Mistaking guns for trees

The Tamil Nadu Green Movement wants the state government to use armed guards to protect a rain forest. Will they never learn?

 
Published: Tuesday 31 August 1999

re guns all that green? They seem to be very much in demand. Today guns are sought after by the conservation lobby. They say that guards carrying guns are needed to protect wildlife from poachers. Guns are also sought after by poachers. They need them to shoot wildlife. Guns are now being sought by the Tamil Nadu Green Movement. It wants armed personnel to patrol the Gudalur rainforests in the state.

The forest in Gudalur is under attack. It is being attacked by greedy encroachers bent upon devouring forest land, converting it into plantation or just raiding it for the booty it offers. These encroachers are backed by political muscle.

The Tamil Nadu Green Movement has said that if the process continues the rainforest of Gudalur will soon be on the road towards becoming history. But will guns stem the tide in favour of the forest? What the Tamil Nadu Green Movement needs to do is to create the political will to protect the forest. This today is sorely lacking.

Escalating conflict never works. Involving people and mobilising opinion does. It would be better if people forgot about sending armed guards into forests. Experience tells us that those guns are merely for show and profit.

They are generally used to terrorise and alienate the local people. If the local people are involved in protecting the forest and given a stake in it, they just might be able to create the political will to save not only Gudalur but forests elsewhere in the state. To create a political will it is necessary that people must lobby for it. They will not do so if they have no stake in the matter

Tamil Nadu must learn from its experience with Veerappan. Veerappan is a creation of the state policy which maintains state control over sandalwood. If guns could not safeguard sandalwood and ivory from him in the absence of the support of the local people, can they save an entire forest?

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