A R Bharati

Wildlife Service Award (2002)

For the last eight years, A.R. Bharati, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Mumbai, has fought a pitched battle against politicians and slumlords looking to convert Mumbai’s city forest into valuable real estate. Today, there is a marked difference in the level of protection of the park, largely due to Bharati’s courage and convictions. Working with NGOs, government departments and social groups, Bharati has managed to clear the park of hundreds of encroachments, including illegal temples, a bacon factory and hutments that had been established as vote banks by politicians in league with slumlords. He has been the target of angry demonstrators and his family continues to receive death threats. Political efforts to have him transferred were thwarted by court orders that instructed that he remain at his post till the task of clearing the encroachments of Borivli is achieved. A quiet man, he works with children from all communities who are willing to join the battle to save the forests of Borivli. In his words: “Protecting the national park amounts to protecting the water security and thus the financial and health foundation of 15 million Mumbaikars.”