Sunday, 3 August 2014

Book Review : 'Green Wars- Dispatches from a Vanishing World' by Bahar Dutt

Rabish Chandra
@rabishchandra on twitter
*Views are personal 

As I was updated about the release of this book a couple of months ago I looked forward to reading this book. But later, I changed my mind to purchase this book by seeing the inboxed images of Sarus Cranes,  primates and tiger skin; as I connect myself more to plants, trees, grass, flowers etc. Yes, you may call it as ghaans-phoos or jungle-jhaar.
A member of Indian Botanists called upon and asked me, whether I have read the recently released book, ‘Green Wars’ by Bahar Dutt which is on environmental issue. ‘The book covers the story of the fauna and is not related to the flora (my area of interest)’ of India, I said. May be, the cover page of the book and author’s fascination towards fauna, make me to think in this direction. I was suggested to read this book and come up with a review of the same.

What is this book about?

Photo Credit - Vijay Bedi
The book, ‘Green Wars- Dispatches from a Vanishing World’, written by Bahar Dutt is published by Harper Collins, India. The book has twelve chapters compressed to one sixty one pages.
The twelve chapters of the book are presented in the form of a chronicle of activities of Bahar Dutt as a conservationist and as a journalist. One cannot say that it is devoid of any scientific information or policy discussion as they are suitably added.
She starts narrating her journey with snakes and their hunters. It’s interesting to know the transformation of the snake charmers community. In the words of Bahar, “This community, once revered for its magical skills, now lived on the edge of poverty, facing arrests and seizures of their snakes”. Later, the snake charmers started performing in the musical concerts with their traditional musical instrument- the ‘Been’. But it was difficult for Bahar to attempt the upliftment of this community.
With a doubt in her mind, Bahar shifted from conservation biologists to a journalist. Her first significant story broadcasted on the TV channel was about Sarus Cranes. No, it was not a documentary, showcasing the beautiful bird with cherry red neck. It was about destroying the habitat of Sarus Crane by building an airport over it. The author describes how the impact of broad casting abandoned the plan of the airport in the second chapter of the book.
Next is all about Chambal and Gharial, underlining the serious threat to Gharials by poachers. The author advocates the community engagement in conservation which in this case is ‘fishermen’.
The chapter on the threat to the forest biodiversity reminded me of my college excursion trip to the northeast of India for understanding the geography and vegetation of the region.
While reading the chapters on mining which causes destruction of agricultural land; and mining mafias, one may think that environmental journalism is not less than crime journalism.

The author deserves an appreciation for highlighting the conservation of less-known animals. She selected animal species which are usually not in headlines i.e. these are not the big and better-known animals like tigers.
Describing about the Dibang Valley, the author mentioned that the forest here is very rich and perhaps botanically the least explored one.
The development project which the author has chosen for her book is moreover linked to the habitat loss of the endangered animal species along with other ecological imbalances.
The story of Vedanta was one of the headlines as she narrates how the ‘politically correct’ movement by the tribal groups was supported by the then UPA government.

Who should read this book?

Photo Credit: Vijay Bedi
Once while assisting my professor in preparing the manuscript of the book on ‘Genetics’ in Hindi, I asked him, whom you are targeting to read this book? “I shall be happy, if a seventh-standard pass, Parvati bhabhi of my village could understand at least one-fourth of the scientific theory described in the book”, he replied. My professor was aiming to write the book in the form of stories in simple language.
Similarly, this book is written in a simple language which is easy to understand. The book highlights certain important environmental issues in the form of the stories and we all should be aware of these issues. I recommend all those who can read and understand English to read this book which will help them to know the illustrative environmental issue and can think about protecting the environment in their surroundings as a responsible citizen.

Rating and comparison

I would not like to rate or compare this book with any other text. The author has suitably embedded the scientific facts in her story. The story presented in the book is based on the author’s own experiences from the field visit both as a conservationist and as a journalist. This makes this book different from any other text where we get more of the theoretical content rather than the relevant illustrations. Furthermore, the author has questioned, ‘How much development is enough at the cost of environment?, which I think is an important question to address in a developing nation like India which is also rich in biodiversity

1 comment:

  1. Good review. Gives enough hint on what this book is about. Looks like the book is highly readable and conscience-stirring. Unfortunately I may not get time to read it; so not a bad idea to get some sense of the message which Bahar wants to convey through her book. I have all support for her cause as a conservationist.


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