Environmental Journalism

Bad Wildlife JournaliSm Or Just Bad Journalism

In the early 1980s, shortly after authorities banned cattle from grazing in the 29 square kilometre Keoladeo National Park at Bharatpur the famed wetland south of New Delhi popularly known as the Ghana several farmers from neighbouring villages attempting to force their way into the sanctuary, were killed by police trying to enforce the ban. During the ensuing uproar, a senior and highly respected journalist colleague, who wrote for one of the country's then-leading Hindi news magazines, went...

Keya Acharya

Some fourteen-odd years ago, during my initial forays into environmental issues in India, I remember, at a seminar, a government officer (though I very conveniently do not remember his name) trying to prove how environmentally aware his department was. 'We have planted gardens in our premises,' he had declared with flourish. I, then naive and new to the environmental scenario in India, had been both amazed and shocked at his lack of knowledge on what constituted environmental conservation. Some...

DEARTH of iNFoRMATDN

We have dearth of right kind of information in the form of books, videos, etc., that can teach the layman how water can be conserved in the local situation or how rain can be caught. Strengthening common man and communities to shoulder the responsibility of sustainable and safe water is not given the importance it deserves. Take the example of open wells that are there in many parts of the country. For nearly 4,500 years, these have been serving people. But in the last 50 years, this structure...

Backpatting

Years ago, I had asked a successful rain harvester, a farmer from a Hassan village, whether he was unaware of the concept till then. 'I knew it from sometime. But there was nobody to give me moral support to experiment on this. The magazine article gave me that support,' he had replied. Yes. The media can lend a lot of strength to somebody to take up an experiment that's new to the surrounding society. Its human tendency to make fun of people who start experiments that others think are...

Modern AgriCulture And iNDiGenous Farmer

Modern agriculture has also unleashed an array of fresh problems. Increased use of pesticides and fertilisers to boost the yield affected the environment severely and proved to be hazardous with the growing threat from chemical residues in soil, water, air and agriculture produces, pest resurgence and soil degradation and drastic depletion in water table. The over dependency on modern science led to a search for corrective technology and inventions, which in turn created a hopeless no-win...

Rays Of Hope

There are two ways to support farmers One is physical support. It may be through various schemes of the government or financial support. Second is that the need of the hour is empathy. It is the responsibility of the entire society to be with them and give them moral support. Physical support is much stressed in the present days. Expert committees are proposing new schemes, government is assuring support. Such assurances lead to high expectations. But when such schemes fail to live up to the...

Shree Padre

Vanjiyoorkonam is a hamlet in the outskirts of Trivandrum, Kerala. Most of the people here are poor. Seventy families manage with 45 open wells, most of which remain dry for four months in a year. Surprisingly the well belonging to Ratnadas-Vijayamma doesn't dry at all. This family provides drinking water to 10-12 neighbours in the summer. Why does Ratnadas' well have ample water Every year, he directs the run-off from the nearby sloping road to the basin of his coconut tree. Interestingly, the...

Successful meda campagns

Let us look at some media experiments on these lines. Let me start with our own experience with Adike Patrike, a unique smalltime Kannada monthly, now 20-year old. We started a campaign on rainwater harvesting a pioneering effort by a media group in Karnataka by publishing a series of success stories from 1996 to 2004. We had two main criteria for selection of stories. We preferred stories of successes of the common man, without using government aid or subsidy. Secondly, we preferred stories...

Melting Mental Blocks iS A Real Challenge

The biggest challenge a water journalist has to face is to melt the mental block that readers have about rainwater harvesting and allied subjects. This requires patience, persistence and time. It's not a task that can be fulfilled in a day, month or year. It needs years of efforts to bring in the change in mindsets. In the context of rainwater harvesting, they always tell that 'we have to give opportunity time for rain to percolate'. Similarly, for readers to realise that rainwater harvesting...

