Let’s talk Nature


Speakers at the recent Naturalists’ Conclave of Adyar Nature and Environment Centre, Theosophical Society, touched upon the various challenges we now face, from degraded wetlands to polluted rivers

Jayshree Vencatesan

“What is being attempted for most wetlands and rivers in Chennai is beautification; what needs to be done is thorough cleansing,” says Jayshree Vencatesan of Care Earth Trust.

She says that any intervention should be at the source of contamination by industries, householders and institutions, and at the ward level, since topography is different in each area. “Stop people from emptying sewage into stormwater drains.” With no disposal system, sewage and effluents reach the nearest waterbody and this toxic waste-water drains back into the city.

Supraja Dharani

Supraja Dharani’s short documentary speaks of her work to protect sea turtles that come to beaches to lay eggs, or to take refuge after being injured by trawlers and nets.

Her NGO, The TREE Foundation, works in three States: Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. “We explain to the fishermen that sea turtles are indicators of fish populations,” she says, explaining how they have joined forces with local fishing communities.

Since 2003, her team has been patrolling beaches, rescuing turtles and rehabilitating them. “We have conducted awareness programmes in villages, trained forest rangers. Our projects are supported by State Governments, forest officials, coast guards and all those who want to give turtles a chance.”

When 800 dead Olive Ridley turtles were washed ashore in 2014, Supraja began a project to promote the turtle excluder device (TED). With these, in fishing nets, turtles began to escape with 100% success.

Zai Whitaker

Zai Whitaker has reared reptiles for 43 years at the Madras Crocodile Bank.

Along with the footfalls (4.5 lakhs a year), crocodile numbers have grown, too. “It’s overpopulation because the Tamil Nadu Forest Department’s goal to release 200 of our marsh crocodiles never took off.” Meanwhile, the Bank has established a centre for herpetology research and has 17 species of crocodiles, most of which are critically endangered or vulnerable.

The volunteer programme of MCB has given her lovely stories. Arvind, a volunteer, wrote to her: “I’ve dropped my MBA plan, have enrolled in a project with Nature Conservation Foundation. Hope to start work on snow leopards.”

Shekar Dattatri

Introducing his short film The Race to Save the Amur Falcon, wildlife photographer and filmmaker Shekar Dattari says: “I discovered the story by chance. It’s about a small group of people putting pressure on the Government to save the migratory falcon in North East India.”

Dattatri says that one of Nature’s breathtaking spectacles is thousands of Amur falcons taking a breather at the Doyang reservoir in Nagaland, on their migratory route from Siberia and China to South Africa. It is a necessary stopover on their 22,000 kilometer-long flight. Fishermen, looking for extra income, hang fine nets on their path, killing and selling hundreds of unsuspecting falcons.

Investigations by Bano Haralu, a journalist and a managing-trustee of Nagaland Wildlife, a Biodiversity Conservation Trust, her colleague Rokohebi Kuotsu, Shashank Dalvi, research associate at Bengaluru’s Centre for Wildlife Studies and Ramki Sreenivasan of Conservation India, found till 2012, every season, 10-15% of the farmer-friendly Amur falcons got killed in Nagaland. The team persuaded locals to take pride in their annual visitors and adopt them as “guests”. In a remarkable turnaround, no killings were reported in 2013.

Let’s talk Nature

Shobha Menon

“Urban greening needs action, not conversation,” says Shobha Menon of Nizhal, an organisation that works to add green cover to the city. “There are many experts on the subject, funding has increased, but grassroots-level work is lacking.”

She lists the challenges in greening a rapidly-growing city. Which trees should we plant in cemented areas? Can we bring back the Purusu trees of Purasawalkam? When we replace older trees with exotic varieties, what is the future of native trees?

Take care of the trees outside your homes, do not outsource your civic responsibility,” she asks of Chennaiites, “Remove boards on trees, fill the gap with a thick paste of turmeric and clay to prevent disease-causing fungus.” She reiterates ‘My neighbourhood, my trees, my health’: the philosophy behind Kotturpuram Tree Park..

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 8:26:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/lets-talk-nature/article26521189.ece

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