Shri Madhav Gadgil, Chairman of Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, heavily criticised the K Kasturirangan Panel Report on Western Ghats and raised strong apprehensions that the panel report would rob the region of its precious biodiversity. The High Level Working Group on Western Ghats under Dr Kasturirangan has advocated a partitioning amongst roughly two-third of cultural landscapes to be thrown open to development.
In an open letter wrote to the panel head Dr K Kasturirangan on May 18, Shri Gadgil termed the suggestion of the Panel as ‘trying to maintain oases of diversity in a desert of ecological devastation’. “Ecology teaches us that such fragmentation would lead, sooner rather than later, to the desert overwhelming the oases. It is vital to think of maintenance of habitat continuity, and of an ecologically and socially friendly matrix to ensure long-term conservation of biodiversity-rich areas, and this is what we had proposed,” he said in the letter.
Shri Gadgil in his study report submitted to the Ministry of Environment & Forests had advocated a graded approach with a major role for grass roots level inputs for safeguarding the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats. But the Panel rejected that suggestion. Shri Gadgil said the freshwater biodiversity is far more threatening than forest biodiversity and lies largely in cultural landscapes. Freshwater biodiversity is also vital to livelihoods and nutrition of large sections of our people.
“India’s cultural landscape harbours many valuable elements of biodiversity. Fully 75 per cent of the population of lion-tailed macaque, a monkey species confined to the Western Ghats, thrives in the cultural landscape of tea gardens. I live in the city of Pune and scattered in my locality are a large number of banyan, peepal and gular trees; trees that belong to genus Ficus, celebrated in modern ecology as a keystone resource that sustains a wide variety of other species. Through the night I hear peacocks calling, and when I get up and go to the terrace I see them dancing. It is our people, rooted in India’s strong cultural traditions of respect for nature, who have venerated and protected the sacred groves, the Ficus trees, the monkeys and the peafowl. Apparently, all this is to be snuffed out,” Shri Gadgil said in his letter. (FOC)
every t~ya�<0Zis objective. But the most disturbing part of all such efforts is that the nations, which caused maximum damage to the biodiversity, refuse to fund any campaign for their preservation. Therefore, none of such meetings has so far come out with any fruitful result. According to experts, the damage to biodiversity is not just what we see by our eyes. There are symptoms which are not visible right now but will be seen after decades. Only then we will feel that the loss of biodiversity is basically the loss of mankind.
In this alarming situation, the efforts of Laxman Singh in Laporia village on Jaipur-Ajmer Highway under Dudu tehsil of Rajasthan have come as an oasis in the desert. He has preserved about 135 rare species of birds. The number of insects, plants and trees which got new breathe of life after his efforts is in thousands. His experiment has been emulated by 53 surrounding villages of the same tehsil and 400 other villages under Tonk district are preparing to adopt his projects.
This work of serving the humanity in Laporia began about 30 years back. In the beginning, the villagers rejuvenated the gochar land. Trees and plants were allowed to grow there naturally. The entry of goats, cows, other animals or the human beings was totally restricted there. Now after 30 years, lakhs of plants and trees have come up attracting lakhs of insects, wild creatures, etc. Some eco parks, known as ‘Dev Banis’, were also created on the gochar land. In those ‘Dev Banis’, the wild creatures are allowed to live in complete natural way.
Since trees are the best and favourite places for birds to live, Laxman Singh took a campaign for tree plantation. At the public places like roads, village crossings, etc. plants of many varieties including Bar, banyan, neem, peepal have been planted to the extent that now anybody visiting the village can walk only under the shade of trees.
There is a clearly defined rule in the village—no creature will be disturbed and both insects and wild creatures will be preserved equally. There is another rule that water, feed and house will be ensured to everyone including insects, birds, animals or the human beings. For wild inhabitations some special houses have been created in complete natural ways. Disturbing the creature is an offence in the village. The punishment for cutting a tree is planting and nurturing two trees.
To turn this impossible into possible, the villagers first stopped using pesticides in the crops. They created a natural cycle where natural life of creatures remains undisturbed. When asked how one can expect crops in this modern age without pesticides, he said: “It is a wrong notion that the insects damage the crops. They rather protect the crops. It is impossible to take any crop without their help. People have forgotten this reality. Unfortunately, the chemical farming being followed under the so-called green revolution has basically created the system of killing the insects. It is a racket involving billions of rupees. The pesticides that we spray on the crops basically ruin them. Fact is that the entire pesticide cycle is enemy of the micro organisms. What we do in Laporia is that we create a special corner in each field, where the insects are allowed to live in natural way. That corner remains undisturbed. Our experiment of gochar has proved to be very helpful in this regard. It not only protected the natural inhabitants but also protected our crops.”
When asked how many species of birds or insects have been preserved in the village, Shri Laxman Singh says, “About five years back we invited the experts from forest department to study the biodiversity here. In their report they said they found 135 types of birds in the village, which are not generally found in other villages. The varieties of the insects, plants or trees are in thousands. In the villages where there is no any such effort to preserve the biodiversity, hardly 25 to 30 types of birds are found,” he points out.
Shri Laxman Singh drew the inspiration for it from leading environmentalist Anupam Mishra, who is now associated with the Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi. “In the beginning we started the work to just change the negative image of our village, which was infamous for about 200 years due to wrong deeds of some of the people. Its earlier name was Ramgarh but it got the name of lapodi, which literary means the mad,” he added.
When the work of preserving the biodiversity grew, new feathers were added to the cap. Today, people trust and follow him. His work not only changed the reputation of the village but also gave new life to the lakhs of creatures, which find it difficult to survive because of the greed of the human beings.