning of two major giants in wildlife conservation: the bureaucrat and the scientific community. it seems management and the scientific community is always at loggerheads when they should be joining hands. As a third party, I could see that they were unable to conclude anything on the panel itself! This is sad. No one can deny that for the best management of a protected area the two hands should meet. Even the activist and NGO’s who think about saving the wilderness should be together with science and management. Throwing stones at each other and stating as if it was in my hand I would have done the job better and differently is a very wrong logic.

Coming back to the mouth I referred to in beginning. In a well-read newspaper his article came and while reading it I realized its an idea with many loopholes. However, when an activist or researcher speaks anything in media, a big onus of the general awareness of the public lies in Him/Her. Bureaucrat mostly refrains from the statement because they represent an institution and are answerable to many people. But a famous activist says and if His/Her idea and statement (no matter he/she is stating if without a well thought discussion with the panel of specialist or with a backing of science) has a much greater impact on the community. This tilt towards a human is not a loss in anyone’s eyes as he/she will get money and popularity benefits. But it gives a major setback to the efforts of people working in conservation with very meager salary.

Management, science and activism need to come together but not for their own individual benefit. For the benefit of fast depleting forests.For the love of trees and its essence come together!

clamour for plastic

In recent times media is flooding with views about plastics and its ban. Some just cry about hypocrisy others come up with a genuine suggestion to address the root cause of plastics. However since I am an “accused activist who supports plastic bans”, i feel obliged to bring out some points of how to handle this crisis.
In the wildlife field, I came across tribal communities whose past generations were dependent completely on the forest. Now once you move them out of the forest and bring them into the mainstream, they are completely lost and many times the effect is seen on their mental and health well being. Like handing over the community cooking gas cylinder when they are used to timber. Recent times breaking the dependency was adopted by sulabh shauchalaya program too. The shift is difficult but looking at larger good cause it’s not impossible. And its damn difficult for ignorant to get used to technology and science advances but it won’t be difficult for us advanced to revert back a bit.
Similarly, when we talk about reducing plastic usage it can be obtained slowly (a bit speed up way for sure looking at the bad condition of our planet). I am talking about sustainability which can be brought in the picture by training oneself over a period of time. By being careful of bringing a bag whenever you go out shopping is not breaking your dependency on anything but will make you more careful and disciplined only. Its very true maximum things we get from big brand products to small thelawallah bhaiya are wrapped in plastic. But anything which seems impossible for you to change right now don’t focus on that. For starter, focus on things which is not very difficult.
We love to eat chaat from our local chaatwalahbhaiya even though the poor guy offers in the plastic plate and not pattal. I asked him can you pack if I bring my own dabba? He said why would he mind if i can take that much pain? I can carry my own plate and spoon too!Why should I bother if few people find it funny? I care for planet and I can do this much. I dont buy mineral water bottle ever (as I believe most of them are not pure anyways) yet if I am dying of thirst I would drink water from wherever I get but other than that I skip plastic waterbottle, colddrink. Easy! as I am not dependent on it.I believe we women are contributing to these plastics more than men. Most Men use single soap for face, body,head but us women want multiple plastic bottled cosmetics. Hence guilty I am slowly shifting to a single soap for bathing. It doesnt make much difference (shampoo for dull hair, oily hair blah blah is nonsense!). I cant force people in my family to not use plastic bottle (apart from making them aware of the bad effects), yet I try to use the accumulated plastic bottles in the house for planting as many saplings as possible.
All I say is bringing a shift slowly but eventually. Every day put effort and then you will realize its a disciplined life. The big brands won’t shut down their plastic packaged products unless demands get low. If by forcing the government we could have achieved anything then we all know ill effects of cigarette has it been banned? It’s not out of business because of demand. You start refusing plastic bag, straw plastic packed bakery cold drinks then only the plastic will faze out or the big companies will come with an alternative.
You may have milk also from paper carton to feel good about your contribution yet how will you avoid the cow munching away to glory on the plastic bag? And if you think that plastic in food canal of Gau Mata won’t affect your health (if you are vegan) then there must be some other way omnipresent plastic will creep in your life. The choice is in your hand.

Children Activity and environment

I have a nephew with whom I love to spend time. Already a Recycle-reuse-environment pro, he loves if any activity is for nature and importance of environment conservation.

This summer vacation I taught him few things at regular interval. First was a small act of decorating a waste glass bottle and using it for money plant growth. We clipped a money plant sapling from just below one of the node of the full climber. We placed this sapling in the bottle filled with water and changed water after 10 days. In a month time, we had nice roots in this bottle money plant sapling. Now was the time to transfer the sapling with roots in the soil.

We went to Chaayos a tea parlor where we get tea in nice mud cup. My nephew asked the shop lady’s permission to take the used cup back home. The lady happily wrapped it and gave us the used cups. Our money plant now has a new home! least cost maximum happiness in kiddo.

Our young environment warrior. The next task he wants to take up is the preparation of paper bags and spreading awareness about not using plastic! A bit of guidance is necessary for these kids to think big about the environment.