Month Year: December 2004
Wildlife Service Award
A graduate of architecture and a native of Bajagoli, a village located near the Kudremukh National Park, Niren has been actively involved in conservation efforts of the reserve since 1998. Working as a research assistant at the Wildlife Conservation Society, Niren acquired skills to scientifically monitor wildlife populations using camera traps, line transect sampling and other methods. As part of a survey to accurately map Kudremukh, Niren walked over 600 km. in the park. Using the data, he intensively worked with the reserve warden to finalise strategic locations for establishment of anti-poaching camps. He has contributed towards effective field monitoring of iron ore mining in Kudremukh. This generated accurate and timely information on the damage caused and exposed offences by the mining company.
His energetic voluntary efforts in the successful public campaign launched by Wildlife First (of which he is a member) against iron ore mining in the fragile rain forests of Kudremukh were key to securing a decision from the Supreme Court to end mining within Kudremukh by the end of 2005. Niren’s role in educating local communities and decision makers on the negative impacts of mining on the Bhadra river greatly helped swing public opinion against the continuation of mining. Niren also played a major role in a unique voluntary resettlement effort with private donor funds. This provided a win-win solution that delivered genuine social justice to people wishing to move out of the park, while reducing fragmentation impacts on wildlife habitats. However, Niren’s work has not always been kindly received by officialdom. Since June 2003, he has been the target of official harassment and has even had his office illegally raided by officials from the Kudremukh National Park. Defamatory statements have been made in the media and several cases of alleged trespass have been filed against him. This, however, has left him undaunted. He is committed to continuing his work at the reserve. Saving the beautiful natural landscapes of Kudremukh remains more important to architect Niren Jain than designing good-looking buildings.
First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXIV No. 6, December 2004.