Chris RISKED LIFE & health to properly study Himalayan flora; COWARDLY, IDLE Indian botanists sit in offices inventing 'rare' species!

You might be a bit shocked at Chris' forthright and severe criticism of botanists and officials from the Indian sub-continent.  He has kept quiet for three decades about the extraordinary laziness and downright incompetence which pervades and has infected all but a handful - one only has to inspect, from an informed perspective just how little has been achieved by the Botanical Survey of India since Independence in 1947 and the woeful standard of what has but as successive Indian governments  have actively discouraged and now actually prohibit international collaboration through criminal legislation, some based on the flawed Nagoya Protocol, which has nothing to do with conservation or protection but is a international ploy to enable officials and governments to exploit their own people.  Serious corruption exists and needs to be confronted and exposed.  It is with much regret that during his investigations, prompted by his atrocious treatment by the BBC (who cannot be trusted) that individual members of staff of the major British botanical gardens conduct themselves in a seriously inappropriate way as do most international bodies.  Surely all cannot be true.  Sorry but it is and if you a interested and genuinely care like Chris does, get in touch with him and offer your support - though he realises that whistle-blowers like him are never popular.


Chris' Nepalese* non-botanist assistant searching for GENTIANA  KURROO on a near sheer limestone cliff near Mussoorie - he also went down here but his balance was superior to mine, rather like a mountain-goat (in a non-derogatory sense).  I know of no Indian botanist who has ever botanised in such habitat (nor would it be safe for them to do so) but they don't even negotiate large boulders or more modest cliffs, leaving it all to assistants, barely venturing tens of metres from the vehicle.  If one fails to explore such habitats (and be able to reliably identify the species present when they are in the field, which hardly any Indian botanist can do), then it is IMPOSSIBLE to assess the rarity or abundance not just of such cliff-dwellers but ALL species found in places off the beaten-track or by the road-side. Similarly, Indian botanists seldom trek (camp) for days or weeks as I have or participated in expeditions lasting months. You CANNOT competently decide which species are rare or even 'critically endangered' (which means about to become extinct).  When they occasionally venture out of the offices, it is often for one-off days or perhaps a single over-night (not camping).  Czech plant geographers have camped at the highest elevations for flowering plants in Ladakh, even discovering a new genus of plants.  I know of not one botanist who has ever trekked to such altitudes.  Yes, one can now sit in a vehicle and be transported up several passes at 4800-5000m+ (the highest in Indian territory is 5359m [17,582']) but that doesn't count - it depends on what you can do, once you are there - Indian botanists from sea-level are likely to struggle to do anything!  INSTEAD THEY FRAUDULENTLY INVENT RARE SPECIES UNDER THE PRETENCE OF 'CAMP' METHODOLOGY, WHICH THE IUCN, CITES AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL BODIES BLINDLY SWALLOW - HOW IGNORANT AND GULLIBLE CAN THEY BE! © Chris Chadwell

MAGNUS RAMSAY, MY SCOTTISH ASSISTANT STRETCHING FOR A SPECIMEN OF A PRIMULA TO PRESS AS A BOTANICAL SPECIMEN FOR EDINBURGH BOTANICAL GARDEN DURING OUR 1985 EXPEDITION. HOPING ACROSS STEEP, SLIPPERY WATERFALLS AT 4000m IS NOT FOR EVERYONE - MAGNUS WAS A ROCK & ICE-CLIMBER.  I KNOW OF NO INDIAN BOTANIST WHO HAS EVER EXPLORED IN SUCH HABITATS OR WOULD BE SAFE TO NEGOTIATE SUCH TERRAIN.  FROM A DISTANCE THEY COULD NOT POSSIBLY IDENTIFY WHICH SPECIES GREW THERE!  © Chris Chadwell

