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Middle path of conservation

BOOK>> CONSERVATION AT THE CROSSROADS • by Ghazala Shahabuddin • Permanent Black • Rs 595

By Chaitanya Krishna
Published: Sunday 15 August 2010

imageWildlife conservation in India is facing monumental challenges.

To withstand the onslaught of development and other threats, it is essential to understand how different wildlife conservation models have fared and what needs to be done. Gha zala Shahabuddin’s Con ser vation at the Crossroads does exactly that. Well researched, succinct and peppered with personal observations, the book deals with human relocation from protected areas, community- based conservation, joint forest managem ent, wildlife research and the India eco-development project.

The book starts with an analysis of the Sariska Tiger Reserve and evaluates the government’s plan to relo cate forest dwellers in the wake of the tiger crisis. Shah abuddin draws from her field visits, interactions with gro ups and insights from other relocation projects across the country to shed light on both the direct and indirect costs borne by relocated communities. She finds that haphazard governmental planning and shoddy implementation characterise most relocation efforts in India. She, however, finds the Bha dra relocation project an exception. The author lists government del ays in issuing permits, guarded stand on foreign collaborations and che cks on resea rch as self-de feating exercises.

imageShahabu ddin then examines the alternative conservation paradigm based on community participation. In the forest managed by the residents of Mendha (Lekha) in Maharashtra, she finds noteworthy developments such as the consensual process of taking decisions and resurgence of traditional cultural values. But she also finds that biodiversity has taken a severe beating due to unsustainable extraction of the non-timber forest produce and hunting. This has left her with a tenuous feeling about community-based conservation of forests.

One of the most interesting chapters discusses the Joint Forest Management scheme in West Bengal. Shahabuddin comes away with the feeling that although the project is impressive in scale, several changes are required to enable this experiment reach its full potential. The biologist suggests a middle path bet ween the protected area and community- based conservation models and concludes that unless innovative tools are developed to aid conservation, India’s wildlife could face a perilous future.

This reviewer has only one grouse: the book has a noticeable forest bias with other terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems mentioned only in passing. Nevertheless, the book is a musthave for wildlife conservation practitioners, protected area managers, sociologists, students, researchers and scientists.

Chaitanya Krishna is at the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru

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