Tiger god, Project Tiger and Architects
 

 

Tiger god, Project Tiger and Architects

 

Project Tiger is entangled in some misinformation and controversies. The message does not reach the people, the real affected people – the forest dwellers, the peasants and the tribal. For those who could read or see news, it remains at information level: neither it sinks nor their way of living changes. The discourse remains at the elite/ activist circles. The Warli tribe, for example, in the backyard of Mumbai, or the Dangi tribe in the Dangs in Gujarat, worship “Tiger god” for millennia  They have not heard of Project Tiger.

 

Some say the census method is faulty; some say census results are not reliable; some say the number of tigers is rising; some say the poachers are still active… the contradictory news that filters through media makes one doubt its authenticity.

 

 In my native village in Konkan, the world-known biodiversity hot spot, there were tigers (I use this as common name.) in the nearby hills, so also there were wild boras, foxes and many more species. In past sixty years, the forest cover has depleted, subsoil water table has gone deeper (where there is 2500 – 3000 mm annual rainfall), and the tigers have vanished – either dead, killed or migrated to other places. This is lower part of Western Ghats, where hills in some places reach to the shore of Arabian Sea.

 

As one follows Western Ghats from south to north, one could witness more and more deforestation nearer Mumbai. In Raigad District most of the hills are barren. Once it had highest tree cover in Maharashtra. According to Prof. Chhatrapti Singh (Indian Law Institute, New Delhi), the deforestation has accelerated at higher rate after the Independence.

 

Science research, so also conservation, stresses study of fauna compared to flora. Botanists know their discipline is neglected. Perhaps when the prospects of bio-fuel fuel up, when George W. Bush do push for it, when the biotechnology firms smell the prospect for profits, the governments in the Third World Countries will order the starving peasants to produce mass-mono-culture of, such as ‘Jatropha’, a common wild plant to make money (See: New Scientist, 3 February 2007, p. 15). In our native tongue there is saying, ‘In a barren (without trees) village, “Erand (Marathi)” (Jatropha) dominates’.  We used to use its seeds as a torch by lighting them.

 

It is a chain of reactions, or vicious circle of development and progress: no tree cover, no water, no wild life – no tigers; more deaths of peasants / tribal by malnutrition or by starvation or by suicides, or by killings by legal terrorism by governments (as in Nadigram few hours ago) giving rise to counter-terrorism through riots – strikes – the burning of public property. People have no water to drink or for farming. In Northern part of India and in Bangladesh, nearly 500 million people are affected by water polluted by arsenic poisoning and several harmful metals (“Drinking at the west’s toxic well”, New Scientist, April 1, 2006, p.48-45). It is vital to take care of people to take care of trees to take care of water; the three are interlinked. Hence I wrote “Project Water Parks” (The Journal of The Indian Institute of Architects, Vol. 70 Issue 07 August 2005 p.16-19), as anything that carries a title “PROJECT” carries credibility. 

 

 WHAT AM I TO DO AS AN ARCHITECT?

It is known that built environment, which is born of industrialisation) is the highest consumer of resources of the earth and fossil fuel energy, next to automobile and transport. It is linked to the land and waters, human intervention of natural environment, food and forest… This demands thorough examination and cross examination by turning every leaf and pebble on the way rather than have blind faith in the so-called development, i.e. built environment. That includes also the post-mortem of what is already done.

 

This also demands drastic and sweeping change in education, to educate the educated “top-down”, to change their mind set. See more on Link: One Step Quantum Leap in Education

 

Why burden the children with lessons on environment on the black board in the classrooms, and test them in exam halls, while the elders – leaders – experts go berserk damaging social, economic, political and natural environments? In real life children imitate the elders in the society, not only at home.

 

Indian context calls for reckoning India’s environmental and cultural biodiversity, if architecture truly speaks / represents time and place. See my document “Architecture and Biodiversity in India”.

 

ON THE JUDGEMENT DAY, if I am called for trial, I shall testify, unlike Albert Spears, “I have read from the country-wide-open-book, that’s India, not Wikipedia. I believe that source of all knowledge is the nature, and Life is larger than all arts, sciences, philosophies and religions, of all times, put together. I have left my testimony in the public domain.” May the judgment day come soon, earliest the best.

 

~~~~~

Remigius de Souza

25.03.2007