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Nature, Equity, Communities: Towards Effective & Democratic Conservation in India


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Conservation of biodiversity and wildlife in India has gone through historical changes from community-based, to state-dominated and exclusionary; recent paradigm shifts are again recognising that communities living amidst nature need to be at the centre of decision-making, and their knowledge to be treated at par with modern knowledge, for enhanced and just conservation effectivity. Presentation is from 2013, slightly dated.

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Nature, Equity, Communities: Towards Effective & Democratic Conservation in India

  1. 1. Nature, Equity and Communities: Towards Effective and Democratic Conservation in India Ashish Kothari Kalpavriksh
  2. 2. • General Points: history of environmental destruction and conservation / interface with livelihoods and equity • Conservation and equity inside protected areas • Conservation and equity outside protected areas • Recent national innovations in law and policy • International context • The way forward Nature, Equity, and Communities Overview
  3. 3. Context: Destruction of India’s environment – 50% forest disappeared in last 200 years – 70% waterbodies polluted or drained out – 40% mangroves destroyed – Some of the world’s most polluted cities and coasts – Nearly 10% wildlife threatened withextinction Smitu Kothari
  4. 4. The social context • Ecosystem-dependent people (60-70% of India’s population): food, medicine, livelihoods, fuel, shelter, clothing, culture • Environmental destruction = livelihood, cultural, and physical displacement…for tens of millions of people
  5. 5. • Communities have longest history of ecosystem management & conservation (sacred sites, water/resource reserves, regulations on exploitation, etc): focus on range of ecosystems and species across landscape • Pre-colonial rulers: some (e.g. Ashoka) active managers (forest reserves, hunting reserves, strict protection reserves): mostly focused on timber and megafauna • Colonial and post-independence state take-over of forests (centralised control, ‘scientific’ forestry … parts of north-east, Kumaon, Jharkhand left out): earlier commercial, very recently conservation focus • Modern state-managed conservation (Wild Life Act, National Wildlife Action Plan, Project Tiger, etc): ecosystem or species focus, megafauna and protected area centred Nature, Equity, and Communities History of Management & Governance of Ecosystems
  6. 6. Natural resource management affected by inequities: • Humans vis-a-vis nature • ‘Development’ vis-a-vis conservation • Urban/industrial elite vis-a-vis rural communities • State vis-a-vis civil society/citizens • Powerful castes/ethnic/classes vis-a-vis weaker ones • Men vis-a-vis women • Modern conservationists (scientists, bureaucrats) vis-a-vis traditional conservationists (communities) Nature, Equity, and Communities Issue of Equity
  7. 7. Nature, Equity, and Communities Conservation in protected areas Protected areas (national parks and sanctuaries) major state- sponsored method of conservation Over 650 protected areas, ~5% of India’s land Crucial for reviving many species, conserving a critical part of remaining wildlife, sustaining ecosystems functions
  8. 8. But also home to rural communities: between 3 to 4 million people inside protected areas, many million more outside but dependent on resources inside • Communities living in/near natural ecosystems for generations, dependent on them for survival, livelihoods, cultural bonds • Relatively low impact lifestyles • Traditional institutional structures and norms for resource use and management • However, economic, demographic, and social changes in most communities…loss of traditions, weakening of institutions and leadership, lifestyle changes … over- exploitation and unsustainability in many places Nature, Equity, and Communities Conservation in protected areas
  9. 9. Wildlife conservation programmes in India are based on the following key assumptions: a) Practices/knowledge of local communities are irrelevant to conservation, only modern wildlife and forestry science needed b) All human uses are necessarily detrimental for conservation objectives of the PA (except tourism!) c) Local communities necessarily damage natural ecosystems…hence people have to relocate, or resource uses have to stop, once a PA is declared So, conservation orientation mostly exclusionary Nature, Equity, and Communities Conservation in protected areas
  10. 10. Impacts of wildlife policies on people include: +ve: 1. Buffering from negative impacts of ‘development’ projects 2. Some employment, ecological benefits (e.g. water) -ve 1. Physical displacement (between 1 & 6 lakh people) 2. Loss of critical source of livelihoods, survival, food (several million) 3. Alienation of people / lack of security and tenure 4. Distrust of the FD, clashes, hostility 5. Destructive resource uses, support to poaching and timber theft, out of desperation / vengeance Nature, Equity, and Communities Conservation in protected areas: social impacts
