In the national strategy of conservation approaches to tigers, a microscopic non traditional tiger habitat in a small state like Goa with India’s highest rate of urbanisation and highest density of roads hardly makes any difference.
But, if local communities and stakeholders support it, and complete all statutory formalities, then this experiment can be tried. However, in a very small state, a freely roaming, and breeding population of tigers would only create man eaters, since settlements and roads in Goa are dangerously close to territories over which tigers roam. Even without a panther reserve the conflicts between panthers and local residents have shown the dangers of such man-human interactions. But the romantic focus on tiger has become a useful diversionary tactics. It has steered the biodiversity discourse away from many other non-popular, local, threatened species like dolphins, pangolins, vultures, bats and sparrows. The economic stakes are also high with promises of massive foreign aid if the Mhadei tiger reserve is carved out. But at what and whose costs? There has been hyper euphoria in Goa over a letter written by Union Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh to the Chief Minister of Goa on the Mhadei tiger reserve.
Goa has no expertise in conservation biology of tigers or anthropology of forest dwellers. A tiger reserve has many complex dimensions. Pune-based Kalpavriksh has come out with a detailed critique on the existing tiger reserves. Ashish Kothari of Kalpavriksh, Pune, Tushar Dash of Vasundhara, Nitin Rai of ATREE (Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment), Bengaluru and Yash Sethia for Foundation for ecological security (FES) on June 26 have sent their joint critical comments on tiger reserves to Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF).
Commenting on the basic principles they have said: “In most Tiger Reserves, Critical Tiger Habitats (CTHs) were notified in December 2007 without proper process of identification, study, and consultation. In general, all processes relating to tiger reserves (and other protected areas) needs to be made more knowledge-based, transparent and participatory, including full consultations with relevant gram sabhas and their consent for various decisions affecting them, inclusion of local knowledge systems and independent wildlife and social science research, and so on. Secondly, in tune with the changing focus of conservation worldwide and India’s own obligations under the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) Programme of Work on Protected Areas, there is a need to explore various models of integrated, inclusive conservation that include options for co-existence and co-management first and foremost, and relocation only where these are not feasible. A range of such options would present themselves as being scientifically valid, even for tigers.”
Objecting to species specific reserves these experts comment: “Related to the above principles is the need to go beyond a species-centric approach that is evident in this protocol (or in the general approach to the tiger). Such an approach is contrary to current ecological approaches that argue for a more holistic and landscape approach as most ecological processes are linked in complex ways. The biggest problem associated with the continuing focus on the tiger is that declines in densities of other species might not be noticed or addressed, and such changes might, in the long run, affect the tiger. The continuing focus on the tiger needs to be rethought and nuanced.”
Thus the emphasis in the guidelines in differentiating between Critical Wildlife Habitats (CWH) and Critical Tiger Habitats (CTH) could be tempered by noting that these two areas are only legally different and that the differences are not ecological, as is being suggested by the guidelines.
Moreover, in their recent legislation brief - Recognition of Rights and Relocation in relation to Critical Tiger Habitats (CTHs) - Kalpavriksh has highlighted the Status under The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers. In its preamble the publication states that: “Continuing conflicts between forest departments in charge of protecting and managing Protected Areas (PAs) on the one hand and the local communities living in and around Protected Areas (PAs) on the other, are well known. PA management policy in India draws upon the western model of creating pristine zones by excluding local communities from such areas. By doing so, it aims to shield wildlife and other natural resources from any human ‘disturbances’.”
“Around three million people in India (a large part being the tribal population) live inside PAs and depend on them for their resources. Exclusion of people living inside or adjacent to PAs from PA management has led to erosion of traditional practices, which aid in conservation. This has meant economic impoverishment of the already marginalised communities and other hardships through loss of access to livelihood resources, physical displacement, harassment, etc. In this scenario, use of coercion to protect PAs from human intervention has often led to hostile attitudes of local people towards wildlife management and forestry staff, and sometimes even to open conflict.
In Goa, without any knowledge of local people or ratification from gram sabhas, two new sanctuaries were hurriedly carved out. The conflicts between forest officials and the villagers about demarcation of the limits of these sanctuaries have not yet resolved.”
“According to one estimate, around 65,000 families need to be relocated from both the core and buffer areas of tiger reserves in India. Given that relocation has hardly been successful across the country, and that substantial populations will continue to thrive in the core and buffer areas of PAs, there is an urgent need to draw up strategies for co-existence even while laying down basic principles and need to draw up strategies for co existence even while laying down basic principles and strategies for relocation.”
