Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] Mitigating human-wildlife conflict

India is a unique country with respect to wildlife conservation. Compared to relatively lower human density countries in south-east Asia, India today has the largest population of the tiger, Asian elephant, leopard, sloth bear, gaur and many others.
By IASToppers
February 29, 2020

Contents

  • Introduction
  • Tigers in Human Landscape
  • Tigers and Indians
  • The Solution lies in Engagement
  • Tiger Tourism
  • Short term Measures
  • Conclusion

Mitigating human-wildlife conflict

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Introduction

Any human-wildlife conflict affects both the sides often in tragic ways, like the death of four tigers in Mhadei, Goa, and then reported arrest of the locals who poisoned the animals after their complaints were not attended to in a way it should have been.

Tigers in Human Landscape

  • The chief minister of Goa, reportedly said that, “we will demarcate and fence the borders of the wildlife sanctuaries” in order to end 80 per cent of the problem. Although the intentions are good, this isn’t a solution.
  • The animals cannot be restricted inside a few hundred kilometres of protected areas. Had that been done, they would have all died due to inbreeding and lack of connectivity.
  • Tigers need large spaces because they are large animals. Because we cannot create large spaces without humans in India, wildlife does not have a choice but to also use human-use landscapes.

Tigers and Indians

  • The rationale behind the accepted norms of Tigers using human landscapes is as old as tigers and humans are in India. People have accepted this, and incorporated it in their culture.
  • All Indian deities have animals associated with them; it shows the inclusion of these animals in our mind space.
  • The Velip community in Goa worship the tigers and this practice is done even today, although it was started at a time when tigers were still present all over Goa.

The Solution lies in Engagement

  • People have always shared space with wildlife in India. No doubt, the repercussions are sometimes very serious like it happened in Mhadei.
  • However, the solutions do not in fencing the land which neither people nor tigers will adhere to. A tiger can get over the fence just as much as a human can.
  • The best way forward is to ensure that the locals view an engagement with tigers as a path towards development. This is something the administration can definitely do as has been shown in many other tiger reserves, including in Maharashtra.
  • The health minister of Maharashtra in whose constituency the tiger carcasses were found, called the creation of the tiger reserve as a measure against development.

Tiger Tourism

  • Tigers can bring in the money. Unlike activities such as mining, tigers are a renewable resource. They are always going to be there, and so will the rivers and the forests, giving the local people income and development — as long as there are tigers.
  • This model should ensure that the benefits of tourism go directly to the communities in that landscape.
  • Many other states have adopted this model where the money that comes in from tourism goes into the Tiger Conservation Fund, which in turn is used for the development of the local villages — as has been done in Tadoba tiger reserve, Maharashtra.
  • Crores of rupees that come in yearly are also used to provide training to the local youth, to better the services in the villages around the tiger reserve.
  • The tiger reserve staff facilitate these development activities for the locals. There is no way the locals will then grudge their tigers, if the benefits are there for all to see.

Short term Measures

  • In the short term, compensation procedures need to be improved.
  • The communication and interaction between the forest department and the locals has to be improved.
  • For example, a decade ago in Maharashtra, the compensation amount was poor, and the process was cumbersome as well as time consuming. Today, a helpline has been established, compensation rates have increased vastly, and the process is under the Right to Services Act.
  • The field officials on the ground in Maharashtra tells that even though livestock is still being killed these days by large cats, due to the quickness of response and transparency in the service process, the people don’t complain much: Because they know they are getting their services/compensation in a proper time-bound manner.

Conclusion

The solutions are simple: Inclusive development with a long-term vision that cares for the environment. It is about better public services in terms of transparency, accountability and genuine assistance. After all, we are talking about communities who need to be custodians of the tigers and tigers who can, in turn, provide the communities much-needed development in remote areas.

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