  11. 11. TN Godavarman (Forest) Case: Order of Feb. 2000 in IA 548 “…In the meantime, we restrain respondents Nos. 2 to 32 from ordering the removal of dead, diseased, dying or wind-fallen trees, drift wood, and grasses etc. from any national park or game sanctuary…” MoEF interpretation ‘Handbook of FCA, 1980; FC Rules, 2004 and Guidelines and Clarifications (upto June 2004)’ - Pg 19 “…In View of this, rights and concessions cannot be enjoyed in the Protected Areas (PAs)” CEC Clarification dated July 2, 2004 “…In view of the above order, any non-forestry activity, felling of trees / bamboo, removal of biomass, …etc. in the protected area are not permissible without prior permission of the Hon’ble Supreme Court…” Nature, Equity, and Communities Supreme Court orders: increasing inequities
  12. 12. Net result: In many states, all rights and resource uses of people being stopped, leading to huge loss of livelihood and beginnings of mass migration Orissa: drop in NTFP income by factor of 10; possible malnutrition deaths Nature, Equity, and Communities Supreme Court orders: increasing inequities
  13. 13. Official responses … Ecodevelopment: provision of alternative fuel/fodder sources & livelihoods ‘weaning’ community dependence away from forests; involvement in management • Some community benefits • Unclear conservation results, v. little monitoring • Top-down: No community involvement in decision-making
  14. 14. Participatory Approaches for Protected Areas Periyar Tiger Reserve, Kerala: from hostility to cooperation • Regular consultation and dialogue with adivasi residents, by Forest Dept • Generation of benefits from PA, e.g. employment, ecotourism revenues • Converting poachers into supporters of the reserve • People’s own initiatives: Vasant Sena • Long-term sustainability, through Periyar Foundation Not yet fully co-management …
  15. 15. I N D I A Chilika Lagoon B a y o f B e n g a l Courtesy: Ajit Pattnaik
  16. 16. Chilika lagoon and Nalabana Sanctuary, Orissa • Revival of lagoon, combining modern and traditional knowledge, and involving local communities • Planning with fisherfolk, and catchment area villages: ecological restoration, enhanced livelihoods (fisheries, tourism) • Anti-poaching and protection through village committees • Inter-sectoral integration by Chilika Development Authority Recent problems reported: inconsistency of official efforts, uneven benefits, weaker dialogue and collaboration Nature, Equity, and Communities Innovative Participatory Approaches for PAs
  17. 17. •Community conservation: government- initiated and self-initiated •Sites under other government agencies Nature, Equity, and Communities Ecosystem conservation & management outside official protected areas
  18. 18. Van Panchayats and self-initiated community forests, Uttarakhand 12,000 VPs (12-13% of state forests) … colonial concessions to mass protests Other (self-initiated) community forests (e.g. Chipko) Substantial conservation/livelihood benefits (not universal)
  19. 19. Joint Forest Management Initiated 1990…. now >22 million ha. Substantial regeneration of forests in many areas Social benefits: substantial to minimal Serious inequities in decision-making and sharing of benefits Divisive role in many communities; major hurdle to recent community rights claims Timber orientation: biodiversity results uncertain (no monitoring of wildlife impacts)
  20. 20. Self-initiated community forests in Orissa (over 10,000!) Dangejheri… all women’s forest protection committee Ranpur: forest protection committees of 180 villages joined in a Federation Many now threatened by mining leases, proposal to re-open commercial forestry
  21. 21. Tribal self-rule, with conservation 1800ha of standing forests conserved by villagers of Mendha-Lekha, Gadchiroli, Maharashtra
  22. 22. Informed decisions through monitoring, and regular study circles (abhyas gat) All decisions in gram sabha (village assembly); no activity even by government officials without sabha consent
  23. 23. Khonoma village has: •Declared 2000 ha. for protection of Blyth’s Tragopan (Tragopan blythii) •Banned hunting throughout the village territory Nagaland: community conservation in the face of rampant hunting
  24. 24. Nagaland: About 600 villages have declared forest and wildlife reserves Luzaphuhu WL reserve Forest reserve of Chizami and 5 villages Khonoma Village Tragopan Sanctuary Sendenyu WL reserve, with its own “Wild Life Protection Act”
  25. 25. Other Community Conserved Areas / Species • Heronries with threatened species, e.g. Kokkare Bellur (Karnataka) • Regenerated forests/catchments, e.g. Arvari (Rajasthan) • Marine turtle nesting sites, Orissa/Kerala/Goa • Freshwater wetlands (waterbirds, fish) • Herbivore species, e.g. Blackbuck
  26. 26. www.kalpavriksh.orgUrgently need recognition and support…
  27. 27. Section 36 A to Section 36 D: New categories of protected areas (2003): Conservation Reserves (for non-forest govt lands e.g. reservoirs) Community Reserves (for community and private lands) • Can bring a larger area under protection for wildlife • Ensure people’s participation in their declaration and management However, faulty provisions limit applicability of Community Reserves: • One uniform institution all over India, with forest officer • Community reserves not possible on government lands • No land use changes allowed without state govt permission • Result: only 4-5 CRs in last 10 years Conservation Reserves: ~45, but most previous J&K Game Reserves; other govt agencies not keen to bring areas under WLPA Nature, Equity, and Communities New PA Categories in the Wild Life Act
  28. 28. • Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 • Wildlife Amendment Act 2006 Nature, Equity, and Communities LATEST LEGISLATION: DEMOCRATISING CONSERVATION?
