Conference on Conservation Science and Sustainable Development, 24-25 January 2017, Bengaluru

ATREE was established in 1996 as a research institution in the areas of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. We focus on interdisciplinary research, education and action to influence policy and practice on conservation of nature, management of natural resources, and sustainable development.

In 2016, ATREE will complete 20 years. Over this period ATREE's research has had significant impacts. In celebrating 20 years of ATREE and to call attention to current environmental challenges, we are conducting a two day international conference in January 2017. The main themes of the conference are:

  • Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Society
  • Water, Land and Society
  • Forest Governance and Livelihoods
  • Climate Change Mitigation and Development

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Venue: J N Tata Auditorium, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru

Day 1: Tuesday, 24 January 2017

09:00 - 10:00 Inaugural address and Felicitations by dignitaries

Kamaljit S. Bawa
ATREE President and Distinguished Professor of
Biology, University of Massachusetts Boston
10:00 - 10:45 Keynote speaker

Georgina Mace
How should we value nature
in a human dominated world?
10:45 - 11:15 Coffee break

Session 1: Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Society

11:15 - 12:00 Keynote speaker

Gunter Pauli
Conservation of Nature to Regeneration of Ecosystems:
How new business models will shape water,
agriculture, food and energy for all
12:00 - 01:30 Invited talks

Breena Holland,
Environmental justice: Who counts
and how much is enough?

Robert L. Pressey
Back to the basics with conservation
planning: Science and policy through
the lens of making a difference.

Siddharth Krishnan
Conservation at ATREE:
A paean and some soul searching.

Arnold van Huis
The sustainability of using
insects as food and feed.
1:30 - 2:30 Lunch
2:30 - 4:00 Panel Discussion

Nadarajah Shanmugaratnam
Professor Emeritus, Development Studies, Norwegian
University of Life Sciences (NMBU)
Conservation in the ‘Anthropocene’: What are the Prospects for Biocentric and Anthropocentric Conservation Policy and Practice?

Breena Holland, Associate Professor, Department of
Political Science, Lehigh University, United States

John D. Linnell
Senior Research Scientist, Norwegian Institute for
Nature Research (NINA)

M.D. Madhusudan
Scientist, Western Ghats,
Nature Conservation Foundation

Jayashree Ratnam
National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore

Eivin Røskaft
Professor, Department of Biology, Norwegian
University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
4:00 - 4:30 Coffee break
4:30 - 4:45 Young scholar presentations

Session 2: Climate Change Mitigation and Development

4:45 - 6:15 Invited Talks

Ulka Kelkar
Low carbon energy choices
by urban Indian households

Narasimha D. Rao
How much energy do Indians ‘need’?

Geir Heierstad
India's urban agenda -
growth and climate change

Radhika Khosla
Multiple objective based energy
and climate policy making
6:15 - 7:00 Honoring ATREE Institutional Staff

Day 2: Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Session 3: Forest Governance and Livelihoods

09:00 - 09:45 Keynote speaker

Esther Mwangi
Principal Scientist, Forests and Governance
Program, Center for International Forestry
Research (CIFOR)
09:45 - 10:45 Invited talks

Tamara Ticktin
Sustainability of harvesting non-timber forest products: some lessons learned from the Western Ghats

Sharachchandra Lele
Forests, livelihoods and governance in India: Insights and challenges

Tor A. Benjaminsen
Norway and REDD+ knowledge claims, concealed practices and the creation of success stories
10:45 - 11:00 Young scholar presentations
11:00 - 11:30 Coffee break
11:30 - 12:45 Panel discussion
Empowering local communities for conservation and development

Nitin D. Rai
Fellow, ATREE, Bangalore

Tushar Dash
Vasundhara, Bhubaneshwar

Ilse Köhler Rollefson
League for Pastoral People (LPP), Rajasthan

Charlie Shackleton
Department of Environmental Science, Rhodes
University, South Africa

Sandeep Virmani
Managing Director, Hunnarshala Foundation for
Building Technology & Innovations, Bhuj
12:45 - 1:45 Lunch

Session 4: Water, Land and Society

1:45 - 2:30 Keynote speaker

Upmanu Lall
Water, energy, food, and climate challenges:
prospects for national and regional solutions
2:30 - 3:45 Invited talks

Veena Srinivasan
Bridging the science-policy divide.
Lessons from ATREE's research in South India

Christopher A. Scott
Does the pursuit of food security
jeopardize water security?

