Mother India Cannot Survive Without Grandmother Nature

July 24, 2014

In a blog for the Huffington Post, K. Ullas Karanth, Regional Science Director with WCS's Asia Program, challenges India's new prime minister, Narendra Modi, to balance economic development with natural resource protection.

What does Narendra Modi's emphatic win portend for India's natural riches? Covering just 2.2 percent of Earth's land, India harbors close to 13 percent of Earth's bird species, 7 percent of mammals, 5 percent of reptiles and 4 percent of amphibians. Of the 240 species of living carnivores, 25 percent occur in India. Imagine any single country in which tigers, lions, elephants, rhinos, brown bears, elk, wolves, and hyenas all roam free.

These natural riches are compellingly summed up as "our bountiful mother nature, clad in deep greenery" in the nationalist lyric Vande Mataram, which was Modi's rallying call in his march to power.

Seventy million years ago, gigantic continental plates broke apart and rammed each other, causing the mighty Himalayas to erupt. The sacred river Ganga flowed a few million years later. India's exceptional biodiversity results from such ancient accidents of geology and evolution.

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