Home Conservation Reviews Book Reviews Indira Gandhi On Environment And Forests Selected Speeches, Messages And Letters


Indira Gandhi On Environment And Forests Selected Speeches, Messages And Letters

April 2010: In an interview, the Minister of Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh said that the former Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi was his talisman, the first and last word as far as the environment is concerned – striking a hopeful note in the heart of conservationists struggling against political apathy.


Mrs. Gandhi was a rare political animal with extraordinary vision concerning environmental issues. Her seminal contribution is difficult to sum up – for that read the book! If any wild tigers survive in India today, or indeed if we have forests, it’s thanks to the legal and institutional framework that was created under her leadership.


Gandhi’s commitment stemmed not only from her understanding of the overreaching importance of environmental preservation and her faith that conservation was integral to development, but also from personal passion.  The weight of this can be judged by the fact that even when preoccupied with crucial talks with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in Shimla, she found time to dash a letter to Bihar’s Chief Minister, expressing her outrage at the indiscriminate felling of forests.


The editors, Muhammad Khan and Varad Pande, have researched well to present a compilation of Indira Gandhi’s speeches and messages on the subject which reflect her depth of understanding of a gamut of environmental issues. It is not just the bigger issues such as the energy crisis or the need for a specialised Wildlife Service, or extinction of charismatic species that captured her attention; she spoke with equal concern of the importance to save the peepal tree. Mrs. Gandhi had an uncanny insight – for instance when talking of a development plan, she cautioned that it was not always right to assume that such a project would help local people. She understood the need for undisturbed areas for wildlife, questioned ill-planned irrigation projects, trashed monoculture plantations, personally tracked the arrival of the Siberian Crane and took the courageous decision to halt the silent Valley Project.


The book is very welcome, not just for the fact that it presents a little-known ‘wild’ side of the late Prime Minister, but the fact that her contribution must inspire and guide in this darkest hour of ecological crisis. In her words, “The future is at our doorstep. We must endeavour to bequeath to our children not a denuded environment but a better and richer India.”


Interested Sanctuary readers can write to the MoEF for a copy of the book.


Indira Gandhi on Environment and Forests Selected speeches, messages and letters

Published by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India,

Hardcover, 119 pages, For private circulation 


Reviewed by Prerna Singh Bindra


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