  29. 29. Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006
  30. 30. Key objectives / features – Correction of historical injustice to forest- dwelling communities, so far denied guaranteed access to forest lands and resources – Provision of rights to secure livelihoods and cultures of these communities – Applicable to Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers – Applicable to all kinds of forests and forest lands, including protected areas
  31. 31. Main provisions • Provision of rights over: – Forest land already occupied (pre Dec-2005) for cultivation / residence – Forest resources (NTFP, grazing, fish, etc) traditionally used – Conversion of forest villages into revenue villages – Protection of traditional knowledge – Management of community forest resources – Small-scale development facilities (exempted from Forest Conservation Act)
  32. 32. Main provisions (contd) • Empowerment of Gram Sabhas to protect habitat against destructive forces…with responsibilities to protect wildlife and forests, safeguard watersheds, etc. • Thus far, ~1 million acres titled to communities as Community Forest Resource (in theory, full control)
  33. 33. Community Forest Rights (FRA) Assertion of CFRs against industrial projects (e.g. POSCO), mining (e.g. Vedanta), commercial logging (e.g. Baigachak), monocultural plantations (Odisha) Several hundred claims accepted in Maharashtra (>7 lakh acres), Odisha (>1.5 lakh acres), MP & Andhra (>1 lakh acres each)
  34. 34. Mendha-Lekha, Maharashtra: CFR over 1800 ha forests Vivek Gour-Broome Earnings from sustainable NTPF use (over Rs. 1 crore in 2011-12), and use of govt schemes towards: •Full employment •Biogas for 80% households •Computer training centre •Training as barefoot engineers Considering 10% untouched for wildlife
  35. 35. Rights without benefits? Transit permit powers still with FD till recently (new Rules give them to gram sabha) MFP nationalisation (of some or many species) continues in all states; ownership under PESA/FRA of all MFP, mostly not transferred Some devolution of tendu/kendu leaf collection and sale in Maharashtra and Odisha Bamboo as ‘timber’ vs. MFP MoEF letter, proposed IFA amendment: bamboo as MFP Issue of sustainability of harvest/use of several species
  36. 36. Baiga chak (Madhya Pradesh): ‘modern’ conservation by ‘primitive’ tribe Stopping commercial logging, claiming community forest rights
  37. 37. Forest Rights Act 2006 (contd) • In protected areas: – Declaration of Critical Wildlife Habitats (with local ‘experts’) – Determination of damage by human activities – Exploring possibilities of co- existence – Relocation with consent – CWH where relocation has taken place, cannot be diverted for any other use
  38. 38. Legal provisions (contd)… “CWH from which rights holders are relocated for the purpose of wildlife conservation shall not be subsequently diverted by the State or Central Government for any other uses.” Strongest conservation provision in any Indian law (but not yet in use)
  39. 39. The Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Sanctuary & Tiger Reserve, Karnataka I N D I A ------------- 25 CFR titles to Soliga adivasis, ~25,000 ha (>half of sanctuary); community-based conservation planning based on resource and critical wildlife habitat mapping
  40. 40. +ve points • Enhancing livelihood security • Greater voice and participation of communities • Greater stake in sustainability and conservation • Legal backing to community conserved areas (‘community forest’) • Empowerment to resist destructive projects and processes • Legal protection to knowledge • Relocation/eviction only after community consent Forest Rights Act
  41. 41. Concerns • Official agencies resisting / delaying implementation. Need for clear political message • Will politicised and incapacitated gram sabhas deliver justice and achieve conservation? Need for facilitation • Has FRA fuelled further encroachments due to focus on individual land titles? Need for CFR focus • Lack of clarity on precise relationship with other related laws, confusion on ground. Need for harmonisation of laws/policies Forest Rights Act
  42. 42. Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act 2006 • Creation of National Tiger Conservation Authority and Fund Authority: officials, NGOs, independent experts • Notification of tiger reserves after due process • Identification of “inviolate areas”, from where relocation can take place if co-existence not possible • Informed consent for relocation Nature, Equity, and Communities LATEST LEGISLATION: DEMOCRATISING CONSERVATION?
