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Research claims majority of dwellers are willing to move out from protected forest areas?

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Vijaykumar Patil

AAB, Nov.28: An international scientific publication has claimed that majority of the forest dwellers living in protected areas are willing to move out for better access to roads, healthcare and educational facilities.

In a recent publication, lead-authored by Krithi K. Karanth, Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS) Chief Conservation Scientist, and co-authored by Sahila Kudalkar and Shivangi Jain from CWS.

The highlights of the publication, which were shared with this author, stated that the analysis of the study undertaken in a select area revealed that offering practical packages and socially relevant opportunities was key to enabling people in re-establishing and leading successful lives post-relocation. The majority of households (89%) that were surveyed expressed a willingness to move so as to have better access to roads, healthcare, and education.

Photo by Rohit Varma
Photo by Rohit Varma
Photo by Kirti Karantha/CWS
Photo by Kirti Karantha/CWS

The paper titled “Re-building Communities: Voluntary Resettlement From Protected Areas in India” was published in the international journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, which can be accessed online at https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2018.00183.

According to Dr.Karanth, the scientists carried out a study of the government led voluntary resettlement initiatives in four protected areas across India – Tadoba, Kawal, Nagarahole and Wayanad with the objective of understanding factors and issues which influence people’s decisions to relocate and the processes implemented. Trained assistants surveyed a total of 592 adult household members. The paper focused on these locations because they had ongoing relocation initiatives and would provide direct feedback on a subject which has been especially challenging for the Indian government to implement. The authors observed that across protected areas, multiple cultural, socio-economic and political forces influence people’s decisions crucially and concluded that well-planned resettlements with post-relocation support could improve people’s lives and boost wildlife at the same time.

MEDIA CONTACT:

Dr. Krithi K. Karanth Email: [email protected] Phone: 9900902041

The study was prompted with several issues concerning both the protected forests and the people living in these areas, and find answers to the question: “Why do people move?” The answer, the authors of the publication say that better and proper planned voluntary resettlement benefits people and the wildlife as well. The authors have made following observations in their publications:

Previous Indian government programs and policies for resettlement of people living

Inside the wildlife reserves have often failed to address people’s expectations, support their

developmental needs or provide for alternative livelihoods.

Scientists evaluated government led voluntary resettlement initiatives in Tadoba,

Kawal, Nagarahole, and Wayanad – to understand what influences people’s decisions to

relocate and the processes implemented.

Eighty nine percent of the surveyed households wanted to move out. Top reasons cited

include better education, healthcare, roads, less human-wildlife conflict amongst others.

Scientists found that with greater transparency and participation of the beneficiaries in

deciding the incentives, ability to acquire skills, and vocational training for their life

outside, people were more likely to move.

The study also stressed on the need for independent long-term monitoring post

resettlement to ensure commitments made were fulfilled.

Further, a press release issued by Dr.Karanth in this regard states that voluntary resettlement projects have been especially challenging for the Indian government to implement. Scientists from the CWS conducted a comprehensive assessment of people choosing to relocate outside protected areas from four states across India, which included three tiger reserves – Tadoba, Kawal and Nagarahole, and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.

The scientists chose these four protected areas which had ongoing Indian government led voluntary resettlement initiatives to evaluate the process and outcomes for people. They surveyed 592 households from 16 villages to understand and evaluate how different geographies, social, political and economic contexts influence people’s decisions to move.

“Voluntary resettlement is an important conservation approach when it is equitably and justly implemented. Our findings suggest that understanding why people want to move is critical to such efforts prior to huge investments of effort, money, and time in the process”, states lead author Dr.Krithi K. Karanth.

She said across the wildlife reserves surveyed, the majority (89%) of the households expressed willingness in relocation and cited access to better healthcare, roads, and education with reduced human-wildlife conflict as the top reasons for resettlement. Improved agricultural opportunities were the main motivation for poor, small landholders while the reduction in the human-wildlife conflict was the reason given by wealthier households, for favouring relocation. Past relocation history also played a role in influencing the decision, as with families in Kolsa village of Tadoba. Families there were apprehensive about relocation even a decade after other families who had chosen to relocate earlier reported poor land and inadequate irrigation.

She said the study revealed that inculcating multiple regional, cultural, socio-economic, and political forces was crucial as they shaped people’s decision making prior to relocation out of parks/wildlife reserves. The study stressed that relocation projects needed to remain free of any governmental coercion. The analysis also showed that offering practical packages and socially relevant opportunities was key to enabling people in re-establishing and leading successful lives post relocation. Where endangered megafauna such as the tiger and the elephant need spaces to persist and conflict remains high, fair and effective resettlement programmes offer a rare opportunity for a win-win solution. The scientists concluded that well executed resettlement projects with adequate post-relocation support can simultaneously improve people’s lives and aid recovery of wildlife.

Centre for Wildlife Studies: The Centre for Wildlife Studies, based in Bengaluru, is an internationally recognized centre-of excellence in the arenas of wildlife research, in situ conservation, policy and education. In collaboration with Central and State Governments as well as partnerships with several national and international institutions CWS practices science-based conservation to promote the protection of wildlife and wildlands. Visit: http://www.cwsindia.org/

Photo captions: 1. Photo by Kirti Karantha/CWS. 2. Photo by Rohit Varma

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