Relocation of villages from tiger reserves
Oct 02 2013
This new translocated village is outside the forest. The villagers tell that earlier when their agricultural land was inside the forest, not just deers, wild-pigs and neelgais were damaging their crops, but even peafowls damaged the land regularly. Now they say that there is a continuous stretch of fields adjoining theirs, in this outer land, where the impact of these animals is lesser compared with their old forested abode. For these villagers, this is not the only benefit of relocation, good health care and better education opportunities are also important reasons for moving out.
In the past few years, many villages of Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve have been relocated by the tiger reserve authority. In a big project, the national tiger conservation authority (NTCA) plans to relocate 65,000 families from all tiger reserves of India. It is always a big challenge for the authority to convince villagers for relocation. Sometimes, villagers feel that the relocation package which is given by the authority is not enough or sometimes they feel that benefits of staying in the jungle is more suitable for their lifestyle. NTCA is giving two offers — a cash of Rs 10 lakh or land and money close to Rs 10 lakh. Some villagers are choosing cash, but many land-holders are trying to get land in return.
However, the young lot of the community are always ready for relocation outside the reserve area, but the old people are doubtful about moving out from their old homes. They don’t want to risk going to a new place and don’t want to change their traditional occupations too. Relocation of the community from forest is completely a voluntary decision, but most of the time, people decide with the past experience of the already relocated people.
At times, when half community has moved from the village, their social web gets impaired within the village network. A village community essentially means a complete ecosystem of various people who depend on intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, risks, and a number of other conditions, which may be present, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness. If some people of the community move outside this, the entire ecosystem breaks down. They can’t survive in the primitive condition of the forest village. Eventually, the remainder also decides to move out.
In India, 1.5 per cent of the total geographical area is used by tiger reserves, which is a very small space, yet people also live within this area. It is possible for the wildlife and humans both to benefit if they move to other protected areas. Humans get better logistics and are connected to mainstream society giving their children a better future. While the wildlife benefits with a small space that proves inviolate for it to survive in, of course it is a community’s decision based on their priorities and beliefs. Wildlife is a silent participant; nevertheless, Girirajpura is one success story. Hopefully other tiger reserves would also make their own.
(The writer is a conservation biologist at Tiger Watch, Ranthambore)