Skip to main content

Modi floats Project Cheetah amidst rulers' 'disdain' for natural forests, biodiversity

Counterview Desk 

In a representation to the chairperson and members of the National Board for Wildlife, Government of India, top energy and climate change policy analyst Shankar Sharma has said that the Project Cheetah, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, may be an important move, but what is forgotten is, the “obvious lack of the willingness” on the part of the authorities to “adequately protect wildlife habitats and biodiversity.”
Pointing towards the “mindset” which displays “disgust towards natural forests”, the expert insists, “as a responsible country with a great tradition of worshipping nature, India should urgently take an oath to adequately protect our natural forest lands, and to remodel our developmental paradigm with biodiversity at the centre of our focus.”

Text:

This has reference to Project Cheetah, which was launched today by the Hon'ble Prime Minister. The PM is reported to have stated: "Project Cheetah, under which the cheetahs were reintroduced in the country after they became extinct seven decades ago, is our endeavour towards environment and wildlife conservation."
Whereas, any endeavor towards environment and wildlife conservation, is a great move by the Union government, and should be welcomed by all, there have been many contrasting opinion by wildlife conservationists w.r.t the efficacy or desirability of this particular Project Cheetah.
Irrespective of whether such opinions are fully supported by the relevant knowledge and by such experiences elsewhere or not, all such skeptic opinions can be excused because of the obvious lack of the willingness on part of our authorities to adequately protect our wildlife habitats and the biodiversity itself.
There are many reasons for such a skeptic opinion prevailing in our minds: fast dwindling areas of natural forests; never ending diversion of forest lands even within the legally protected Wildlife sanctuaries in the name of various developmental projects; increasing number of incidents of man-wildlife conflicts because of shrinking forest cover; continued planting of alien species such as Acacia in forest lands in states such as Karnataka; continued approval for projects such as high tension power lines, power projects, mining, railway lines and roads etc. within forest areas; approval for additional reservoirs in different parts of the country for the sake of hydropower dams and water storage etc.
The large number of projects approved by the National Board for Wildlife involving the diversion of thousands of hectares of forest lands within Wildlife sanctuaries during the last 10-15 years should be the evidence enough to prove our society's callousness in adequately protecting our natural wealth.
The real implications of the practice of approving a large number of projects even inside wildlife sanctuaries, leading to destruction of wildlife habitats for many kinds of endangered species, can be easily highlighted in the context of two associated media reports:
"For the country as a whole, the loss of primary forest in a five-year period between 2014-19 was more than 120,000 ha, which is nearly 36% more than such losses seen between 2009 and 2013... Over 500 projects in India’s protected areas and eco-sensitive zones were cleared by the National Board of Wildlife between June 2014 and May 2018.”
It seems such wanton destruction of our forest wealth which seem to have made many environmentalists to view the general approach of the concerned authorities as the one bordering on hatred towards wildlife and wildlife habitats. There is a critical need to undertake massive efforts to change such unfortunate mistrust towards the concerned authorities.
As against the National Forest Policy target of 33% of land area to be covered by forests and trees, the present scenario is only about 23%; that too because of the inclusion of large chunks of lands covered by plantation trees and by alien species.
In such a scenario, and with a mindset of our authorities indicating almost a disgust towards natural forests, it should be anybody's guess as to when will our country achieve a level of adequate area and richness of forest wealth to support the wildlife on a sustainable basis. It is in this context that many wildlife conservationists may be expressing their apprehension about the Project Cheetah.
They are of the opinion that as a responsible country with a great tradition of worshipping nature, India should urgently take an oath to adequately protect our natural forest lands, and to remodel our developmental paradigm with biodiversity at the center of our focus.
Until such time many of the truly concerned wildlife conservationists may tend to view this project without much hope. Some may even deem it as a sort of "tamasha" as one political party has stated; and also as a waste of public money.
Until a conscious decision, and also preferably a legal requirement, not to permit any diversion of the forest lands until the National Forest Policy target of 33% forest area is exceeded by a good margin is taken, there seems very little chance of adequately protecting our wildlife habitats.  Hence "our endeavour towards environment and wildlife conservation" is likely to remain only on paper.
On this occasion, can our people hope to see early a paradigm shift in "our endeavour towards environment and wildlife conservation", along with a clear commitment which can also be corroborated periodically through reliable statistics, and policy frame work?

Comments

TRENDING

Whither Govt of India strategy to reduce import dependence on crude oil, natural gas?

By NS Venkataraman*  India presently imports around 80% of it’s crude oil requirement and around 50% of its natural gas requirements . As the domestic production of crude oil and natural gas are virtually stagnant and the domestic demand is increasing at around 7% per annum, India’s steadily increasing dependence on import of the vital energy source is a matter of high energy security concern. This is particularly so, since the price of crude oil and natural gas are considerably fluctuating / increasing in the global market due to geo political factors, which are beyond the control of India. India has promised to achieve zero emission by the year 2070, which mean that the level of emission has to start declining at slow and steady rate from now onwards. It is now well recognized that global emission is caused largely due to use of coal as fuel and natural gas as fuel and feedstock. While burning of coal as fuel cause emission of global warming carbon dioxide gas and sulphur

'Blatant violation' of law by Central government in making NREGA payments

By Our Representative  In September third week, NREGA workers across the country were mobilised for two day so raise their issues and submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister. Organised the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha (NSM), a collective of groups that work with NREGA labourers across the country, workers from 13 states -- Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal -- carried out Kaam Do Abhiyaan, staging demonstrations and rallies against what they called blatant violation of law by the Central government in making NREGA payments. While NREGA has had very positive impacts, it has lately become fruitless, exploiting labour, even though workers who have put in honest hard work have to wait for their wages endlessly, it was suggested.  In such a situation, there is a need to firm up NREGA implementation and end systematic corruption to ensure that workers get their basic NREGA entit

