Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Kanha Census, Living the Forest!









I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it's such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her…! Ellen DeGeneres.

Ellen DeGeneres Is an American stand-up comedian, television host and actress.  She has won 13 Emmys and numerous other awards for her work and charitable efforts. Apart from her on screen achievements, we can guess from the quote above her awareness efforts regarding animal conservation! How we measure success of conservation of forests? Well in January second week I received a message from my friend Mr. Jasbir Chauhan who is Director of Kanha park, that can I spare few days for census of animals at Kanha National Park? I said, “Neki aur puch puch!” i.e. what better I could have asked for? Though I wasn’t sure how I will be going to assist in the census yet I knew that it’s must be exiting experience! Before that those who are not familiar with what is a census, it’s same like what we do in census of human being! It’s a process of data collection about forests flora & fauna & animals, mainly tigers & this is conducted once in four years. It’s a six day process in which entire park staff is engaged in the job & to assist them outsiders like me, who have some exposure or back ground of wild life conservation are called in by forest dept!

It’s a six daylong event in which we have to start early in the morning i.e. by 5.30 am & report at camp which has been designated to each participant! For me Sauf camp has been allotted & the first day of census I missed due to flight schedules but traveling whole night & slept for just 2 hours I was at gate clicking the snaps of the moon which was bright in sky at 5.30 am! I had been to forests hundreds of time & rarely so early at such hour of the day & when I looked around the pitch blackness in which except the road ahead with clear fresh pug marks of a tiger walked recently on it, was visible in head lights of gipsy, first signs of fear crept in my mind, that I have to walk in this!  Suddenly the forest which I used to love most started looking like ICU of a hospital which gives you sickening feel! I started thinking whether it’s wise to take such risk as to join the census & what reason I should tell to Mr.Chauhan to quit! And at that time I saw two guards walking ahead in the darkness who must have been going to report at some camp where their duty must have been! Poor fellows weren’t having even a torch with them & they didn’t have the option of quitting the way I had! I thought whether I will go or not there are hundreds of such guards who every day risks their lives to protect this forest which I say I love & like most! And what moral right I would have if I quit just from the job of assisting them that too for few days! At that point I gathered my all courage & headed to Sauf camp for reporting!

There Mr. Dhangad deputy range officer & forest guard Ashok Zariya were waiting for me along with two forest labors. Sauf camp is right in between vast meadows of Sauf which was earlier a village. All along outer border of the meadows runs a jungle road & behind that thick forest covers the terrain with a river flowing on back side of the camp. It was very early morning & think fog has covered the meadows. First three day was to look for any sign of carnivore’s animals mainly Tiger. We started along a fire line, it’s a stretch of forest cleared of any vegetation to cut off the forest fires to spread all around. This type of census is covering nearly 15 km stretch each day with free moment, of the section of forest which comes under jurisdiction of this camp & it covers mainly fire lines, few nallahs, a big river & corridors from where the tigers usually move. Tigers have soft paws & that’s why they use mostly the jungle tracks or ways we can call which are having less vegetation; this also ensures that less noise is generated by stepping on leaves & branches if it walks through vegetation route, so lesser chance of making its preys aware its coming. The census was to look for any sign of the tiger moments around these corridors such as tiger pug marks, tiger droppings, signs of its nail markings on trees like arjun, soil scratching or marking on grass where the tiger has been sit while its search for prey. Each tiger male or female has a habit of marking on trees it’s for two purpose one is for territory defining as well to sharpen its nails. From the height of nail marks on tree you can even guess the size of the tiger & same is true about pug marks. The droppings approximate time span is also noted from the stage of decay it’s in.

Similarly many a times we could hear tiger call itself which for a commoner’s ears are similar to sambhar dear calls unless it’s not actually roaring, we noted such calls also which are direct evidence of the tiger’s existence around us! Interesting thing is while studying the droppings of the tiger you could actually see what kind of animal the tiger has consumed for his meal by the hairs in droppings! Once we saw a “khoor’ i.e. nail piece of toe of a sambhar which was in the droppings of a tiger. Along with this any similar information about the leopard & sloth bear also we were noting down. In a day nearly 12-15km distance is covered on feet & so this went for first three days of census. It’s in these five days I learnt that on feet you rarely sight the tiger as it’s very shy of human being & sleeps inside the thickest vegetation at the first glimpse of the man! Slowly the fear melts away about moving in the forest on feet & I was actually looking ahead for the next day!

