Over the last two decades, the focus of biodiversity conservation has shifted from the ‘parks’ and ‘species protection’ approaches, which India generally followed, to ‘sustainable development’ and ‘equitable resource sharing’ concepts. Under the latter concept, protected areas (PAs) have become better integrated into the development process through sustainable use of their natural resources.
The India Eco-development Project (IEDP) set out to improve the capacity of PA managers to conserve biodiversity, reduce negative impacts of local people on biodiversity and of PAs on local people, and increase collaboration of local people in conservation efforts. Among these PAs the IEDP project at Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR), southern India has been evaluated as a success by several reports and documents.
Sanjay Gubbi’s study seeks to carry out a follow-up analysis of different components of the PTR-IEDP, five years after the project ended, to determine its longer-term success. The study uses a multi-disciplinary approach, including GIS based spatial study to measure changes is habitat/forest cover, social science methodologies to assess community attitudes, behaviour and economic sustainability of alternate livelihoods provided under IEDP. This independent, process-based trend analysis of the PTR-IEDP is important for tiger conservation, for setting activity priorities to guide future investments in tiger conservation and to develop site specific criteria to measure the success of integrated approaches.
Tiger habitats and Integrated Conservation and Development Projects:
A case study from Periyar Tiger Reserve, India
India is rich in biodiversity and is one of the 12 mega-diversity countries in the world. By 2005, India had established 95 national parks and 500 wildlife sanctuaries that covered 4.74% of the country’s total land area. These reserves harbour several flagship, umbrella and ecologically fragile species, including the Indian tiger, Panthera tigris tigris.
Protected areas are central to most national policies to conserve wildlife the world over. However, these wildlife reserves are usually surrounded by local communities who use or depend on them for natural resources. Many species of wildlife usually range beyond the reserve boundaries causing conflicts between wildlife and people, resulting in economic loss to local communities. In turn, this can lead to loss of support for wildlife conservation as local people are rarely adequately compensated. Hence Community-based Conservation (CBC) emerged as a solution to offset the costs of living. However, CBC projects were often designed and implemented to function independent of neighbouring protected areas, thereby creating a gap between them and local communities. In turn, this has led to a newer standard of Integrated Conservation and Development Projects (ICDP) that seek to link Protected Area management with Community based conservation. In India, high population pressures and rich biodiversity make this integration particularly relevant.
The overarching question that this case study at Periyar Tiger Reserve sought to address is whether or not conservation benefits provided through Integrated Conservation and Development Projects have affected attitudes towards conservation.