From Editor’s Desk –

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- Novanita Sharma


“We, human beings must remain forever grateful to the countless living beings of this planet. All these species had arrived millions of years ahead of us on earth, but none of them have caused any threat to this planet. But, we, human beings have pushed this beautiful earth, our home towards complete catastrophe. In this regard, all other species have acted with far more grace and civility as compared to us ‘civilized’ humans.”

          Soumyadeep Datta, Book: Bipanna Dharitri Sankatat Banyapran

(Collected from Pragya Prakriti by Banani Das, translation by Novanita Sharma)


The world is abuzz with news of apocalypse – war, violence, loss of forest cover, degradation of natural ecosystems, unprecedented pace of species extinction, pollution, exploitation of rivers, oceans, severe climatic conditions and irreparable environment crises, the list is unforgiving and unrelentingly gloomy. The present scenarios have put us amid an intense biodiversity crisis which has engulfed the globe like the wildest forest fire of all times. One of the major drivers of this biodiversity crisis is the conversion of the natural terrestrial ecosystems to man-made land use patterns, wherein human civilizations have transgressed the forests, wetlands, mountains, even deserts and naturally arid zones by completely changing the natural structure, compositions, and ecological balance of these ecosystems to fulfill the needs of human beings. Major ecosystems have been transformed, degraded and in most cases destroyed causing huge loss of biodiversity. We have lost one third of Earth’s natural forest cover, fifty percent of our wetlands are drained, and more than half of our rivers hindered from flowing free, marine ecosystems being used as the universal dumping site for human waste. This age of technology is increasingly becoming an era of ecological apocalypse for wildlife, other living beings, and natural habitats across the globe. Our knowledge, science, and technological advances are not enough to alter or avert this biodiversity crisis, this predicament calls for our action, there is an urgent need to overhaul our disruptive, self-centered practices perfected along the evolutionary graph of humanity, since the beginning of our quest to rule the world. We live in a world where everything is interconnected, the sufferings meted upon the millions of living beings of this planet has contributed to the destiny of intense human sufferings and plight to be faced by our progenies in the future. Human beings are caught in the epicenter of this self-created global crisis. The human world is earnestly looking for practical solutions to mitigate this crisis. Millions of dollars are invested every year to find effective solutions. Unknowingly and unaware, Assam offers a ray of hope in this predicament. Assam, nestled amidst the lush Eastern Himalayas and the fertile valleys of Brahamputra and Barak rivers is one of India’s richest zones of biodiversity known worldwide for its global significance. Assam has long been known as the non-descript wilderness areas of India with a unique history, anthropology, and geography. Off late, this eastern state of India with its astounding biodiversity has risen as a leading model of biodiversity conservation in India. The biodiversity conservation movement of Assam since 1970s have emerged as a rare, consistent, and effective model of nature conservation in India. A deeper analysis of this movement provides significant pointers of solution for the ecological crisis ailing this planet. The geo-political situations in Assam creates steep hurdles in protection of forests, the constant rise in human population due to the illegal influx of migrants have caused huge loss of forest cover in Assam, the state has lost 14.1% forest cover in the past 20 years. This loss in forest cover is been challenged by the protected areas movement in Assam. A very important aspect of the biodiversity conservation movement in Assam is the preservation of natural ecosystems like natural forests, and wetlands by permanently protecting these ecosystems as protected areas (wildlife sanctuaries / National Parks) under the Wildlife Protection Act of India 1972.  This has countered the loss of forest lands to man-made land use patterns, thus have safeguarded loss of biodiversity to a great extent. Assam showcases its biodiversity in seven National Parks and seventeen Wildlife Sanctuaries along with two proposed Wildlife Sanctuaries till date. The biodiversity conservation movement of Assam put up a brave fight against the biodiversity crisis with firm efforts to protect the existing forest areas under the legal framework of the country. These protected areas movement is spreading across different parts of Assam and NE India; villagers, fringe communities of protected areas, students, youth are aware and sensitized regarding the importance of protected areas in saving the forests in Assam. The rainforest conservation movement led by Nature’s Beckon reflects the firm footing of environment leadership in Assam, which rescued the biodiversity rich rainforest patch of Upper Assam from exploitation, and destruction. The visionary leadership of Sri. Soumyadeep Datta guided the people of Assam in setting the priorities for preservation of the last remaining rainforest patch of Upper Assam. This biodiversity rich primordial forest area, laden with treasured natural resources like coal, and petroleum got protected as the Dihing Patkai NP by keeping aside the material gains from exploitation of its resources against its priceless conservation values. This sends a powerful message to the world community, to implant solutions in people’s minds before investing millions in meetings and showdowns. There is an unusual shift in the present governance in Assam towards biodiversity conservation which is again a rare feature in the political atmosphere of India in past many years. Assam has arrived at a unique crossroad, where the people and people’s representatives are keen to participate in the biodiversity conservation movement now. This is an unusual development indicating a deeper impact of the conservation movement on the Assamese society. This conservation movement have contributed to the growth of widespread mass awareness regarding the importance of biodiversity conservation in the entire Northeast India. This awakening in Assam is led by extraordinary environment leadership and the steadfast collective work of many. Assam’s biodiversity conservation model is a people’s movement, countless people from across Assam have lent their support to this movement, many enriched this movement with their work and voice, but this movement owe its pulse, its lifeforce, and its undying zeal from the courageous leadership of Sri. Soumayadeep Datta, the well-known environment activist, and writer who led this movement through steep battles and challenges since 1970s. The journey of Sri. Datta and Nature’s Beckon in leading the nature conservation movement of Assam to the present stature provides ray of hope for rest of the world, which has remained divided over their commitment to sacrifice their share of privileges for the cause of biodiversity conservation. Sri. Soumyadeep Datta has been recently awarded with Assam Gaurav 2023 by the government of Assam. The award ceremony was graced by the honorable Vice President of India – Sri. Jagdeep Dhankhar, the honorable Governor of Assam – Sri. Gulab Chand Kataria, and the Honorable Chief Minister of Assam – Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma at Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra, Guwahati. This recognition brings encouragement to all supporters and the entire team of Nature’s Beckon, but the most important fact is that this award conferred on Sri. Datta, one of the most respected environment leaders of India brings hope and recognition to the biodiversity conservation movement of Assam. This is a matter of great significance for India’s collective history of nature-conservation. It also gestures a future of more pragmatic actions and commitments from Asam regarding biodiversity conservation, that can very well be a lead for other parts of India. The vision and voice of environment leaders like Sri. Soumyadeep Datta must guide our society from policy making to the grassroots, to drive the biodiversity conservation movement amidst the challenges offered by the world. Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma, the present Chief Minister of Assam must be applauded for this trailblazing initiative of honoring the work and vision of Sri. Datta in guiding Assam towards a better future, towards green leadership and action. Assam offers hope to the entire world with our unique biodiversity conservation model, we showed it to all that solutions to our planet’s crises are there in our own minds, in the sincerity of our commitments to sacrifice our privileges, and facilitate our communities to involve in firm compassionate actions to save Nature.