DroughtproofiNg TechniQUES

Karnataka has some wonderful drought proofing practices that the country can be proud of. Sand mulching, which is widely practised in the black cotton soils of Koppal and surrounding districts, is one. Even with least rainfall these farmers manage to get a satisfactory yield. In Hungund taluk of Karnataka, three generations of Nagarals have popularised a technique to grow 'arabaradagoo entaane bele' (meaning, 50 per cent crop even in half drought or full drought conditions). During the...

Ardeshir Cowasjee Dawn

The entire civilised world is greatly concerned with where the environment is going, and the world with it. The dangers facing are massive. As an entity, the government of Pakistan seems to be oblivious and carries on in its own merry way. However, there are a few of us who realise the implications of global warming and all that goes with it. Credit must be given to one of our private television channels which, on Earth Day, 22 April, showed an Urdu translation of former US Vice-President Al...

Nandkumar Kamat

'A wild panther Panthera pardus was trapped from a private residence in Panaji's high class Miramar ward in April 2006' Miramar-Panaji Panjim, is on the banks of Mandovi estuary. It is a densely populated area. How did the panther reach there Where did it come from Is the island of Tiswadi losing its residual green cover . The capital city of India's smallest state, Goa, Panjim or Panaji, the 51st richest town in India by bank deposits, has been animatedly discussing this issue. It is indeed a...

THREE sHooTiNG sTARs

Even before the IUCN environmental reporting trainings in the 1980s and 1990s contributed to the heightened awareness about the issue, there was already at least one journalist who already focused on the environment with passion and commitment. Ameneh Azam Ali was senior assistant editor at monthly The Herald10 down the corridor from the Star when I was an intern there both publications were part of the Dawn Group.11 I was in awe of her because she was so confident, serious and intense, and...

Exploding myths

There are plenty of myths about the water sector, which the media should go all out to expose. One of the big myths is that governments do not have enough money. 'Aid has been providing more than approximately US 5 billion a year for water and sanitation,' says the WASH Guide for the media issued by the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC). 'And governments in the developing world have been spending about as such again. But it is how well the money is spent that matters.'...

Darryl DMonte

When I look back at 30 years of writing about the environment, I realise that many seminal occurrences are due to chance or intuition, rather than a clear-cut, well thought-out decision. I was editing the Sunday edition of The Times of India throughout the 1970s and my brief was to steer clear of politics. Business, I ought to remind younger readers, wasn't even an issue worth discussing those days it was left to the Commercial Editor. Environmental issues were just beginning to become...

Kunda Dixit

One of the greatest disservice we have done to the cause of environmental protection is to invent a separate category of reporting called 'environmental journalism'. Just as 'development journalism' at one point became synonymous with sponsored reporting because it was mostly practised by lazy hacks on sponsored junkets, so it has happened with 'environmental journalism'. It ghettoised reporting on a subject that should have been linked to politics, economics and development. Somehow,...

Richard Mahapatra

In India environmental journalism means global reportage with village datelines. Environmental journalism is no more the old 'off-stream' but a 'main-stream' deliberation on contemporary existence. Particularly so when India has the unique distinction of being one of the fastest wealth-creating nations, having the largest number of poor in the world. Poverty in India is primarily environment-driven. Thus environment journalism, overtly or covertly, is about the most mainstream issue, poverty....

S Gopikrishna Worrier

In 2002, I was working as a correspondent specialising in reporting on environment, agriculture and development in the Chennai news bureau of The Hindu Business Line newspaper. I got a call from senior journalist and the President of the Forum of Environment Journalists of India (FEJI), Darryl D'Monte, who asked me if I could help organise a media workshop on water and sanitation at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF). Darryl had already requested the partnership of Prof. M.S....

FOLLOWiNg The Process

Newspapers and radio and television channels do of course continue to highlight such issues. But more often than not, the focus is on the outcome (child killed and another loses limbs because of toxic waste at the rubbish heap they were playing in) or event (building, bridge or road being built that will cause environmental damage). The ongoing process of environmental destruction rarely gets the same attention. An ongoing system of trainings for journalists is obviously also essential....

Greatest ResponsiBiLiTY

But the greatest responsibility now for the media is the wildlife crisis, in my view. The media should lend a voice to the cause of the mute and helpless wildlife that is being decimated in the name of human rights and scrutinise the fallout of lax administration and potholed policies that adversely affect wildlife conservation. The rate at which tigers are disappearing from the forests and ending up as branded balms on shelves of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) markets, we are likely to...