The last three day was transit where we have to move along a fix line of 2km length too & fro & note every animal moment while we move. Here we have to move in total silence & in camouflaged manner so not to shoo away the animals. We saw sambhars, cheetals, peacocks, wild boars, barking dears as well barsingas! We used to start in the grass lands as well along the thick forest in team of three. Every animal’s location is marked with GPS as well the count also is recorded. Then we have to check for animal droppings in 15 meter span from the 200 meter pole which included along with dear category even wild cat, rabbits & wild boar also! Along with animals its recording flora & fauna also i.e. types of trees, grass as well shrubs. This we were taking at every 200 meters along the transit line. So many names I learned about the trees as well grass & started noticing them which earlier wasn’t the case. This we did for three days on both the transit lines, collecting data for grass land as well wooded land. All such data from all the teams will be gathered & then the backup team in office will come out with the approximate numbers of the animals like tigers as well other species of trees & shrubs.

At the end when I looked back last five days I realize it’s not just about counting the tigers but its understanding the forest & the huge task these people are doing with limited resources! The guards at these camps are latterly cut of, from the outer world, with no electricity & any modern days amenities like TV or even news paper! I was shocked when they sheepishly offered me tea without milk as they don’t get milk inside forest! The life is no fun & like military it’s high time that the duty period at the camp should not get extended more than two years.  Also high time of modernizing the end level staff with better equipments like good torch, clothes as well living conditions. We can think of providing high capacity invertors here which can be replaced periodically for charging from main base at entrance gate. Good cycles which can be used in mountaineering type terrain should be provided along with better safety shoes which will be light weight as well protective. So many things can be done & I think census should take note of these issues also. Senior officers should stay occasionally at these camps to boost the morale of ground staff. Ultimately it’s these people who are part of forest so to conserve them is also equally important!

Lastly I wrote a message from the forest to my son about how it’s going, I think that will be the best way I can put the entire experience in words….
Dear Rohit,
Its 6 am & moon was bright in the sky! We started before sun rise with thick fog hanging over vast Sauf meadows & awaking sleeping cheetals, sambhars, barsingas & so many other species! The grass was wet & waist high! On a saja tree storks were yet asleep & in such total silence somewhere deep inside forest a tiger was roaring! An experience one has to live it to experience it! It’s not that I haven’t seen forests before but this time it’s actually feeling it with nothing in between myself & the forest & knowing it better way; the way we know a city better when we walk on its road feeding every details in mind. Do you know, this time I started liking the forest even more!

I have realized how curios barsinga males are for us, as they used to stand still watching us with big eyes & with raised neck when other heard ran away & when we reach too close start their run! I know how it feels now when you see a fresh tiger pug mark & knew the tiger is walking just few feet ahead & still you have to continue your march for the search of more signs! And now I know how the heart beats when you can hear roar of tiger around in the bushes but can’t see it; now I understand how cold is flowing water of the river to our naked feet & yet the guards have to cross it every day & night to complete their job! I have experienced how the lantana shrubs fragrance fills in our lungs in wild & also how its branches caresses’ you leaving scratches all over your exposed body parts & realize that pain only at time of taking shower when you are back in your room! Now I have realized how much courage one needs to leave the luxuries’ of the life behind & step in the darkness around to conserve a piece of land we call forest! And I have understood that I too have a responsibility for conservation of these forests even when I will come back to the concrete jungle of ours!

Now I can say I have been in a forest & started knowing it better!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

MSEDCL (Power) Committee, Credai, Pune

Please do visit my blogs to know about our philosophy at Sanjeevani !
(Click the links below)

http://jivnachadrushtikon.blogspot.in/


http://visonoflife.blogspot.in/2013/01/identifying-good-builder.html


Social Side of Sanjeevani ! (Click link below)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/65629150@N06/sets/72157627904681345/

For any of your complaints about city, log in at link below

http://www.punecorporation.org/GRS/Complaint/LaunchComplaintCitizen.aspx


Think Green, Think Life

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Lajalu Plant & Environment Clearence!








“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children's children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”…Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore "T.R." Roosevelt, Jr. was the 26th President of the United States. He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement. Apart from all his achievement his keen eye about the environment even as early in 70’s shows his foresight about the future of the planet especially on biodiversity front! What he has said about USA holds true for every nation & especially country like ours which has such a beautiful heritage of culture & nature. But in the name of development & greed based needs we have not only overheard such wise words but call of nature too!