Margreet Zwarteveen
Politics and practices of water governance

Richard Allan
Developing strategies for delivery of sustainable
safe drinking water in rural communities
3:45 - 4:00 Young scholar presentations
4:00 - 4:45 High tea
T N Khoshoo Memorial Award Function
4:45 – 5:00 Award ceremony
5:00 – 5:15 Address by the awardee
5:15 - 6:30 Policy round table on water: Is inter-linking of rivers
the only way to solve India's water woes

Sharachchandra Lele
Senior Fellow, ATREE, Bangalore

Prof. Brij Gopal
Coordinator, Centre for Inland Waters
in South Asia, Jaipur

Himanshu Kulkarni
Founder Trustee and Executive Director,

Lyla Mehta
Professor, Institute of International Environment
and Development (Noragric), Norwegian
University of Life Sciences

K. J. Joy
Senior Fellow, SOPPECOM
6:30 - 7:00 Concluding remarks by the Khoshoo family
Vote of thanks by the Director of ATREE

Round Table Discussion on Interdisciplinarity in Environmental Research 4 January 2016 Symposium on Ecology and Culture 8 August 2016

ATREE@20 Press release
Day 1
Day 2

24-25 January 2017, Bengaluru

Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) celebrated 20 years of its work by organising the Conference on Conservation Science and Sustainable Development on January 24 and 25 in Bengaluru. The conference featured key-note speeches, panel discussions and talks by academics and practitioners in the fields of environmental conservation and sustainable development as well as speed-talks by ATREE’s young scholars. The conference concluded with the annual T N Khoshoo Memorial Award, which was conferred on Mr. K.J. Joy, Founder of the Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management (SOPPECOM).

With more than 600 participants from 10 countries, the conference witnessed a mix of students, academics, government officials, donors, and journalists attending sessions on biodiversity, climate change, forest and livelihoods, and water and society.

Book Release- Transcending Boundaries: Reflecting on Twenty Years of Action and Research at ATREE

The conference was inaugurated with a talk about ATREE and its history, delivered by Prof. Kamaljit S. Bawa, President of ATREE. Prof. Bawa reminisced how an institution that was meant to stay small and humble has now grown to address a whole range of modern-day social and environmental issues. He said “Indian scientists are uniquely placed to play a role in demonstrating how to come out of the crisis of the environment”. Ms Rohini Nilekani, ATREE Governing Board member and Chairperson, Arghyam Foundation, praised ATREE’s unique contributions to conservation and sustainability research. His Excellency Nils Ragnar Kamsvag, the Norwegian Ambassador to India, then released the book “Transcending Boundaries: Reflecting on Twenty Years of Action and Research at ATREE”, edited by Ankila Hiremath, Dr Nitin Rai, and Mr Ananda Siddhartha of ATREE.

Key-note addresses

The first key-note address on day-one by Dame Georgina Mace, Professor, University College London, reflected on how nature could be valued in a human-dominated world. Dr. Mace called for investment in natural capital to sustain the benefit streams humans derive from nature.

The second key-note address by Mr. Gunter Pauli, author of the “Blue Economy”, who has sometimes been called the “Steve Jobs of Sustainability”, described innovative business models that could shape the future of water, agriculture, food and energy to ensure access for all. Through a series of case studies, including one on the tea plantations of Kaziranga, Assam and another on how diapers could be made out of charcoal and coffee grounds, Mr. Pauli made a powerful case for using human ingenuity to do much better.

Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Society

The session on Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Society included four plenary speakers: Dr Siddhartha Krishnan summarised ATREE’s contributions to conservation research, discourse, policy and practice over twenty years. Dr Breena Holland, Lehigh University, asked what it means to create an “environmentally just society”. Dr Robert Pressey, ARC Centre for Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, stressed the need to bring science into conservation policy in a way that makes a difference. Prof Arnold van Huis, Wageningen University, described the role of insects as food and feed and what an insect cookbook might look like.

This was followed by a panel discussion on “Conservation in the ‘Anthropocene’: What are the Prospects for Biocentric and Anthropocentric Conservation Policy and Practice?” The discussion was moderated by Dr. Nadarajah Shanmugaratnam, Emeritus Professor of Development Studies at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), and the panelists were Dr. Breena Holland, Dr. John Linnell, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Dr. M.D. Madhusudan, Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), Dr. Jayashree Ratnam, National Centre for Biological Sciences, and Dr. Eivin Røskaft, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

The panelists reflected on the connotations (negative and positive) of the term Anthropocene and how equity, justice and power figure into conversations about how humans are changing the planet. They also discussed the role of the current consumption culture and how we might turn the conversation to “what it means to be a different kind of human?” as Dr. Linnell put it.

Climate Change, Mitigation and Development

The first day ended with a session on Climate Change, Mitigation and Development to mark ATREE’s foray into this area of research. Ms Ulka Kelkar, Fellow at ATREE, described ongoing work on the transition to solar energy in the city of Ramanagara near Bangalore. Using data on clean cookstoves and household diets, Dr Narasimha Rao from International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) illustrated that win-wins in terms of both emissions reductions and human health are possible. Dr Geir Heierstad, from the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research described some of the possibilities and concerns with the Indian Smart Cities Agenda. Finally, Dr Radhika Khosla from the Centre for Policy Research described the links between energy and climate change focusing on the demand-side of Indian energy.

Forests and Livelihoods

The session on Forests and Livelihoods began with a key-note address by Dr Esther Mwangi, Principal Scientist with the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Elaborating on the inequality in forest resource governance, and gender inequality in particular, Dr. Mwangi said "When it comes to land tenure rights, no one talks about cultural issues. But when it comes to women's empowerment, local culture is used as an excuse to question change. We need to see culture as something dynamic, that can change, can be negotiated."

This was followed by a series of invited talks on Forests, Governance, and Livelihoods. Dr. Sharachchandra Lele, Senior Fellow, ATREE presented insights and challenges of forest governance in India. Prof. Tamara Ticktin, University of Hawaii at Manoa stressed the need to understand Non Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) as a part of a larger socio-ecological system in order to harvest them sustainably. Prof. Tor A. Benjaminsen, Norwegian University of Life Sciences critiqued the equity impacts of pilot REDD+ projects in Tanzania.

A panel discussion on the challenges posed by conservation to local populations was moderated by Dr Nitin Rai, Fellow, ATREE and featured Mr Sandeep Virmani, Hunnarshala Foundation, Bhuj; Prof. Charlie Shackleton, Rhodes University; Mr Tushar Dash, Vasundhara; and Ms Ilse KÖhler Rollefson, League for Pastoral People. “There is no such thing as a pristine nature left anywhere in India, communities have played a key role in shaping ecosystems” said Ms Rollefson while talking about the complex interactions that the pastoral communities and livestock have on the grasslands in Madhya Pradesh. Most panellists agreed that there are shortcomings in our educational system, which are making young people disconnected from nature. Many children from tribal areas are sent to residential schools where they promote a kind of education, which is contradictory to their culture.

Water and Society

The Water and Society session included a keynote talk by Dr. Upmanu Lall of Columbia University, who said, “We can argue that we have consumed the environment mightily over the years”. His extensive research on water use patterns in India revealed the role perverse subsidies play in influencing cropping patterns. The study showed that if these are eliminated, the net benefits would far exceed any cost to farmers. India’s PDS system should be targeted to meet nutritional requirements.

