Making Conservation Work (Securing Biodiversity in this New Century)

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Item Code: NAG287
Author: Ghazala Shahabuddin and Mahesh Rangarajan
Publisher: Permanent Black
Language: English
Edition: 2007
ISBN: 9788178241975
Pages: 312
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9 inch X 5 inch
Weight 510 gm
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Book Description

About the Book


Wildlife today is competing with some of India's most underprivileged people for survival. This apart commercial and industrial pressure from far outside park boundaries reverberate within these fragile ecological oases, making them vulnerable in a way they never have been before. Reconciling the question of preserving what little wildlife remains with the needs of humans has never seemed as tangled.


Fortress conservation', bassed solely on strict nature protection, is one response to these pressures, a response under attack. Recent tiger crises and tribal land rights debates have highlighted the opposition of strict preservationists to advocates of people's rights. Meanwhile, fresh work in sociology and biology, and innovative interventions, show new ways forward that do not neatly fit existing paradigms.


This book moves from generalities to specifics, from ideal models to working approaches, that seek to secure India's biodiversity by fashioning practical responses bassed on new, often unexpected, partnerships. A lucid introduction outlines the conservation situation in India; the essays that follow illustrate various facets of it. Each essay is deeply gounded in the field-the authors explore whether and how far animal and human needs can be reconciled.


Making Conservation work articulares a new, urgent discourse on conservation. It is a volume that looks ahead with cautious hope. For all who want to understand the conservation debate today, this is an indispensable book.


About the Author


Ghazala Shahabuddin, a PhD from Duke University, is a fellow with the Council for Social Development, Delhi, and a research associate with the Wildlife Conservation Society. She has published extensively on sustainable forest use, the human impact on forests, and conservation-induced displacement. Her recent work is on forest management and resource extraction in relation to dry-forest birds.


Mahesh Rangarajan is Visiting Professor of History, Jadavpur University, Kolkata. A familiar face on Indian television as an expert on elections, he is equally actively engaged, as a citizen and scholar, with conservation issues. Rangarajan was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and has been a Fellow of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi. He has taught at Cornell, Delhi University and the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore. His books include Fencing the Forest and India's Wildlife History .He has edited The Oxford Anthology of Indian Wildlife and Environmental Issues in India: A Reader.




Reports In Early 2005 of The Local Extermination of The Tiger in Sariska, a prominent Indian tiger reserve, shocked the conservation community and the public. For most conservationists, it was a dramatic manifestation of the failure of state-centred efforts for protection: the extermination had been in the making for several years (Johnsingh et al. 1997). But the greater significance of the event lay in the fact that this was the first verified tiger extinction from any Protected Area (PA) in India.


Sariska has always been a high-profile tiger habitat. Established in the first phase of Project Tiger, close to centres of power in Delhi and Jaipur, the reserve was frequented by ministers and bureaucrats and was often in the national news. With much research for doctoral theses being conducted there, Sariska has had its share of attention from biologists too. It had one of the highest guard-to-forest area ratios in the country (Ministry of Environment & Forests 2005: 46). It also received frequent grants from the World Wide Fund for Nature-India for infrastructural improvement.


The crisis was doubly significant for another reason. Sariska has been the site for prominent village-based initiatives in forest and water conservation since the late 1980s (Anon. 2000). Many conservationists argued that a balance of some sort had been established between local user rights and conservation needs over the years through a consensual process (Kothari et al. 1999).

Yet the tigers had disappeared.


In immediate response to the crisis, the state Forest Department, supported by wildlife enthusiasts, took steps to increase armed protection of the tiger reserve (Express News Service 2005b), to clear the reserve of all human influence and to mete out severe punishment to poachers. Local villagers were arrested as part of tiger poaching rings, but without significant corroborative evidence (Gupta 2005). The reserve was closed off to the public for a period of four months for investigations, shrouding governmental machinations in secrecy.


The Indian government set up a Tiger Task Force (TTF) in an attempt to explore long-term causes of the crisis. Sunita Narain, a well-known advocate of people-based participatory conservation, was appointed as its chairperson. In July 2005, after consultations and hearings with biologists, social scientists, activists and forest officers across the country, the TTF suggested an approach to the crisis of conservation that was more nuanced and reasoned than earlier policies. It advocated delineating carefully the plan of action in each reserve, based on scientific studies on extractive activities. The TTF called for transparent decision- making to prioritize which human settlements needed to be relocated. It advocated economic incentives in larger, adjacent zones that would give villagers a reason to protect wildlife. The report also criticized the manner of decision-making on the issues of PA management that has historically been dictated solely by the foresters without significant reference to either science or public opinion (Ministry of Environment & Forests 2005). The working of the Tiger Task Force represented a significant step forward in India's conservation history. Its transparent mode of functioning was acknowledged even by its critics (K. U. Karanth 2005b).


The public response to the report of the Tiger Task Force, however, showed up in sharp relief the extremely divided nature of opinions between proponents of exclusionary PA management and those of participatory conservation. The report was strongly criticized by Valmik Thapar, an influential wildlifer who has written extensively on tigers, for not giving enough importance to tiger conservation needs. He saw the report's recommendations as 'the final nail in the coffin' for the tiger (Frontline, 9 Sept 2005). Nor did he see any possibilities for the co-existence of people and tigers.


