Healers or Destroyers

Forests – Healers or Destroyers


Talk by Dayanand Stalin : 30th May 2020

(As part of the REVIVE series hosted by eCoexist during Covid 19)

This talk covers three main aspects:


What are Forests and what is their role? How does a forest play a role of a healer or destroyer?  What is the role of the common man?


It is a type of ecosystem that can support life, an area where there is high density of trees occupying a relatively large area of land. There is a debate on its definition  going on in Supreme Court for 25 years!

Types of Forests – There are 5 types based on the vegetation.

Role of forests in human well-being – Providing water, keeping rivers alive, providing lower temperatures, habitat for wildlife, carbon sequestration, medicinal value

Who are Stakeholders? People who live around forests, Forest Department (Caretakers), Industrialists and  Activist. The primary stakeholder is missing and that is the Wildlife!

Humans can survive without forests but wildlife cant!


Scientists estimate that more than 6 out of every 10 known infectious diseases in people can be spread from animals, and 3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals.

Zoonotic diseases of wildlife origin- Influenza, Nipah, Japanese encephalitis, Rabies, Plague, Leptospirosis, Anthrax and Leishmaniasis.

Agents -These spread by direct and indirect contact, vectors, contaminated food and water.

Preventive measures – Stop agriculture and plantations within forest land which are the main causes of deforestation and meat Industry which needs grazing lands.

Role of Forests – Prevents soil erosion, floods, rejuvenates rivers among other services

Change of role – Forests can change from healer to destroyer. They hold the key to survival as well as hold the weapons to unleash misery on this planet.



Impact of Covid 19 on cities – The new world order should have less congested cities, fewer migrants – while sustaining rural economies. Reduced demand and consumption. Forests and rivers are kept free from destruction through pollution, dams and deforestation.

Government Conservation (During Lockdown) – Approval 30 projects of wildlife clearances in 11 States. Threat to Western Ghats (exemptions sought), Highway construction in Goa (which passes through the Mollem Wildlife Sanctuary), Nagpur-Mumbai superhighway (over 32,000 trees will be felled and the proposed design passes through 48 villages), Railway bridge in Madhya Pradesh and Telangana (through the Kawal tiger corridor)., Hubbali –Ankola railway line – 600 ha of forest land destroyed, Coal Mining in Dehing Patkai – Amazon of north India. Legislatives being changed, NGT – non-functional as no judges appointed since 2 years. Draft EIA does not give any safeguard.


Time for course correction – Recognise the real stakeholders, viruses are not created by wildlife they are only carriers. Saving of humans at the cost of elimination of wildlife? Research on what protects the animals they are Saviours not villains.

Warning – Blurring the line between forests, wildlife habitats and urbanisation creates conditions that are favourable for potentially dangerous pathogens to attack the human race. Live and let live!

Duty of every citizen – enshrined in the Constitution. For the Government -Article 48(A), for the Citizens – Article 51-A (g). Protect if we cannot improve the natural assets.


  • We have the intelligence, skill and resources to turn the situation around today if we are willing to learn from pandemics. Governments all over the world are economy driven. There has to be honest evaluation of ecological services of forests.
  • Every human being should connect to the earth. No battle is big. Governments are elected and they can even be removed. They are not owners but only custodian
  • Understand the sufferings of the poor. Protect the national asset they are like our fixed deposits! Raise your voices and let it become a roar!
  • Mining is the most destructive. Private Sector should not be given permissions. It should be done by the Government in proportion to our needs for survival. We don’t need to export it has to be need based. Closed mines cannot be restored.
  • Any activity that comes at the cost of fresh water is negative investment.
  • Wildlife to be considered as primary stakeholders. Identify and create Wildlife Corridors from South to North that will reduce Human-Animal conflict. Wildlife are ecological indicators.
  • Regarding Aarey forest it’s a bigger conspiracy. Metro car shed, railway station, SRA project, Zoo, Metro Bhavan – commercial tower.
  • We are self-sufficient and not lacking in food production Farming activities can co-exist. One needs to freeze farmland near forest areas.
  • Generate public awareness. Fight, slow and prevent destruction.
  • Forest cover has shown to be increased by including plantations, grasslands farmlands through satellite imaging. Ground truthing has not been done.
  • Look at Permaculture as alternative. Sustainable Development is an Oxymoron. One either sustain or develop.
  • Forest whether privately owned or by the government is protected.
  • 70% infection of Covid is seen in cities. More the forest cover less is the infection show studies. Devrai – Sacred Groves need to be protected.
  • There is no dearth of landmass, the concentration of population is in the cities. Without Forests and Rivers we are a liability. We can’t be rich.
  • Disaster management becomes a Priority.
  • Distinguish between Needs and Wants. Withhold the greed and restore the forests.


“Eventually it’s not Money but who has access to Natural Resources who will survive!”


Notes compile by Clara Correia for eCoexist