Bharat Kumar Pradhan
Scientific/Technical Associate at Sikkim Biodiversity Board
Q1. Please share your educational and professional journey?
I am from a Botany background and had done my PhD on the ecological assessment and development of cultivation package for one of the high valued medicinal plants. I pursued my PhD from the University of North Bengal as an external scholar as I was doing research under a project at the Sikkim Unit of the GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, now GB Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment. During research period, I got an opportunity to explore and understand the Himalaya from very close as my research involved studying the vegetation structure and its regeneration pattern along altitudinal gradient, bio-resource use by different stakeholders inhabiting the transition and fringe areas of the National Park (Khangchendzonga National Park), conflict issues, recommending management policies for National Park, etc. apart from my PhD work. These gave me a prospect working in harsh environmental conditions and to explore the nature deeply. Another advantage working in the project was that it helped me build up my local networking as the project demanded organizing several village level consultation meetings with the stakeholders. The project also provided me with an opportunity to work in close coordination with the indigenous Lepcha and Limboo Tribe in Sikkim. As a result, I was able to come out with interesting publications on their ethno-medicinal practices in journals of international and national repute, which received worldwide appreciation especially the one on Lepcha Tribe. The same have been documented in the form of documentary by the Berlin based TV Production Company MedienKonter in 2010 for the arte channel, a joint venture of Germany and France.
Following the completion of my PhD, I joined Sikkim Forest and Environment Department as a Biodiversity Survey Expert in the JICA assisted Sikkim Biodiversity Conservation and Forest Management Project (SBFP). Working in the project, I developed myself as a strong team leader and also I was able to increase my networking to national and international level as I have been publishing my research findings in numerous national and international reputed journals.
Considering my sincerity, efficiency, capacity, commitment and hard work, I was given an opportunity to work in another project simultaneously in Sikkim Biodiversity Board, the work was completely different from the work I was doing. It was a learning experience for me because the work involved reaching out to the community and sensitize them about the Biological Diversity Act 2002 and its objectives, Access and benefit sharing, constitution of Biodiversity Management Committees and generating awareness regarding their roles and responsibilities, providing scientific and technical guidance to the BMCs in preparing People’s Biodiversity Register, signing of ABS agreement, preparing the dissemination materials, organizing trainings, workshops, seminars, preparing reports, etc. It was tough time for me because the subject was entirely new and I had to struggle really hard; nevertheless. I was equally benefitted working in the project as it provided me with an opportunity to prove my potential to work in a team under pressure and because of which I have developed myself as a good organizer and a good public speaker because I could integrate my field research experiences and the existing policies. Since then I am constantly involved in sensitizing stakeholders from all walks of life on different subjects like biodiversity, bio-piracy, BD Act, ABS, negotiation skills, IPR, Ecotourism, etc., in addition to providing administration support to the SBB team. Later, I joined Sikkim Biodiversity Board on full-fledged basis to carry out the mandate of the Board.
To add, I was nominated as one of the team member of the Sikkim Forest Department to visit Bhutan to study the commercialization aspect of caterpillar fungus, highly prized biological resources. After which I drafted Yartsa Gunbu (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) Harvesting and Auctioning Guidelines 2016 for Sikkim and I was totally involved in practically testing it in the field by organizing auction and coordinating with the buyers from outside the state and sellers of Yartsa Gunbu in Sikkim. We were not much successful in implementing the guidelines in the field due to many reasons, though we received good responses.
As a member of IUCN-WCPA, I am occasionally involved in reviewing various documents including the World Heritage nominations. During June 2018, I was one amongst 06 Indians to represent India during June 2018 in China in South Asian young Talents China’s Science, Technology and Innovation Trip and 3rd Forum on China South Asia Technology Transfer and Collaborative Innovation. My interview on “Agroforestry and Organic Farming” was applauded by experts from over 12 countries during Global Virtual Seminar (aimed to review country specific forestry themes in context of SDGs and to have a perspective to current issues in forestry) held in University of Finland in 2017. In September 2019, I presented my work and also got an opportunity to Chair a session during 2nd International Conference on Global Warming and Climate Change in Bangkok. I am regularly involved in raising awareness on biodiversity conservation, climate change, and sustainable development goals and on other issues through various local and national media such as All India Radio, Door Darshan, etc. and also through my personal face book page.
Q2. What did attract you towards science and research?
Since childhood, I am a great admirer of nature. I used to spend hours together patiently observing the birds, insects like ants, spiders, etc. and their activities; I used to closely observe different events in plants such as budding, flowering, fruiting, etc., and study variation in different plant structure, etc. As I grew up, I became more inclined towards nature and developed a passion to work towards nature conservation.
Q3. How do you motivate yourself every morning?
Being an environmentalist and a conservationist, I feel terrible seeing the way the humans are causing destruction to the environment and the biodiversity. I always think about how to make people realize its true value in our life and make them understand that it is our common shared responsibility to protect environment and conserve the biodiversity for our future generation. Our children too have right to enjoy the serene beauty of our landscapes, mountains and snow clad peaks which we see today; they too have the right to enjoy the songs of the birds and the howling of animals at night and to breathe in pure air and drink clean, fresh and medicated water that flows down from the mountains.
I take this as a challenge and my responsibility too, to make a difference by sensitizing people and develop in them, sense of ownership and sense of belongingness and make them understand that the resources, natural or biological, from which are being benefitted, we have not inherited it from our ancestors but we have borrowed it from our future generations and we need to hand it over to them safely. This highly motivates me every morning and I do not miss out an opportunity to talk about environment and the biodiversity, once in a day.
Q4. How do you see climate and environment in India Post Covid19?
