MUMBAI ~ On the fringes of Tadoba Andheri Tiger Reserve, where leopards are frequently spotted resting on branches, and cobras and bears known to stalk the ground below, a Bangalore resident has set up base atop a 30-foot-tall tree. Brikesh Singh will live here, in a tree house, for 30 days.
Singh is a Greenpeace activist who is undertaking this exercise to draw attention to how coal-based power plants are ruining the biodiversity and ecology of forests. He moved into the tree house, measuring 8 feet by 8 feet, on 1 September. His possessions in his current dwelling include a couple of books, a sleeping bag, some clothes, a cellphone and notebook that can be charged using solar panels. When Open spoke with him on 4 September, his data card had been unable to access the internet, and his three solar panels had yet to be put up because of heavy rains.
The 32-year-old, who has so far had a villager or two from nearby Padmapur staying with him during the nights, steps down only to collect water or for bodily routines. He avoids stepping out at night, and if he does, screams when he climbs down. He has been warned that leopards lurk around, especially at night. “It’s been raining heavily for the last 24 hours. Yesterday, I saw a large cobra just below my tree,” Singh says. “Last night, I am told, a leopard entered Padmapur and attacked a cow.” Some villagers who visit him during the day have also heard growls that could only come from a big cat. In fact, even the tree on which Singh lives was selected after much consideration. “Many other trees in the area that were equally sturdy had leopard and bear pug marks on them. This tree too had a Russell’s Viper living on it. Volunteers cleared it out,” he says.
Fortunately for Singh, villagers have been helpful. They send him food, and have also taught him how to collect clean drinking water from a stream nearby. Singh now digs a small hole near the stream, which soon fills up with water. The top layer of the water, which is always muddy, is thrown away, and the rest, says Singh, is fit for consumption.▪