Overall, we are still not in a place where our wildlife is safe.
Vivek Menon, executive director and CEO of Wildlife Trust of India, asserts in an interview to India & You that the country needs to tread a middle path where growth should not just be economically sustainable, but also ecologically sustainable.
How do you see India facing the twin challenges of economic development and ecological conservation?
India has to address the twin challenges of economic progress and ecology. It also has to address the challenges faced by the poor. So, it is a triple challenge. We have got to get our economy up, feed people and ensure that our natural heritage is not compromised.
Is India handling the triple challenge well enough?
It is a tight rope walk. What will save our ecology is our ancient value system and ethics. The only thing that will come out of unchecked political compulsion for economic development is outright and rampant destruction. But many of our politicians don’t want to completely destroy nature as it is against also their basic ethics. That is what we have to play on.
Man-Animal conflict is increasing everyday in India. Where is it leading to?
It is leading us into uncertain times. About 500 to 600 people are getting killed everyday due to man-animal conflict, apart from crop loss and destruction of property. Elephants kill 400 people on an average every year. Then, there are attacks by tigers, leopards, and other animals too. The death of 500-600 people is not a joke. This is slowly taking the tolerance factor away.
In places where elephants are worshipped, people have killed them and written on it, ‘Paddy Thief Bin Laden’. This happened in Tezpur area of Sonitpur district in Assam. See how peoples’ psyche has changed from worshipping the elephant as a symbol of Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, to branding it as ‘Laden’. Some young boy must have scribbled it on the dead elephant, but it is very worrying.
Do you think the man-animal conflict has been addressed adequately?
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November - December 2017