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Making Conservation Work

February 2009: Comprising individual essays by some of India’s finest conservationists, this book is a compendium of their collective knowledge acquired through the decades. Impressive and thought-provoking, the essays cover a gamut of topics. The varying styles and viewpoints allow for a refreshing read.  Radhika Johari’s ‘Of Paper Tigers and Invisible People’ stood out in particular.


The essence of this piece is encapsulated in its title – the manner in which tigers and people are regarded by our apathetic government machinery. Exploring the premise that people are traditional custodians of the environment, it examines diverging government responses to indigenous people and argues the need for a balance between people-oriented and wildlife-oriented conservation. Johari’s devotion to the subject shines through and makes her writing come alive. Another piece worthy of mention was ‘Displacement as a Conservation Tool’ by Arpan Sharma and Asmita Kabra which can be summed up in, and I quote, ‘people-wildlife debates are often analysed through the either-or lens. This is a false dichotomy.’


The need of the hour is not the development of new conservation models but rather a deeper understanding of existing ones and their adaptation to various situations. This is where the book stands out. It encourages discourse by providing the necessary tools in terms of information and hard facts to promote broader thinking and new perspectives. It is invaluable in its role as a resource for environmentalists, students and novices alike.  The bottom line? If the forests of India are lost, whether to rich or poor claimants, the issue of ‘rights’ or ‘wrongs’ becomes academic.


Edited by Ghazala Shahabuddin and Mahesh Rangarajan
Published by Permanent Black, Jacket design, collage and sketch by Anuradha Roy
Hardcover, 298 pages, Rs. 595


Reviewed by Swati Hingorani


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