Whither Goest our Tiger?

February 22, 2008 at 10:49 pm | Posted in Animal Census, asian elephant, bamboo, biodiversity, bioinversity, biosphere, Bos gaurus, census, deforestation, disingenuous, ecosystem, Elephant, Elephas, endangered species, extinction, ficus, forest, forest department, forest strata, Gaur, habitat, hardwood, Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, IUCN, Leopard, Ministry of Environment and Forests, mismanaged forests, MOEF, monoculture, niche, Panthera, paw print plaster cast, phototrap, poaching, rosewood, Sariska, scats, strangler fig, teak, Tiger, tiger population, tree, tribal, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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vanishing tiger

As early as a couple of years ago (especially after the IUCN study) it was obvious that India’s forests had reached a crisis point. Our top predator, the Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris) was at a population nadir. The known numbers of tigers had been suddenly found to be less than half of what it should be. Even more frighteningly, in certain important tiger zones like Sariska, the tiger has completely disappeared. The extinction of our tigers stares us in the face.

Those of us who frequent the forests and who regularly participate in animal censuses have known for quite some time that the forests are deteriorating and that we have been steadily losing the battle to preserve and protect what very little is left.

Disingenuous cover-up:

The tigers were never there in the first place! The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) and their minions in “Project Tiger” now want us to believe that poor counting technique is to blame for an earlier inflated statistic. Now that proper camera traps have been placed and things are being done in a more “scientific manner”, we should all acknowledge that the tiger popultion has not actually fallen – that the population always was less than half of what we had projected…

It’s a lie because:

1) Long term forest dwellers, the tribals and the Forest Department personnel in each forest, get to know their animals very well indeed. Larger animals like the elephants and certainly both the leopards and the tigers in each of our forests are easily recognisable and identifiable as individuals.

2) The census methods used in the past, though rough and ready, are yet certainly scientific enough. When censuses are based on physical evidence such as scats and plaster casts of paw prints then there is absolutely no way that someone can claim that the populations so determined are in inferior to that of phototrapping. I would argue that in fact the phototrap is a ridiculously unscientific way to determine absolute populations when compared to the older methods!

In fact we are left to surmise that if one takes the trouble to go through the physical evidence that had been gathered over so many years of painstaking censusing, the conclusion that our tiger populations have long been declining steadily and quite drastically will have to be reached. The problem then lies with the MOEF/state Forest Departments’ perennial habit of inflating the actual counts in order to satisfy the powers that be, and in order to pacify the many and vociferous critics of the government’s many inadequacies in this regard.

In other words they have been cheating on the numbers for quite some time, and quite systematically too, and now that they have finally been caught out, the easiest recourse has been to point the finger at the supposedly faulty methodology of the past.

But why has the tiger declined and is it only the tiger that is in trouble?

A case in point in the present instance is the debate on allowing forest dwellers to continue to occupy their niches within the confines of the many forests of our land. Persuasive voices say that here is a major factor in the degredation of our prime habitats.

There are many other factors too. Take a look at the great number of private estates that sit squarely within our forest areas. They are certainly doing their bit to destroy the forests around them for one thing, with their use of fertilizers and pesticides and for another the exploitation, contamination, and pollution of the forests’ precious water resources are all having a disastrous impact. Then we have our MOEF’s penchant for suddenly granting mining and even forage/fodder licenses in our few remaining forest areas. They will then even come up with environmental clearances for these absolutely destructive projects and all in the name of ‘development’!

But these issues, though important, are not yet the worst of the culprits. The forests as a whole are under great threat due to lopsided and simplistic mismanagement over many decades. We know that our hardwood fig “strangling”trees are being poached along with our sandalwood. Trees such as the rosewood and mahogany are simply never seen within our ‘Reserve’ or National Park Forests. If we can’t protect these huge trees that are so difficult to transport out (where the take per tree is less than 200,000 rupees now for the illegal logger) , then where is the question of our being able to protect our leopards and tigers? A tiger will earn a poacher not less than a million rupees and all that it takes is a well placed wire trap or some poisoned bait – and a buyer.

