Hand in hand

PEOPLE & PROTECTED AREAS: TOWARDS PARTICIPATORY CONSERVATION IN INDIA· Ashish Kothari, Neena Singh and Saloni Suri (Ed)· Sage Publications·1996· Price Rs 350

By Rajkumar Ghosh
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

according to a national survey conducted in the late '80s, 69 per cent of India's protected areas ( pa s) have human populations and a large number of them have community rights. Therefore, the viability of setting up pristine wildernesses sanctuaries which are declared total protection areas as a remedy to the loss of biodiversity and depletion of forest resources has been subjected to fresh enquiry. In September 1994, the Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi had organised a workshop on 'Exploring the Possibilities of Joint Management of Protected a reas in India', in Delhi, to discuss management strategies aimed at promoting community control over forests. This book presents an ensemble of the papers presented at the workshop.

The objective of joint protected area management ( jpam), a concept mooted by ngo s , is to conserve natural ecosystems and the wildlife of pa s while ensuring the livelihood of local traditional communities through legal and institutional mechanisms that guarantee equal partnership between communities and government agencies. Existing ecodevelopment programmes like joint forest management ( jfm ) also envisage participation of local communities in managing forest resources. However, a crucial difference in the objectives of jpam and jfm is that while the latter is explicitly oriented towards use of forests by local communities, jpam is geared towards biodiversity conservation in pa s. However, in the present setting, the broad consensus is that jpam and jfm can share a synergistic role as both primarily address the livelihood problems of the people living in and around the pa s and aim at diverting as much pressure from pa s as possible.

The book discusses how, over the past 200 years, the dominant elite in India, both in the colonial and post-Independence era, have exploited the soil, water and forest resources and encroached on the natural rights of the local communities. At the same time, the traditional conservation ethics of these communities (as manifested in the myths and folklore depicting lifestyles so incredibly fine-tuned to the rhythms of their surroundings) are rapidly eroding in the face of population pressures, state initiatives to integrate these communities into the industrial economy and the influence of market forces. Forced to rely more heavily on forests to meet their survival needs, these formerly self-reliant ethnic communities are thus adding to the environmental burden of the ill-planned development process.

This collection of papers presents a thought-provoking debate on the nature of changes required in the existing wildlife policy and law, the institutional structure required to ensure participatory management of pa s, and the rights and responsibilities of the partners in the jpam process. It also explores issues such as whether a community will have traditional rights even after converting to a modern lifestyle? If a community living in a biodiversity-rich area were to want hospitals and schools, would conservationists be justified in demanding their rehabilitation outside the area? The book also includes a discussion on the steps required for planning and implementing jpam.

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