  43. 43. • Biological Diversity Act 2002: – Biodiversity Heritage Sites – Notification of protected species – Biodiversity Management Committees • Indian Forest Act – Reserve/Protected/Village Forests • Environment Protection Act – Eco-sensitive Areas OTHER LAWS
  44. 44. Other relevant laws and plans • Biological Diversity Act 2002: Biodiversity Heritage Sites, and Biodiversity Management Committees (need to change national Rules under Act; states free to make more progressive ones, e.g. MP, Sikkim, Karnataka, Nagaland) • Indian Forest Act: Village Forests (hardly used) • Environment Protection Act: Eco-sensitive Areas • National Wildlife Action Plan (slow implementation) • Need for guidelines and rules for above, drafted through consultative process Nature, Equity, and Communities OTHER LAWS
  45. 45. Policies relevant to wildlife conservation National Wildlife Action Plan 2002 National Forest Policy 1988 National Environment Policy 2006 National Biodiversity Action Plan 2008
  46. 46. • India is party to Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) • In 2004, CBD countries agreed to a Programme of Work on PAs (PoWPA): - Ensuring community participation at all stages of PA planning, establishment, governance, and management - Full recognition of rights and responsibilities of communities - Developing better, transparent, accountable practices for PAs - Promotion of various PA governance types to support people’s participation (collaborative or joint management of PAs) and community conserved areas - Developing policies with full participation of communities - Prior informed consent before any relocation Nature, Equity, and Communities International Context
  47. 47. IUCN matrix of protected areas categories and governance types (2008 Guidelines) Governanc e type Category (manag. objective) A. Governance by Government B. Shared Governance (co- management) C. Private Governance D. Indigenous Peoples & Community Governance Feder al or nation al minist ry or agenc y Local/ municip al ministry or agency in change Govern ment- delegat ed manage ment (e.g. to an NGO) Trans- boundar y manage ment Collaborati ve manageme nt (various forms of pluralist influence) Joint manageme nt (pluralist manageme nt board) Declare d and run by individu al land- owner …by non- profit organis ations (e.g. NGOs, univ. etc.) …by for profit organis ations (e.g. corpora te land- owners ) Indigenous bio- cultural areas & Territories- declared and run by Indigenous Peoples Community Conserved Areas - declared and run by traditional peoples and local communities I - Strict Nature Reserve/ Wilderness Area II – National Park (ecosystem protection; protection of cultural values) III – Natural Monument IV – Habitat/ Species Management V – Protected Landscape/ Seascape VI – Managed Resource
  48. 48. ILLEGAL RELOCATION: WITHOUT FRA IMPLEMENTATION, NOT OFFERING OPTION OF STAYING ON WITH RIGHTS (e.g. Simlipal, Achanakmar, Tadoba, Sariska, Melghat Tiger Reserves) Ambadiha relocation site (from Simlipal TR) Family moving from Tadoba TR, 2012 CTH relocation protocol doesn’t define ‘inviolate’, ignores crucial FRA issues
  49. 49. • MoEF circular (30.7.09) requires state govts to comply with FRA & seek gram sabha consent for diversion of forest land • But mostly violated by states and MoEF; 200,000 ha forest diverted without FRA process • Exemption for linear projects (roads, railway/ transmission lines); over- riding powers with Cabinet Committee on Investments FRA violation in diversion of forest land for mining, dams, industries, etc POSCO Vedanta- Niyamgiri
  50. 50. The biggest challenge… unsustainable path of development
  51. 51. Globalisation vs. the environment …and people • Increasing diversion of natural ecosystems like forests (mining, dams), coasts (aquaculture, ports) … 2 lakh ha. forests in last 5 years • Over-exploitation of resources for export (commercial fisheries, minerals…quantum jump) … Indian Ocean signs of depletion • Dilution of legal regimes: 30 changes in EPA notifications relating to coasts and EIAs
  52. 52. Impacts: India’s ecological deficit (mirroring world trend) • World’s third largest ecological footprint • Using twice what can be sustained by our natural resources • Decline in capacity of nature to sustain us, by almost half (Global Ecological Footprint and CII, 2008)
