A Clarion Call to Save Grasslands

By Dr Anand & Geeta Pereira
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Aug 28, 2020

In an ever-expanding population of over one billion, humans fight for space, and invariably, it’s the wildlife space that is encroached upon. This article throws light on a unique ecosystem, namely grasslands, tropical scrub forest, and stunted semi-evergreen forests, which are facing multiple threats due to land-use change by humans. These forest types are often termed wastelands and are neglected by both policymakers and public citizens, which makes them vulnerable to pressure, from human populations. However, new scientific studies throw light on these forest types as crucial links for people and wildlife to live in harmony.

Grasslands support a variety of wildlife species. There can be up to 350 species or more comprising of mammals and birds, depending on the type of vegetation. One can spot the Indian grey wolf, the striped hyena, the Bengal fox, Indian gazelle or Chinkara, Wild Cats, Rabbits, Indian Pangolin, Porcupine, wild boar, leopard and many other species, yet to be discovered. A dynamic balance exists in wildlife species, in these borderline forests, depending on the season of the year.

These precious grasslands and scrub forests provide habitat for wildlife, in addition to carbon and water storage and watershed protection in improving the water table. (The earth's land area covered by grasslands vary between 20 and 40 percent, yet, only a small percentage, less than 10% is protected due to political and economic reasons.) Threats to natural grasslands, as well as the wildlife, include unsustainable agricultural practices, farming, grazing, and invasive species, illegal hunting, poaching, and climate change.

The shared spaces between human beings and wildlife in such a delicately balanced ecosystem imply that the conservation of all species of wildlife in these sensitive areas has to be socially inclusive. Easier said than done, but strategies need to be worked out, without any bias, such that there’s a high degree of coexistence between Man and wildlife. As you browse through this article, you can understand that this harmonious relationship, indeed works and coexistence is a reality. Thanks to the wisdom of the locals and their deep understanding of wildlife.

Chakan, a small town in India, in Pune District, Maharashtra State is gaining importance as an industrial hub of India. Chakan is about 30 kilometres from the center of Pune, on National Highway 50 between Pune and Nasik cities. It is also on the roads that connect the Mumbai-Pune Highway to the Pune-Nasik Highway. It is about 150 kilometres from Mumbai.

Chakan is now home to a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) promoted by the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation. (MIDC). It has since evolved into a major automobile hub. It hosts automobile production plants for the Volkswagen Group, Daimler Benz, Bajaj Auto, Land Rover, General Electric, Hyundai, Mahindra & Mahindra, etc. Over 750 large and small industries, including a number of automobile component manufacturers, are based in the area.

Shiroli Chandus village, located 6 km north of Chakan had been identified as the probable site for the proposed Pune International Airport, but due to the protests by the villagers & uneven topography, the site has been shifted to Purandar.

One interesting fact concerning the area in and around Chakan is that in recent times the forest types are affected by the landscape change due to semi urbanization and agriculture. Human imprint is clearly visible due to the accelerated or unbridled development in terms of habitat loss due to expanding human activities. The land use is changing to housing, Industry, and agriculture. Tens of thousands of acres of grasslands and the scrub forest is giving way to onion and maize cultivation. Industry and housing are literally encroaching on wildlife habitats. The Government has no doubt earmarked thousands of acres towards housing, Industry, and airports are trying to find a balance between sustaining both human development and biodiversity.

Why the need to highlight Chakan! Well, we have been to Chakan every five years for the past two decades, enjoying the hospitality of our Uncle, Late Antony Rasquinha and now that of Ashley Rasquinha.

Chakan is a classic example of a case study, involving a harmonious relationship between beast and man. The topography generally involves scrub forest, grasslands, low lying hills, valleys, rivulets, ponds, dams, and agriculture. The region receives moderate rainfall and the landscape is dotted with farmers’ fields.

