Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wildlife Conservation Course: A participant's view!

Read about NCSA's recent course as experienced by a participant, Pintueli Gajjar. Incidentally, she's a teacher with a special interest in environment education and she was 2005 winner of the Green Teacher award (also awarded to NCSA President Prof. Nishikant Kale).

Click here for Pintueli's report in her blog, Songs of the Wind.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Kishor Rithe's talk at TEDx Mumbai, 3 April 2010

SF President Kishor Rithe explains how "Saving Tigers = Saving People."

Report on the Wildlife Conservation Course in Melghat TR, April 10-14, 2010

“Wildlife Conservation” is must today to conserve the landscapes which actually provide many ecological services for the sustainable development of humans. However for doing the same, the country cannot only rely upon one agency. As per the Constitution of India, it’s a responsibility of every citizen to participate in protecting wildlife and their natural resources in any ecosystem.

However there are hardly any efforts to make every section of society capable of exercising their responsibilities towards wildlife conservation. Knowing this, the Nature Conservation Society, Amravati designed a five-day long certificate course in “Wildlife Conservation.”

The course was scheduled 10-14 April 2010 at the Muthawa Community Resource Centre of NCSA near Melghat Tiger Reserve. Around 15 participants were selected from Nagpur, Pune, Mumbai, Goa, Bangalore, Chattisgarh and Rajkot for the course.

The course participants were trained in Applied Environment Education, Bio-diversity Conservation, Land Management (resettlement and eco-restoration), Wildlife Research and social studies, Climate Change and Environmental Laws. The training modules included interactive sessions, field exercise and assignments, films and open university sessions where participants were to present on the subjects.
Wildlife conservationist Kishor Rithe, Prof. Nishikant Kale, Dr. G. N. Vankhede, Mr. Mohan Atalkar, Mr. Rohan Mukerjee and Vishal Bansod conducted the sessions.

Introduction to Community Resource Centre:

On Day 1, participants reached the Muthawa Community Resource Centre (CRC) at Melghat and mixed in no time with the diverse friends participating from different states and different backgrounds. The organizers took the group on a tour of the Muthawa Community Resource Centre which is the ideal place in Melghat to understand many village development-related activities. They appreciated the waste water treatment plant, solar lighting system, bio-diesel unit, nursery and vermi-compost plant. Prof. Nishikant Kale and Kishor Rithe made this visit very informative and meaningful. The first evening was memorable due to a few owl calls and also the screening of conservation films on Melghat Tiger Reserve.

Biodiversity Conservation:

If you want to know biodiversity conservation you must go to the forest. That is what participants did on the second morning. The organizers took the participants to locations in Melghat Tiger Reserve where they got the opportunity to see Gaurs, sambar, chital, Crested Serpent Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Crested Hawk Eagle along with 27 other species of birds. They also visited the Nature Interpretation Centre at Semadoh where they liked the depictions of tribal culture, unique flora of Melghat, wildlife and wildlife management.

Wildlife Research:

I use to think that wildlife research meant “wear a hat, drive a green Gypsy, have a good camera, tranquilise the tiger, put a radio collar to the tiger and get your own picture with the big cat.” My impression was broken when I heard the presentation by Dr. G. N. Vankhede on spiders in Melghat Tiger Reserve. Dr.G.N.Vankhede who is head of the Zoology Department of SGB Amravati University, Amravati has done extensive research on spiders in Melghat. His talk on ‘Spider Diversity in Melghat’ was eye-opening for participants. Vishal Bansod also explained the methodologies for studying birds and herpatofauna.

Applied Environment Education:

This was great fun as well as learning. Green Teacher award winner Prof.Nishikant Kale showed the participants how small activities can be used to teach environment education. The systematic approach of designing the education campaign, identifying the target audience, identifying small activities, selecting the media, designing tools like nature games etc were discussed.

Land Use Management:

Land management is a very important aspect in an overpopulated country like India. The participants were taken to Kund Meadow to see how the landscape responds after the resettlement of any village from a tiger-bearing area. After returning from the field visit, Mr. Kishor Rithe conducted an interactive session on Resettlement in Melghat Tiger Reserve. Participants could learn the process of resettlement from the stage of Gramsabha meetings to actual resettlement at the new location. He also enlightened the participants on habitat improvement/manipulation works at the vacated site. Afternoon participants visited the field to work on the assignments given to them on Applied Environment Education and Protection. They visited some of the protection camps to understand the field issues regarding ground level protection. Participants promised to support the field staff by several programmes in the near future. They also designed a campaign on local specific environmental issues. After the field visit, participants also delivered their individual proposals.

Social Studies and Issues:

13 April 2010 - the visit to the tribal village Chauarkund was an amazing experience for participants. Community participation is a crucial thing in Landscape Conservation. This visit made the participants think about the issues related to development of villages, encroachment, employment, health and education. The discussion on this topic was an eye opener for all participants after returning from the village visit. They understood the role of local people in wildlife conservation. Mr. Vishal Bansod conducted the session.

Role of Media:

Mr. Mohan Atalkar, a senior district correspondent of the daily Loksatta, also interacted with participants on the role of the media and how conservationists should prepare to bring conservation issues to the notice of the masses.

Eco-restoration and Climate Change:

Mr. Rohan Mukharjee, a young and dynamic Project Manager of Satpuda Foundation who is handing the Eco-restoration project near Melghat, spoke on his project and on climate change. He also spoke on the emerging carbon market and the potential to boost wildlife conservation initiatives in the landscape to benefit both the locals and the wildlife.

Environmental Law:

Kishor Rithe conducted a thought-provoking interactive session on Environmental Law. His style of teaching a law was unique. He explained many interesting natural history events, past situations, circumstances and the legal weapons introduced. His presentation actually made the participants aware about the state of forests, wildlife and environment between 1850 to 2010. He reviewed the Indian Forest Act 1927, Forest Conservation Act 1980, Environment Protection Act 1986, Wildlife Protection Act 1972 as amended in 2006 and the Forest rights Act 2006.

Evening Films:

The film "Man-eating Tigers" was appreciated by all participants as it made them aware about one of the most important issues in wildlife conservation: human-animal conflict. The discussion on this topic ended with some interesting solutions to resolve conflict.

Delicious food!

Participants enjoyed the delicious food at Muthawa though it was simple. The “pana” of kaccha mango and “mattha” of buttermilk were superb relief in the scorching heat. (It actually made post-lunch sessions difficult to attend. The Course Coordinator brilliantly kept assignments and group discussions after the heavy lunches).

Open University sessions:

Every day was concluded with an "Open University" session where participants delivered a presentation on a topic of their own choice.

Participants enjoyed birdwatching sessions and specially the sighting of a Nightjar during the day time along with sightings of the largest herd of gaurs (as big as 50 in number) and sloth bear, wild boar, jackals, chitals and sambar deer. The participants were awarded a certificate of completion at the hands of Mr.Vinod Marathe of Daily Hindustan, Prof. Nishikant Kale, President of NCSA and Kishor Rithe, President of Satpuda Foundation.

Report by Ar.Vishal Bansod, Course Co-ordinator, NCSA