Envis Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India

Printed Date: Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Scottish Father of Indian Forestry to Be Honoured





Museum in Junnar to commemorate Dr Alexander Gibson, the first conservator of forests`



Alexander Gibson, a 19th century Scottish surgeon from British India, considered to be the father of Indian forestry, had close ties to Pune district, especially Junnar. In a bid to commemorate these ties, the forest department, along with city-based environmentalists, plan to set up a museum at Junnar.

"We already have a rest house which we will renovate and then put up an exhibition. This will be a different kind of exercise. We already have information about Gibson but no photos, which we are trying to procure," said V A Dhokte, deputy conservator of forests (Junnar division).

Gibson came to India as a surgeon with the East India Company. He later became superintendent of the Dapuri (present day Dapodi) Botanical Gardens and was instrumental in the implementation of forest conservation laws under the East India Company. In one of the reports he had written to J D Hooker (a prominent botanist of that time) in 1841, he mentioned that the Deccan is more bare than Gujarat with the ghat mountain trees disappearing fast. He had requested Hooker to influence the government and control the forests of Deccan and Konkan. This led to the creation of the Bombay Forest Conservancy and Gibson was made conservator of forests. This was the first case of state management of forests in the world.

Last year, Dr Satish Pande, a city-based ornithologist, founder of the Ela Foundation and himself a doctor, had made a documentary based on his exhaustive research on Gibson for which he visited various places in the UK. To create the museum, he has tied up with the forest department. "We have several letters that he wrote to Hooker. He was the first conservator of forests and the first forest department was formed under him in 1846. His life and these documents will be displayed in the museum in chronological order. Unfortunately, no photograph of him is available. This will be the first ever museum built in honour of a forester," Pande informed.

The forest rest house named after him is now going to be converted into a museum. It had remained closed for many years and will now be renovated completely. Elaborating on Gibson's relations with Junnar, Manoj Hadwale, founder of Junnar Tourism Development Organisation, who started a tourism movement in Junnar for social reasons and livelihood improvement, said, "When the British started feeling the shortage of wood coming from Burma for building ships, they sent Gibson to survey the forests at Konkan. He fell in love with the forests and surveyed all of the Western Ghats. If there were places where his vehicle could not go, he would go on horseback. He also called Junnar a sanatorium where his friends could come if they were under the weather."





Source: Pune Mirror