Meera Subramanian’s Elemental India: The Natural World at a Time of Crisis and Opportunity tells five tales of India’s efforts to balance economic development and environmental protection. The book is divided into chapters entitled Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether–to investigate the five aspects of sustainable development: organic farming, clean cookstoves, freshwater, endangered species, and population and family planning.
Subramanian is a US-based freelance journalist who received a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Fellowship and a grant from the Fund for Environmental Journalism to support reporting for her book.
In the following excerpt, she describes the carcass dump in Bikaner, Rajasthan once home to the White-backed vultures and the longbilled vultures. However the widespread use Diclofenac, a common anti-inflammatory drug administered to livestock has resulted in their near extinction. The drug is fatal to vultures if they eat from the carcass of an animal that has been treated with it.
The vultures are gone, but the livestock carcasses they once consumed by the millions remain. Many are collected and deposited at carcass dumps like the one called Jorbeer on the outskirts of Bikaner, where dogs run wild amid an endless supply of food.
As I travelled around India, I kept hearing about aggressive dogs. Soon after I arrived in Bikaner, someone told me about two local girls, eight or nine years old, who were attacked by dogs at night, while they were sleeping. They were such easy prey. “They were hurt so badly, but not killed,” the man told me.