BANGALORE: The relocation of forest dwellers from tiger reserves is increasingly being considered the best option for conservation of the big cat. Most of the 28 tiger reserves in the country are under ecological stress because of man-animal conflict.
In 2005, the Tiger Task Force that investigated the disappearance of tigers from Sariska, said: “The fact is if people co-habit with the tiger, it is imperative that ways are found to ensure that co-existence is harmonious … the agenda is within our reach. The 11 villages in the core area are denied any form of development.”
But Task Force member Valmik Thapar in his dissent note had said co-existence of the tiger and human beings was an “impossible dream”, and tiger spaces should be kept inviolate.
There are several initiatives that demonstrate that resettlement is the happiest solution, and the most successful one, which even the Task Force had cited, is the resettlement programme in Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary has been toasted as the most successful one in India. It even won a pat from the Task Force and is being considered for replication in other tiger reserves.
A study by Krithi K. Karanth of the Nicholas School of Environment and Earth Sciences, Duke University, U.S., has concluded that the Bhadra experiment had all the ingredients required for successful relocation — substantial financial support to meet the people’s socio-economic needs, active consultation of the people involved, and partnerships of committed non-governmental organisations and the Government.
The paper, published recently in Biological Conservation, examines the relocation experience of 419 households who moved to two villages (M.C. Halli and Kelaguru) outside the reserve.
The relocation was undertaken in two batches — in 2002 and in 2006. Four years after relocation, all households have access to electricity, water, schools, healthcare, transportation and communication facilities.
The resettlement package identified land at a distance of 10 to 18 km from the nearest town and fixed the amount to be paid as compensation.
A combination of housing sites, 203 houses built by the Rajiv Gandhi Rural Housing Corporation, and 170 self-built houses were provided.
Land was given for carrying on agriculture and the villagers in M.C. Halli had been growing sugarcane, rice and vegetables, while in Kelaguru, coffee and pepper is cultivated.
“A proposal to move 200 families out of Kudremukh National Park has been forwarded to the Centre, but we need to go by the guidelines of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, and incorporate the laws protecting the tribal and forest dwellers’ rights,” I.B. Shrivastava, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden, told The Hindu.