COVID-19 pandemic is purely a human led disaster. We have been exploiting the nature and its resources to such an extent that it had no alternative left except to respond back in the form of COVID-19 pandemic and other disasters like earthquake, tsunami, cyclones, floods, etc. to make us realize about our wrong actions. It has resulted in collapse of the entire economy of the world; millions of people have lost their jobs; online fraudulent activities has increased; there have been rise in geo-political tensions between the super-powers; frontline COVID-19 warriors and the people who have lost their dear ones due to pandemic are traumatized. But the biggest thing is that the pandemic has brought every one of us together and the entire humanity is fighting a common battle. It has provided everyone an opportunity to explore the talent in oneself and come out with innovations. Because of the pandemic, everyone is making true use of the internet technology and we must continue with it, which will surely help the earth to recover from the damages that the human has caused to it. Furthermore, the pandemic has eliminated the disparity between the rich and poor countries and has provided an opportunity to rise again, together.
Nevertheless, it is human instinct to not to learn from the past experiences. In the competition to win the race to be on top, to economically dominate the world once again, humans will go to every possible extent and India will not remain behind. Since India has its own set of problems to deal with such as rising population, poverty, unemployment, terrorism, boundary dispute, internal dispute, etc. and now the shrunken economy; it will have to look for solutions which can only be solved if it can become economically strong. For that, it will have to depend on its natural and biological resources, which means the exploitation again, and now, the exploitation would be more severe which will have serious implications on the environment and the biodiversity. Further, the pandemic has caused disbalance in the production and the demand. To incur the loss caused due to the pandemic, the industries would focus on more production and it will lead to increased emission of the greenhouse gases. The people who have lost their jobs would be involved in environmental crimes like illegal extraction of natural resources, deforestation, wildlife poaching, etc. in order to sustain themselves and their families. Rise in social problems like the gas theft from the pipelines and the may lead to environmental disasters.
On the other hand, India has its commitment to the Paris Agreement and is obligated to reduce emissions to limit the global temperature below 1.5 degree C. This warrants climate action and development of green technologies, alternate source of energy, biofuel, etc. which will put more stress on the natural and biological resources and would demand alternative for iron, steel, glass and cement and would increase the demand for aluminum, copper, lithium and cobalt. It is already been projected that some parts of India would become unlivable by 2070 due to extreme temperature rise which would result in water scarcity and decrease in crop productivity and will not be able to meet the rising food demand for the growing population leading to hunger and death. Extreme weather condition and hunger will result in climate displacement or climate refugee. There will be competition for the resources creating conflicts, severe enough to wipe out the entire populations. The rising temperature would accelerate the glacial melt process as being experienced, in the Himalayas consequently leading to sea level rise vis-à-vis submergence of low lying areas. This will increase pressure on the mountains and its dwellers due to the upward shift of the humans, wildlife and other biodiversity. Further, the melting of glaciers in the Himalayas would result in activating the viruses buried underneath the glaciers for millions of years which may be thousand time deadlier than the present SARS-COV-2 that caused COVID-19 pandemic that may entirely wipe out the human civilization. It is being assumed that next pandemic may emerge from India.
Q5. Which one thing do you want to change in yourself and why?
I know I am not perfect. I am very stubborn person and when I am annoyed, I do not care for anyone whoever it is. It takes quite a time for me to become normal which disturbs the whole atmosphere. This one problem in me I would like to change so that people around me always remain happy.
Q6. What kind of problems we may face due to Biodiversity loss?
Nature or biodiversity categorically provides four types of ecosystem services, namely, provisioning such as production of food and water, regulating such as control of climate and disease, supporting such as nutrients cycle and oxygen production and cultural such as spiritual and recreational benefits. Hence, biodiversity loss would have serious implications on the livelihood of the local communities, future food security and water availability; it will also lead to human wildlife conflict, transmission of zoonotic diseases, competition and conflict for resources, exacerbation of geo-political tensions, increased migrations, etc.
COVID-19 is the best example to cite when we talk about the biodiversity loss associated problems. The causative agent for the current COVID-19 pandemic is the SARS-COV-2 which lives on horseshoe bat. The bats are being ruthlessly killed for bush meat, making souvenirs and curios for the tourists and most importantly, due to traditional belief that bats are evil. In countries like India, fruit bats are enlisted in Schedule V of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, which gives license to kill the fruit bats. Due to heavy poaching of bats, its population has decreased drastically causing spillover of viruses, which cause zoonotic disease in bats, to humans. The pandemic has resulted in shrinking of the world economy, rise in geo-political tensions between the super-powers, loss of market jobs; it has also impacted human health and well being globally.
Q7. Tell us about one of the moments which changed your perspective towards life?
Once I adopted spiritualism in my life, I realized that I am the creation of GOD, so I am His responsibility. There is nothing I need to worry about because GOD is there to take care of me and my every need.
Q8. What do you do in your free time? Do you update yourself in terms of education?
I spend my free time with my family; I help my wife in household and kitchen work. I talk with my kid about nature, environment, astronomy, biodiversity and also I teach him the names of birds, plants and insects in the surroundings. I play and watch cartoon with my kid and sometimes we all go out visiting places.
I do keep updating myself about the current affairs. I have strong interest in climate politics and share market. Additionally, I do lot of reading about the global policies and initiatives in respect to environment, biodiversity, climate change, etc. and writing research articles for journals.
Q9. Which one skill do you like most about yourself?
Through these years, I have been interacting with people from various walks of life, talking with them about environment, biodiversity, climate change, traditional knowledge and practices, etc. During the process I have developed myself as a critical thinker and analytics. Besides, I have also developed strong interpretation, convincing and motivation skill, which I like the most.