How to address Human Animal Conflict

From what we have observed over the years, the habitat around Chakan is subjected to both high human impact zones where the industry is located and low impact zones where villagers border the wilderness zone and grassland habitats. In the past two decades due to housing all along the banks of rivers, thickets which were the favourite haunt of the lesser-known mammals have resulted in the disappearance of the jungle cat. As more and more land is transformed into commercial crops, it has impacted the carrying capacity of the ecosystem and has resulted in habitat degradation and disturbance of wildlife.

One time tested method accepted to address this problem, is to conserve separate areas as a Reserve for wildlife and develop other areas for human habitation and Industrialization. Yet another model, involves the merger of the two areas by developing small pockets of conducive habitats for wildlife within the newly developed zone. However, this model has been a total disaster because its implementation is not scientifically done. The success of this model rests heavily on first understanding the ecological behaviour of wildlife.

Aarav’s Inputs

Farmers to the rescue of wildlife

Farmers living in these borderline areas, make it a point to leave behind on purpose, their old livestock like bullocks/buffalos/sheep to graze in the transitional or fringe areas of the forest. This has been an age-old practice in the surrounding villages. These old livestock provides prey for leopards and other mammals. The understanding has gone a long way in mitigating human-wildlife conflict because leopards and other carnivores do not come and steal healthy livestock from farmers.

Conclusion

In recent years, a number of scientific studies have revealed that grasslands and scrub forests contain multitudes of wildlife species that are uniquely adapted to live in; only such specialized habitats. Any man-made change can result in the disappearance of many of these species. Another very important aspect that is often overlooked is that these forest types are easy targets for reforestation activities. This will have serious undesirable consequences for grasslands and scrub forests. We urge the Ministry of Environment to conduct more scientific research and use better technology that will help distinguish each habitat before they are converted to Special Economic Zones. The development comes at a huge cost. However, in certain instances it is inevitable, nor are we against development, but it needs to be properly planned and sustainable. Over the years we have witnessed the impact of climate change and global warming because of the destruction of the complex sensitive ecosystems, which are vanishing year by year. The bigger threat is the indirect impact of urbanization on those landscapes. A proper scientific study will help wildlife, coexist with man.

Acknowledgment

Ashley (Joint MD, Electropneumatics & Hydraulics Pvt Ltd) and his son Aarav are stewards of the environment and have done tremendous work in the conservation of biodiversity. The wildlife pictures are photographed both by Ash and Aarav, within a 10 km radius from their villa, which includes both day and night safari.

 

 

 

Comment on this article

  • Anita Britto, Mangalore/ Auckland

    Sat, Sep 26 2020

    Dear Dr Anand & Geetha

    An amazing article as always with such a wealth of information illustrating how wild life has learnt to adapt to their surroundings and how each living creature is such a vital link in the ecosystem. May we have many more towns like Chakan. Thanks to Ash and Aarav for their collaborative effort in conservation.

    May God bless all your efforts in saving our beautiful planet. Thanks for this beautiful informative article – as always you never fail to impress !

    Agree

  • Peter Pais, Mangalore / Bangalore

    Wed, Sep 9 2020

    Dear Anand
    We have one and the only Anand !! Your passion for nature is unlimited !! Cant agree with you more on what has been mentioned in this article. Yes we all need to coexist. The more we encourage nature to blossom, the better the world for all of us !! Truly a wake up call to save grasslands !!

    Agree [1]

  • Sudhir, Mangalore /Oman

    Sun, Sep 6 2020

    Dear Dr. Anand & Geeta , as always you come up with thought provoking, need of the hour, article's Very well written so much we need to give a thought to, so much to do to coexist ....! Thank you for sharing Dr.

    Agree [1]

  • Prof.Edmund Frank, Mangalore

    Tue, Sep 1 2020

    Dear Geeta and Anand,
    It took me some days to go through your excellent write up on harmony, interdependence, and the concepts on the role of the ecosystem which was very informative, meaningful, and full of interesting discoveries. Congratulations on this beautiful article. Very well written.