As per 38 V(4) of WLPA, 2006, a “tiger reserve” includes:
(i) Core or Critical Tiger Habitat (CTH) areas of National Parks and sanctuaries, here it has been established, on the basis of scientific and objective criteria, that such areas are required to be kept as inviolate for the purposes of tiger conservation, without affecting the rights of the Scheduled Tribes or such other forest dwellers, and notified as such by the State Government in consultation with an Expert Committee constituted for the purpose;
(ii) Buffer or peripheral area consisting of the area peripheral to critical tiger habitat or core area, identified and established in accordance with the provisions contained in
explanation (i) of section 38V(4), where lesser degree of habitat protection is required to ensure the integrity of the critical tiger habitat with dispersal for tiger species, and which aim at promoting co-existence between wildlife and human activity with due recognition of the social and livelihood, developmental, social and cultural rights of the local people, wherein the limits of such areas are determined on the basis of scientific and objective criteria in consultation with the concerned gram sabha and an expert committee constituted for the purpose.
As per the guidelines for the purpose of identification and notification of core or
CTHs in Tiger Reserves (38 (V) of the WLPA), issued by the NTCA on November 16, 2007, the declaration of a CTH involves some distinct steps.
•Identification/delineation of core or CTHs as per scientific/objective CTH criteria and involving an expert committee.
•Identification/delineation of buffer or peripheral area in consultation with the specific gram sabha and the expert committee.
•Creation of inviolate area on the basis of identified core or CTH through relocation as per the statutory process.
•Creating inviolate zones through relocation.
While highlighting the legislative provisions the document states that the WLPA, 2006 and the FRA 2006 both emphasise on co-existence and require steps to be completed before relocation for creating human-free habitats for wildlife.
Provisions of the WLPA, 2006 Section 38V(5) states:
Save as for voluntary relocation on mutually agreed terms and conditions, provided that such terms and conditions satisfy the requirements laid down in this sub-section, no Scheduled Tribes or other forest dwellers shall be resettled or have their rights adversely affected for the purpose of creating inviolate areas for tiger conservation unless
(i) The process of recognition and determination of rights and acquisition of land or forest rights of the scheduled land or forest rights of the Scheduled Tribes and such other forest dwelling persons is complete.
(ii) The concerned agencies of the state government, in exercise of their powers under this Act, establishes with the consent of the Scheduled Tribes and such other forest dwellers in the area and in consultation with an ecological and social scientist familiar with the area that the activities of the Scheduled Tribes and other forest dwellers or the impact of their presence upon wild animals is sufficient to cause irreversible damage and shall threaten the existence of tigers and their habitat.
(iii) the State Government, after obtaining the consent of the Scheduled Tribes and other forest dwellers inhabiting the area, and in consultation with an independent ecological and social scientist familiar with the area has come to a conclusion that other reasonable options of co-existence, are not available.
(iv) Resettlement or alternative package has been prepared providing for livelihood for the affected individuals and communities and fulfils the requirements given in the National Relief and Rehabilitation Policy.
(v) The informed consent of the gram sabhas concerned, and of the persons affected, to the resettlement programme has been obtained.
(vi) The facilities and land allocation at the resettlement location are provided under the said programme otherwise their existing rights shall not be interfered with.
Provisions of the FRA, 2006 Section 4(5) of the FRA requires that no member of a forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe or other traditional Scheduled Tribe or other traditional forest dweller be evicted or removed from the forest land till the recognition verification procedure is complete.
The September 2008 guideline states that the identification of core/CTHs in new tiger reserves would involve actions as contained in section 38(V) of WLPA to be read in conjunction with the provisions under Section 4(2) and Section 4(5) of the FRA.
As per the NTCA guideline on relocation, a checklist has been formulated of steps to be taken before carrying out relocation from a tiger reserve based on the steps which are compulsory under the WLPA, 2006 and the FRA 2006.
As per the WLPA, unless the relocation is voluntary and on mutually agreed terms and conditions, and provided that such terms and conditions satisfy the legal requirements laid down in both the Acts, no Scheduled Tribe or other forest dwellers shall be resettled or have their rights adversely affected for the purpose of creating inviolate areas for tiger conservation. As per the FRA, the forest rights recognised within Critical Wildlife Habitats of National Parks and Sanctuaries may subsequently be modified or resettled, provided that no forest rights holders shall be resettled or have their rights in any manner affected for the purposes of creating inviolate areas for wildlife conservation except in cases where all the conditions laid out in the Act are satisfied.
It remains to be seen how tiger reserve in Goa materialises with, without or in spite of community participation of stakeholders in the Sattari and Sanguem taluka.