In other words, if we cannot protect our trees, there’s no way that we can claim to be adequately protecting our precious tigers. Combine the loss to poaching with the ridiculously bioinverse policy of planting large tracts of monocultures of “economically important” species such as teak or bamboo – and of course these then have to be harvested – and you do indeed begin to have the recipe for the disaster that now faces us.

Once the forest’s precious tree diversity is gone, the forest itself gets degraded and becomes a poorer and poorer habitat that will soon not be able to support top predators like the tiger. Biodiversity is undermined at all levels. Other critical animal populations, notably the elephant and bison, will then have to start wandering out of the ‘protected’ zones in search of food and water, and that will lead to increasing incidences of man-animal conflicts in the forest’s surroundings.

Too Little is protected

One final point for today’s debate: The earmarked, and presently “protected”, territory is very inadequate. Tigers roam over a huge areas of range. They spread out so that they do not much have to encounter one another. I have seen two wild tigers while hiking in scrub jungle, well outside the confines of the nearest reserve forest. Clearly we need to expand the buffer zones around the core areas of our remaining tiger populations. We also have to eventually find the funding to fence the forests and forest denizens in (and the poachers out). In the meantime, if we can start by adequately expanding the buffer areas and perhaps even provide linking corridors between nearly contiguous stretches of forest, this in itself will start to make a fantastic difference!

Environmentalists and forest watchers who care and who have raised their voices of protest have been silenced by committees of armchair scientists, most of whom have never even seen a real live wild tiger to speak of. It’s up to us now, the common folks of this great land of the erstwhile Royal Bengal Tiger, to keep the issues alive and to make the careless of officialdom accountable for the precious heritage that they are allowing to be destroyed before our very eyes.

IF YOU CARE AND WOULD LIKE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE:

Let your voice be heard.forest strata

Make the protection of our forests a major issue of national importance.

Make a note of whom the current union and state ministers of Forests and Environment happen to be, and track their performance and the quality of their decision making very carefully. At the first sign of bad decisions, let the concerned party know that the mis-steps have been noted and will be issues to be discussed by the public (thats us!).

Publicise (write to the editor or to an investigative journalist of your local paper), document, and protest each and every incident of forest abuse that you see or find out about.

Get personally involved; participate in censuses, take up projects to help forest tribals become independent of the forests, talk to your friends about the plight of our forests and encourage one another to become activists for the sake of saving the little that still remains.

Teach your children well, for the future is in their hands…

This was first posted at Ponnvandu, and has now been slightly modified here. The issues are broad and of great importance so I’ve posted most of that article here.
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Myanmar – India supports the Junta’s Freedom to Loot

September 29, 2007 at 5:08 am | Posted in british empire, Burma, China, democracy, forest department, India's double standards, Indian foreign policy, junta, JV, MNC, multinational corporartion, Myanmar, Name and Shame, subversion | 2 Comments

The world has already expressed its disgust at the criminal actions of the military Junta in Myanmar. There are just two things that I would like to stress:

India’s voice has been silent. Why? What is the vested interest that shuts our mouth, or is it that our government actually secretly approves of the actions of the “Generals”?

As an immediate neighbor to Myanmar, one would think that we would be the first to express our dismay, but nowadays many ‘immediate neighbors’ are complicit by their silence; take South Africa and Zambia for example, and how they have chosen to ‘deal’ with Zimbabwe. India is proving to be a similarly adept tightrope walker.

Our Indian Junta does not believe in principles any more. The shock of the interim success of the religiously fundamentalist BJP seems to have stripped all of the remaining ideals from todays so-called leadership. The long-term game is to remain in power and in order to do that they feel the need for support and encouragement from other morally bankrupt (but rich) democratic allies. One can see that a certain world power is counting on inciting India to act as a bulwark against the ultimate ascendancy of the growing economic might of China. That particular power in turn unhesitatingly subverts the remaining principles of their chosen allies by the simple expedient of financing whomsoever will ‘toe its line’.

