Dr Kodira Kushalapa arrived in Edinburgh in 1970 to research forest mapping technology. A return visit to King's Buildings in 2019 prompted him to reflect on his work in forest conservation over the past five decades.
MSc in Forestry
|Year of Graduation||
At the moment
I recently turned 83. I am a forest officer from the Indian Forest Service (IFS). I retired 23 years ago (1997) as Regional Chief Conservator of Forests and have settled down in Mysore, India ever since. I am part of several associations (NGOs) and help in addressing environmental issues in my city, with focus on tree planting and other activities. I also utilise my time in writing articles for magazines and newspapers about environmental protection, conservation of trees and forests. I have recently published my autobiography.
Your time at the University
In 1970 I was serving in the Forest Department of Karnataka, India when I was awarded a Commonwealth Family Fellowship to study the MSc in Forestry at the University of Edinburgh. Hence I arrived in Edinburgh, accompanied by my wife and five-month-old son in September 1970. We stayed in the YWCA Foreign Students Hostel near the famous meadows of Edinburgh. Forest mapping through satellite imagery was recently introduced in India and so I wanted to learn more about its technology to be able to contribute to the Forest Survey of India. I was doing research in the Department of Forest and Natural Resources at the King’s Buildings and was guided by Dr Malcolm on ‘Films and Filters for Aerial Photography of Forests’. I did my field work in the nearby Dalmeny Estate. My research was submitted in the form of a thesis for the MSc in 1972.
On a personal front, my son used to go to a playschool while my wife used to manage the household affairs. We had lot of friends from India so we didn’t miss home too much. I also met a lot of people from different countries and cultural backgrounds and this was an enriching experience. I joined the Cruden’s Hockey Club and used to play hockey during the weekends. We also made often short visits to the Highlands.
We were assisted by a host Scottish family identified by the British Council to help us adjust with the new lifestyle in Edinburgh. During my time at the University I was sent to Europe to study different methods of aerial photography, and clear my doubts for my thesis. I had to discontinue my research towards a PhD and come back home with an MSc degree because of certain unavoidable circumstances back home.
Your experiences since leaving the University
My MSc and research at Edinburgh got me interested in and enabled me to take up further research on forests for the next 10 years, laying several sample plots and experimental plots. I attended several conferences in India and abroad presenting papers in forestry research results. My time at Edinburgh gave me a head-start into this field. I went on to do my PhD at Mysore University on eucalyptus growth studies in 1988. Coming from a remote village in India and to have gotten the opportunity to study in Edinburgh was an achievement indeed. I am proud of the fact that I had the commitment to excel and was consistent in topping my classes during forestry training.
After leaving Edinburgh with enhanced knowledge in forestry and its allied subjects, I not only contributed towards my own career but am fortunate to have had many opportunities to serve the forests and environment of India to bring about many crucial developments in the areas of climate changes, forest protection and depleting natural resources.
I retired from the IFS in 1997 and settled in Mysore. I acted as a consultant in various private and government organisations including World Bank assisted eco-development programmes, DANIDA seed production, Water Consumption of Eucalyptus in collaboration with Oxford Forestry Institute etc. I was also the Chairman of an educational Institution for five years in my city in India.
Unfortunately I lost my son in 1988 and wife in 2017 and we didn’t get to visit UK together. However I visited Edinburgh for a vacation with my daughter, son-in-law and grand-daughter in May 2019. It was indeed very nostalgic to see my university, King’s Buildings, Rankeillor Street where I lived etc, after 49 long years.
[I] am fortunate to have had many opportunities to serve the forests and environment of India to bring about many crucial developments in the areas of climate changes, forest protection and depleting natural resources.
Life during Covid-19
Due to Covid-19, in India movements have been restricted for people above 65+ years, hence I have been indoors since last three months. Nevertheless I am optimistic and continue learning more about the environment and keep myself occupied by writing articles on various environment related topics.
I visited Edinburgh in May 2019 and was surprised to find that forestry is no longer a stand-alone department but has merged with other relevant departments such as botany, zoology etc. I wonder if this step will reduce the importance of forest conservation, however, I am positive that these steps have been taken in the best interest of the students and the university.
I advise more students to take up environmental studies as it is the need of the hour, especially now with global warming, climate change, reduction in bio-diversity, destruction of natural flora and fauna etc.
Forest conservation is our priority and we must conserve and protect the natural forests of our planet for us and our future generations. Our world needs more responsible global citizens concerned about the conservation of the environment.
Indian Forest Service (external link)