In a series of invited talks on the global water crisis, Dr. Chris Scott of the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, University of Arizona wondered if in pursuing food security, we are jeopardizing water security. Dr. Margreet Zwarteveen, UNESCO IHE Institute for Water Education and University of Amsterdam said, “Metrics like the Water Footprint are useful to show people in rich countries how much water they are indirectly consuming. But it should not form the basis for disciplining small farmers in developing countries”. She also stressed the need for more scientific research in developing countries, saying “where science is being produced matters”. Dr. Richard Allan, James Hutton Institute and Strategic Advisory Board: Environment European Committee for Standardisation spoke about Scotland’s experience in providing safe drinking water to rural communities.

Young Scholar Talks

Spirited speed talks by ATREE’s young scholars stole the show with concise three-minute presentations about their research and the issues they address.

Chandrima Home described the “canine conundrum” in the trans-Himalayan landscape: the impacts of free-ranging dogs on livestock. Madhuri Ramesh made the case for the need for turtle conservation to get “fuzzy” and why marine protected areas fail in highly human dominated areas with mobile species like turtles. Aniruddha Marathe’s study of ants in Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh, argued that understanding biodiversity patterns “one small question at a time” can help preserve species. Barkha Subba assessed the possible impact of climate change on Himalayan frogs, taking into account their ability to migrate.

Urbashi Pradhan investigated why bees are disappearing even from an organic pesticide-free state like Sikkim, and found that the old forest has declined and the new forest is empty of nectar. Annesha Chowdhury found that most tea estates in Darjeeling pay lip service to organic certification. Poorna Balaji describe how subsistence farmers in Odisha are being forced to give up their lands for Government CAMPA plantations. Finally, Vikram Aditya warned that the Eastern Ghats are being lost to dams even before their rich biodiversity is fully known.

Nakul Mohan Heble questioned the regulatory mechanism for urban water pollution in Bengaluru. Nachiket Kelkar described how the exploitative panidari system of fishing in the Ganges was overthrown by a social movement only to be replaced by an equally dangerous fishing mafia. R Apoorva presented innovative methods to record how much water households consume so that judicious planning can happen at the city scale. Vidyadhar Atkore showed that maintaining a few un-dammed river tributaries can help mitigate the negative impacts of dams on endemic fish diversity in the Western Ghats.

T N Khoshoo Memorial Award

The T N Khoshoo Memorial Award is given each year to an academician or a practitioner whose work has had an impact in the fields of environment, conservation, or development. The award for 2016 was conferred on Mr. K.J. Joy, co-founder and Senior Fellow of the Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management (SOPPECOM) and Forum for Policy Dialogue on Water Conflicts in India, in recognition of his activist and research work, spanning 30 years, in the development sector.

The TN Khoshoo Award function included a policy round table on “Is inter-linking of rivers the way to solve India's water woes?”. The discussion was moderated by Dr Sharachchandra Lele, Senior Fellow at ATREE, and the panellists included Prof. Lyla Mehta, Noragric; Mr Brij Gopal, Centre for Inland Waters in South Asia; Himanshu Kulkarni, ACWADAM, and Mr K J Joy. On the skewed benefits of technological interventions, Lyla Mehta said, “Scarcity is not just volumetric, but also social and political – it is a question of exclusion and inequality. Lot of interventions assume technology is the solution to a whole gamut of problems, but dams lead to displacement, which have multi-dimensional impacts. We are now in a place where there are private and corporate players along with the state, and there is rampant water grabbing. Rivers are unpredictable, with climate change even more so.”

Engaging the press

The two days of the conference served to inform not only the academic community, including students, on the nuances of present-day social and environmental issues but also the broader civil society through its coverage by regional and national media. Media stories included a coverage on the day’s proceedings, features on conference-speakers such as Arnold van Huis and Gunter Pauli, and coverage of ATREE’s research which were highlighted by posters and installations made by ATREE’s students, research staff and fellows.

Following are links to some of these articles