    Agree [2]

  • Hema Shree R, Mysore

    Mon, Aug 31 2020

    Your works are really inspiring for youths like us.... Thank u Sir and ma’am...
    This prompt us of our responsibilities as young citizens and being a human as well...
    Your initiatives to conserve wildlife should be widespread and be supported too...
    Here we are not suppose to blame neither politics nor anyone else...
    Because individuality matters more...it’s all of our responsibility...
    Let’s be the initiators rather than being repenters for our misdeeds to the Mother Nature...
    Heartfelt gratitude for your works... dear Sir Dr Anand & Geeta Pereira😊😊

    Agree [2]

  • Hema Shree R, Mysore

    Mon, Aug 31 2020

    Your works are really inspiring for youths like us.... Thank u Sir and ma’am...
    This prompt us of our responsibilities as young citizens and being a human as well...
    Your initiatives to conserve wildlife should be widespread and be supported too...
    Here we are not suppose to blame neither politics nor anyone else...
    Because individuality matters more...it’s all of our responsibility...
    Let’s be the initiators rather than being repenters for our misdeeds the Mother Nature...
    Heartfelt gratitude for your works... dear Sir Dr Anand & Geeta Pereira😊😊

    Agree [2]

  • Gilbert Menezes, Moodubelle / Melbourne

    Mon, Aug 31 2020

    Thank you, Dr Anand & Geeta, for a picturesque article. For the sake of chasing “exponential growth” the world has continued industrialization and to carry out mining, oil exploration, and wildlife trade even when there are severe consequences of environmental pollution, global warming, and the transfer of deadly viruses to humans. If we want long term normalcy in our world, we should start formulating the concrete strategies to end all kinds of disastrous activities we are currently undertaking! Starting with ending wild animal trade and consumption, we should switch over from oil drilling and coal and other mining! There are many alternative ways to develop a robust economy. Protection of wildlife as important as providing basic necessities to humans! Your efforts to highlight these issues to the authorities are greatly appreciated.

    Agree [4]

  • Anil & Sheela D'Souza, Mangalore

    Mon, Aug 31 2020

    Anand and Geeta ,amazing insights about the grasslands and the conflict between man and nature. . Our best wishes and prayers are always with you and Geetha for the selfless work you'll are doing to safeguard Wild life habitats.

    Agree [2]

  • Joan Lobo, Mangalore

    Sun, Aug 30 2020

    Dear Anand and Geetha... Every article of yours is so informative, your knowledge is mind-blowing, your passion for the environment is inspiring. The world would have been a safe and happy place if we valued nature as you'll do. The photographs are beautiful and the article is very well written.. Hats off this amazing couple who are a role model in every way..

    Agree [1]

  • Anand & Geeta, Sakleshpur/Mangalore

    Sun, Aug 30 2020

    Dear Dr.Rohan. Belman. Nihal, Sureshbagar, Harikrishnan, Allen, Anjali, Hamsa, Matilda, Ivan, Joe Britto, Mohan, Alphonso, Bopanna, Fr. Joe and Payal, First and foremost, We would like to thank each of you for taking time out and writing very inspiring and uplifting comments. You have boosted our morale. Some of you have given pertinent suggestions, which definitely can be implemented. We assure you, that we will take care to notify the higher authorities regarding these practical suggestions. More importantly, when common Citizens bring about a dialogue, we arrive at meaningful conclusions. We cannot be right all the time. We need debate and discussion in houses, classrooms and board rooms. Only when we give a lending ear to others, we keep learning more. Thank you readers of Daijiworld for your steadfast support.

    Agree [2]

  • Payal, Virginia

    Sun, Aug 30 2020

    Another illuminating article on the conservation of flora and fauna. This time though, you have concentrated on Grasslands. We are often made to believe that Grasslands don't harbor major species of mammals and other wildlife species but scientific evidence points out to a different truth. Glad you have highlighted the numerous species, one can spot in these grasslands and scrub forests. It will help the common man understand the importance of these ecosystems and the urgent need to protect them.