  53. 53. Alienation, disempowerment and impoverishment of communities by conventional conservation model vs. Collaboration, empowerment, rights and livelihood security in new conservation paradigms Key choices regarding ecosystem management and conservation…
  54. 54. Key choices… Focus and resources predominantly for relocation; fact that most people will remain inside PAs shoved under carpet vs Focus on co-existence and where absolutely necessary or genuinely desired, relocation
  55. 55. Key choices…. Centralised, exclusive governance, uniform, inflexible and top-down vs Multi-sectoral, multiple-agency governance, much more decentralised, site-specific, adaptive
  56. 56. Key choices…. Exclusive use of ‘modern’, formal knowledge in wildlife management Vs. Integrated use of modern and traditional knowledge
  57. 57. Key choices…. Community fragmentation, commercialisation and market influences, new aspirations and changing cultures vs Revival of community spirit, new conservation thinking mixing with or replacing traditions, new economic/livelihood options like NTFP, ecotourism
  58. 58. Key choices…. Forest Dept continues its role of centralised governance and control vs Forest Dept transforms into service and monitoring agency, facilitating decentralised governance, conservation and management
  59. 59. • Using a range of no-use to multiple- use approaches across large landscapes • Embedding various governance types, from govt-managed to collaborative and community conserved areas • Re-orienting land/water uses: integrating conservation into all departments, empowering panchayats and urban wards • Crucial for climate change too… Nature, Equity, and Communities THE WAY FORWARD… THE LANDSCAPE APPROACH…moving away from the island mentality
  60. 60. Van Panchayats, Uttarakhand, spread over several hundred…. acting as as critical wildlife corridors, spaces for dispersal… Courtesy: FES …integrated in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve landscape, managed through participatory and knowledge-based processes…
  61. 61. Governance reforms (where CFR vested, at village/cluster level) •Village: Gram Sabha committees empowered similar to FD •FD transformed into service agency: technical guidance, capacity-building, monitoring •Village-level and village-cluster level planning by/with Gram Sabhas •Gram sabha consent for any external use of forest land (incl plantations, non-forest use) Nature, Equity, and Communities THE WAY FORWARD…
  62. 62. Governance reforms (at landscape/state levels) •District level agencies (FD, GS committees, NGOs, other experts)…replacing FDAs •Co-management committees for PA-buffer landscapes/Biosphere Reserves/other conservation landscapes •State level council (FD, GS/federations, NGOs, other experts) •All with functions/powers to: – Facilitate planning at landscape/larger levels – Monitor forest/wildlife conservation and use, act on violations – Ensure convergence of schemes/programmes/departments towards conservation and livelihood security Nature, Equity, and Communities THE WAY FORWARD…
  63. 63. Alternatives to Destructive Development: Radical ecological democracy • achieving environmentally sustainable human welfare, through governance mechanisms that: – empower all citizens to participate in decision-making – ensure equitable distribution of wealth – respect the limits of the earth and the rights of nature
  64. 64. • People’s movements against dams, mining, pollution, over-fishing, SEZs…. Resistance to destructive development…a major conservation force
  65. 65. Signs of hope... • Citizens’ initiatives: alternative development, self-governance, livelihood enhancement • Official initiatives: decentralisation, employment guarantee, right to information, livelihood enhancement
  66. 66. A natural resource governance regime, which is fully participatory, site-specific, integrating conservation and livelihood rights, and combining traditional and modern knowledge A development path, which puts conservation, equity, and sustainability at its core IN CONCLUSION….we need:
  67. 67. Contact For more information