"We cannot solve the problems that we have created with the same thinking that
-- Albert Einstein
While you read this, a string of events is happening across the globe which directly
affects you, your children and also your finances. The global average temperature is
very slowly, but surely, rising, necessitating the need for air conditioners in more
places, and major climate-related lifestyle changes. More critically, this elevated
temperature starts to melt the polar ice caps threatening countries like Myanmar (Burma)
& Sri Lanka's very existence. They may submerge along with many coast-lines and thousands
of small islands across the globe. Every day we lose one lakh acres of tropical
rainforests in one or other part of the globe which in turn leads to more Carbon Dioxide
in the atmosphere and less of the life-supporting Oxygen.
Up above the sky, the chain reaction set in by the chloroflourocarbons are eating up
the Ozone layer, permitting more and more ultraviolet rays to strike the earth which
in turn can cause mutations on the DNA molecule.
Among the variety of factors listed above, we at Inheritance India, ask you to take a closer
look at Forests. You will know the reason why as the story unfolds on our website. While you
take this web-journey you will see how all these events are inter-connected among themselves
and also with your life, your family, and your financial and physical well-being.
About 50% of all species live in Tropical Rain Forests, which covers 2% of earth's
land surface. These prolific wombs of life hold the largest biomass of any terrestrial
habitat. By far the planet's richest environment, aside from regional climatic fluctuations,
they have remained basically unchanged since prehistoric times. They have served as the
planet's major gene pool, constantly evolving new plants, micro-organisms, insects, fish,
birds and mammals to fill gaps in an ever changing world. Diversity and interdependence
gives strength to the bonds that weave the web of life. These forests have developed an
enormously efficient ecosystem over 50 million years, and we are losing their precious life
supporting systems at the rate of over 100,000 acres A DAY.
The system is fragile because the topsoil is shallow and the lush growth is largely
water, disguising a low level of fertility. It is the dense tree cover that keeps the
system going. Without it the soil is easily washed away, leaving the land barren, and
often unfit for agriculture. What do we lose? We wipe out, forever, the end product
of millennia of evolution.
We prevent the study of thousands of undescribed plants and animals which may just hold
the remedies and cures that humanity has been seeking for ages. We endanger the survival
of the remaining cultural groups trying to live there. We exterminate the best carbon
dioxide absorbers on the planet, thereby also reducing the available oxygen.
In historical times, tropical moist forests clothed about 25,000,000 sq. km. of the
humid equatorial belt lying between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn
(the Tropics). Since 1950, 54% has been removed at an accelerating pace. Today
approximately 11,517,320 sq kms remain, covering 6% of the land surface. Of this,
170,320 sq. km. of tropical moist forest is found in India, which accounts for 1.48%
of the world total. Only 5.3% of all land in India is covered by tropical
is a complex web linking animals, plants and other life forms in any
particular environment, whether it's a garden pond or the whole biosphere. Everything
hangs together in the ecosystem-if we alter one part, we alter the others - sooner or
later. Humans are only one factor in the ecosystem, but, unfortunately, we don't quite
see it that way. We tend to set ourselves apart and call all the other factors or species
"natural resources" for us to exploit. We have now learnt - or have we?? - That human
survival depends on preserving the ecosystem. The ecosystem can do without us but we can't
do without the ecosystem - as long as we live on planet Earth.
The amount of fresh water available for human use directly is less than 1% of all the
water on the planet.
India records the second largest annual rainfall in the world, but we still face a
When we tamper with the threads in the web, we are unable to see beyond the next few links
- or we are not looking! - and predict accurately how a particular action would affect us
and our environment and us in the long run.
Web Of Life(Click to Enlarge.)
The food chain is a complex, balance of numbers game. In this simplified example it is
easy to see that the cycle goes from abundance to rarity. If, for example, the tiger
becomes extinct, the deer population would explode, who in turn would overgraze the
grasslands, which would lead to soil erosion and the ultimate extinction of the
There are an infinite number of such examples, each interconnected and interdependent
which make up the 'web of life'. The millions of different kinds of living beings are
connected by the energy of Life. Even what we consider 'non-living'(like air, water,
soil, the elements, the sun) play a vital role in allowing life to happen on our planet.
Biological diversity refers to the entire range of life forms on earth. These include
millions of plants, animals and micro-organisms, the genes they contain and the intricate
ecosystems of which they are a part.
Biodiversity is described in three levels:
Genetic diversity: This is the diversity of the basic units of hereditary information
(genes) within a species, which are passed down the generations.
