Gudgill guns for ‘human rights’

The famous ecologist’s call to chase stray elephants and tigers into villages, and the repeal of the WLPA, has thrown the conservation fraternity into a daze.

There was an element of surprise, even shock, in the store of many greens when they heard a presentation by prominent ecologist Madhav Gadgil earlier this year. While giving E.K. Madhavan’s lecture series in Wayanad, Gadgil presented a divergent viewpoint on conservation and came up with radical solutions to the growing human-animal conflict occurring in forested buffer zones across the country.

Struggle or coexistence? While Gadgill asserts that the notion of untouching wildlife has no scientific basis, conservationists point out that humans have pushed wildlife to the brink and call for a long-term solution to the conflicts between wildlife and humans.

He said that wild animals, be it pigs, elephants or leopards, whose population has increased and gone beyond non-forested areas, should be treated as insects and hunted down. He was of the opinion that hunting culture should not be considered a crime and, as in the West, the sale of animal meat and skin should be allowed on the open market. His solution included repealing the 1972 Wildlife Conservation Act, which he felt had never included humans in the larger framework of survival.

TOI spoke to a broad cross-section of conservation experts and activists across the country on this raging issue and the majority were of the view that a middle course must be drawn to this complex problem. Environmental attorney Ritwik Dutta said there is no doubt that the WLPA prioritizes wildlife which is why there is a wildlife law in the first place.

“Except for the Wildlife Act, all other laws in India focus on people. Under the Wildlife Act, if a tiger reserve is to be established, it requires the consent of the Gram Sabha and individuals likely to be displaced. Without their consent, no displacement can take place. Even the Forest Rights Act does not contain such a provision for PIC,” he said.

Never before have tigers and elephants faced such a threat to their habitats, Dutta said. “The fact that they are seeing more is that their habitats are shrinking and they are under severe stress. The animals didn’t come out of the forest: we went into the forest and drove them out.” Dutta added it is strange that Gadgill blames the Western model of preserving national parks and reserves and sees it as hostile to people. , on the other hand wants the Swedish model of hunting in place.” “The situation in India is very different. The promotion of hunting culture is bound to have serious repercussions. Now is the time to practice the Indian model of conservation, said VS Vijayan, former chair of the Kerala Biodiversity Council.

Veteran environmentalist Panduram Hegde, who started the Appiko tree protection movement in the Western Ghats, said, “The spirit of Indian society, be it farmers or tribes, is to live in harmony with nature, rather than treating animals as hostile creatures. We have coexisted with the wild for several Centuries. Hunting for commercial purposes is a strange concept.” Chief Scientist at Kerala Forest Research Institute, Sajiv TV, said there are two schools of conservation movement in the country. Disciples of Saleem Ali prioritized nature, while the likes of Gadgil also considered people to be an integral part of the ecosystem The WGEEP report actually points to an example of how a bird sanctuary was destroyed when grazing was not allowed because so much weeds grew above the ground that migratory birds stopped going there.

“The only solution to this problem is to have a participatory grassroots movement as mentioned in the Gadgil report. The indigenous communities who live here should be part of the decision-making process and given a major role in forest management. After the floods, large areas of bamboo forests were destroyed. There are also The problem of excessive growth of invasive species must be removed, and native species of plants must be replanted.”

Joseph Huber of the United Conservation Movement (UCM), a non-governmental organization that has filed several lawsuits against mining companies and mega-infrastructure projects in the Western Ghats that are set to destroy vast swaths of forest, said Gadgill’s argument is not based on facts. “He wants to protect Mollem National Park and blames forest management, while Mollem has been designated a national park under the Wildlife Conservation Act. The recent Supreme Court order was to revoke approval for Castle Rock’s doubling of the railroad on the basis of a report by the National Tiger Protection Authority. NTCA is A body formed under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1972. Mira Suresh, a Wayanad-based ecologist from UCM who works intertribally on various environmental restoration programs agrees: “The projects coming through Mollem were to run through the ecologically sensitive areas of a national park or life preserve. wild. A protected area is also defined by the Wildlife Conservation Act 1972.

Environmental advocate Sridhar Radhakrishnan, who has been at the forefront of the Korean railway protests, said a statement like this coming from Gadgil seemed very unnatural. “A person who has seen the good days of wildlife-based conservation and knows the deficiencies of its systematic implementation would be expected to recommend rational management techniques rather than a serious surgical strike. Throwing a Child (WLPA) with bath water and suggesting Western Barbarian play and meat methods for wildlife management is a command,” he said. Really terrifying.N Badusha, Chairman of Wayanad Prakrithi Samrakshana Samiti, suggested that the state, instead, should promote payment for environmental service provided to communities in the Western Ghats and not push for policies to kill endangered wildlife. He said, “The government has spent crore Rs on shows like Project Tiger and it shouldn’t be in vain.”

When TOI spoke to Gadgil, he stood firm and added that institutions and think tanks that see wildlife and communities as separate entities cannot offer durable solutions and that laws like WLPA must be urgently dismantled. I am a scientist speaking on the basis of the available data. The number of elephants, for example, increased three times. This whole idea that wildlife should not be touched has no scientific basis. Man has been a predatory animal since the time of hunters and gatherers for more than four years, and like other mammals it has been part of the ecosystem that hunts animals. In our country, scientific thought is dominated by social class, religion, politics and colonial remnants.”

Environmental attorney Harish Vasudevan said Gadgill does not deserve a response to the WLPA case because that is not his area of ​​expertise. “Repealing an important law like the WLPA does not make sense. The root problem is the lack of governance and political will to take strong action against the destruction of the last remaining forest areas in the country.”


Not giving an opinion

The opinions expressed above are those of the author.

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