'Bear with us' bares state's apathy

'Bear with us' bares state's apathy

The fact that the young Swami was protesting over the government’s refusal to ban mining on the banks of the River Ganga, near Haridwar, makes it even more tragic.
Unfortunately, his death has only provided an excuse for the Congress and BJP to trade charges.

The Central government has clearly revealed its engagement with environment issues by doing a complete backtrack with regard to Posco.  In the state of Karnataka, its forest minister has most recently demonstrated this government’s love for the forests by refusing permission to the Unesco to give the Western Ghats a ‘World Heritage Site’ tag. One would think that getting such a tag would be a matter of pride for the State.
Shockingly, the reason cited for the refusal was that it would hinder developmental activities. The identified areas would have benefited immensely from the heritage tag, as their rich eco-diversity would have been preserved. But this appears in doubt now, with the State seeking intervention from the Centre to prevent the tag from coming into effect.  

At the press conference called to deal with the state’s stand on the Unesco tag, the forest minister chose instead to shift the topic by announcing enhancement of compensation from Rs 3.5 lakh to Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of those who were killed by wildlife. This seems like a deliberate attempt to draw focus to the threat to humans from wild animals, coming so soon on the heels of two tuskers going on the rampage in Mysore.

But of man’s threat to wild animals and their habitat, there is very little being said, even though 2011 saw the launch of the World Bio-Diversity Decade. Recently, a 16-minute documentary, ‘Please ‘Bear’ With Us,’ filmed by Maya Jaideep and Kesturi Vasuki, has brought alive the threat to Asia’s only bear sanctuary at Daroji in the Bellary district.  
The Forest Conservation Act of 1980 guarantees protection to forests and states that any non-forest activity can be undertaken only with the permission of the Central Government. The government has shuffled its feet whilst a huge environmental catastrophe looms in Daroji, even while the industry claims that the land was legally allotted to them.  

Justice Santosh Hegde, who has initiated many cases against illegal mining in the Bellary region, is categorical in stating that iron ore export should be stopped immediately, as it is not a regenerating product. He suggested saving it for future generations, as a value-added product. Justice Hegde also spoke of the environmental impact of iron ore mining as the powder settles on plants, houses and even water bodies.  He drew attention to the mining area around Sandur where everything had turned brown and people were facing slow poisoning from all the contamination.

Despite so many instances that reveal the risks of indiscriminate mining and the cascading effects of environmental degradation on man, the powers that be seem hell bent on parcelling away natural spaces, which have protected the human species since time immemorial. It is hoped that documentary films like, ‘Please ‘Bear’ With Us’ will serve to create an understanding about endangered and endemic species and the need to save them so that mankind will be saved.

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