Jahnavi G Pai

Sunday October 04, 2015



Jahnavi Pai 

GESA 2014  |  India  |  Ecologist


To partner with local communities in restoring their faith and dignity as conservation stewards by reviving the rich ecological knowledge they possess.

Jahnavi Pai - 0With a deep fascination for nature since childhood, I pursued my passion by studying Masters in Ecology followed by a Post Graduate Diploma in Environmental Law. My work experience has been varied – from studying Giant Squirrels in the rainforests to participating in socio-economic surveys of forest-dependent communities in and around protected areas in the grasslands of Bihar and mountains of Uttarakhand. I worked for six years at a research institution, where I co-authored and coordinated the production of a bilingual nature guide. With an interest in applying science in policy-making, I worked on identifying policies that India needs to adopt to mitigate an impending pollinator-decline, which, if unaddressed, will severely affect food security.

India is a land of myriad cultures where people’s relationship with nature is just as diverse and vibrant. Conservation of biodiversity cannot be achieved by delinking people, their rich traditional knowledge and sustainable lifestyles that have nurtured and protected the biodiversity they are dependent on. I believe that these stakes and relationships need to be recognised, appreciated and even inculcated into mainstream cultures by anyone interested in biodiversity conservation including policy-makers, environmentalists, economists, and academicians. With my training and experience, I intend to work towards bridging the gap between grassroots environmentalism and academic research.

With this in mind, I am currently studying the state-owned grazing pastures in the Deccan plains of India known as Amruthmahal Kaval. These Kavals not only support local livelihoods but are also repositories of biodiversity due to their traditional regulatory mechanisms. However, much like grazing lands elsewhere in the country, they are fast disappearing due to threats from short-sighted policies, encroachment and afforestation, among others.

I also work on environmental issues in my city, Bangalore. Here, I initiated an exercise of mapping avenue trees by citizens in a residential locality, led a signature campaign of academicians condemning the misguided tree felling by the local governing body, and am part of a group of concerned citizens called ‘We Care for Malleswaram’ which is actively involved in sensitising the neighbourhood on waste segregation, recycling, composting and urban terrace gardening.

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Amrit Mahal, a breed of cattle native to a small region in South India, is prized for its speed, endurance, aggressiveness and it’s ability to withstand drought.

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Grazing lands that have been reserved for cattle grazing are known as ‘Amrit Mahal Kaval’. These lands are spread across a range of habitats from grasslands to scrub forests.

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Grazing lands are rich in biodiversity, probably due to the traditional sustainable management practices in place.

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Every year, the Amrit Mahal calves are sold to the highest bidders at an auction held by the Government.

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Pastoralism is one of the most important livelihood options for people living around the Kaval.

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Spinning the wool used to make blankets is usually done by women.

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Grazing lands also support a range of livelihoods that directly and indirectly depend on pastoralism. Here, a weaver is working on a woolen blanket.

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Due to their arid nature, grazing lands are perceived as “wastelands” and are given away for development activities thus cutting off access for local people.

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People protesting in large numbers against one such diversion. Photo credit: Srikant Kelahatti


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