Published: Thursday 15 June 2000

A different picture

I have read with interest the analysis 'Do not enter, wildlifers at work' ( Down To Earth , Vol 8, No 20; March 15). In 1995, 1996, 1998 and again in February this year I spent time with the tribal people and scheduled castes within the Nagarahole Park and outside within five kilometre (km) of the park's radius.

Of the around 1,500 tribal families who reside within the park, 50 were chosen to accept the Indian government's offer of a house and two hectares of arable land per family (plus a further two hectares to be held in common for fuel wood and grazing). The site of the new settlement was just outside the park. Each house was provided with a solar panel for electricity and groups of households were given a tubewell each to share. Besides providing livestock, fuelwood and fruit trees, the tribals are also being trained in agri-forestry. The first batch of 50 families who had moved to their new settlements nearly a year ago are already improving their homes. They are content with the new arrangements and even ready to surrender their rights over the forest in the park. Another 200 families have been elected to move to similar settlements later this year.

All these settlements will benefit from the World Bank's eco-development project, which you denigrate. One aspect that will benefit the most is perhaps the provision of solar-powered electric fencing. This will reinforce the existing trenches that are meant to keep away elephants from the cultivated fields but frequently fail to serve their purpose. Once the fields are encircled in solar-powered electric fencing cash crops such as tobacco and cotton can be replaced with food crops.

Although my knowledge is limited and relates solely to Nagarahole, I feel that the World Bank's past performance in many fields is blinding you to the fact that at least in this case it is pursuing a sensible path....


I read the analysis 'Do not enter, wildlifers at work' ( Down To Earth , Vol 8, No 20; March 15). It is very apt to the ongoing conservation methodology going on in our country. At present, only mismanagement seems to be the rule of the day. The Biosphere concept was formulated to involve both man and the biosphere. But it hardly exists that way which is the reason for conflicts between man and wildlife.

I also agree with Anju Sharma over the elephant episode in the Andaman Islands. The recommendation made by the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History ( sacon ) is truly outrageous. We cannot allow these feral elephants to destroy the habitats of birds and the flora of the Andamans just to study "the impacts and dynamics of the introduction of a large herbivore into an island ecosystem." We will then lose some of the species of plants, animals, reptiles and birds. Wildlife conservation is indeed not an academic affair.

On the other hand, there is seems to be no proper understanding of any concept by wildlife officials and forest department people. Also, there exists a big communication gap between the scientists and officials. All the research seems to be only on paper. Scientists, forest officials and the local people must bridge their differences for any conservation project to see the light of day....

Distorted views

In your article 'Do not enter, wildlifers at work' ( Down To Earth , Vol 8, No 20; March 15), I take strong exception to two statements made by retired Indian administrative officer M K Ranjitsinh. One, he is quoted as saying "It is a free lunch for the Van Gujjars, and there is no such thing as free lunch in ecology."

I want to bring to his notice, and to those of his ilk, that since centuries the Van Gujjars have been paying taxes for lopping, grazing and other such activities to the administration. Apart from these official taxes, these innocent people are also paying unofficial taxes in the form of salami and dastoori (bribes to the forest officials in the form of money milk, ghee and so on). The Van Gujjars are hardworking, simple people who do not belong to any princely state, do not live like bureaucrats and nor have they been assigned responsibilities of projects like the Ganga Action Plan or the Tiger Project. Therefore, they are not in a habit of enjoying free lunch.

Second, Ranjitsinh says that the Van Gujjars "were nomadic earlier, but have now become permanent residents." He is welcome to join the Van Gujjars in the first week of April when they conduct their annual transhumance to the highland pastures in the Himalayas. He can enjoy their hospitality and learn from them how to conserve and protect the natural resources. During this time, only one person is is left behind to look after their dera s (settlements). When the Van Gujjars leave the forest area of the proposed Rajaji National Park, the forest officials destroy their dera s and fell the surrounding trees which they sell to petty contractors. Such inhuman activities have aggravated the crisis.

Ranjitsinh is too far removed from the ground realities of the proposed Rajaji National Park and should be responsible enough not to make any ignorant comments on it....

Flourishing valley

The information on the Valley of Flowers ( vof ) National Park in Uttar Pradesh as reported in the section entitled 'Valley of weeds' in the cover story 'Do not enter, wildlifers at work' ( Down To Earth , Vol 8, No 20; March 15) is misleading and merely based on hearsay. Unfortunately, the reporter has 'selectively' misquoted a few scientists of the Wildlife Institute of India ( wii ) and deliberately avoided a number of wii publications.

It is erroneous to say that the park was created overnight and it had over 1,500 variety of flowers in the past. In 1938, mountaineer Frank Smythe listed some 280 species of flowering plants from the valley during the course of his 'extensive' survey. At present, we have a list of 520 species of flowering plants and ferns. Moreover, Smythe himself has written about the adverse effects of livestock grazing in this valley.

While the author's concern about 'mismanagement' of wildlife in the country is to be appreciated, distorting the facts and projecting lopsided views will not help conservation....

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