RANWA (Research and Action in
Natural Wealth Administration) is a small NGO (Non
governmental i.e. voluntary organisation, VA) Registered
as a Public Charitable Trust at Pune, Maharashtra,
India. Its objectives include environmental research,
education and activism.
RANWA activities include :
Research : Documentation of plants,
animals and human influence in Maharashtra, especially
western region, particularly Pune district.
Education : Nature trails for
general public and school children alike for introduce
them to nature, especially plants, birds and
Action : Plantation of local plant
species, supporting environmental agitation, awareness
Monitoring Forest Health
Yogesh Gokhale and colleagues found out that the forest
biomass has doubled during last six decades and no
species have been lost at Mahabaleshwar and Bhimashankar
forests near Pune. This became evident from the records
of the forest department, which included 5 yearly girth
measurements of all the trees in preservation plots
about an acre in size. The forest growth was prompted by
abandonment of shifting cultivation and departmental
felling, forces that restricted these forests earlier.
However, in forests subjected to firewood extraction for
tourists suffer from regeneration failure, unlike those
harvested for the use of only the local people.
This understanding generated under the Indian
Institute of Science (IISc) biodiversity monitoring
project (WGBN- Western Ghats Biodiversity Network, Url:
been well received in popular media and even Forest
Department. The plots will be revisited during 2001 for
Atlas of Maharashtra
Shonil Bhagwat, Vivek Gour Broome and Yogesh Gokhale
recorded distribution of nearly 600 woody plants in the
state, particularly Vidarbha and Western Ghats, based on
study visits and literature survey under the
Biodiversity Hotspots Conservation Programme (BHCP) of
World-wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF-I) and flexible
grant from the Max Muller Bhavan. This helped in
suggesting to the Forest Department areas for conserving
more or unique diversity within limited efforts. This
includes Bhamragad- the south-eastern corner of Vidarbha,
recently declared a wildlife sanctuary. Ongoing work
includes upload this information on web including in the
form of an atlas and bibliography, besides similar
information generated by Sanjeev Nalawade about
vertebrate fauna of Maharashtra, with initial assistance
Sacred Forests and Trees
India has a long tradition of conserving forests by
dedicating to deities. Utkarsh Ghate studied such sacred
groves in Western Maharashtra for Forest Department.
Through the Biodiversity Conservation Prioritisation
Project (BCPP) of WWF-I Yogesh Gokhale studied those
allover the country where they continue despite manifold
pressures today. Yogesh is involved in translating his
experiences into a live demonstration project under a
Central Government scheme. Recently, Shonil Bhagwat
studied plant and animal diversity of sacred groves in
the Kodagu district in southern Western Ghats. Protected
from centuries, Sacred groves often host the oldest,
largest, rarest trees from an area as well as many
birds, mammals rare outside.
trees, considered sacred, critically support animals, by
yielding fleshy fruits all the year. Commonest fig trees
like Banyan, Peepal etc., are worshipped and protected
by people. Utkarsh Ghate has studied distribution of
these keystone species in the Western Ghats with
suggestions for their conservation.
Shonil Bhagwat had also studied biosphere reserves under
the BCPP for evaluating and suggesting conservation
efforts friendly to people and development. Ongoing work
includes exposition of the value these traditional
conservation methods by Utkarsh Ghate to managers of
formal protected area (PA) system that has largely
triggered resource conflicts between villagers,
government and industries. These lessons greatly
enriched the BCPP.
the human-nature relationship, Yogesh Gokhale and
colleagues have pioneered recording of folk knowledge
and practices of conservation of biodiversity, beginning
with Supegaon in Phansad wildlife sanctuary, Raigad
district. Such people’s biodiversity registers have now
become popular allover the country, as tool to stake
people’s claim of prior knowledge for sharing benefits
from its commercial exploitation such as through
Intellectual proprty rights (IPRs) amidst globalisation.
Further, such benefit sharing arrangement has now been
also included in the Biodiversity Bill due for enactment
Besides long term monetary
benefits, such participatory nature documentation and
planning can also help in decentralised resource
management through the Panchayat Raj institutions.
Utkarsh Ghate is currently advising the National
Innovations Foundation (NIF) and its associates at the
Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad (Url:
http://nifindia.org). Utkarsh Ghate and Yogesh Gokhale
have published nationally and internationally on this
issue, from the IISc platform.
Cities host majority of literate
naturalists, who spend resources to search remote
forests, ignoring wildlife in the backyards! However,
without preparing legally respectable publications or
mass movement, they only lament against destruction of
urban biota by unscrupulous urban development. To
gradually change this trend and build public opinion,
RANWA conducts weekend nature trails termed ` Nisarga
parichya’ i.e. `Know the Nature’. Dr. Ajay Dixit, and
experts including botanist Dr. S. D. Mahajan or
wildlifer Prof. Sanjeev Nalawade lead the show once or
twice a month.Plant Introduction Programme. Expert -
Prof. S.D. Mahajan. These stalwarts guide over two dozen
enthusiastic participants to common and interesting
plants and animals from in and around Pune. This
includes hills like Law College, Parvati and botanical
gardens like Fergusson Collge, Pune University etc.
Several students especially from Garware and Modern
colleges, besides Pune university participate
enthusiastically and even guide others about ants,
fishes, snails and mushrooms.
Earlier, RANWA members including
Ketan Latkar, Anand Gijare, Rahul Khalate, Vijay Barve conducted
several indoor training programmes at Balbhavan,
Balshikshan, Kataria and other schools. The focus then
was on slide shows, talks and snake handling shows.
Earlier, RANWA conducted several
nature education camps at remote places like
Bhimashankar, Dandeli, Annamalai in the Western Ghats.
Participants were introduced to plants, animals like
birds, mammals, snakes and lizards, butterflies etc.
Participantion to such camps and trails is open to all,
benefiting diverse people with varied age class, sex and
educational/ professional background. However, to
generate local action, focus on local education has been
Earlier Ketan Latkar, Milind
kothawade opposed reckless cutting of forest undergrowth
in the Western Ghats, to prevent soil erosion. RANWA
volunteers, notably Milind Kothawade, Utkarsh Ghate,
Yogesh Gokhale, Shonil Bhagwat, Vivek Gour Broome,
participated in struggle against unsustainable
developmement projects such as the dams on river Narmada.
RANWA helped in organising cycle rallies to spread
anti-pollution message. Shantanu Dixit, Shashank Karekar,
Milind kothawade, Bhushan Sathe earlier contributed
greatly to collection and planting of trees and Bamboos
along city gardens, hillocks and even in Mulshi taluk to
help NGOs Vanrai and Jeevan. This included homestead
nursury raising of seeds collected from roadside trees.
Seeds were then also sold to BAIF (Bharatiya Agro
Industries Foundation) to help RANWA corpus.
Currently, Ajay Dixit has been
popularising planting of local trees, including seed
distribution and nursery, contrasting exotic trees
promoted by government, despite their low value to local
animals. Raghunandan Welankar and Vivek Gour Broome
cultivate traditional rice varieties on their farms.