Recently a small news about a plant getting extinct from Pune city caught my attention; it’s about “Lajalu” i.e. “touch me Not” plant. Most of us who are now in our 40’s, have beautiful memories of touching the leaf of lajalu tree with our figure tip & get thrilled by the reaction of the leaf! It used to get contract with the touch, very distinct yet important specie of the plant & a unique phenomenon of the nature also, the lajalu tree. And that’s why the name lajalu has been given to it in Marathi & it’s this characteristic of the plant which has inspired many poets also! The news said that due to extreme use of land for human needs the habitat for lajalu plants is been destroyed so much that now there are hardly any plants can be find within Pune city area. Same is true regarding many small shrubs or plants like terda, zendu which could be seen in abundance earlier on the sides of road or any corner in open lands in & around the city. Many as usual must not have even noticed the small piece of news as when there is so much interesting happening on country’s politics front, so who the hell cares for a lajalu plant getting extinct from the city & what it matters for us! But those like me who in their childhood have touched lajalu leaf or chased butterflies wandering over hundreds of flowers of such small plants blossoming around every corner of the road, will definitely understand what they will be missing today! Our development is boon for many but at the same time its curse for all such species which can’t speak out their sufferings!

Now on the other hand side there was one more news which does made front page & head line, it’s about Hon Environment & Forest Minister has resigned though many will say has to resign, for not giving Environment Clearance for large number of projects across the country. Reasons may be any but the term EC i.e. Environment Clearance has become code word now especially for the large real estate projects. Most of the people who are not related to the subject for them, any project with built-up area potential more than two lac sq ft has to get EC which is in common language no objection certificate from the Ministry of Environment & Forests popularly known as MOEF at Central Govt level i.e. from Delhi. 

Like any other policy for this industry this one also has been aimed at good things but as usual no groundwork is in place so it has become just one more hurdle for the already NOC ridden industry. And this is not the builder in me speaking, this is a common man who sees the things around & can’t understand the logic of them is speaking! No two minds that for any big project or development what its impact on the environment will be, has to be analyzed but the at what level & in how much time span this has to be done will also should be framed. Rather when we speak about Metros like Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore then we have already made their development plans which does covers all details like future growth, population, how much land will be covered for which use i.e. residential, industrial, agricultural or commercial. Also the infrastructure needs have been defined & made provision in form of reservations right from roads to gardens to play grounds like things. Then if someone is doing the development in the form of planned use or purpose, what’s use of asking for EC from the central? Why not the development plans of the cities or regional development plans itself has got EC from the MOEF? As only if the use of the land is being changed from what shown in the development plan then one can say there is going to be environmental impact due to this & in such case that assessment will be required.

And even if one agrees to obtain the EC then for many years the procedure for the same was as usual so tiring that there was just one committee for entire Maharashtra which was taking hearings for the same. Also with due respect to that committee there wasn’t any standard form of questioner was there. Right now also there are only two such committees for the entire State! Also the committee should be in position to provide the suggestions for any improvement required to do in the basic planning of the project instead just pointing out the objections, which isn’t happening. Then the objections should be oriented to conservation of the environment & not what is the surrounding infrastructure type suggestions which in actual is the responsibility of local governing body. For e.g. what is the road width of the access road to the project & is there any school around or how is the condition of drainage line network around the project & water arrangement type is questions are asked. Again agreed when any new project is going to come on any open land it will need these basic infrastructural things but then isn’t it the duty of local government which does take all type of taxes & development charges for the same & keeping this in mind only the development plans of the cities are made? Then why raise such issues instead targeting the hardcore environmental issues like conservation of biodiversity & nature around as well utilizing natural energy resources type’s efforts? 

Then the time involved in getting this EC is main hurdle; as per present functioning it takes nearly one & half to two years for the same & that’s a great burden for any industry. Already nobody gets finance for buying a land & then without the EC you can’t start the project so for this much time span the whole investment is idle & interest keeps mounting. This gets reflected in finish products costing, which gets higher just because of the time lag & this added money which the need user only has to pay for, is sheer National Waste! As on one side the Govt is continuously appealing rather blaming the developers for high rates of homes & on other side is royally ignoring such hidden hurdles in bringing the costs down. Why can’t there be committees per district or at least per Metro where development is fast? Why the MOEF can’t designate the local governing body authority to issue EC with standard environmental norms to follow & only in exceptional cases one will have to go to Delhi? Why isn’t there any check on the speed with which the existing evaluation committees works? So many questions needs to be answered, as any law if it become nuisance then people tends to bend it around is a fact.

Nobody is against the EC or any environmental law but it’s the way which the law is being implemented, there lies the problem! At the same time awareness levels regarding the environment need to be raised, not just amongst the common man but the developers as well officers who are part of the system. They should know what environmental conservation in actual means rather than just getting an NOC from some department by feeling some forms & submitting many drawings!