MT. KOLAHOI'S SOUTH GLACIER, KASHMIR IN 1985 - I BET NO INDIAN BOTANIST HAS EVER BEEN ON THIS GLACIER OR THE ROCKY SLOPES AROUND. HAVE THEY EVER SEEN LIVING SPECIMENS OF SAUSSUREA SIMPSONIANA AT ITS UPPER ALTITUDINAL LIMIT? OF COURSE NOT... THEY DON'T HAVE A CLUE AS TO WHAT GROWS UP IN THE HIGHER MOUNTAINS OF KASHMIR - THE MOST THEY USUALLY MANAGE IS A JAUNT UP TO MOUNT APHAWAT ABOVE GULMARG, A SHORT DRIVE FROM THEIR UNIVERSITY CAMPUS IN SRINAGAR.  NOW ONE CAN EVEN REACH ALMOST TO THE TOP BY A 'GONDOLA' (CABLE-CAR). THEY DON'T NORMALLY EVEN SPENT A SINGLE NIGHT CAMPING BUT HEAD ALL THE WAY BACK TO SRINAGAR; WHAT A WASTE OF VALUABLE PLANT EXPLORATION TIME, HAVING REACHED 4000m OR SO. I BRIEFLY CORRESPONDED WITH THE LATE KRISHAN LAL ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF A POPULAR GUIDE TO FLOWERS OF THE WESTERN HIMALAYA. HE HAD EXPLORED FAR MORE EXTENSIVELY FOR FLORA IN HIMACHAL PRADESH THAN ANY INDIAN BOTANIST EVER HAS AND HAD THE FINANCES TO OWN A 4-WD VEHICLE, WHICH ENABLED HIM TO ACCESS THE PASSES OF HIMACHAL INCLUDING BARALACHA LA (4800m), YET AT MOST, HE WOULD SPEND A SINGLE NIGHT AT HIGHER ALTITUDE AND THEN TRAVEL ALL THE WAY BACK TO HIS HOME AT NAHAN @ 700m I THINK....CHRIS ON THE OTHER HAND, SPENDS AS MUCH TIME AT HIGHER ELEVATIONS AS POSSIBLE, PARTICULARLY AS IT TAKES SO MUCH TIME, EFFORT AND EXPENSE TO GET THEIR IN THE FIRST PLACE (INCLUDING ACCLIMATISATION DAYS AT MEDIUM ELEVATIONS). IT SEEMS THEY BASE THEIR ESTIMATES OF RARITY (OR NOT) FOR SPECIES BASED UPON THE OCCURRENCE ON MT APHAWAT (ACCESSIBLE FROM THE CAMPUS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF KASHMIR IN LESS THAN 3 HOURS).  WHAT ABOUT THE DOZENS OF OTHER HIGHER MOUNTAINS AND RANGES WITHIN KASHMIR TERRITORY?  THEY HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA.  CHRIS HAS EXPLORED IN THE HIGHER MOUNTAINS OF KASHMIR DURING JUST TWO EXPEDITIONS, MORE EXTENSIVELY THAN ALL BOTANISTS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF KASHMIR PUT TOGETHER SINCE THE DEPARTMENT WAS ESTABLISHED IN 1960!  THIS SHOULD BE A SITUATION OF CONSIDERABLE EMBARRASSMENT BUT THAT IS NOT THE CASE - INSTEAD, SOME OF THE STAFF ATTACK AND CRITICISE CRHIS FOR SHOWING UP THEIR INADEQUACIES. © Chris Chadwell


