“The process of development and environmental protection should happen hand in hand”

Akash Badave        Image

I have a dual degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering and Biology. This combination may look odd to many. But when I look back, connecting the dots, I find an avid nature lover inside me responsible for this combination. In childhood, I would sit at the riverside and observe birds for hours, watch the rains from my window and feel elated in the presence of mountains. But most of all I remember a babul tree near my house where thousands of sparrows would gather every evening and their chirp would fill the entire atmosphere. I used to wonder how such a small tree could accommodate so many birds!

But one fine day, I found that the tree was cut down. The little birds were homeless all of a sudden. Where would all the sparrows sleep tonight? I kept wondering that day. The process of development has a great impact on the environment. The anecdote of my childhood is just a small example. If it is ultimately the environment that the human race is dependent upon for its survival, how should the socio-economic development of the society take place so that the balance of the environment is not disturbed? I entered the college with this question in my mind and a wish to answer it by developing technology based solutions. During the college days I started working with a student non-profit organization on various social issues of the villages nearby. I also did a research project on Common Property Resource Management (CPRM) under the guidance of Prof Anil Gupta of IIM-A, and travelled in the tribal areas of Gujrat, Jharkhand and MP to understand local issues. These endeavors made me gradually realize that while technology based interventions are essential, working with the people is most important. The people are very much part of the environment and it is the poorest who is most dependent on the environment for his survival. Therefore the socio-economic and environmental issues of any community cannot be looked in isolation. The process of development and environmental protection should happen hand in hand.

I joined PMRDF with these thoughts in my mind and to test them with realities of the field. Posting in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh has offered me exciting possibilities to work with the tribal communities here. These communities have been living in close harmony with nature for generations.  Can any model be developed where their economic elevation is achieved through environmentally sustainable means of livelihoods? Can the communities be mobilized to manage the natural resources to strengthen and enhance their livelihoods? Can appropriate and sustainable technology be introduced in the villages, which will give people new means of livelihoods by using existing resources more innovatively and effectively?  I have been exploring these broad ideas in last one year of my stint as PMRDF.

In a way, it has been a roller-coaster ride, packed with great amount of learning and new experiences. The fellowship has given me an opportunity not only to suggest interventions but also to get involved in their planning and implementation across the boundaries of different government departments and schemes. Introduction of SRI method of Rice cultivation and Organic farming across the district to enhance the production as well as provide higher market price to the farmers; a Micro-planning campaign for Natural Resource Management and Livelihood Development through the direct participation of the people; bank linkage to the farmers for developing irrigation facilities in their farms; development of Dairy centers for enhancing milk production; making Anganbaadi Centers self sufficient in Vegetables and Fruits by developing vegetable gardens around them thereby addressing crucial gaps in the nutrition; mobilization of School Management Committees to ensure community participation and accountability in the delivery of education, are some of the initiatives taken up so far.

It is quite early to measure the impact of these efforts. The problems of these areas are of mammoth size. I would consider myself to be very fortunate if I succeed to push them even an inch behind. But more than any impact I would be able to create, I am sure that this experience is teaching me a great deal of things to transform me as an individual being.

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Akash Badave is based at Dantewada in Chhattisgarh. He is a graduate from BITS-Pilani with a dual degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering and Biology. Akash worked in diverse sectors like IT, Electronics, Renewable Energy, Education and Livelihoods for more than one year in full time capacity and around four years in part time capacity before joining the PMRDF.

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