Mahesh Kumar Jiwrajka
Photograph by: Mahendra Vyas.
Month Year: December 2010
LIFETIME SERVICE AWARD
Mahesh Kumar Jiwrajka has probably been more directly responsible for saving wildife habitats in India than virtually any other individual in the past few years. A part of the Indian Forest Service (IFS) for over three decades, despite his mammoth contribution to wildlife, he is probably one of India's least-known wildlife defenders because he refuses to claim credit for victories and, apart from those who have directly worked with him, or crossed swords with him, few even know he exists. Yet, he is a virtual encyclopedia of forest laws, a green legal eagle who could probably teach many a lawyer about the nuances of India's environmental laws.
After serving the Maharashtra and Central Governments in various roles, he was appointed Member Secretary of the Supreme Court's Central Empowered Committee (CEC) in 2002, a position he has held ever since. Aware that wild species cannot possibly survive without untouched wild habitats, he turned ecosystem protection into the very purpose of his life. In 2009 he took early retirement from the IFS and is now identified totally with the CEC, which is mandated by the highest court in the land to protect India's biodiverse forests. A pro-active forest protector, his report to the Supreme Court in 2004 radically changed the management of India's forests, plugging the loopholes that politicians and administrators had left open to benefit those who profited from forest lands through mining, and other commerce. He was intimately involved in the decisions to protect, amongst others, the dense forests of Kudremukh and Niyamgiri from illegal mining. He is also credited with the establishment and management of India's Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority, or CAMPA, arguably the largest forest restoration fund of its kind in the world at Rs. 18,000 crores. He has stopped illegal timber merchants. He has prevented bamboo forests from being turned to pulp. On a daily basis he prevents state governments from giving facile "no objection certificates" to destroy precious wildlife habitats for construction projects.
First published in: Sanctuary Asia, XXX No. 6, December 2010.