    Agree [2]

  • Fr. Joseph\Joe Francis, Long island, New York, USA.

    Sat, Aug 29 2020

    Dr. Anand & Geeta
    Its wonderful again to read A Clarion Call to Save Grasslands. No wonder that i had been to your native place and witnessed your love , care and concern for the Mother earth. Thank you for your self explanatory photos of the species , we all need to live and let live all that God has created and we bear the co-responsibility to take care of this beautiful nature. It reminds me of St. Francis of Assisi the patron of Ecology to love all the created animate and in-animates who called everything and everyone a Brother and Sister and Mother 'Earth'. Your write up is just need of the time and hour. It goes long way to take to heart and live happily with all. May God bless your good efforts on this great 'Mission' Wish You well and all the very best...Fr. Joe Fra Capuchin. New York, USA

    Agree [1]

  • BOPANNA, MYSORE

    Sat, Aug 29 2020

    The rich & elegant look of an animal can be seen only when it has a secured place to survive, the grassland and scrub forest have the natural habitat to safeguard them.The Photographs/Article of Mr Anand draws our attention towards this depleting vegetation & reminds us of our duty to protect them.
    Great work, Mrs and Mr. Anand 👍

    Agree [2]

  • Alphonso Dsouza, Mumbai

    Sat, Aug 29 2020

    Dr. Anand and Geeta
    I have been a follower of your write ups, feed backs on bird watching and animal life through your invaluable lens. It takes a lot of effort and sacrifice to collate the information ... like the one in your above article is amazing.

    I wonder if your works can be demonstrated through an exhibition or a gallery so that people are made to realise what it takes to keep our flora and fauna in tact at least - if not growing further. One of the avenues is the demonstrations at Elementary or High schools where the young minds can capture the reality pretty fast.

    I wish I could help in this venture ... I am already a senior citizen and my ill-health will not permit me to do much. I wish you both long years so that our world and that in the future ... could learn to live in harmony with our nature. God bless.

    Agree [4]

  • MOHAN FRANK, MANGALORU / MUMBAI

    Sat, Aug 29 2020

    Dr ATP / Dr Geeta
    Thank you very much for the excellent article in creating human awareness on saving our grasslands and small evergreen forests , yes this should be a top priority today ,on a international platform to promote a better carbon footprint of humanity

    Having a wealth of grasslands provides our ecosystem with sufficient clean water, helps prevent floods, and promotes the natural production of food crops and meats. Grasslands are also essential to carbon sequestration, which is crucial to soil health.

    Grasslands are also essential to carbon sequestration, which is crucial to soil health. Carbon, dubbed “the building block of life,” is the element upon which the health or nutrition of high-quality food depends on.
    The loss of habitat is the primary reason that species are lost both locally and globally, protecting more habitat emerges as the most important priority for conservation.
    A big thanks to ASHLEY and AARAV for their contribution in preserving the natural habitat and sharing beautiful pictures which will create awareness among the younger generation and the ruling government and NGOs ,which I am sure ,will take notice of this wonderful article written by Dr ATP & Dr Geeta and act on it to create a balanced ecosystem to help Mother Nature

    Agree [4]

  • Joe Britto, Nakre/Bangalore

    Sat, Aug 29 2020

    A \great Post by Dr.Anand and Dr Geetha .

    Illustrations and pictures speak a Thousand Words.

    Hope due importance is given to preserve these precious Grasslands which are fast disappearing like our Forests.

    Agree [5]

  • Ivan Frank, MANGALURU

    Sat, Aug 29 2020

    A clarion call to save grasslands is timely and appropriate to open the eyes of the people in power and to take appropriate steps to protect nature before it is too late. Beautiful picture and illustrations to show the part played by Grasslands to balance the echo system .