Meena Menon

Red tiled roofs emerged from the dull grey waters. It was a group of submerged huts, all belonging to one family. Domkhedi village, on the banks of the Narmada River, many years ago, was a rich bustling settlement which wound down steeply to the river. Now the boats touched the last remaining flat ground which had a small hillock on top with a single house. By now, I am sure it has vanished forever. The landscape of the valley had changed the deep ravines were gone. The...

Increasingly in demand

Stories about environment and exotic diseases with high panic quotient will be increasingly in demand. Today, the challenge before Indian environmental journalists is to find the time and space to focus on the other stories that deal with complex health-related impacts of environmental ills before they have reached the crisis stage. How can these issues be portrayed so that the ordinary man or woman is compelled to read, watch or listen One way is to draw the link between apparently disparate...

Lonely poneers

The earliest of our wildlife journalists that I remember were the late M. Krishnan though he was a writer, essayist and photographer more than a journalist in the classic sense and Usha Rai. Apart from a few early photographers like T. N. A. Perumal, E. Hanumantha Rao and M. K. Ghorpade whose works and notes found their way into exhibitions and some publications, Krishnan and Rai wrote largely alone. Usha Rai's reports also only rarely made it to the front pages. Until the 1980s, wildlife...

Environmental Journalism in India and South Asia

lRr Of WJ I Los Angeles London New Delhi Singapore Washington DC Copyright Keya Acharya and Frederick Noronha, 2010 The copyright of each essay rests with its contributor s . All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilised in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. l tl B1 I-1 Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area Mathura Road,...

Laxmi Murthy

In the present climate of political correctness, an awkward three-letter concoction, s he, often passes for addressing the 'gender element'. Tacking on a 'her', 'women' and 'girls', to a narrative that is essentially male-focused, however, does not do away with the 'issue' of gender. The past two decades have also witnessed 'gender mainstreaming', an official policy on equal opportunity that entails the incorporation of equal opportunities for women and men in all policies and structures. This...

MANANiMal ConfliCT

I will now narrate another lesser known side of the issue of man animal conflict. In the Western Ghats there are scores of people who have been mauled by black bears in the course of their daily routines. One man in Dandeli had his scalp peeled by a sloth bear. Another man was attacked by the bear so viciously that his wrist bones cracked and after the dismembered left hand was stitched back into shape, it is shorter than the right and he has lost the dexterity of his wrist's movements. Another...

Current trends iN reporting

Although environmental issues in the 1980s and 1990s mainly covered the aspects of global warming and sea-level rise, the nature of environment reporting took some definite new turns in the late 1990s. Furthermore, media organisations too were financially better placed and transport and communication barriers the Maldives had previously faced had eased too. At the same time, there was also an increase in the number of media outlets. The increase in the number of reporters which brought healthy...

No QuestiOns Asked

You should not question this disgraceful trend simply because the media thinks it is their right to flash semi-nude pictures of girls and hype the discussion around sex. After all, they have to cater to their business interest, their TRP ratings. But at the same time, the media expects all the readers viewers to go to Allahabad and take a dip in the Ardh-Kumbh after having seen those titillating pictures and read those sex karma articles. When will someone have the courage to tell the media...

DRAwiNg The LiNE

Overall, it was difficult to know where to draw the line between gently reining in over-enthusiasm and curbing efforts by some members to promote their own agendas. I'll wager we erred on the wrong side of that line as often as not. And resentments, yes. In the midst of a related initiative, long after January, Dina and I discovered that some people thought we were hogging media attention to further our own consultancies. For the record, Dina is a researcher and ethnographer, I'm essentially a...

Mechanised Trawlers

Mechanised trawlers were brought in here, as into other parts of the Indian coast, with the argument that it would increase the fish catch. This, in turn, was meant to boost the protein intake of the poor. Or so the official promise went. In reality, most of the fish simply got frozen and exported overseas or to bigger urban markets within India at prices most couldn't simply afford. An extremely ugly aspect of this business came up a couple of decades later, when shrimp farms were set up,...

NOT iNDiGENOUS

Most of the forest settlers in India are not of any indigenous peoples' clan but are largely descendants of the former servant class of the erstwhile royal families. The settlers' forefathers were settled in the hunting grounds of the erstwhile Maharajas and were given an upkeep allowance only. They were not given record of land rights or any kind of ownership of lands. After India attained Independence, the Union of Accession ended the miserable monopoly of the so-called aristocrats and the...

A larger disconnect

But apart from the Silent Valley dam controversy, in which a pristine rainforest wilderness in south India was in danger of being inundated, wildlife was seen as incidental, a poor second cousin to the larger issues of the environment. This is possibly a reflection of the larger, more universal and growing disconnect between man and nature that began arguably with the industrial revolution and the dawn of the age of science. Since the industrial revolution, man has increasingly seen himself and...

RECOGNiSiNG iNtersector Unkages

The Indian media needs to critically look at the water and sanitation sector in its entirety instead of only reporting on the issues pertaining to end users. It needs to get the views of experts in various fields inter-connected with water such as finance, energy, development, health, women's issues and law, apart from those directly involved with water such as the suppliers of treatment systems, municipalities, industries and civil society. In the past, governments have caused immense damage...

UnderstandiNg The SciEnce BehiND iT ALL

Often, journalists shy away from what they perceive as heavy, engineering or technical jargon. 'The press should strive more to help the public understand the scientific and technical aspects of a problem better, rather than just place a major emphasis on the political aspects,' said Stanford professor Dr Perry McCarty in an interview with Asian Water magazine. Journalists would do well to take the time to comprehend the process of pumping water from a source, purifying it and distributing it...

Sermon To The MediA

Don't work piece-meal. Ecology is serious business. Let us not treat it as a routine beat. Prepare the ground for a Policy re-think. Give a picture of the global situation and how river clean-ups are taking place. Attack the politicians over their insensitivity, policymakers and think-tanks over their myopia and the people for their lackadaisical approach to the fundamental necessities of life. Who am I to take the pulpit and preach Why should the Media Barons pay...

Peter Griffin

On 26 December 2004, Southeast Asia was hit by a double tragedy a huge earthquake off the Indonesian coast, followed by a tsunami that wreaked havoc on the coastlines of countries around the Indian Ocean. The death and destruction that those waters brought defied description. The world was shocked. And then came the second wave a huge outpouring of concern, sympathy, desire to help, and a need for information. With a disparate bunch of people from all over the world, most of whom I never knew...

First Steps

Rohit Gupta who, by the way, I had not met in person at that time and I exchanged a flurry of SMSs and phone calls. He promptly agreed to join in. I quickly set up a blog on blogger.com, a popular free web publishing service. I chose Blogger without really thinking about it too much. It was the only blog provider I knew of that permitted multiple contributors and it was, thanks to Caferati and DMB, an interface I was comfortable with. Besides, it was pretty simple to use, and since it was...

Tou RisTcENTRic REPoRTING

My travel agent, Babu Bhai managed to get me a flight the next day. There are no direct flights from Dhaka to Colombo and I left on 29 December, the first flight I could get, via Bangkok. I had posted an angry message in ShahidulNews in response to the tourist centric reporting in mainstream media and many friends responded. Margot Klingsporn from Focus in Hamburg wired me some money. Not waiting for the money to arrive, I gathered the foreign currency I could lay my hands on, packed a digital...

HUMANiTARiAn Workers ViSual Coverage

Humanitarian workers argue that it is important to have visual coverage at all phases of disasters. While disaster images generate compassion and policy interest, the follow-up coverage is essential to keep-up the interest and to ensure transparency and accountability. 'Photographs offer a good reality check,' says Dr Unnikrishnan PV, an emergencies and conflicts advisor for ActionAid International. 'They can alert the humanitarian and the government system and help initiate action.' This...

