The primary aim of the meeting was to establish some ground rules in the drive to set up both regional and national environmental protection bodies. These bodies will take the form of NGOs, with the National body also looking to achieve charity status.
After reading the following, it would be very helpful if you would email some of the people on the list of contacts and tell them you are in full agreement with the principles of the Indian Freshwater Foundation (IFF).
Also, tell anyone you know, who has an interest in the waterside environment, to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org
) for a copy of the mission statement and list of contacts for them to do the same.
We need to spread the word quickly and let those in positions of responsibility know we are on their case!
Preliminary Meeting of Indian Freshwater Foundation
12th April 2007, Nightwatchman, Church Street, Bangalore
Steve Lockett (UK journalist, Chairman), Dr Mark Everard (Director ACA), S. Karthikeyan (Chief Naturalist, Jungle Lodges & Resorts), Sandeep Chakrabarti, Bopanna Pattada, Owen Bosen, Omi Bhagtani, Sreekanth Nair, Nirad Muthanna, Lenny Aarons, Derek D’Souza, Jude Newton, Sunder Raj (Resort Manager, Jungle Lodges & Resorts)
Steve Lockett addressed the meeting and laid down the format for proceedings.
“First, many thanks for attending this meeting. It is an ideal opportunity to share both experiences and concerns between India and the UK.
I would like to share some thoughts based on nine years of traveling to, fishing in and studying India. Mainly, these thoughts will revolve around conservation issues. After my thoughts, we can have a short discussion on any of the points raised and then Dr Everard will be available to answer questions on any aspect of fish or the water environment.
“A full transcript of the events will be posted on the Indian Angler web forum within two weeks, and copies emailed to: malvalli Wildlife Society, Wildlife Association of South India, Karnataka State Fisheries Department, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, Principal Conservator of Forests (Karnataka), Manmohan Singh (Prime Minister of India) and any other who wish to receive a copy, or are deemed to be in a position that will benefit or be affected by the proceedings.
“As Indian society grows more affluent, I have observed a number of changes, most noticeably a huge increase in building projects, which is of some concern. One positive change is that people have more free time, and many choose to use it by going fishing, or devoting thoughts or actions to environmental issues.
“There are two courses of action I will recommend you take:
1. Local, state-wide action, involving all interested parties such as; Clean and Green; WASI; CWS; Jungle Lodges & Resorts and any other small environmental groups who can be contacted.
2. Establishment of a national campaigning body to represent both anglers, and all other users of the major waterways.
I am aware of a large number of small groups and individuals, who are concerned with environmental issues. Many of these feel they are, desperate voices fighting an impossible battle. These voices must unite to stand a greater chance of success.
A most simple plan, as I have urged and indeed practised for many months, is to talk to as many people as possible, to share ideas and areas for action.
To become even more effective, membership or affiliation to a major group should be encouraged. I suspect WASI should be the vehicle to represent anglers, wildlife enthusiasts and environmental campaigners throughout Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andra Pradesh.
Other groups should try to affiliate to WASI, who can then be recognised as the voice of the concerned when dealing with any branch of State Government.
Of course, WASI may not want to be in this position. If that is the case, another body would have to take on the role, but it would be a shame if you could not utilise the established systems and expertise held within the group. It would also be a shame if you could not use the weight behind the name Wildlife Association of South India.
There are ideas being discussed on the Indian Angler forum to establish a Wildlife Association of North India, which I believe to be an excellent idea. I also think the same could be initiated for Central India.
These groups would have close ties with WASI unless WASI are not willing to enter this project. In such a case, a different title should be chosen for all three groupings, perhaps:
Clean Rivers Group South India (North India, Central India etc); South India (NI, CI etc) Water Watch; South India (NI, CI etc) Conservation Association.
Another option would be to start river action groups for each area, although this would run the risk of fragmenting rather than combining forces.
A national body to campaign on behalf of all water users is of vital importance in the fight to preserve the existing water bodies and their associated habitats. It should also seek to both encourage and uphold the Constitutional duty to improve the environment.
