It is an unacknowledged fact that wildlife is in a crisis. India has done a remarkable job with conservation, with all the pressures considered. But that has set in complacency. I also sense a hypocrisy because how else would you explain the Ken-Betwa project, when conserving the tiger is a national commitment? We do not consider the impact on the natural world in our development trajectory, and that's what mainly drove me to write this book. Environment is seen as a liability to development and that is frightening.
On development v environment:
We need to rethink beyond our narrow definition of development. The GDP is too limited a measure. Among other things, it does not consider ecological services. We need to reintroduce concepts like the green GDP, which takes into account the environmental costs of growth. We talk of development without destruction, yet we have rejected less than 1 per cent of projects in wildlife areas between 2014 and 2016.
On incentives for forest conservation:
The truth is money talks, but forests are not a priority for any state government. Forests are even perceived as an obstruction to development. I believe forests are priceless as they provide both tangible and intangible services, and some critical habitats must be sacrosanct. We may need to use incentives to preserve them, but this can only be part of a comprehensive and nuanced strategy. Incentives come with an accompanying problem of putting a price tag on forests, which is also a source of livelihood for local communities.
On the extent of habitat destruction:
Habitat destruction is a key driver of extinction and we are all culpable in it. Though about 5.6 per cent of India's areas are protected, effectively it is about two per cent. Even this is now threatened by a plethora of massive projects— from highways to dams. The National Board for Wildlife is increasingly becoming a clearance body, allowing damaging activities in even the most pristine areas.
On forest-dwelling communities:
Voluntary and fair relocation is a win-win solution for both wildlife and forest communities. We need to ensure communities benefit and do not bear the brunt of conservation—their support to protect wildlife is vital.
Environment is seen as a liability to development On why she wrote the book: