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What Is The Cause Of Increasing Human-Wildlife Conflict?

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Human-wildlife conflict has been a growing concern globally, especially in the last few decades. We are coming across more wild animals in towns and cities, which can create nightmarish situations if predators like leopards enter crowded residential areas. What exactly is human-wildlife conflict?

The earth is 70% water and 30% land, all of which is not habitable. Our global population has crossed 7 billion and continues to increase unabated. We have stretched the planet to its limits as we continue to exhaust its natural resources. Not being part of nature’s food chain and treating diseases has led to the explosive expansion of our population.

We are left with no choice but to encroach increasingly into the habitat of animals to accommodate ourselves and meet our perpetually expanding needs. “There is enough for everybody’s needs but not for anyone’s greed” are wise and enduring words from Gandhi about nature which we have conveniently ignored.

tiger
Representative Image. (Source: pxfuel)

The problem here is with the word conflict and we have only ourselves to blame for the situation we are in. A conflict is an ongoing issue between two or more parties having similar levels of intelligence. Animals do not have our level of intelligence then why do we say animals are in conflict with us?

Moreover, did representatives of animals participate when the term human-wildlife conflict was coined and did they indicate that animals are in conflict with us? Human-wildlife conflict is purely a human construct and we created it because of our lack of understanding about nature in general and animals in particular.

Animals are not eating our crops and livestock and wandering into our settlement areas to harm us or cause us any damage. Animals have two fundamental needs, to eat and reproduce. Only when they get enough food can they reproduce and if they don’t reproduce, they will become extinct.

Natural instincts inherent in them by these needs are driving them towards us in search of food. Our crops, plantations and livestock are easily available food sources for them.

I am part of a birding community on social media. Some members were complaining about elephants causing damage to houses and walls at night when they came to eat ripe jackfruit and peafowl and wild boars destroying crops.

I pointed out that elephants came at night to not disturb the people. They did not intentionally damage houses and walls. They do not know the purpose of houses and walls as they themselves do not do any construction.

elephants
Representative Image. (Source: pxfuel)

We have instances where elephants entered a banana plantation farm and destroyed it but left one untouched because there was a bird’s nest on it which had chicks in it. So I keep telling people that to understand animals, we need to look at them from their level of intelligence and not our own.

My mom feeds a variety of birds every day that includes Crows, Mynas, Cuckoos, Treepies, Bulbuls, Babblers and Coucals. What is interesting about watching them eat is, even when they feed on the rice and chapati (Indian bread) pieces, they are on the lookout for worms and insects.

As their habitat area keeps shrinking, they cannot stay adamant about eating their regular diet. Indian Paradise Flycatchers are usually seen in wooded areas where there is a lot of green covers. My ancestral house used to be covered with trees and when I recently showed photos of the Flycatcher to my mom, she immediately said they used to come to our house.

With the town’s development, they have kept moving away into wherever the wooded areas are and have gone far away from the town area.

While some birds and animals adapt to us, the ones that don’t will find it difficult to survive with the steady loss of habitat. This in itself will cause a huge imbalance in nature’s ecosystem as the population of some animals will rise and others will fall exponentially.

Peafowls primarily reside in hot and dry areas such as Rajasthan. They were first spotted in Kerala some 50 years back. From that time, their population has been exploding across the state, which is an alarming cause of worry as it is a clear indicator that Kerala is becoming drier and hotter.

What we are seeing is animals being forced to adapt to us or face the prospect of extinction. Peafowls and wild boars are invading our crops because, ironically, after snatching away their habitat, we have given them easier food sources with our cultivation, increasing their population.

Instead of understanding the situation and empathising with them, we treat them as threats to us and kill them.

Where do we go from here and what is the way forward? We cannot destroy nature and survive on the planet. We need to reduce our population drastically and there is no way to do it. A global war will destroy the planet itself.

The only plausible solution is to learn as much as we can about our planet, use our knowledge of technology to find another planet that resembles earth, make it habitable (using the process of terraforming) and escape from here. Earth has survived five mass extinction events in the past and with our actions, we have kickstarted the sixth mass extinction event.

According to scientists and researchers, 99.9% of all lifeforms that ever existed on earth have become extinct. Lifeforms become extinct and new ones take their place. We do not need to conserve nature to protect trees and animals. We needed to protect nature for our own survival, but we did not understand this.

When we created plastic, we never cared to check if it is biodegradable before commercialising its use. When we created tar and concrete, we didn’t bother to check if they can absorb water and push it down into the mud. After all the damage has been done now, we are clamouring about plastic waste and floods in cities.

The damage we have done to ensure our survival on earth is far greater than our current understanding and there is no going back from where we are now. It is either escape or extinction.

A friend told me that we would end up destroying the planet we go to as well. Most probably, we won’t. When we get something without any effort, we usually take it for granted and destroy it because we never understand its value. When we make an effort to build a planet for our own survival, we will treasure it.

Featured Image by Pijarn Jangsawang from PxHere
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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