Saturday, April 21, 2012

Home, ours & theirs!

We should preserve every scrap of biodiversity as priceless while we learn to use it and come to understand what it means to humanity...E. O. Wilson

An interesting incidence happened last week with me. At midnight security watchman of our building called me telling there was a big snake near watchman cabin can I do something? I rushed down with a torch & saw a beautiful Russel Viper, unarguably one of the most venomous snake found in our country.. It was frightened & was sitting curled up, all ready for attack on any approcher. My first thought was to kill him as we could have easily done that as being from a rural place I am quite used to snakes & killing them with a stick but on second thought my wild life love & environment background didn't allow me to do so.

I have list of snake friends all across Pune in my cell with their numbers, I tried a few & one of snake friend snake friend Mr Ganesh responded at past midnight who came & captured it & send to snake park, Pune. I was happy to assist him in doing so, a thrilling experience as the snake was very fast & venomous! The whole episode lasted for an hour but it was happy ending, not all the snakes are lucky as this one was. It could have been easily got killed by any speeding vehicle from adjacent road as it must have come from river which flows at some distance or from a construction site which is going across the road along green belt near river. Even the snake friend Mr Ganesh said now a days these species are getting real rare!

Each days we see or hear many such incidences happening with different species like monkey getting caught  between electric wires or many a birds getting hurt by kites thread (Manja of Patang) or any animal getting hurt by vehicle on road & the list goes on. Sadly now there are not that many animals available anymore in Metros for even accidents! Then their are stories of common birds like sparrows getting absolute from the city & we have to celebrate World Sparrow Day! All they need is some green spaces in the concrete jungle which we proudly call our homes! But then these green spaces are in direct conflict with building spaces. I have been witness to snakes coming out of building and construction sites so many times. The same is true for birds and other small species which need natural habitats and have been used to them for hundreds of years (in Pune), which are now been increasingly developed for roads and constructions.

Any land which is not being used for construction & even may look like baron is never dead actually. There are species like rats, ants, termites, lizards very much alive in the open earths surface & birds praying on them & snakes. In a way any open land is a habitat of a complete life cycle for many species & when ever we start building any sort of construction on the same this whole life cycle gets broken by our activities which in a way is an encroachment on their home & its our duty only to undo the damage done by us which unfortunately we are forgetting or ignoring or neglecting whatever we call it. Day by day snakes & other such species are getting extinct from cities due increasing urbanization. We need to balance green spaces within the city planning to maintain their habitats, its a big lacuna in urban living which is being neglected, making such species taking heavy toll on their living!

Well people like us who live in Metro’s i.e. Pune/Mumbai  either mostly ignore such news or incidences or post our concern in FB or Twitter & forget about the incidences till again we came across any such news. Even on FB there is usual comment war & blaming & that’s it! Many will say what more we can do & it’s not our job let the concern people find the solution like there are many NGO's including people with ample time at their hand. I also have come across many who even go to argue at such level that what difference it makes if few snakes die or you don’t see sparrows or birds in cities! Aren’t there enough problems we are facing like traffic, water, drainage, home prices! Why to beat our heads over animals & forests which are miles away from the cities & let’s focus on our own problems! There are snake parks & zoo's to take care of animals why we should bother to create spaces for them at our cost when the land is so scarce & rare commodity? Why we should endanger lives of our kids playing around by allowing such dangerous species like snakes to survive near our homes? I really don’t have proper counter argument when such points are raised except questions like does we as human beings who considers our self as most powerfully developed brains have got no responsibility towards other species that are not developed like us? Isn't being powerful means taking care of others who are weak in comparison to us? And if answer is yes then what are we doing to perform our responsibility towards this cause? Leave apart the platonic ideas like how the world will be without music of birds & fragrance of trees & butterflies etc but shear as our duty towards the weaker ones what are we doing for them?

Some where the answer lays with all of us even those who don’t indulge in such arguments & turns a blind eye on any of the argument. Now here many will say what we as individual can do when there is government for such things? This answer is worst than the acts of poachers in forest because what is government but us! It’s what we are doing is more important than what others are going to do. There is a famous story by Osho which I would like to share here... "There was a woman & when ever she sees a mirror use to break it saying it shows her face ugly ! And when away from the mirror she used to be happy & saying she is beautiful but its the mirror which shows her ugly!" Actually she was ugly but was blaming the mirror for showing her so! We are just like the woman in the story who is afraid of mirror. We are ignorant about our responsibility towards the species like the poor snake in our complex which was representing the entire species faith caught between us human beings & our greediness which we name as our need! And we turn a blind eye towards our responsibility saying it’s not my job to think over such aspect of life!

Here again saying that we should stop construction would be extremist at least a kind of temporary stop for some years, but we are not prepared for that. As we considered our needs on the top of every thing & which is true in one sense as when thousands of humans are deprived from proper shelter how we can stop constructing them!
Yes we need to make builders, developers and administration more responsible and accountable for the biodiversity destroyed. In countries like Germany, the law is that any land developed over has to have a biodiversity mapping and biodiversity offsetting: which is that whatever is destroyed during this process is replaced or offset somewhere else. I am not sure of all the details yet but one thing is sure that we have to think for such places in ever urban development where not only a human being but hundreds of others species can survive peacefully. Many countries have adopted such laws & what’s more important is the citizens over there have understood the urgency of the issue & responding going ahead of law & following it. As why we need law to make us aware about saving some body's life is what I will ask to myself? All one has to do is think for others home while building our own home! A small piece of land which can stay raw with natural greenery & some proper plantation by understanding the need of surroundings with guidance of any knowledgeable person in this field can serve the purpose! For example we plant many show plants & have lawns beautifully manicured but they are not at all useful for biodiversity conservation as these species needs natural habitats which can be made available by planting indigenous trees like neem, baniyan, piple etc which by them self are base for life cycle of many species of insects as well birds. Even a small piece of open land with soil cover where rain can accumulate & percolate in earth can become home to many. Why we have to wait for any law to tell us these simple things?

Apart from just being responsible if we go beyond it & think about the pleasure this biodiversity around us can give us then think about the sight of sparrows feeding their new born or a bulbul making his nest or the red color rain insect which first rain bring as well the butterflies  come along with the blossoming of flowers! The list is endless & just to watch all such happening around can be a fun which no money can buy. All you have to do is create some space for such species & spare few moments of your money making schedule for them & make them part of your life style. Its not only about the Developers & Govt or NGO's but its us only who is going to demand this space for other species when we buy our so called home. Rather this should come as a package deal with our four walls then only we can have some hope for any future for the poor Russel Viper & many like him! As the quote says biodiversity has to be felt & understood from within or else we have no right to call our self a human being!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

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