In Conversation With Anjana Gosain
Attorney Anjana Gosain is a leading Lawyer in India who has ben practicing in Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court since 1978. She has held senior posts in the Bar Association of High Court of Delhi for several years. In addition to her work as a lawyer she has been widely recognized as a crusader to save wildlife in India.She joined the Tiger Trust as Honorary Secretary in 1989. She has been working towards public interest litigation raising the issues on enviornment. One of her greatest achievements was to convince the government to alter the census methodology for the animals in India. The system was changed from the archaic pug marks technique to the more accurate method currently prevelant in the wildlife world where the data base is created on the basis of prey population. In recognition of her contributions she has been appointed as an observor by the Honorable Supreme Court in the Ranthambhor National Park in Rajasthan. She is a visiting faculty for all top forest academies in India. In 2006 she was given an award by Ecotel Association of Hotels for her contribution towards the enviornment. She is on the board of several conservation bodies supported by state governments in India. She is also involved in social issues of her community and is the president of my Resident Welfare Association of my area.
How did a busy and successful lawyer in Delhi, get involved with the Tiger Trust?
I have been practicing as a lawyer since 1978 and have been involved with Tiger Trust since 1989 when my friend late Pradeep Sankhala introduced me to this trust. I am very fond of travelling and had a tremendous experience visting the first national park in 1980 thereafter every year I visited these parks and decided to do something to conserve nature. The Tiger being the apex of the forest requires particular attention. Whatever ones career obligation it is always possible to have the time for something you feel passionately about.
Could you tell us more about the Tiger Trust?
Tiger Trust is a National Level Non-governmental Organization that started in 1989 by Late Kailash Sankhala, Padma Shree, Founder Director of Project Tiger, Government of India. Tiger trust works for Nature Conservation its programs awareness and education. Through its headquarters in New Delhi, India, it has established Kailash Sankhala Conservation Centers near Kanha National Park and Bandhavgarh National Park where we work closely with the neighborhood communities, park authorities, State Governments and other organizations. In urban areas we have a very active Save the Tiger campaign that involves students, both school and college, professionals and corporate houses.
Why did the founder call this organization Tiger Trust ?
India's jungles, ranging from lush evergreen tropical rain forests in the East to the dry deciduous desert shrub in the West, are home to a wide spectrum of wild animals, including lions, tigers, leopards and snow leopards and elephants, gaur, wild buffaloes, rhinoceros, eight species of deer and many primates among the 350 mammal species. Over 2,000 species of birds, varieties of crocodiles, turtles, snakes, lizards and over 5,000 insects, including beautiful butterflies, enrich India's fauna.
To preserve its wildlands and wildlife, India has set aside over 1.2 million square kilometers in 525 protected areas as National Parks, Sanctuaries and reserves. But this is only 3.6 percent of a land area where human population exceeding 800 million is exerting excessive pressure on the natural resources. The only way to preserve India's wildlife is to enhance environmental awareness of the people through educational and research programs. To meet this urgent need, a foundationwas registered as a conservation trust. Since the tiger is the spirit of the Indian Jungle and the Founder was closely associated with its revival, he chose to call the foundation Tiger Trust.
How many Wild Tigers are there currently in India? Where are they located?
The current number is in dispute but approximately not more than 3000 and are located in Central and North India with some of them in southern India.
What are the major problems encountered by the Government that makes tigers conservation a challenge?
Poaching, man-animal conflict, weak law enforcement, lack of adequate staff and facilities for them, lack of budget for developing infrastructure, illegal trafficking and trading from neighbouring countries which has resulted in low survival rate of this majestic animal.
What is the Tiger Trust doing to address these issues?
Tiger trust is addressing this issue in whatever manner it can by strengthening the hands of the forest department by providng them regular legal enforcement trainings. We also work hard to create awareness among villagers to save the forest and tiger around the national parks while also providing eco-development for the area. We work with the prosecutors for expediting trials. We organize workshops and seminars among young kids and college students working in the field by concentrating on those parks where the menace of poaching is high. While we do our awareness training, we also organize free medical camps for the forest staff and the villagers.
It seems like the neighbouring community around the forest is key to ensuring success for Tiger conservtaion. How do you address their needs will creating conservation awareness?
From the beginning, we have been aware that it is important to know the profile of the neighbourhood community and their relation as well as dependence on the National Park. We have been conducting surveys in regard to the same. The findings help us devise our strategy to involve them in the efforts of Nature Conservation
The issue of health was the most practical and immediate concern of the community. We were able to address that by establishing free medical centers. Over 60-70 people come to our medical centers everyday. We started a free educational and tutorial program for the children of the neighbourhood community. These programs allows us to get to know the villagers and build a trusting relationship with them. Their trust is critcal for the survival of the forests.
We have also established a medicinal plant nursery. This nursery is of great interest to both the local community and the visitors from India and overseas. We wish to communicate a message that all the medicinal plants are from the local forest. It is for this reason that we must save all plants in the forest and not only look at certain plants. We also have a Bio Gas Plant which serves as an important demonstration unit with which we are able to explain that we can get fuel from alternate sources, such as cow dung.
Did the creation of the national parks require the translocation of the forest people to the periphery? How do they react to this change?
Many forest people had been translocated. We infact installed a program to take these people to the forest. The first visit to Bandhavgarh National Park by the villagers turned out to be the most emotional experience. Most villagers had not been into the park ever since they were translocated into the outer periphery of the park. They realized deeply the co-existence within the eco-system since they were travelling in jeeps that did not disturb the animals.
It was also a very moving experience as some of them expressed emotion passing through abandoned villages and pointing out the trees they had planted and the houses they had built, the trees under which they had played and the well which had been their only source of water.
During the visit we could tell the villagers the importance of the park, the gene pool, the web of life, the biological cycle and the importance of nature conservation in simple ways. They also visited the Interpretation Centre in the middle of Bandhavgarh National Park, which left a lasting impression on them. This park visit was a greater success then we had anticipated. Later, we have involved students, villagers as well as visitors in this programme. Is the work of the Tiger Trust limited to one animal or does it spread to all wild life in India?
It is cerntainly not related to one animal but for animals which are near extinction.
If people in the United States want to visit the forests and see the Tigers, what suggestions do you have for a suitable itinerary?
The best time to visit is between October to March and for details they must visit the website of incredibleindia.org Otherwise for all the destinations they would have to go from Delhi for Central as well as Northern India. The prominent parks are Kanha National Park, Bandhavgarh, Ranthambhor and many other for which they could visit the website mentioned above.
How can NRIs help support your work?
They can help by sposoring micro projects in various national parks by donations to Tiger Trust and/or associating them selves in the programmes of conservation. Tiger trust can organize a presentation on this issue. If you would like to learn more or join the movement please check out our website at http://www.tigertrust.com .
i would like to say that saving the Tiger and India's natural habitat is critical for India's survival. So please join the movement.
Thank you very much for your time.
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