    Agree [3]

  • Matilda Pinto, Kodagu/Mangalore

    Sat, Aug 29 2020

    Preserving natural habitat of animals and birds is the need of the hour
    If this clarion call is not heeded a lot is at stake including mans extinction

    Well written article .

    Agree [3]

  • Anjali and Hamsa, Melbourne, Australia

    Sat, Aug 29 2020

    An insightful and illuminating article. What treasures of nature reside in these grasslands and they are protected in years to come. Hope to visit some of these in future.
    Keep up your great work!

    Agree [2]

  • Allen Pais, Brisbane

    Sat, Aug 29 2020

    Dear Dr Anand & Geeta.

    Well written article & valid input from Ashley & Aarav.

    The conflict of human with animals is worsening each day & growing into a typical disease like indicator.

    I am overwhelmed with the Human behaviour that has never changed from the time I took into deeply considering awareness, at least it is 20 years & I feel nothing has changed but it has gone down hill.

    The articles you both have written gives very strong information & knowledge, it just does not reach the common man due to negligence in understanding the necessity, it only has to turn into a pandemic like situation for humans to take these situations seriously.

    It takes me back to the past & shows indicators like TB,Polio,Leprosy,etc, how humans took immediate precaution to cure and prevent the spread as well as contain the disease, not much of advertisement was necessary or media attention, it only took a few loved ones infected & therefore causing harm .

    Creating awareness on grasslands or human animal conflict needs to penetrate into the common human beings for them to think seriously on change in behaviour or adjustments in environment that will purposefully assist in the well being of humans.

    Thank you & Geeta for your contribution in creating awareness by way of taking so much of your time in creating these great articles, also impressed with the photography by Ashley & the work by Aarav.

    Let your articles keep coming & we will continue to share our knowledge.

    All the best.

    Allen Pais

    Agree [5]

  • Harikrishnan S, Mangalore

    Fri, Aug 28 2020

    Grasslands and tropical scrub forests are easy targets for starting Industrial zones as people are unaware of the rich biodiversity these places hold. Disruption caused by rampant industrialisation has far reaching effects. The author has succeeded in highlighting the need to preserve our biodiversity the way nature made it. Unscientic preservation methods do as much damage as industrialisation. Excellent infotmative article.

    Agree [2]

  • Sureshbagar, Sakleshpur

    Fri, Aug 28 2020

    The article clearly illustrates the importance of grasslands and its importance for the future survival of both man and animal. You have thrown light on wildlife conservation and biodiversity protection in areas where human expansion is taking place in the form of Special Economic Zone and human settlements, along with agriculture expansion. Highlighting the example of Chakan, a small town close to Pune was indeed a classical example, of how wildlife conflict with humans can be avoided with proper planning. Thank you for enlightening us on the importance of safeguarding wildlife in all ecosystems.

    Agree [3]

  • Nihal J Pereira, Mangalore

    Fri, Aug 28 2020

    We were always under the impression that it was only, tropical evergreen forests that could harbor a wide variety of flora and fauna. Now it's clear that grasslands and shrub forests too play a vital role in the conservation of biodiversity. Hence, as a software engineer, I would like to develop models of sustainability and integrate it into environmental sound projects, through artificial intelligence and Big Data.
    Aarav's and Uncle Ashley's pictures are a testimony to the biodiversity of grasslands. Thank you very much for the pictures and the article too.

    Agree [5]

  • BS, Belman

    Fri, Aug 28 2020

    Great post from a wonderful couple. Pictures are awesome. Taking birds pictures requires lot of patience and time. Two snakes picture ultimate. Thanks

    Agree [3]

  • Dr. Rohan Colaco, Ph.D., Mangalore

    Fri, Aug 28 2020

    A treat to read and as always lots to learn from. Thank you for sharing this excellent excerpt.

    Agree [3]


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