It’s high time to analyze the systems like obtaining EC in itself & get them in tune with the actual needs regarding environment conservation; as well associate them with basic needs of the common man which includes a simple decent home of his own in his budget. Otherwise projects will keep getting EC’s, rates of the homes for common man will keep on rising & at the same time plants like “lajalu” will keep getting extinct making the cities real Concrete Jungle! And all we so called educated brains will be doing is blaming each other for destruction our own self in this entire process!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

MSEDCL (Power) Committee, Credai, Pune

Please do visit my blogs to know about our philosophy at Sanjeevani ! (Click the links below)

http://jivnachadrushtikon.blogspot.in/

http://visonoflife.blogspot.in/2013/01/identifying-good-builder.html


Social Side of Sanjeevani ! (Click link below)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/65629150@N06/sets/72157627904681345/

For any of your complaints about city, log in at link below

http://www.punecorporation.org/GRS/Complaint/LaunchComplaintCitizen.aspx

Think Green, Think Life

www.sanjeevanideve.com

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wanted, Leader for Real Estate Industry!







A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way…John C. Maxwell

Maxwell is an author, speaker, and pastor who has written more than 60 books, primarily focusing on leadership. And look at the way he has defined leadership in so simple & short way! In any sports, profession or industry we need a leader to look at, who by his unique way becomes the face of that profession. People like to see him, copy him & joins that game or the particular field, thinking some day they also can become like their hero who in actual is a leader! We have Tendualkar in Cricket, Ratan Tata for Industries; Narayan Murthi/ Azim Premji for IT, APJ Kalam for Science, Amitabh Bachhan for Cinema, Ustad Zakir Hussian in Classical Mussic & the list is on for so many professions all across the country. Best part is when first genre started towards their retirement adobe, second genre was ready to grace the empty space of leadership in every field. While Sachin has departed MS Dhoni is there for cricket, Shahrukh has already at top for cinema, Kumarmangal Birla, Sunil, Bharati are there for Industries & so the list is on in every field; except two & needless to say they are Politics & Real Estate! Out of this politics was never my topic so I stick to real estate. Recently my friend Ravi who himself is one of best critics on Pune’s real estate called me & asked about a particular case regarding a well-known builder  & the discussion went of who is number one, rather who is the leader in real estate? Though the call ended with discussion about the problems the clients of that builder facing the topic kept on lingering in my mind.

When we call someone leader of a field that doesn’t mean just he has to be successful financially or deliver result. For e.g. when we call Sachin leader of Indian Cricket then it’s not only the centuries he has made or the number of times he has lead India to victory or the maximum number of tests he has played, but it’s the way he has carried the game & balanced it with his social image! He has taken the game to such height by his on ground as well off ground behavior that entire sports has got benefitted with it. Same role has been played by Mr. Bachhan in Cinema Industry& Mr. Ratan Tata in various Production Industries. Before Tata the industrialists are looked as just money makers & people living in ivory tower which are banned for common man. But Tata’s changed that by utilizing his profits for social upbringing of men who are deprived from any good things in life. And most important is he hasn’t been forced by or asked by any Govt rule to do so! He did it on his own, that’s why any good culture of doing business is called as Tata culture! It’s not these men have’t made any money & fame out of what they have done, the did but the respect they earned in doing so from all classes of the society makes them leader of their field! A leader by me in any profession has to perform as that’s important but at the same time he should take that profession to new high & gives dignity to the same. A leader has to become face of that profession & make aspire younger genre to join the profession & become an icon for them!  A leader of the profession is someone who will earn respect from the society not only for himself but in process for the entire profession he is in; in short become the brand ambassador for the profession is in! Here you can’t define the leader by just one single criterion like output or money or fame but it’s multidimensional. As for me most important is the respect he earns in eyes of the all segments of the society not just being a successful leader but for being a good human being as well & making people respect the entire profession he is representing by his own conduct; that’s the true leader!

