Mongabay-India: Bringing biodiversity discussions into the mainstream

  • Mongabay-India is the newest product from the group of online publications with 20 years of publishing history.
  • Even though India was a leader in biodiversity policy, it has been a laggard in biodiversity-related discussions in the public space; Mongabay-India intends to fill this gap.
  • Follow us to keep yourself updated with the latest news, and inspiring stories, from Nature’s frontlines in India.

Today we formally launch Mongabay-India, the India-specific portal of the global environmental news platform This news portal will look at India’s development through the prism of conservation and environment. Mongabay-India is the newest product from the group of online publications with 20 years of publishing history. In 2017, there were 32.5 million visitors across our sites reporting news in nine languages via four bureaus, of which the India bureau is the latest addition.

As an emerging economy, India’s growth story has had varying impact on the country’s habitats, natural resources, biological diversity and forest-dwelling communities. Stretching from tropical to temperate latitudes, with a 7,500 km long coastline, two archipelagos, some of the tallest mountains and the most extensive mangrove ecosystem in the world, India harbours biodiversity hotspots of global importance. From these landscapes, we will bring you stories of people, animals, plants and their habitats.

Boys play cricket by the riverside in Dikchu, Sikkim. Photo by Ullasa Kodandaramaiah.

Bring biodiversity home

Our main aim will be to mainstream biodiversity into the media narrative in the country. We hope that from our stories, biodiversity-related issues will occupy their rightful place in the public and policy discussions. Our conservation and environment stories will go beyond the limited discussions on protected areas and charismatic species such as the tiger and the elephant, and will look at how conservation and sustainable use of natural wealth can strengthen the lives and livelihoods of not just those who live in and around forests but even those living in far-off cities.

For instance, if the health of the rainforests in Kodagu district in the Western Ghats is maintained, it would mean a steady water flow in the Kaveri river. This would mean not just more water for the farmers of Mandya district in Karnataka and the delta region in Tamil Nadu, but also a more secure drinking water supply for consumers in Bengaluru.

Dealing with pressures of day-to-day living and commuting to work on the ever-crowded roads, the apartment-dwelling residents of Bengaluru may either be unaware or forget this linkage between the Kodagu forests and their drinking water. Our stories will bring these linkages into focus.

India: a policy leader where the public narrative is missing

Even though India was a leader in biodiversity policy, it has been a laggard in biodiversity-related discussions in the public space. After the international community announced the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at the Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, India was among the first countries to develop an Act of Parliament to implement the principles of the CBD as national policy. Thus, the three principles of the CBD – conservation of biodiversity, supporting its sustainable use, and ensuring that the benefits arising from its use are shared equitably – have become established national policy since 2002.

Plants of the Impatiens species in full bloom in Kaas plateau, northern Western Ghats. Photo by Ullasa Kodandaramaiah.

Following the legislation, the National Biodiversity Authority was established in Chennai, and all the 29 states established state biodiversity boards. Going down to the village level, there are more than 60,000 biodiversity management committees at the panchayats. Thousands of village communities have documented their biological wealth and associated traditional knowledge through people’s biodiversity registers. Thus there is a structure for the conservation of biodiversity in the country.

However, despite this, the discussion on biodiversity in the media and the public is limited – climate change-related discussions get much higher attention. Every time there is an unusually hot summer, intense rainfall or cyclonic winds, there is talk about climate change. Irrespective of whether each of these events is related to climate change or not, in the public consciousness there is a linkage. Such a linkage of the importance of biological diversity to the day-to-day lives and consciousness of people is missing.

For instance, when a series of extreme rain events flooded many cities in 2017 – Agartala, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chandigarh and Mumbai – there was much discussion linking these events with climate change. It is not as if such rains had not happened in the past. While the flooding was only partially related to extreme rains, poor urban landscape planning and management contributed more to the devastation.

On the other hand, there is minimal media and public attention on the fact that thousands of hectares of forests would need to be removed for the construction of the futuristic Amaravati, the new capital city for Andhra Pradesh. It is forest tracts such as these that give ecological stability to existing and new urban centres. In fact, even when the climate changes and extreme weather events become more frequent, climate resilience for those living in cities and villages will come from native forest vegetation.

Jeeps throwing up dust in the Kaziranga National Park, Assam. Photo by Ullasa Kodandaramaiah.

News that will make the linkages

It is into this space that Mongabay-India is entering. Through our stories, we want to reach biodiversity into public consciousness. Thus, when a new species of mayfly is discovered in the rivers of Meghalaya, we will report that at least there are some rivers in the country that are not yet polluted. Similarly, when otters return to a river, we will report that the health of the riverine ecosystem is good. Otters – like tigers – are apex predators and will return only to a healthy habitat.

Along with our stories on new species and cutting-edge research, we will report on community action for the conservation of resources. Along with the best in peer-reviewed research, we will update you about citizen science for conservation. While we update you on tigers versus tribals debates and the latest in the use of new technologies for conservation, we will report about the impact of some of the lesser-known species in these habitats.

Complementing our stories from the protected area network would be those from the smaller oases of biological diversity, conserved by communities for centuries as sacred groves. While with our stories we will hold the mirror to the society on the destruction of habitat and mismanagement, we will also bring you stories of strength and inspiration of individuals and communities that fought against the odds to bring about positive change.

We hope to find a niche in your mind-space, and through you into the national consciousness.

Banner Image: Havelock Island, Andaman and Nicobar, India. Photo by Ullasa Kodandaramaiah.

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