At the time of writing, it is too early to judge what the consequences of the TIF's report will be for the future of conservation in India. However, governmental machinery has begun to roll, in an ostensible bid to revive this tiger habitat. A plan for village relocation, dormant for three years, was abruptly revived in July 2005; it proposes to move out all 27 villages from Sariska. The process of displacement was to begin with those in the core area; the relocation package, however, was barely adequate (for details, see Shahabuddin et al. 2005a). The TTF proposal about sharing tourism revenues with villagers has been ignored by the reserve management. The reserve management's decision to reintroduce tigers in Sariska (Express News Service 2005c) was made without consultations with leading tiger biologists. Neither did press releases indicate any intention on the part of the forest bureaucracy of concurrently taking the other steps recommended by the Tiger Task Force related to institutional reform or infrastructural improvement. The response of park managers and the state government of Rajasthan was simple: they aimed to create a 'people-free zone' in and around the reserve. There was no thought given to whether this was the correct or only remedy.


What has been most striking about the current conservation crisis is the virtual absence of a sense of Sariska's ecology or ecological history in the administrative response of the reserve management. Such knowledge may have imparted some logic to decision-making. From the start, relocation of villages was made a priority. This implied that local forest use (and locally abetted tiger poaching) was the sole obstacle to effective conservation in Sariska. Recent ecological research does indeed point to linkages between forest resource use and habitat degradation (Kumar & Shahabuddin 2005; Shahabuddin & Verma 2003). Patterns of resource extraction over the last few decades have resulted in declines in habitat- selective animal species and adverse changes in plant composition and structure. But there is evidence that much of this extractive pressure on the reserve is generated by nearby urban centres. In Sariska's instance, these towns lie much beyond the core. In addition to this, reserve managers rarely spare a thought for the historical legacy of commercial forest use on local ecology. The plant communities of the reserve show the graphic and visible impact of earlier state-sponsored forest product extraction and selective logging. Clear felling in the past has resulted in vast even- aged stands of young dhok (Anogeissus pendula) trees that cannot support significant animal diversity. Khair (Acacia catechu) trees were so intensively exploited for commercial katha production that they are now rare in the forest. Foresters and many conservationists tend to render such impacts invisible in their accounts and plans for Sariska. Their single- minded focus on current village-based extractive activity as virtually the sole culprit in biodiversity loss is therefore misleading (Shahabuddin et al. 2005b).


Above all, the historical details of glaring misgovernance in the re- serve (Johari 2003) that has kept resident people and development in limbo for years together (without either legal settlement of rights or satisfactory relocations) were bypassed in all official press releases. There is evidence of forest-use rights being conferred and taken away with equal arbitrariness. According to all records, forest rights have gradually diminished without provision of biomass alternatives or compensations in any form (Johari 2003). While miners and tourist operators gained lucrative access to the reserve over the years, controls on bona fide local use rights were gradually tightened. With no security of livelihoods, local people maximized their short-term gains from the forest in whatever way they could and today survive on a precarious debt-based economy supported by minimal developmental infrastructure (Shahabuddin et al. 2005b). Meanwhile, critical management issues like infrastructural improvement or enhancement of people's participation receive little attention from reserve authorities. If there was a free-for-all in the reserve, the lack of motivation in the protection staff and widespread corruption were greatly to blame.


At first sight, the current setting for dialogue or innovation in conservation seems far from ideal. The polarization between advocates of the preservationist approach and those of a more participatory approach has never been more marked. It is our argument, however, that a considered reading of the situation offers grounds for hope and more nuanced ways of working through these conflicts. It is best to begin by stating what should by now have been obvious starting points.



Even at this critical juncture in India's conservation history, certain broad points are obvious enough to be agreed upon.

First, conservation without parks is unthinkable. Areas free of permanent human settlement or biomass extraction are indispensable as refugia for representative species and ecosystems. They are also integral to any larger, more holistic approaches to land and water management. Any such landscape-level strategy must, among other things, secure at least a fraction of the landmass or waterscape inclusive of all its taxa.


Given our earlier comments regarding the ambiguity in understanding human impacts on biodiversity, this may sound like a contradiction. However, some intact landscapes are vital in a country with a population density of over 300 people to a square kilometre. Over the last quarter century, India's economy has been among the world's twelve fastest growing ones. One only has to look at the Ganga-Brahmaputra riverine plains to realize that parks like Chitwan in Nepal and Kaziranga in India are like real-life relict landscapes, with animal and plant communities in wet savannah grassland that have been obliterated virtually everywhere else (Rangarajan, in press a). The decline and retreat has largely been stalled by the legal curbs on axe and plough, and on mines and townships in land designated as forest. Among large mammals, a handful such as the cheetah and the Iavan rhino have become extinct, but there is little doubt that species like the tiger, the lion, the greater one-horned rhinoceros, the sangai of Manipur and the hangul of Kashmir, would have joined this list if key habitats had not been secure (K. U. Karanth 2006). A look at large Asian nation states that lacked a history of protection by state fiat would serve as a counter-factual instance. This proposition would apply with ease to China, Indonesia or Malaysia (Elvin 2004, Boomgaard 2001).


While the concept of inviolate zones is strongly supported by different sections of the conservation community, there are important divisions on how and by whom these tracts are to be secured. It is notable that the Tiger Task Force report in 2005 endorsed keeping 1 per cent of India's landmass, the core area of the tiger reserves, inviolate (Ministry of Environment & Forests 2005). The National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan Report, a draft of which was prepared under the chairmanship of Ashish Kothari who is a serious critic of the top-down





Notes on Contributors




Part I: Critiques




Displacement as a Conservation Tool


Lessons from the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, Madhya Pradesh




Of Paper Tigers and Invisible People


The Cultural Politics of Nature in Sariska


Part II: Reappraisal




Deconstructing Sea Turtle Conservation in India


Part III: Emergent Paradigms




The Politics of Participatory Conservation


The Case of the Kailadevi Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajasthan




The Ecology of Income


Can We have Both Fruit and Forest?


Part IV: Innovation




Threatened Forests, Forgotten People




Rainforest Restoration and Wildlife


Conservation on Private Lands




The Hunter and the Hunted


Conservation with Marginalized Communities





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