Now on this front let’s see where the real estate stands; not that we don’t have big & successful builders or developers. As many will describe themselves with the kind of millions of sq ft built up area under their belt or mega townships & ultra luxurious projects & in each Metro we have top ten contenders for numero uno position; many companies have their establishments across the country with projects going in Metros like Delhi, Bangalore & Mumbai! Yet can we take one single name which has given this industry a respect or where common man can say yes “builder ho to aisa ho!” Or is there any single house business i.e. corporate name in real estate which has carved name for their entire dealing process, where the customer can tell to other fellow developers to copy them or expect to do so? And why only customer, like every new entrant in cricket wants to goes in the history of the game like Sachin Ramesh Tendulakar has his name in it, but is there any such icon in real estate, where the fresh lot can look after & think, yes one day I too will be recognized by the way this group is being right now! Many in the business won’t agree with me as there are big players who has delivered & have a track record of fulfilling commitments & then there are groups which are in the business for nearly three generations now. But is that all? We are talking about leader of real estate & just for a moment as the scene right now is same in politics, that there are local leaders & national level leaders & country is being run by them but can we take any one single name which can be copied or should be copied by other leaders on the basis of moral, character & conduct? Same here in real estate, the business is flourishing & people are making money & so the customers are getting their homes & landlords are being paid. Similarly large man power is getting jobs & turnover of real estate is one of the highest as well the industry is major revenue earner for Local as well State & Central Govts through various taxes.

Rather the bigger the name in real estate the shadier it becomes, is the case, is what past & present experience is! This is because of many reason, right from land acquisition to getting clearances from various Govt agencies to so called involvement of black money, real estate has to undergo lots of practices which are the main reason for being considered it in gray zone by a commoner. And the developer concept in itself has been arisen from the very fact that it’s impossible for a common man to buy a piece of land & built his own house by himself, especially in bigger cities! The entire process has been made so cumbersome as well costly that, gone are the days where any person could buy a piece of land, appoint a good contractor & get his home build as per his needs. The major criteria for becoming a builder is you should have tow M’s i.e. money to buy the land, which is raw material for the industry as well muscle power to remove the obstacles in building the project over that land! Terms like quality, customer care, commitments follows later & many a times even doesn’t matter in the entire process.

This whole no leader thing has a very bad impact on basic things like framing proper Govt policies for real estate or urban development. The Govt policies of the real estate (if there are any) are constantly changing making always a problem for the developer & ultimately for the end user. In other industries before framing any policy which is related to the industry, they are usually discussed with the leaders of that particular industry, the pros & cons of the policy are considered, suggestions of industry leaders are taken in account & after that only the policy if finalized. As the real estate industry don’t have any such leading figure neither at central level nor at state level, no such steps are taken & all the policies right from FSI to height of buildings are worked by people who have never build a single building in their life & carried away as per their whims! Not that they are incompetent but somewhere opinion of those who will be implementing that policy in actual  has to be taken in account & here the role of the leader is most vital as it’s not for his individual benefit but he can utilize his charisma for the entire industries benefit & exactly that’s what real estate industry is missing today! Rather the so called top names in the industry has been alleged for making policies for their individual advantage only  putting away the interests of the common man who is seeking for his home.

It’s not only for the Govt policies or for new entrant to the industry; today the real estate generates biggest employment for manpower & mostly unskilled. This includes hundreds of labor works, petty contractors & suppliers too. They all depend on the industry along with their families, a good leader will ensure them that they are dealing with good people & these people do care for their efforts for the industry. Housing is the very basic & important need of human being, may it be urban or rural. And the industry which takes care of this need is leaderless is a fact. No kingdom prospers without an able king is what history tells us, so it’s high time the real estate bosses should give a serious thought for the leadership issue & for that firstly they should understand the true meaning of leader! A business house with a good leader takes care of every segment associated with their work. It’s like a big banyan tree which while growing big, spreads on a large area giving shade to many along with fruits & shelter to everyone who comes to it! And the effect is the society looks at entire industry with respect & that’s what real estate is missing, a leader with vision & attitude of the banyan tree! Result of all such things is not only customers or the home buyer but the entire society thinks of builders as just money making machines, who don’t have any social responsibility or moral values or ethics while doing their business.

Being in real estate business doesn’t mean just making money by developing the land but its building a strong respect towards the hands who builds those walls! At the same time the society along with media should also change the vision towards the builders & appreciate as well acknowledge the good people & their good deeds in the industry. As these things are like water & fertilizers for the new sapling of a banyan tree & then only a leader will be born for the real estate industry!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

MSEDCL (Power) Committee, Credai, Pune

Please do visit my blogs to know about our philosophy at Sanjeevani ! (Click the links below)

http://jivnachadrushtikon.blogspot.in/

http://visonoflife.blogspot.in/2013/01/identifying-good-builder.html

Social Side of Sanjeevani ! (Click link below)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/65629150@N06/sets/72157627904681345/
For any of your complaints about city, log in at link below

http://www.punecorporation.org/GRS/Complaint/LaunchComplaintCitizen.aspx
Think Green, Think Life