Population growth, industrialisation and increased demand for resources in rural and urban areas led to immense environmental destruction, said Shekar Dattatri, wildlife filmmaker and conservationist, on Friday.
Speaking at an event organised by the Chennai Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Mr. Dattatri said the country’s population had grown four-fold since Independence. Due to this, many forest areas had been cleared for agricultural activities, and new industries were being set up to achieve growth in both rural and urban areas, he observed.
“While ancient India had an ethos in which religion, culture and nature were inextricably interwoven, population pressures and the material aspirations of people have considerably eroded these values,” he said.
Forests provided invaluable benefits of an ecosystem such as carbon sequestration and water harvesting, without which there could be no development, he added.
Speaking about the Western Ghats, he said nearly 65 rivers emanated from the forests and grasslands of the range. This included the Godavari, Krishna, Cauvery and Vaigai, which provided food and water security to over 300 million people in peninsular India, he said. Yet, they were being systematically destroyed for short-term gains in the name of economic progress, Mr. Dattatri pointed out.
The talk ended with a fervent appeal to citizens to wake up before it was too late and defend what was left of the forests and wildlife. “Conservation is not a luxury, but a vital necessity. While nature can get along just fine without us, we cannot survive without nature,” he said.