Without vision

  • 27/02/1997

India's protected areas (PAs) account for 19 per cent of her forest cover and 4.3 per cent of her landmass. Thus, approximately 15 million hectares of forest land has been effectively locked away from people who have been dependent on them for centuries. Lopsided conservation policies can be apportioned the lion's share of the blame for the current situation.

One serious fallout of these policies has been the problem of relocation. More than half our national parks have people living inside them and they need to be relocated, according to the Wildlife Act (1972), amended in 1991. But the process of settling rights and claims is so time-consuming and politically volatile that the government has started providing incentives to people for living outside the parks, to tempt those inside to relocate voluntarily.

Another impact of the creation of PAs has been that the very poor people living in and around such areas have been deprived of their basic livelihood sources. Daily requirements of fuelwood and fodder for cattle have been extremely difficult to procure. The authorities, on their part, have not thought it necessary to explain the importance of PAs to local people. This has led to a growing sense of mutual resentment among the local communities and the forest authorities. This resentment has manifested itself in clashes, in the burning down of forest areas and even in the poisoning of innocent wildlife.

The people directly affected by the present wildlife conservation policy feel that they have been asked to sacrifice for a

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