'Development is measured only with GDP in India'

 George Beals Schaller, mammalogist, biologist, conservationist and vice president of Panthera Corporation had visited Chikkamagaluru recently as a part of his tour to India.

George has made an in-depth study on lions in India, panda in China and chiru in Tibet. At present, he has been carrying out a study on the Asiatic cheetah in Iran and was responsible for conservation of national parks in several countries.

Excerpts of an interview with K M Santhosh Kumar:

Do you feel there is a kind of hope when it comes to conservation of environment?

I find a ray of hope and problems in front of my eyes. As Mahatma Gandhi said, people should change their mindset. NGOs and media too play a role in this. There is a need to create awareness on nature, forest and wildlife and their conservation among youth. If we fail to create this awareness, then there is no future for the future generation. There is a need to change the mindset of economic experts. In India, the experts look only at GDP.

There is a wrong notion among the experts that GDP is the only scale of development. There has been increase in developmental activities by destroying Nature. The experts and people should understand the fact that Nature once lost is lost forever.

Which is the ‘safest’ forest in the world?

As far as wildlife is concerned, Indian reserve forests are prospering. India is known for its rich flora and fauna. However, there are a lot of problems as well. An attempt is being made to use 200-km forest area in Panna of Madhya Pradesh for non-forest activities. The people should conserve the stretch unitedly. Moreover, I had travelled across Palamau and Hazaribagh in 1962. However, the green cover is thinning in these tiger reserves and national parks.

What is your opinion on eco-tourism?

One cannot oppose eco-tourism completely. However, there is a need to monitor and regulate it. The entire forest should not be kept open for public viewing. The income fetched from tourism should be used for the welfare of dwellers who reside on the periphery of the forests, who in turn will make an effort to conserve the forest.

Although an attempt in this regard is made at Ranthambore National Park, it is sad that forest dwellers have failed to conserve the forest there.

Your opinion on man-wild animal conflict? Is relocating of animals a right decision to arrest the conflict?

The public should unitedly discuss arresting man-wild animal conflict. If a tiger is a manhunter, then killing is inevitable. There is a need to chalk out programmes to check the conflict. The payment of compensation when crops are damaged due to wild animals attack is a good move. However, shifting and relocating of animals will not serve much.

Is environment education necessary in school syllabus?

I do not have much knowledge on Indian education policy. However, a lesson on environment and wildlife conservation should be a part of the sixth, seventh and eighth standard.

Quoting Gandhi, we can say, the Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed. This should be understood by children at young age.

Your suggestion to conserve wildlife in India?

The conservation of forest and wildlife is essential for a healthy future in a country. Forest and rivers should be conserved for the future life. Rivers should be cleaned.

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