A tribute to Romulus Whitaker, recently awarded the Padma Shri, among India’s highest civilian honours. Here, the acclaimed herpetologist talks about his decades of work with reptiles which led to setting up of six pioneering institutions including the famous Madras Crocodile Bank, apart from giving snakes and reptiles a positive place in the Indian public’s mind.
Some of the most celebrated scientific ideas and books of the 20th century may not be useful for us in this century, while lesser-known works of the past acquire new relevance. Here, then, is a selection of such works, along with an invitation for readers to critique and contribute their own suggestions to this list.
From Down to Earth: Kathalekan, in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, is a relic forest with Myristica swamp ecosystem. It has remained unchanged for over 100 million years. It’s spread across an area of 25 square kilometres. Today this ancient forest is under severe threat from human interventions in the region, including a proposed highway.
From The Third Pole: In 2004, the world’s second largest mangrove forest, Pichavaram in Tamil Nadu, helped moderate the tsunami wave and protected 18 villages. ‘Let mangroves recover’, a film on Pichavaram by Adarsh Prathap, a 23-year-old from Kerala, has won one of two prizes in the 2017 global youth video competition on climate change.
From Live Mint: In October 2012, Bano Haralu led a small group of conservationists to Nagaland’s Doyang reservoir to check on large-scale falcon hunting. What they witnessed that balmy October day shook them to the core. Nagaland was and still is infamous for hunting, but this was something even the conservationists had not bargained for.
Madhu Ramnath writes: Time and again we have heard that the Naxal insurgency is due to “under development” in areas like Bastar. Education is also supposed to deter Naxalism, according to some, but one may ask whose education? Fundamentally it’s about respect, dignity and trust in our behaviour towards others, in this case the Adivasi.
From Greenpeace International: We’ve come a long way since 1971, when on this day, a small group of courageous people set off to stop nuclear testing in a small fishing boat. Today, we operate in more than 40 countries and are part of a global movement of millions, striving for a greener, more peaceful planet.
The Atlas for the End of the World chronicles the archipelago of protected areas into which the world’s genetic biodiversity is now huddled. It is not about the end of the world per se; but the end of the world as a God-given and unlimited resource for human exploitation and its concomitant myths of progress.
From Infinite Windows/Eartha Mag: 23 years ago, the passionate conservationist couple Pamela and Anil Malhotra bought 55 acres of land in Coorg, which they have since converted into a beautiful forest of over 300 acres. This is the story of how SAI Sanctuary came to host animals like the Bengal Tiger, Sambhar and Asian Elephants.
From Scroll.in: Honeybees, which play a vital role in pollinating food crops, are declining at an alarming rate in India. It is not just pesticides that are contributing to their decline. Ironically, it might be the very efforts to promote bees in India that could be leading to a further decline in their diversity and prevalence.
From The Hindu: Aasheesh Pittie has single-handedly indexed a monumental bibliographic database of everything that has been published on the birds of South Asia in the printed or electronic form since the mid-eighteenth century, searchable with keywords. This little-known labour of love by Pittie, founding editor of the bi-monthly Indian BIRDS, is available at www.southasiaornith.in.
From The Hindu: An afforestation initiative led by naturalists and locals, with support from forest and revenue department officials, has resulted in the Arunachala hill in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, shedding its barren, brown visage. Lalitha Sridhar reports on the decade-plus-long turnaround of a damaged fragile, semi-arid ecosystem by successfully harnessing scientific expertise and local knowledge.
From The Hindu: Straddling six states, the 1600-odd kilometre-long Western Ghats is home to an astonishing diversity of life and supports innumerable communities and cultures. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the remarkable 100-day ‘Save Western Ghats March’, a landmark event in Indian environmental activism, which became the model for numerous campaigns to follow.
From Hindustan Times: Man’s best friend has become a growing threat to India’s wildlife. As canine numbers rise in cities, towns and villages, entire ecosystems are being affected.They’ve attacked endangered stags in Kashmir and preyed on livestock in the Himalayas. Wild ass, gazelle, nilgai, blackbuck and deer have died of dog attacks in our sanctuaries.
In the 1960’s David Bamberger owned a successful fried chicken business with over 1600 outlets in the United States (For perspective, there are less than 400 KFC’s in India today.) Then he decided to sell off his business and put the capital into buying some 5500 acres of the most degraded land he could find
From Counterview/Global Witness: A just-released global report has revealed that the number of land and environment defenders killed in India has almost trebled, from 6 in 2015 to 16 in 2016, blaming it on “a disturbing trend” of increasing police brutality, indicating the Modi government’s determination “to stifle opposition to ‘development’ by any means necessary.”
From EarthaMag: India recently conferred biodiversity heritage status on the Ameenpur Lake on the fringes of Hyderabad. Other sites across the country also received this distinction. But what sets Ameenpur Lake apart is that the tag is the first of its kind in the country for a water body, and the first in an urban environment.
Colin Todhunter writes in Countercurrents.org: A combination of debt, economic liberalisation, subsidised imports, rising input costs and a shift to cash crops (including GM-cotton) has caused massive financial distress to small farmers in India. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a trade deal now being negotiated by 16 countries across Asia-Pacific, could accelerate this process.
From Scroll.in: 60-year-old Anu Muhammad, the author of 30 books, has been getting repeated death threats for his role leading a seven-year campaign against plans to build a $1.5 billion coal-fired power plant in Rampal, southern Bangladesh, on a site teeming with waterways, mud flats and a host of threatened species from crocodiles to pythons.
From Countercurrents.org: This article is about the struggle to save the rich, dense and old growth forests in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra by the Madia Gond adivasis residing in these forests. Communities like theirs don’t celebrate World Environment Day, but it is in their struggles that the ecological and cultural wellbeing of our country currently rests.