IT IS ONLY POSSIBLE TO ASCERTAIN THE RARITY OR ABUNDANCE OF HIMALAYAN FLORA, PARTICULARLY THE HIGHER-ALTITUDE SPECIES, BY UNDERTAKING EXTENSIVE SURVEYS IN DIFFICULT TERRAIN, WITH THE NECESSARY FIELD-RECOGNITION SKILLS OF A BOTANIST FAMILIAR WITH THE FLORA.  I KNOW OF NOT ONE INDIAN BOTANIST WHO QUALIFIES FOR THE NORTH-WEST HIMALAYA (there is one operating in Uttaranachal but I classify that as part of the Central Himalaya).  WORKING METHODICALLY UNDER SUCH CONDITIONS IS CHALLENGING - WHILST ACCLIMATISING, ONE TYPICALLY FEELS DEPRESSED, HOMESICK, HAS A RAKING COUGH FROM THE DRY AIR (IF ONE IS EXPLORING IN THE TRANSHIMALAYA) AND, IS WEAK, FINDING IT HARD TO GET SUFFICIENT SLEEP.  FOR SOMEONE LIKE MYSELF, THOUGH A ROBUST FIGURE OVERALL, BEING SUSEPTIBLE TO GASTRO-INTESTINAL PROBLEMS, BEING PARTICULAR ABOUT HYGIENE ALONG WITH AN ADEQUATE FIRST-AID AND MEDICAL-KIT, IS VITAL.  THIS WAS NOT THE CASE DURING MY FIRST EXPEDITION, FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON IN 1980.  THE LEADER & CO-LEADER DID NOT HAVE A CLUE AND I WAS AN 'INNOCENT ABROAD', FOOLISHLY TRUSTING THEM TO TAKE CARE OF THE 6-MEMBER TEAM.  THEY FAILED MISERABLY; I WAS NEGLECTED AND ABANDONED - AT ONE POINT, TO PUT IT GRAPHICALLY, "IT WAS COMING OUT BOTH ENDS UP TO 10 TIMES/DAY".....

SCROLL DOWN TO KASHMIR SECTION OF THIS PAGE TO LEARN HOW CHRIS REALLY SHOULD HAVE DROWNED 35 YEARS AGO - HE FEELS THAT 'THE GODS' DECIDED IT WAS NOT HIS TIME AND THEY HAD TASKS AHEAH FOR HIM, TO COMPLETE QUALITY BOTANICAL STUDIES (AS HE IS CURRENTLY PUBLISHING) AND EXPOSING THE SHAMEFUL SCANDAL WHICH EXISTS.  ODD THAT THE BBC IS NOT INTERESTED IN INVESTIGATING THIS - INSTEAD, THEY APPOINT CORRUPT JOURNALISTS LIKE NAVIN SINGH KHADKA TO COME UP WITH SMOKESCREENS TO PROTECT THE WRONGDOERS - HARDLY SURPRISING, AS ONE OF THE WRONG DOERS IS A VERY, VERY FAMOUS NAME FROM AMONGST THEIR RANKS.....  THE BBC ARE PAST MASTERS AT COVERING UP, AS WE HAVE DISCOVERED FROM THE JIMMY SAVILL CASE......

'LITTLE TIBET' (LADAKH)

No Primulas or Meconopsis down there! Gulam Rasool Beigh, Chris' guide, interpreter & cook inspecting an alarmingly deep hole in the Drung Drung glacier, the longest in Ladakh - it was much deeper than the rope, carried by Ghulam's brother. There is no way that pathetic, double-chinned, chunky BBC journalist Navin Singh Khadka would have had the physical strength or nerve to have accompanied them!  © Chris Chadwell

The three adventurous plant explorers on Drung, Drung glacier - photo taken using tripod and timer; Chris knows of only one Indian botanist who he considers could cope with the rigours of camping at altitude and negotiating such terrain safely, the others would either have given up or been a liability to themselves and others © Chris Chadwell

