The Secret Garden

By Sayantan Bera

, by Down to earth

Want to know about a lost variety of rice or a cure to asthma? Answers lie in the notebooks of schoolchildren and women of the Sundarbans and Madhyamgram, says Sayantan Bera.

[...]The documentation exercise “is like a class struggle in conservation,” a lucid Silanjan Bhattacharya had explained the evening before. “It was an elitist approach that earlier dominated forest conservation and protection of glamorous vertebrates. Residents of the area, deemed ignorant, were kept at bay,” he said. Bhattacharya, who teaches zoology at the West Bengal State University, was a student of the renowned conservation biologist Madhav Gadgil at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru.

Gadgil had pioneered documentation of biodiversity involving students and teachers. The first such experiment was carried out in the Western Ghats in 1996. “Village elders were our teachers and we their diligent students, eager to learn,” recalls Bhattacharya with a smile.

In 2002, the National Biodiveristy Act (NBA) was formulated. Its mandate is to conserve and sustainably use biological diversity, respect and protect the knowledge of local communities and ensure sharing of benefits with people when such knowledge and resources are commercially used.

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