“I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure.”

Agent Smith was not too far off the mark, if you think about it! Let’s look at some none-too-flattering figures from the once-pristine Konkan coast of India.

The stage:

The Konkan coastline is almost a living, breathing entity. The region has a rich natural history. It is here that thousands of species endemic to this region flock to set up a unique eco-system. It is here that rivers and streams intermingle with trees and jungles in a manner that brings forth the deep connection we have with Mother Earth. It is here that a pristine and virginal beach greets us at each turn off the Sagari Mahamarg. It is here that people speak in so lilting a melody that we feel they might break out into song with another word. From its richness in folklore to its unique biodiversity, the Western Ghats and the Konkan coastline are truly a paradise on earth.

The disease and it’s manifest symptoms:

But today, this paradise is slipping away from us like sand from our fists. Pollution by chemical companies, coal power projects etc. are engaged in destroying the delicate ecological balance of this beautiful region. Broadly there are three geographical zones of Konkan – rocky escarpments and western fringe ranges of Western Ghats on the east; mangrove belt on the west; and in between these two is a narrow strip of coastal plains.

  • Once ubiquitous, marine turtle nesting sites have reduced to just 20 villages in this region.
  • Birds like black woodpecker and great pied hornbill which were widely sighted in the past, have seen their numbers dwindle drastically.
  • Human-animal conflicts have increased. District Ratnagiri has less than 1% of protected area and over 99% of private forest. In last 2 decades this forest cover has decreased by over 16% ranking the district at the 3rd position amongst the districts of Western Ghats in terms of fastest deforestation. 44000 trees are being uprooted in the NH17 expansion project.

If we do not act now, the virus will consume the host and move on, seeking new pastures.

Would you want to step out of the matrix and be a part of an attempted cure?

If so, join a few nature lovers like yourself, wanting to reverse the trend of destruction. It’s extremely important to build a network of such concerned citizens and organizations to reduce the pace of destruction. ‘Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra’ (SNM) has conceptualized a project called “My Jungle” supported by such a network. SNM proposes to implement this concept across various sites to instill the sense of conservation among the people at large & to develop such self-motivated people who can manage pockets of forest, both in quality and number. Such forests will be open to all nature lovers. People will be expected to shoulder the responsibility of conservation, monitoring and documentation. This would attach us back to the forests. Think of these forests as living laboratories to connect people to the nature. Local people will also be engaged in conservation activities through SNM’s principle of ‘Livelihood Through Nature Conservation’.

Here is the proposed model for the pilot.

SNM plans to purchase 50 acres of land in the name of “Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra” to build the model. 90% of the land will only be used for the sole purpose of forest conservation. Keeping the local biodiversity and land form in mind, experts will select varieties of plants. Around 5% land will be used for experiments and trials for agriculture and forest-produce researchers. The remaining 5% will be used for forest generated products to make the program self-sustainable. The expertise built will be used to conserve forest on 300 acres of land in a year which would be extended to 1000 acres in the next 3 years through local participation.

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