ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Exclusionary Conservation in the Sundarbans

Who Pays the Price?

An ethnographic survey on the island of Satjelia in the Sundarbans shows how exclusionary conservation practices are intensifying the vulnerabilities of the local population. An inclusive conservation policy would privilege both biodiversity and people’s livelihoods. 

In March 2015, two weeks before I left the village of Emilybari in Satjelia gram panchayat of Gosaba block, South 24 Parganas, West Bengal, Amal Mandal, a man in his early 30s, was mauled by a tiger while collecting crabs in the forest creeks near the island of Pirkhali, a core area within the Sundarban Tiger Reserve. Two other fishermen accompanied Mandal. He is survived by his 26-year-old wife, a daughter studying in the fourth standard, and a differently-abled son. His family has been left penniless and without food. A week before this incident, an 18-year-old boy was attacked by a wild cat near Buridabri. He has left behind a 16-year-old wife and a one-year-old child.

The media generally reports one or two deaths every year within the Tiger Reserve, but these two deaths in two weeks in a single village point to the extent of the vulnerability of the local populations.

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