Diana Zazueta Pozos
WWF’s volunteer program gives young people the opportunity to experience this reality by involving the volunteers with communities and their challenges in the path of environmental conservation.
Yeh hai incredible India! (This is incredible India!)
I thought that by reading about this amazing country I was going to be more than prepared and that the experience would be easier for me as I expected to find something like Mexico where traffic jams, crowded streets, spicy food, a vast biodiversity, and an amazing cultural heritage, are just a few descriptive examples for my country. But you have no idea how different it is! First of all India has the second largest population in the world. So you can imagine the chaos, although a very interesting chaos. The streets are full of people driving and horning like crazy though it is admirable how they manage to avoid crashing almost every minute!! People and cows walk in between cars making an everyday drive to WWF-India offices an adventure of at least 30 minutes. Not only people, cows, cars, and garbage flood the streets. An amazing and interesting culture shows out on every corner of every road. Even though the general landscape in the cities are roads and buildings under construction, garbage, and lots of people, India has the most beautiful sceneries and the most amazing wildlife I’ve ever seen. You walk a few steps and you find yourself surrounded by marble mosques of thousands of years old and all kinds of temples with colorful deities that resemble animals. A few steps further you find yourself in the most beautiful gardens full of refreshing fountains, colorful birds, and tress that give off a smell I will always remember. Then you walk a bit further and you run into a bazaar that makes you feel as if you’ve travelled a hundred years back in time giving you the opportunity to experience all the sounds, colors and smells of the world in just one place. Another impressive aspect of Indian society is that inspite their rough way of life, Indians always keep a big smile on their faces and they are always willing to help (even when they just met you). All these and many more reasons is why I call India the country of contrasts. These contrasts and chaos may be, sometimes, extreme and intense for someone that comes from another country but it is always interesting to know and experience something different because these kind of experinces are the ones that enrich life.
Environmental conservation in IndiaIndia’s emergence as one of the fastest growing economies in the world confronts it with a series of challenges. It is a vast country with different geography and a population encompassing varied cultures and languages. It also has one of the vastest and richest natural habitats in the world. However, nowadays India’s vast biodiversity is facing a battle against several factors like pollution, ignorance, lack of funds, indiscriminate hunting and destruction of wildlife habitats, overgrazing, the immoderate use of grasslands for agriculture, overpopulated villages and towns encroaching wildlife natural territory, mindless use of pesticides and chemicals, illegal wildlife trade, among others. So as you can see most of India’s environmental issues come from wildlife-human conflict caused by a growig population living under unsustainble livelihoods. The development of capacity building, technology transfer, and financial support programmes to assist developing countries, like India, with the implementation of sustainable policies aimed to environmental conservation is urgent.
During my work with TRAFFIC-India I had the opportunity to do a content analysis of environmental news and to interview with several environmental journalists to discuss about this widespread problem. I came to the conclusion that environmental journalism can take, along with NGOs like WWF-India, the leadership that is needed to fight environmental degradation. Committed to the principle that accurate information drives responsible decisions by governments and individuals, environmental journalism offers an effective way to involve society in the quest of wildlife conservation and the fight against environmental degradation.
Going to India?
- WWF India is an organization with a huge potential working in a country with great forests and other important ecosystems with very special and unique wildlife. As a volunteer try to exploit and learn from every minute you share with WWF supervisors and your work-team. This will help you to improve your knowledge and experience and will encourage you to leave your footprint in the conservation field.
- In India, the planning of activities is sometimes left to the last minute. This may cause some problems decreasing efficiency. Be prepared for misunderstanding and remember to keep communication open, be ready to suggest and speak out.
- During my first week in India, I can say I only understood 40% of what people were saying. The accent is a bit difficult to get at the beginning. Some people on the streets, even in large cities, don’t speak English so try to learn Hindi (numbers and basic expressions) as it really helps when you are by yourself out of town or when your go out to do field work.
- Transportation: travelling in India is very cheap. Try to travel by auto as taxis are very expensive (and scarce). As a foreigner you should always keep in mind that auto (small taxis) drivers will always try to take advantage of you. Try to figure out with a local how many rupees you should pay for a certain distance. It is important to set the price before you get into the auto because sometimes they will try to charge more than you agreed. The metro is also a good alternative as it is clean, efficient and cheap. If you are going out of the city you can travel by train which is the cheapest way however be careful of crowds at train stations as they can get scary, specially at the times of departures.
- Food is really good ( it always depend on how spicy you like your food). It is usually vegetarian but you can also find chicken, fish or pork. Coming from Mexico made my adaptation to the coulinary experince (hot and spicy food) easier. However, if you are not used to spicy food you should think of taking care of your stomach. I would say that I am very proud of my Mexican-street-food-proof stomach as I never fell sick. However, you should always keep in mind that cooking in India is, most of the times, not the cleanest activity. Hygienic practices are not present everywhere you go so you should always be prepared with bottled water, alcohol in gel, and some packs of cookies or chips.
- And finally, I would tell you to leave all your expectations at home and start learning from reality. Open your eyes, return the smiles, enjoy the colors, cherish the landscapes, dance to the rhythm of sitars, eat spicy food, and enjoy every second of the experience because India is an amazing country waiting for you to discover it. Do not be afraid, spread the message and be ready to make a difference!!
Leave all your expectations at home and start learning from reality!