Drung, Drung glacier © Chris Chadwell

Ghulam and the rest of the team camping in Zanskar © Chris Chadwell

Chris Chadwell shortly after having survived, thankfully with minor cuts & bruises (though his track-suit bottom was ripped) slipping on a steep scree searching for a Corydalis which inhabits such places - he was able to utilise his sturdy walking stick, purchased in Pakistan whilst leading a botanical tour in 1987, like an ice-axe, to stop his speeding progress downwards after a slip, just before reaching a drop likely to have resulted in a broken limb, not a good position to be in, as the nearest basic 'cottage' hospital was days away.  Unlike Nepal, helicopter rescues in India were rarities. Note his strong walking boots, invaluable as he slid on sharp rocks. From a distance, the scree looks barren but there are a few specialised plants adapted to the extreme conditions, often with camouflaged leaves - again, Indian botanists do not know about the distribution of such plants © Alastair McKelvie

Ghulam serving lunch at the road-(track)side during an expedition in Ladakh © Chris Chadwell

The 'Super Fast' Public Carrier truck used for one of the journeys to Ladakh © Chris Chadwell


Truck drivers (ours was to the left) and Indian Army personnel curious at the crazy 'Britisher' practising with his ice-axe on road-side snow. © Chris Chadwell

Chris with his Kashmiri assistant, holding a trusty ice-axe © Ghulam Rasool Beigh (third recipient of a Kohli Memorial Gold Medal for his significant contribution as guide, interpreter and cook during Chris' expeditions in Kashmir & Ladakh during the 1980s, see: https://sites.google.com/a/shpa.org.uk/main/kohli-memorial-gold-medals - scroll down to 2007)

KASHMIR

Chris Chadwell with two temporary porters hired from local village to help carry our packs to establish a camp on the glacier south of Mt. Kolahoi; this did not materialise, as my Scottish guide based in Kashmir (who had climbed the mountain before) managed to injure himself with an ice-axe cutting steps in the ice to enable the porters to safely get onto the glacier (I bandaged him up and we abandoned our ascent, despite his protestations he was OK) this followed from my expedition companion feeling unwell and turning back after a few hours on the first day of the walk towards our first night camping.  © Chris Chadwell

Chris Chadwell washing his hair in an extremely cold glacial stream during the 1983 Kashmir Botanical Expedition

One of Chris' team-members leading the pack-animals across the out-flow from Vishensar Lake

Where Chris Chadwell very nearly drowned during his 1983 Kashmir Botanical Expedition.  Had had headed down a fairly steep well-vegetated mountainside towards, hoping to find a route downstream to meet up with my team.  I had been driven nuts by a temporary addition to our 'team' (a UK graduate who had been teaching in India for six months, who studied at the same university of one of the team), who took pleasure in disrupting things, pronouncing as she was not part of my team, she did not have to take any notice of what I said or follow my objectives; she was on a glorified holiday, whereas we were there to work (or at least I was...though detected mutiny). I 'escaped' that day, unwisely it turned out. At the bottom, I reached a modest glacial river, hoping I could navigate down-stream, following the near-side bank but soon came across a sheer cliff-face (important lesson, do not, unaccompanied or accompanied for that matter, attempt to discover a new route/short-cut - the locals, at this elevation, by a process of trial and error, over a period of centuries, work out the safest routes).  The water seemed not that fast-flowing and clear, giving a false sense of security; I jumped onto a boulder in the middle of the small river but when attempting to reach the other side, slipped and fell in backwards, starting to float downstream, initially slowly but speeded up! The water was not that cold but it did not take long too have an impact.  I tried to grab hold onto rocks but could not hold on; as I was wearing over-trousers (and had a day-sack), these were a problem, so I managed to take these off.  Next I hit my head on a large boulder, causing a cut but I remained conscious, there was no point in calling out, as there was nobody to hear and given the noise of the river, it would have masked my shouts anyhow.  I managed to twist my neck to get a view down-stream, and saw rapids approaching.... Then, I was shot into the air and plunged down to the bottom of a ten-foot (3 metres or so) pool, managing to surface but as soon as I got a gulp of air, what turned out to be a whirl-pool, took me down again and again, then fortunately I was pushed out to the edge of the water and just clung on sufficiently to pull myself out.  After all that, I was still on the same side of the river!  Another attempt would have been insanity, so I was left, totally soaked of course and exhausted, to retrace my way steps up the steep mountain slope.  Luckily, as light started to fade, I came across a family who had built a small dwelling; they came to my rescue, providing a hot drink, meal and place for the night.  I handed over a 100 Rupee bill as a thank you; I was taken aback when the lady of the house suggested that it was too much and I should only pay half the amount!  Just goes to show that once one is away from large towns and cities, where you must be on your toes, at risk of theft and cheating, the people are almost always great.  © Chris Chadwell