Western talk of promoting democracy has proved to be cheap. Belief in the benefits of true democracy have altogether disappeared. The result is seen here as India had backed away from doing anything about Tibet, and then ‘on request’ did the dirty to our long-time allies the Iranians, so too now will we sell the Myanmarese peoples to the highest bidder.

Both India and Burma (Myanmar) are ex-colonies of Great Britain! The British understood globalisation, and Realpolitik long before anyone else. They had to to be able to maintain a dominance, an empire for over two whole centuries, on which the sun never did set! At the same time the Brits have been busy writing histories of how selflessly they used their empire to educate and develop an uncivilised world. Our Indian leaders have learned too well at the feet of their former masters.

The unholy alliance of a China along with a subverted democracy, both joining in in the shenanigans of the key MNCs ensures the continuance of the military regime in Myanmar. This is my second point. The survival of the military junta is because they are tremendously rich. These riches fund the control of the army that then backs up completely the Junta’s undemocratic hegemony.

The money in the case of Myanmar, comes mainly from timber, oil, gas, opium, and mining. All of the timber, oil, and mineral wealth is harvested from the vast pristine tropical wilderness by multinational corporations (MNCs) whose activity is known and approved of by the nations that host and spawn these Money alone is God behemoths. The facts are not even denied; it is called progress, development and globalisation. Shamelessly such MNCs continue to operate without any controls, raping the lands and forests and simultaneously doing all in their power to ensure the continuance and enrichment of the ‘oh so cooperative’ golden-egg-laying-gooses of a Junta. The nations that spawn such monstrosities as these MNCs are the very ones that also piously speak of promoting democracy!

The majority of investment in oil and gas was made by multinational companies from France, United States and United Kingdom in entering joint venture projects with the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE)

India and China in different ways are great supporters of today’s Myanmar, and even rivals for influence there, though there is little question that China’s economic influence does dominate.. India has its stake more as the key cutout and staging point for any MNC that wants to get round the ‘minor sanctions’ and the ‘muted murmurs of disapproval’ that are occasionally felt from Europe and America.

Myanmar is one nation where there is no need for any mafia. The looting and environmental destruction are legal! But MNCs prefer the anonymity of JVs and offshoring their activities through ‘friendlies’ like India.

It is also a little-recognised fact that the vast British empire was built on wood from Africa and Asia. In all former colonies one will find that some of the oldest surviving government departments are the FDs (Forest Departments) and that the systematic rape of third world forests was almost the first thing that the colonial British actually did to their colonies. While wood is still a very major money spinner, the future clearly lies in the oil and gas reserves. India and China in their unholy partnerships with the MNCs have their eyes and policies firmly fixed on all that gas and quite some oil reserves too.

  • India’s double standards and their hidden activity as proxies to ‘higher’ powers needs to be recognised and CONDEMNED.
  • The MNCs that are actually doing the damage but who have remained faceless need to be NAMED and SHAMED.

We Indians have been witness to the insidious but definite shift in our own nation’s foreign policies as it increasingly leans towards outright doing whatever the richest of nations want. The Indian activity is mediated (dare we suspect ‘funded’?) by these same nations and their MNCs i.e. the very ones who are consistently exploiting Myanmar (and wherever else the opportunity to act without any controls makes the process maximally profitable). It is a sad truth that both of our leading political parties have already been ‘converted’ into backboneless and unprincipled supporters of “that which should not be named”. While that pristine state in public speaks loudly of championing democracy, at the same time the word to the MNCs boardrooms is to quietly get on with getting the loot.

I am not at this moment much concerned about the sins of the rest of the world.
It is India’s shameless tactics that have confounded me.

Folks, it’s time to make a change!
Let’s stand up for what’s right, for a change…
India needs to get its act together NOW.

Pray for the peoples of Myanmar.

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