If we lose the tiger

If we lose the tiger, and alas Much as it seems inevitable, we have to protect the remaining tigers at any cost, it will be doomsday. Think of that super earthquake and we are left to recreate civilisation and humanity's evolution. Despite the power and pelf of Project Tiger, it sadly lacks teeth and has fallen short of guiding policy too. It is because of a lack of a land use policy that India is unable to enforce 33 per cent of the land mass as Protected Area for the remaining wildlife....

Patralekha Chatterjee

A decade ago, during the last global financial crisis, economists used the word 'contagion', to describe troubles that began in a faraway country, eventually spreading to much bigger ones, and then came home to roost. Today, with the global and the local inevitably melding together, the analogy could apply equally to the world of diseases. For the media, the 'glocal' story is among the most exciting, and challenging. One of the most telling illustrations of this emerging trend comes from an...

Major Water CriSiS iMMiNENT

In the whole world, water, the 'most precious liquid', is increasingly turning to be a scarce resource. At Cherrapunjee which receives highest rainfall in India at 12,000 mm in summer, water trade raises its ugly face. A situation where water has to be provided through tankers is a symptom of a still serious and complex disease. Imagine this prospect Within 20 years large parts of our country could be facing Ethiopia-like famine conditions every year. This is no wild guesswork. It is a scenario...

Sudhirendar Sharma

Environmental journalism could indeed be fun, literally That the Maldives will disappear before the advent of the next century under rising sea waters made interesting environmental story in the late 1970s. Three decades later, it's amusing that the island nation hasn't ceased to exist on the world map Did I read too much into the doomsayers predictions or was the influence of Daniella Meadows and Lester Brown overwhelming The cause-effect relationship of climate change sensationalism was over...

Trailing iGnorance

But specialisation does not mean developing tunnel vision. This is why journalists who report on environmental issues should think of themselves principally as journalists who happen to be covering the environment. For environmental issues cannot be viewed in isolation. In India, in particular, environmental issues are located within the political and economic discourse. It is essential to engage in these larger discussions if we are to report intelligently on environmental issues. One of my...

Traditional knowledge

We the evolved, tamed, educated and urbane lot have not exercised our imaginations to evolve means of harvesting the traditional knowledge of these indigenous peoples. They are a hardy lot, they know best the diversity of food grains that this blessed land offers. They know the hardships of cultivation, the merits of shifting cultivation and the demerits of the green revolution. They know how to beat stress, they have never known ailments like diabetes. Yet we have failed to harvest their...

Unforgettable iMagesfrom Home

Closer home, the tsunami produced a set of unforgettable images. Perhaps the most telling one about the sorrow of this tragedy was a picture taken by the Reuters photographer Arko Datta, showing a woman lying on sandy ground, mourning a dead relative. It became the World Press Photo of the year 2005. One of the jury members called it 'graphic, historical and starkly emotional'.2 In fact, this photograph's power lies in its understatement, the respect shown to the subject in keeping the bloated...

Nandan Saxena

On my way, I met many, who drank from the same river. Some even called it 'Mother'. Many could write prosaic poems on how the River had sustained life and cradled civilisation. Most did not understand the vital link between the womb and life. And all of us treated it as a receptacle of waste. A glorified sewer, it was once called 'Yamuna', when it was still a river somewhere in my previous life. I was travelling from Yamunotri, the source of the river, to Allahabad where it meets the 'Ganga',...

Shivaram Pailoor

'Farmers first' approach is a milestone in the overall agricultural development process. Accordingly there is a 'paradigm shift' in extension system away from the terminology 'transfer of technology' towards an interactive approach entirely subordinate to the needs of the farming community. Thus, along with this emerging phenomenon, agricultural communication process has also been altered radically. The advent of green revolution brought to the fore the importance of agricultural communication....

Anil Agarwal

The manner in which the media reports intergovernmental environmental conferences is unbelievably biased and distorted, which means that independent and informed public opinion can never be built on contentious environmental issues. This is indeed a very serious matter. As I had to leave Buenos Aires a few days before the end of the climate change conference for the US, I carefully scanned leading publications such as Washington Post, New York Times, Time and Newsweek to find out what finally...