Species diversity: Species is the unit used to classify the millions of life forms on earth.
It is measured as the total number of species in a defined area. Species biodiversity is
the most commonly used level for describing the biodiversity of countries.
Ecosystem diversity: An ecosystem is a set of life forms (plants, animals and micro-organisms)
interacting with one another and with the non-living elements (air, soil, water, minerals etc.)
of their environment. EB is therefore the diversity of habitats.
India has tremendous diversity of all the three kinds. It contains over 5% of the world's
biodiversity on 2% of the earth's surface. The number of plant species in India is estimated
to be over 45,000 representing about 7% of the world's flora. These include over 15,000
flowering plants of which 4,900 species are endemic to the country.
India's faunal wealth is equally rich. The total no. of animal species is estimated at
81,000, representing about 6.4% of the world's fauna. These include about 57,000 insects,
2,546 fish, 204 amphibians, 428 reptiles, 1,228 birds and 372 mammals.
THE WESTERN GHATS
Conservation International defines biodiversity as the sum total of all life on Earth, the
wealth of species, ecosystems, and ecological processes that makes our planet what it is-a
crucible of life. Biodiversity also plays a key role in our daily existence in that all of
our food is originally derived from wild plants and as much as 25% of all our medicines
originated in the wild.
A Biodiversity Hotspot is defined as an area of exceptional plant, animal and microbe wealth
that is under threat. There are 25 global Biodiversity Hotspots, ranging from the Amazon basin,
African rainforests, south east Asia, and two spots in India: The eastern Himalayan region,
and the Western Ghats.
The Western Ghats stretching 1,440 km. from the Tapti river north of Mumbai, to the southern
tip at Kanyakumari run parallel to the west coast of India and are among the country's
most important natural assets. This region is blessed with an abundance of life forms found
nowhere else on earth. The endemics include 7 mammals, 16 birds, 84 amphibians, and an amazing
1600 flowering plants. There are numerous other life forms which may have escaped our attention.
The fact that these biologically rich areas are threatened by human activities, like mining,
habitat loss due to agriculture and development projects and poaching, places the area in the
hotspot category. Much has been done to protect this ecologically fragile area by courageous
individuals to save and protect it.
Despite this, experts estimate that of the 159,000 sq. km. area of the Western Ghats,
only 8.1 % is protected (approx.13,000 sq kms.)
WE, AT INHERITANCE INDIA, are committed to working towards reversing the current trends
from destructive, lop sided and self centred, to balanced and respectful. Forests harbour
a huge variety of creatures each of them interlinked in complex and interesting ways.
It is by observing and marvelling at these relationships that we get glimpses into the
secrets of the natural world and of ourselves.
Inheritance India Sites
One of the two locations in Kerala where the Inheritance India project is sited is a 120
acre wild coffee plantation purchased by us lying at the fringes of Wildlife Sanctuary.
The altitude varies from 2000-4000ft.The densely forested valley, very similar to a
Shola forest, faces east, and is bordered on the north and south by grasslands. A ridge on
top of the valley extends on the south side to the highest peak in the area. The canopy is
largely intact and the average age of the trees is estimated to be around 30-40 years. In
the past it was a proper coffee, cardamom and pepper plantation but since we have taken over,
the management policy and focus has changed from commercial crops to nurturing nature. There
has been a concerted and ongoing effort to remove weeds (Lantana camera) and promote natural
regeneration. This has resulted in a two fold benefit.Since no chemicals have been used,
either as pesticides or fertilisers, for a few years now, as well as the topography of the
valley, the crops could be considered organic.
The other 'benefit', as we see it, is that the animals seem to have found a haven, and
more diversity is being seen more often. This increase in diversity has also added to our
responsibility. With the active involvement of the local people and the Forest Department,
we are now in the process of establishing specialized habitats which would increase the
number of ecotones in the area and thereby ensuring that the animals are safe and comfortable.
Also, scientific studies to assess the population status and conservation requirements of all
major groups of organisms are underway.
The first such attempt which focused on birds was done in collaboration with the Wildlife
Biology Department of Aligarh Muslim University. Resulting from this there now exists a
check-list of 108 species many of which are endemic to the Western Ghats.
This coming together of scientists, researchers, conservationists, forest officials and local
people is the unique strength of our conservation practice. Based on true scientific principles,
protocols are now being prepared for the estimation, valuation and conservation of the rich
biodiversity we hold.