Environmentalism of the rich
All over the country, tensions fill national parks and sanctuaries. People living in and around these forests see them as the last remaining source of biomass and depend on them heavily to meet their fuel and fodder needs. Regulations on grazing, for instance, have cut these people off from their biomass resources and have led to numerous conflicts.
17th January, 1993
Ranthambore (in 1991) faces a total revolt against the conservation laws of the country. The villagers no longer hesitate to indulge in violence against the upholders of these laws, which, according to them, have turned them into outlaws in their own habitat.
The government has two strategies in mind. One is more guards and guns. The other is sops in the form of an ecodevelopment programme, which will try to increase fuel and fodder supply to the people through better management of the areas surrounding the park. But, it is unlikely any of these strategies will succeed.ill succeed. The only way national parks can be a success in India is if people are made to feel they belong to them, that they are a part of their heritage. But the government's imported nature conservation strategy begins by treating people as outcasts.
6th June, 1993
A Gujjar leader, Mastuk Lodha, told a meeting organised in Delhi by the Centre for Science and Environment that his community knew the forests like the back of its hand. He argued that it was not right to blame the Gujjars for the destruction of the forests, especially as they knew well enough who was actually behind the destruction. Also, he indicated the Gujjars were quite prepared to take over management of the proposed national park (Rajaji National Park).
Asked what they would do to manage their own population and cattle so that both remain within the park's carrying capacity, Gujjar leaders said they would take steps to restrict the size of the population dependent on the park's biomass resources if they were given control of it.
Nomads and tribals usually know more about their environment than even experts. In fact, nomad and tribal lore is responsible for greatly enriching the world's botanical knowledge. But rarely has the world given them credit for this. Once the Gujjars have a vested interest in the park, they will do their best to manage it well.
17th January, 1993
Today, a fair amount of resources are spent on policing the park. With their management, they would improve the habitat, both for the animals as well as to meet their own needs. Without the money they allegedly have to pay on the side to forest officials they could earn more from their milk. The regenerated grass would give them incentives to protect more, as they would be assured of the benefits of their work. learly this would give a new lease of life to the park.
Then why is this not done? The reason lies in the difference between the environmentalism of the rich and the environmentalism of the poor. The environmentalism of the rich supports the protection of habitats and the pristine purity of nature. The environmentalism of the poor wants sustainable use of habitats for meeting the needs and aspirations of the poor. The forest is a living habitat not a wilderness area.
This does not mean that environmentalism of the poor has no place for wildlife. But it demands that the protection of wildlife demands that people have to be involved in its conservation. The past record of the forest department makes it clear that there are few options. Recent studies have shown that even the most protected tiger reserves are getting degraded. Experts in India and abroad have warned that the
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