As for the lessons learnt?  I became much more cautious in the mountains, which served me well for leading more than 20 botanical tours and scientific expeditions along the Himalaya.  I had made a very serious error of judgement and lived to tell the tale.   I should  have drowned but the 'gods' were with me, enabling me to escape.  It strikes me it was not my time - I was destined to gain more experience and build up expertise so I was in a position to "cause more trouble", so should use this event from 35 years ago (I never told my mother what happened) to keep me strong against those who have harmed me.... The world needs 'trouble-makers' and whistle-blowers, though this is never as easy path to follow.

I have travelled on local buses on numerous occasions - though they are not always simple to board or exit, hence Ghulam's approach © Chris Chadwell

A col near Sunset Peak, Pir Panjal range. Magnus Ramsay and I then followed a steep ridge to the top of the mountain.  As one stepped onto the large rocks, they moved, rather alarmingly.  Magnus was an experienced rock & ice climber plus long-distance walker.  Near the top, after coming across a colony of the amazing Saussurea simpsoniana, I was steadying myself by holding onto what I took to be a solid cliff with a steep drop to the right-hand-side; a large jagged-edged rock then moved, crushing the top of two fingers and cutting deeply into a middle one.  Magnus was a tough Scot of Shetland Island stock, 6 foot 5 inch, mountain man.  I approached him for sympathy and help to bandage myself up - he was dismissive, a minor flesh-wound, stop making a fuss (you English softy he no doubt thought but did not say). Feeling rather sorry for myself, I did the necessary.  There was something to be said for his approach - and after all, on one occasion, when he was doing (alone) some tree surgery work with a chain-saw, this slipped and cut him from the top of his thigh down to his knee-cap.  His car was a quarter of a mile away.  So he grabbed the wound, held it tight, reached his vehicle and then drove himself to A&E.  Yes, I did qualify as 'soft' in comparison...  I doubt if any Indian botanist has botanized in such terrain. © Chris Chadwell

Chris using a wonky birch branch as a stick below Mt. Kolahoi's north glacier © Chris Chadwell

HIMACHAL  PRADESH

Chris above the Rohtang Pass - it is not far but few, if any, Indian botanist has ever searched the steep cliffs and amongst large boulders 300-500m above the pass.  It is falsely claimed that Primula reptans is rare, growing in inaccessible places.  Well, in the mid-1980s, I came over the Rohtang with two botanical tour groups, heading for Lahaul, in the borderlands of Western Tibet.  At that time, Primula reptans grew in vast quantities on flat ground and the gentlest of slopes at the top of the pass.  It remains there, just, but the population has been much reduced due to trampling, especially the hooves of riding ponies which are taken up to provide rides to large numbers of Indian tourists, bored at reaching the top, disappointed that there is now snow to touch and be photographed on during the summer months. © Chris Chadwell

Crossing a Nullah (river) in Lahaul, borderlands of Western Tibet in a wooden 'bucket', as bridge had been washed away; I was leading a botanical tour on this occasion; one titled British lady had been giving me grief, so when she was clearly uncomfortable crossing, I had her 'dangled' for longer than was necessary - after which she was more subdued, Everyone has a vulnerability in mountains, so should bear this in mind © Chris Chadwell

If you were to fall into the icy, incredibly fast-flowing murky water (in flood) you would not last long - so not for the feint-hearted © Chris Chadwell







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