Fascism on prowl? Religious meet 'deeply pained' at silence of Church, bishops, priests

Counterview Desk  The ‘Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace’which held its 17th National Convention at the Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad, Telangana from 22 to 24 September 2022 on the theme “Deepening our Identity as Religious: Responding to the Signs of the Times”, has expressed concern “at the deteriorating situation of our nation on every front”, especially stating, “Fascism seems to have come to stay” in India. At the same time, the convention, which took place with the participation of 60 persons from 16 states representing 20 religious congregations, in its unanimously-adopted statement added, “We have reached abysmal depths on every parameter: be it social, economic and political”, underlining, “The poor in India become poorer every day; the rich and powerful continue to profiteer at their expense and amass scandalous amounts of wealth.” Text: We, members (63 women and men Religious, from 16 states representing 20 Congregations) of the Forum of Religious for Justice

Muslim intellectuals met Bhagwat, extra-constitutional authority 'like Sanjay Gandhi'

By Shamsul Islam*  In a significant development a delegation of five Muslim intellectuals namely former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi; former senior bureaucrat Najeeb Jung; former AMU vice-chancellor and Lt Gen (retd) Zameer U Shah; politician-cum-journalist Shahid Siddiqui (presently with RLD); and businessman Saeed Shervani [Samajvadi Party] met RSS Supremo Mohan Bhagwat at RSS Delhi headquarters. The meeting was kept secret for reasons known to the participants and was held in August. According to the Muslim intellectuals the meeting held in “a very cordial” atmosphere continued for 75 minutes whereas time allotted was 30 minutes! In a post-meeting justification of the parleys Quraishi stated that their main concern was “the insecurity being increasingly felt by the Muslim community in the wake of recurring incidents of lynching of innocents, calls by Hindutva hotheads for genocide and the marginalisation of the community in almost every sphere”. This delegation consistin

Why Bose's India Gate statue suggests RSS, BJP need violence-loving ‘Hindu’ Netaji

By Prem Singh*  In a TV channel debate, a BJP spokesperson and anchor shared and served a lie that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's daughter in her letter to the Prime Minister has alleged that the Congress kept devaluing Netaji to further Gandhi's non-violence; because Netaji had taken the path of liberating the country through violence mode by forming the Azad Hind Fauj (INA). They also praised the Bombay Royal Naval Mutiny of 1946 to confirm that the country got its independence through a violent route. I stated that I have read the letter of Netaji's daughter, and there is no such allegation in it. But a lie told in the intoxication of power is bound to be blatant. Netaji's daughter Anita Bose Pfaff, even in the past, has already requested some earlier prime ministers of the country to bring back the mortal remains of her father from Japan to India. In none of the letters she has spoken about devaluation of her father’s role in the freedom movement on the basis of Gandh

'Massive concern for people': Modi seeking to turn India into global manufacturing hub

By Shankar Sharma*  The news item quoting Narendra Modi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet, "Want to turn India into a manufacturing hub: PM Modi at SCO Summit" should be of massive concern to our people. One can only continue to be shocked by such policies, which can be termed as ill-conceived to say the least. Without objectively considering the environmental and social impacts on our communities in the medium to long term, such policies will also result in massive economic impacts because a lack of environmental and social perspective cannot be economically attractive either. In order to become the global manufacturing hub, India will have to meet an enormous demand for energy of various kinds, and in order to meet this much energy demand the economy has to manufacture enormous number of appliances/ gadgets/ machineries (to generate and distribute commercial forms of energy such as coal, nuclear, gas, hydro, and renewable energy (RE) sources such as so

Pesticide companies' lobbying 'seriously impairing' basics of governance, regulation

Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi*  The Indian agricultural sector is grappling with low incomes, shortage of natural resources, increasing pest incidence and low public investments in research and extension. Pest attacks are increasing. Previously unknown pests are attacking crops. Farmers, indebted as they are due to various market mechanisms, are finding it hard to protect their crop investments. Thus, farmers are pushed into the conundrum of pesticide usage by pesticide markets and companies. Pesticide usage in India is increasingly becoming a regulatory problem. Regulation has not been effective in the face of such challenges. Scientific expertise on pesticides is often subsumed in the policy tradeoffs that, in the ultimate scenario, encourage production and marketing of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs). Expert Committee reports, which are recommending withdrawal of certain HHPs, are not being acted upon. Lobbying by pesticide companies has seriously impaired the basics of governance an

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Is coal import dependence of more than 50% by 2047 of any relevance to India?

By Shankar Sharma*  I have read the article " Building Resilience in India’s Power Sector " by N Vedachalam, released by the Observer Research Foundation, with a lot of interest. I expected it to provide few useful recommendations to our authorities in charting out a sustainable pathway to green energy transition much before the climate catastrophe push our communities to the precipice. But I am sorry to say that the overall discussions or the message implied in the article disappointed me. I was expecting the article, coming from an engineer with past experience in the power sector, to discuss the much needed recommendations to put the power sector on a sustainable developmental pathway. But I could notice mostly technical jargon and a lot of statistical information, which may already be available in the public domain.   The article also seems to have simply accepted what some of the official agencies seem to have indicated as inevitable for the power sector in our country;

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.