Bahar Dutt

Wind Under The Wings (2008)

Bahar Dutt, Environment Editor, CNN-IBN uses the camera the way a forest guard or officer might use a gun. She is an effective defender of wild India who has transformed environmental journalism from an obtuse segment on the daily news to an independent and vital component of mainstream reportage. She has traversed the length and breadth of India’s wilderness and has been shining a spotlight on the seamier side of Indian politics, business and the wildlife trade. Her reports on mining and the quiet sell-out of forests and biodiversity by politicians and corporates have gone a long way in exposing the corruption that undermines not just the ecological, but even the social fabric of our nation. Her investigations helped halt the construction of an illegal shopping mall on the Yamuna riverbed. She has taken on the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh who wanted to drain wetlands inhabited by Sarus Cranes (and won a Wildscreen – Green Oscar – award in the process). She has posed as a furniture maker to expose the illegal trade in banned timber in the Western Ghats, and even exposed the nexus between the police and a mining company in the Niyamgiri hills of Orissa. One of her most dramatic exposés involved a cement company of global dimensions that had been operating illegally in the forests of Meghalaya on the India-Bangladesh border. More recently, she and the CNN-IBN team exposed the operations of a miner in Goa who had illegally devastated forest lands. Their story led to the shut down of the mine and several threats to Bahar and her crew. In her own words, Bahar Dutt suggests: “At CNN-IBN the environment beat is taken as seriously as any political or mainstream reporting.” Incidentally Bahar Dutt is a trained wildlife and conservation biologist and has worked on Amazonian primates at the Durrell Institute, U.K. She also spent seven years working with and rehabilitating the Bahelias, a community of snake charmers in Rajasthan and Haryana. Through her work with the Joginath Saperas, she has tried to integrate conservation demands with their need to retain their identities. Toward this, she has been working with other conservationists and NGOs to organize them into a snake rescue service and to develop their musical heritage with stage programmes such as ‘A hundred charmers’ that has performed in Italy, U.K. and many parts of India. Her aim, she says, has been to transcend the traditional divides in journalism beyond the rhetoric of tribals vs. tigers, so that the battle against the real enemies of natural India can be effectively fought.