The Forest Minister of India is a babe in woods

The Forest Minister of India is a babe in woods

Submitted by Editor on Sat, 2016-04-23 09:50 Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar is a riddle in a mystery, inside an enigma. Do we believe in what he says? Does he mean what he says? Most times he confounds us.When he took charge as forest minister, he offered to “export” Indian tigers to other countries. Today, he is even ready to consider a request from Cambodia to translocate six wild tigers from our dedicated reserves.For some queer reason, he believes India has more tigers than it can keep within its reserves. He is excited that more than 70 per cent of the global wild tiger population is in India. But 2,200 tigers is not a huge number at all. India can hold up to 5,000 tigers in its forest landscape. Forest and Environment is a very, very, very important portfolio. We can’t give this responsibility to someone who has no clue about the sensitivity of this critical subject. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi has no time or inclination to educate his junior minister, someone from the NDA ought to guide him. Else, he will be an embarrassment to India.We are not sure if Javadekar is serious about protecting India’s flagship species. On the one hand, he says India is committed to tiger conservation as it has allotted 380 crore to Project Tiger in the current fiscal year. If the government is serious about tiger conservation, it should never ever give clearance for mining, be it for coal, diamonds or ore, inside critical tiger habitats.According to Javadekar, “Saving the tiger means much more than ecological balance as it helps in combating adverse effects of climate change as well.” Wow! On the contrary, the Modi government is only too happy to give the go-ahead for infrastructure development and mining projects in tiger reserves. There is scant respect for the Wildlife Protection Act and Forest Act. Every month clearance is given for mining, despite objections from the green brigade. Even the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has been disregarded by the present regime.We were forewarned when the National Wildlife Board was filled with members who had no experience in wildlife conservation. Expectedly, the NBW gave clearance to mining and hydel projects without much deliberation. Not surprisingly, we have approximately lost 4000 sq km of forest cover over the last 16 months. More forests could be denuded and wildlife habitats fragmented and shrunk soon.It is shocking that the NBW is set to give the go-ahead for mining diamonds in the core of thriving tiger habitat in Madhya Pradesh. These blokes are nothing but a bunch of jokers who don’t even realize that a wildlife corridor cuts through the area earmarked for mining. Transient tigers have been recorded to move between the forests of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.Ideally, India should reserve 33 per cent of its total landscape for forests. Currently, our forests constitute only 19 per cent, of which three per cent falls outside the ambit of reserve forests. The more our forests are decimated, the more we will suffer. If only Javadekar steps out of his air-conditioned comfort, he will understand the impact of global warming.  If we allow Javadekar and his forest-clearing henchmen to do what they wish to do, we should be prepared to live in searing temperatures. It is time that we let them know that we will not tolerate their imprudence anymore. Like the Arab Spring, we should start an Environment Spring.(The author is a veteran cricket writer, environmentalist and a wildlife activist. He has had an illustrious career as a journalist with leading publications and is feared as well as revered for his hard hitting and upright writings.)