This month, Doordarshan's elite third channel is airing India's first comprehensive weekly programme on the environment, a repeat of which will be aired on the first channel after a fortnight. Produced by Delhi-based Miditech, it has been a year in the making. The team has trained its cameras on subjects as diverse as Project Elephant, fluorosis in Ennore, Corbett National Park and Tamil Nadu's east-coast road.
Judging by the first 5 editions of these half-hour capsules, Living on the Edge is off to a good start. The stories are not pathbreaking, but are well-researched and have a balanced mix of description and analysis.
In the first edition, Ponnikat Lake outside Madras is taken up as an example of a dying Indian lake. Booming exports of prawns have led to overfishing. The number of greedy non-fishermen has increased from 1,500 to 10,000. Fine mesh nets and lakebed trawling are destroying the habitat. The government has also relocated here 30 fishing villages from Sriharikota, leading to more pressure on resources.
There are stories on Sulabh International, mud bricks, pollution of the Yamuna, solar technology, battery-operated buses, and the Sukhomajri success story. And a gloomy observation: "Conservation may become the victim of its own success." This remark concludes a story on the crocodile bank in Madras, where the population of an endangered 30 crocodiles in 1972 has now risen to 9,000. The population has stabilised, but the natural habitat has shrunk.
The third edition questions why Gujjars living in and around the Shivalik forests are being targeted by the Forest Department when 100 million people are living in and around forests throughout the country. Although the Gujjars are expected to relocate, an ammunition dump and a railway line have been left untouched in Rajaji National Park.
Every edition of Living on the Edge has a small "foreign" story: so you get a brief glimpse of the bat conservation effort in Texas, tropical rainforests in South America, recycling of tyres in Britain, and Moody Gardens, an indoor rainforest in the US. One hopes that there will be more of these clips from the South, rather than the North.
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