Review | A Walk Up The Hill — Living with People and Nature: A cautionary tale

A Walk Up The Hill: Living with People and Nature; Madhav Gadgil, Penguin Allen Lane, ₹999 | Book search >>

Excerpts | Full review in The Hindu >>

His memoir, A Walk Up The Hill: Living with People and Nature, is a repository of information about how India’s battle for safeguarding ecology was won and lost. It is also a life lived on his terms. Gadgil pulls no punches as he takes on the caste system or corruption or community forestry that have played a role in India’s ecology and biodiversity. […]

Why are forests dwindling?

In spare prose, he makes sense of India’s huge biodiversity, diverse ecological zones, community requirements ranging from those who live in the foothills of revered mountains to those who live with sacred groves. He sees the Forest Department’s role as that of facilitating destruction of forests by snapping the symbiotic relationship between the communities and forests for some fabled greater good. “Our forests are fast dwindling in area and a major reason for this is that no segment of our population has a personal stake in the protection of tree cover,” he points out. […]

Over the years, his key contribution includes the People’s Biodiversity Register, which incorporates locally-sourced information for understanding and managing biodiversity. Gadgil was also one of the founders of the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru. […]

At a time when green norms are being dismantled at a rapid clip across the country, Gadgil’s life comes across as a lesson. A lesson that India is unwilling to learn but appears willing to pay a high price for not learning. […]

Source: “Review of Madhav Gadgil’s A Walk Up The Hill — Living with People and Nature: A cautionary tale”, The Hindu 15 September 2023
Date Visited: 13 November 2023

Also read “To know, is to protect” by Madhav Gadgil (excerpt) | Full text in The Hindu Opinion (13 June 2012) >>

“The British established mode of forest governance imposed restrictions on local forest-dwelling communities. In 1860, the Company withdrew all access rights for using the forests (food, fuel, medicine and selling forest products) since the forests and forest-dwelling communities provided refuge to the rebels during the Sepoy Mutiny.” – Bharat Rural Livelihoods Foundation >>

“Tribal population was spread all over India and most of them occupied wild tracts, hilly and forested areas, away from more civilized centers. In 1880 their population was estimated at about seventy million. They had existed for centuries with their own social traditions and beliefs and subsisted on natural resources. They had preserved their near isolation and way of life until the British administration and policies made inroads into their territories.” – Subha Johari in Tribal Dissatisfaction Under Colonial Economy of 19th Century >>

“Tribal communities have proven that they are the best guardians of the forest and die-hard conservationists”: Illegal mining destroys the life and culture of the conservators of forests >>

“Even though they are responsible for protecting the largest part of the global forest heritage […] a third of indigenous and community lands in 64 countries are under threat due to the lack of land tenure rights.” – Pressenza Rio de Janerio in “Indigenous people are heading to CoP26: ‘There is no solution to the climate crisis, without us’” (Down To Earth, 1 November 2021) >>

“Two main streams within Indian anthropology influenced the literary and visual representations of tribes by mainstream writers, artists and film-makers.” – Dr. Ivy Hansdak clarifies how they are associated with “assimilationist” and “isolationist” positions or policies >>

In Marginalised but not Defeated, Tarun Kanti Bose (a seasoned public interest journalist) “documents the hard and difficult struggle to implement the Forest Rights Act, how the oppressed adivasis have united into forest unions, how they are now entering into new thresholds of protracted struggles and victories in a non-violent manner.” | Learn more: >>

“Tribal men and women mix freely, but with respect for each other [but] caste Hindu society in India is so convinced of its own superiority that it never stops to consider the nature of social organisation among tribal people. In fact it is one of the signs of the ‘educated’ barbarian of today that he cannot appreciate the qualities of people in any way different from himself – in looks or clothes, customs or rituals.” – Guest Column in India Today >>

Learn more about colonial policies, the Forest Rights Act, its importance for ecology, biodiversity, ethnobotany and nutrition, and about the usage of Adivasi (Adibasi) communities in different states of India: in legal and historical records, in textbooks, scholarly papers and the media >>

Report of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel 2011
Report of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel
Source: (accessed: 16 September 2016) | Backup copy (PDF, 3,6 MB) >>
Learn more about
Western Ghats tribal heritage and ecology >>

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