Where: Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India
July 1, 2000: Indian politicians are mighty people, especially when they are in power. Even Nature trembles before their arrogant minds. Some years ago, when India was ruled by a Congress-I government, its environment minister decided to build a guest house in Manali. Why not, you may ask. It’s a nice place. But there was one small problem – he wanted to have the course of a river changed so that he could have his guesthouse exactly where he wanted it.
Chandrababu Naidu, the “lap-top” chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, is planning to do something similar, if reports in ‘The Times of India’ are any indication. He wants to see trees with colourful flowers in a national park, the K. Brahmananda Reddy National Park, that is in the centre of Hyderabad. Right opposite the national park is the chief minister’s party (Telugu Desam) headquarters. He wants the entire area to look more beautiful. Almost 4,000 saplings have already been planted in the national park.
There is only one problem. Planting the new trees could prove expensive for the butterflies of the area, says Dr Tej Kumar, an expert. Already, much of the grass in the national park is gone. In its place have come up walking tracks for health conscious humans. This means that the larvae of the Danid Eggfly will not be able to feed on the grass. The Eggfly is one of the most threatened species of butterflies in the national park.
But the problem goes deeper than that. These new trees are not local to the area. The national park is one of the few remaining areas of the Deccan forest. It is a thorn scrub forest with grass. And rules say that trees that are not native to the area cannot be planted there. Other butterfly species like Jezebel and Indian Tiger, too, are threatened.
With the disappearance of the natural grass and scrub of the national park, animal species like python, porcupine, wild boar, jackal, partridge also face dislocation. With the destruction of their natural habitat, they too are going to have a tough time.
The report mentions an official saying that if they do not fulfill the chief minister’s wishes, they cannot survive.
A lot of people may wonder what the fuss about a few butterflies and wild boars is all about. They may be the same people who also like to use the word ecology without understanding what it is all about.
How are the different plants, insects, animals and humans connected to each other and the larger environment – that is what ecology is all about. If you disturb the link in one place, the ecological balance is lost.
The ecological balance in any environment is made up of food chains that link the smallest to the biggest organism. Like deer eating grass and tigers eating deer. That is one small food chain. There are many such food chains that together make the food cycle. If the grass disappears or the numbers of deer increase due to some man-made project, the balance shifts. It affects everybody, including humans.
The problem is very simple. If we look at ourselves biologically, human beings are a part of the larger food cycle in the environment. But it is also true that we see ourselves as the rulers of the world and planet; as lords of all plants, insects and animals; as the only race to possess nuclear weapons, because of our intelligence. And so we try to control or make changes in environments that we really don’t know much about.
What we do not realise is that the environment has its own way of hitting back at us. For, somewhere, the death of a butterfly will affect the larger ecological balance of the area.
We agree that Chandrababu Naidu is a computer whiz. But even he may not be able to find a solution to this problem on his lap-top.