Wild is Wondrous!

March 3 is celebrated as United Nations World Wildlworld wildlife day 2.jpgife Day. This marks the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973. Every year on this day, events are held around the world to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants.

The theme of World Wildlife Day 2020 is “Sustaining all Life on Earth”. This celebrates the special place of wild plants and animals in their many varied and beautiful forms as a component of the world’s biological diversity.

India is a treasure house of biological diversity. It harbours 8% of the world’s biodiversity on just 2% of the earth’s surface. It is one of the 17 mega-diversity countries in the world with ten biogeographic zones, and an incredible diversity of habitats, flora and fauna.

Here is my small ode to this wild and wondrous land and its denizens.

I live in such a magical land

Of mountains and valleys, plateaus and sand.

Jungles and farmland, deserts, islands and seas,

Here’s to my land of biodiversity.

 

Biodiversity Biodiversity

It’s all about Life and Variety

 

In forests and fields, deserts and seas,

Animals and crops, microbes and trees.

Colours and patterns, functions and form,

To survive and thrive, adapt and transform.

 

Snow leopard and yak, and double-humped camels

The Himalayan cold desert is home to these mammals.

Shining blue lakes in the rugged landscape

Welcome winged visitors many coloured and shaped.

 

Biodiversity Biodiversity

Experience it, share it, enjoy it.

 

Where the mighty Ganga flows

River dolphins swim and gharials are found.

Proud tigers prowl, and deer abound

The fertile plains with bounteous yields

From forests and farmlands and fields.

 

Biodiversity Biodiversity

See it, taste it, smell it, feel it.

 

The North East is truly a garden of Eden

Full of priceless treasures, many still hidden.

Feathery ferns, bright orchids, bamboos tall

Where rhinos roam and Hoolock Gibbons call.

 

Biodiversity, Biodiversity

Appreciate it, savour it, explore it.

 

Discover that deserts are dry but alive,

Their dwellers have special tricks to survive

Store water, shed leaves, or burrow in the sand.

Why, even tigers and lions roar in this land.

 

Biodiversity, Biodiversity

Treasure it, enjoy it, study it.

 

In the Western Ghats meet a tahr, and a tiger too

Jumbos in jungles and a hornbill or two.

Colourful frogs that croak and call

Snakes and snails that slither and crawl.

 

Biodiversity Biodiversity

Learn from it, weave with it, heal with it.

 

Deccan highlands and grasslands, plateaux that soar

Dotted with buffalos, cows, goats and sheep galore

There grow seeds and cereals upon which we feast

And people who celebrate it all with their dancing feet.

 

Biodiversity Biodiversity

Plant it, grow it, cook it, eat it.

 

Deep in the seas meet clown fish and anemone in a coral jungle

Crabs, crocs and tigers in a mangrove tangle.

On islands in waters blue and green

See a megapode, a monitor, a Nicobar pigeon preen.

 

Biodiversity Biodiversity

Track it, live with it, delight in it!

 

Biodiversity Biodiversity

It’s all about Life and Variety.

Biodiversity Biodiversity

Celebrate it, protect it, conserve it!

–Mamata

 

Institutional Campuses: Biodiversity Havens

Those who sanctioned academic, scientific and other national institutions in the days of yore, were generous in their land allocation. So you have such organizations sitting on tens, and sometimes even hundreds of acres of land.

Some institutions have built up on much of the land. But in others, the land is either landscaped, or left wild. Or a witting or unwitting mix of the two. Any which way, a boon in today’s rush for land development. Often, because these institutions are under-funded, they are not able to maintain lawns etc. and let the land go wild, which is also a good thing. These campuses are like havens, where both green cover and biodiversity thrive.

To take just one example, I go back to the campus of IIM Ahmedabad (see also my blog of last week, ‘Living in a Louis Kahn’).

I had commented in that piece that there was no landscaping to speak about on the campus. I was mistaken, as comes out from this personal communication from Prof. Marti Subramaniam, eminent academic, in a comment on the piece:

‘The high point of my contact with Kahn’s work was when I spied him with Kasturbhai Lalbhai, early one morning, walking right outside the house where we lived as students.  I quickly followed them to overhear their conversation which went roughly along the following lines:

Kasturbhai: What trees should we plant here, Louis?

Kahn: Of course, in one line they should all be of the same species.  Otherwise, how would they talk to each other?’

So in fact it seems, a lot of thought had gone into the landscape! My ignorance indeed!

IIM A campus is a mix—from the manicured lawn of the Louis Kahn Plaza, to the utter wilderness on the edges. And this mix, it seems, has given rise to a good deal of biodiversity. And the great thing is, that as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Institute, these have been captured and documented in coffee table book called Natural World at IIMA.

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A work of love and passion indeed! Close to 200 pages of colour plates, documenting the flora—trees, shrubs, climbers, sedges, grasses and herbs; as well as the fauna—birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, spiders, butterflies and moths.

One hears of pressures on several institutions to ‘not let the land go to waste, put it to use.’ Or worse, institutional lands being taken away for other uses, including commercial uses. We need to resist any such diversions. These are among the few remaining islands.

And documenting and disseminating these in the form of books, databases etc., helps to communicate the value of this diversity, and is the first step in making the campus itself an educational resource. And a matter of pride and joy for alumni.

Here is to large, unmaintained campuses, and books on them!

–Meena

Promoting GI, Protecting Diversity

Last week, I happened to go to Goa (regretfully, not a holiday!). The airport, as many airports across the country, is full of shops.

Apart from the usual brand shops and the special Goa memorabilia shops, I came across a fascinating outlet here. It was a ‘GIs of India’ shop!

Oh, I have jumped the gun! GI could stand for any number of things. I am referring to Geographical Indication, which is “an indication which identifies goods such as agricultural goods, natural goods or manufactured goods as originating, or manufactured in the territory of a country, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of such goods is essentially attributable to its geographical origin and in case where such goods are manufactured goods one of the activities of either the production or of processing or preparation of the goods concerned takes place in such territory, region or locality, as the case may be.”. GI is a type of intellectual property right, which certifies a product as having originated in a specific geographic location—for instance, that the Mysore silk you just bought is indeed produced in Mysore; or the Jaipur Blue Pottery is indeed from Jaipur.

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Madurai Sungudi is GI registered

India enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act in 1999. The first GI product to be registered was Darjeeling Tea. Now there are 330 GI registered products—a fascinating range, from the usual suspects to the completely unexpected—from Kanpur Saddlery, to Beed Custard Apple; from Coimbatore Wet Grinder, to Varanasi Glass Beads!

The shop at the Goa Airport was very new, just being set up. But the staff were extremely enthusiastic and eager not just to sell their products, but also share information on the concept of GI shops. They said that a large chain of these was coming up across the country.

Indeed an exciting way to create a market for these amazing products, and preserve the diversity, both natural and cultural.

I’ll be on the lookout for these GI shops, for sure!

–Meena