Down to Earth - - BOOK -

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:

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