Pause for a second. Think about one of the most unique aspects of India. If you ask me, I would say there is no other country in the world like India that can boast of such a variety of wildlife and diversity of habitats. We have snow-capped mountains, rainforests, deserts, coral reefs, and mangroves along with a diverse variety of forests all in one geographical landscape! These are all home to some spectacular biodiversity. All these make India one of the last strong hopes of biodiversity in Asia. Yet, only less than 5% of forests in India are protected as national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. These forests are the birthplace of many rivers like the Ganga, Yamuna, Krishna and Cauvery that support millions of people in northern and southern India.
In spite of sharing such an interrelationship with nature, 45% of India’s coastline is under erosion. One-third of our wetlands are already wiped out or severely degraded because of encroachment. For fifteen years since my middle school days, I have been affected by this destruction of nature. Every time I see a dry river, a degraded coastline, rampant development within forest areas, towering structures above wetlands, I tell myself that I must do something to change this scenario, and I do my part as a conservation educator and filmmaker. Today, the problems faced by our environment are rapidly multiplying every second like a nuclear disaster that needs us to accelerate our participation towards nature conservation.
One story has always inspired me to do my part for nature. It is the campaign to protect the Kudremukh National Park. Located in the Western Ghats Mountains, it is a biologically rich habitat from where the rivers Tunga, Badhra and Netravati originate. In this pristine shola and grassland ecosystem, a government-owned company was stripping the forests bare for 30 years by mining low-grade iron ore. When the lease ended, it was about to be renewed for a few more decades. But, dedicated efforts by the Bangalore-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), Wildlife First, backed by committed conservationists made the Supreme Court of India issue a landmark judgment to stop the mining operations in Kudremukh permanently. This was achieved by people from different backgrounds like wildlife biologists, filmmakers, lawyers, journalists, farmers and teachers who joined hands to work towards protecting this incredible ecosystem. The campaign is a testimony that a small group of committed people can make a difference. We can too!
One of the best ways to bring about a difference is by reducing our impact on the planet and supporting a local environment and conservation organisation. Here are some practical tips:
If you are a teacher, you can create an eco-club in your school to inculcate a love for nature among children.
If you are a lawyer, you can help local conservation groups fight legal battles to save wildlife and habitats.
If you are a young person who is interested to write, you can use platforms like YKA to express your views and publish well-researched articles on environmental issues.
If you are interested in reviving a lake in your locality, you could join hands with organisations like Environmentalist Foundation of India.
If you are interested in solving civic environmental problems, you could sign up with organisations like Reap Benefit.
If you are interested in teaching children about nature and sustainable living, you could become part of our YOUCAN community.
On World Environment Day, we must know that solutions to most environmental problems already exist. What’s urgently needed is adoption and acceleration of efforts by environmental changemakers. When we do, we become changemakers ourselves. It is time we realise that ecological problems are in every sense, social problems because our livelihoods depend on the health of our ecosystems and the survival of many species that keep them in balance. We must act to keep this balance intact. If not us, then who?
The author is a conservation educator and filmmaker.