This can be achieved in three ways:
1. Active non-violent campaigning or protest
2. Insistence on upholding the various laws that apply
Despite the lengthy process that is needed, the national body should register as a charity. In that way, it will be much easier to gain assistance from outside agencies and funding from a variety of sources.
Once established on that basis, the national body should begin with sufficient credibility to be able to approach Central Government.
As a first stage in the process of setting up this body, I feel that a number of key points should be adopted as a moral guide for all members.
1. That access to clean water should be available to all.
2. That the laws of the land, as they apply to the waterside environment, must be upheld by both Government Departments and the Judiciary.
3. That International Treaties and Conventions, where the Indian Government is a signatory, must be adhered to.
I expect we can agree that anglers are in an excellent position to be able to protect waterways by observation. Although it will undoubtedly be a long and tedious process, you need help to ensure your diligence is supported by action. Polluters and others involved in illegal activity must feel the consequences of the law.
I am well aware of the feeling of resignation that many of you feel when discussing issues of Government and/or the law. I can only appeal to the stronger willed amongst you to fight on behalf of the tired and weaker members of your nation.
It will be a very hard struggle, but I am convinced there will be one person here who is prepared to never give in to corruption and wilful ignoring of the laws of the land.
“However the national body is instigated, the moves must come from you. We foreigners will give all the assistance we can in terms of International links, planning ideas and general morale boosting. Still, setting up an Indian charity comes down to you.
You have some unique, varied and unspoilt waterways in this beautiful country, I am convinced there are enough Indians prepared to fight to not only save these environments, but also to extend and enhance them for the good of all.”
There followed a short discussion based on the above. The more salient points raised were:
Steve Lockett; Are WASI willing to extend their remit?
Nirad answered; WASI members will call for an EGM to debate the point.
Bopanna Pattada; How do UK NGOs operate?
Dr Everard answered; There are too many in the UK, but they are of the utmost importance. It is essential that NGOs aim for impossible targets.
Sandeep Chakrabarti; How does the ACA operate in the UK?
Dr Everard; They use Common Law to prosecute. See the website (a-c-a.org) for more details.
Owen Bosen; We must use poachers as gamekeepers.
Sunder Raj; Explained how JLR have been doing just such a thing. Went on to give details of catching poachers, but being frustrated by political interference. Forest Dept suggested same; poachers released after intervention by Panchayat or State Ministers.
Sandeep Chakrabarti; How do River Trusts operate in UK?
Dr Everard; They improve the habitat and demonstrate improved commercial possibilities to local landowners.
Sandeep Chakrabarti; Can tips for gillies be shared equally, rather than paid direct?
Sunder Raj; Too difficult to keep track of, and not enough in tips to provide full employment.
Dr Everard; Could employment be provided in the form of a carbon offset scheme? A possibility to use Foreign money to protect environment by saving forests instead of planting new.
Bopanna Pattada; How can you ensure money is used correctly?
Steve Lockett; At some point, you have to put trust in people. Already in discussion with CWS to organise a similar project.
S. Karthikeyan; Should WASI be stocking rivers?
Dr Everard; Stocking fish is an acceptance of failure. The catchment must be able to sustain natural recruitment.
Sunder Raj; Some fish show signs of disease around Sangam, does it come from pollution?
Dr Everard; Most fish diseases showing external symptoms are as a result of stress due to poor water quality.
The meeting closed with some general points:
Dr Everard; Garra are the most important species in the river and a good indicator of a working environment. Mahseer will be adopted as the keystone species, as they inhabit the whole of a catchment.
Sunder Raj; We must look to provide local employment to stop poaching and try to improve water quality.
Bopanna Pattada; As Kaveri water is supplied to cities, water quality is a major issue. Press must be involved to raise this issue.
Sunder Raj; Many debates have followed this path, now the talking must stop and action start.
We will now look to register the Indian Freshwater Foundation as an NGO and Charity. Sandeep is looking after the initial drive in consultation with me. Once the IFF is in a position to hold another meeting, positions will be up for grabs on the committee and another giant step will have been taken.
Contact list to follow ASAP...