Need to understand neglected landscapes with modern methods
Jan 31 2013
There are positive efforts put together by the inhabitants of the Western Ghat — showing us a new route in this direction. The group of people have decided to work on the conservation of the rocky plateau. The thought started from a very unique landscape called Kaas plateau, which is full of wildflowers during the months of August and September. These flowers bloom for two to three weeks, depending on the duration of monsoon. In their recent efforts for saving the area, which was neglected by government, conservationists and even explorers feel the plateau could become a very important and unique biodiversity home and a spectacular feature to save the earth. They now realise that this area has its own importance in the ecology.
It has been declared as a biodiversity world heritage site by Unesco. Earlier, the Kaas plateau was treated as a grazing site. In government records, this site could still be considered as a wasteland. However, now, the forest department and government are serious about saving the landscape. The transformation in the thought about the plateau came due to various individuals documenting the diversity of this area. The same explorer group is now making management policy of the area along with the forest department. The team is led by a famous botanists Aparna Watve.
An estimated 63.85 million hectares of the nation’s terrestrial surface area is categorised as wasteland, which includes snow-covered glaciers, beaches, wetlands, steep hill slopes and ravines.
The government classification of “waste” simply means such land is non-productive in terms of human use. The ministry of rural development runs an integrated wasteland development programme with a budget of Rs 2,500 crore to make these wastelands suitable for development and economic use. What it does not factor in is that most of these wastelands host unique ecosystems and are crucial to the survival of many species of animals and birds.
India has 17.5 per cent of the world’s population and covers 2 per cent of the planet’s surface. As a growing economy, the government’s objective has been to make every inch of available land suitable for economic use. However, many find the approach unviable and destructive to the environment.
There are many such areas in our country, BNHS director proudly takes the name of the desert sand dunes which have a very unique kind of diversity and he is thinking beyond the traditional approach. According to Asad R Rehamani, it is not only diversity of flora and fauna which is always important, but also the landscape which in itself is very important to save the ecosystem. His long experience in desert areas suggests that these days deserts are getting converted into agriculture fields or the governments themself are changing the landscapes and planting exotic acacia trees just in the name of controlling the desertification and damaging our biodiversity further.
To appreciate the need for wasteland management, we have to change our mindset first. But, even before that, we turn from a purely economic perspective to a holistic view of development, we need to better understand these neglected landscapes with modern research methods so as to conserve them in their entirety.
(The writer is a conservation biologist at Tiger Watch, Ranthambore)