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

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National Laws and International Obligations

Draft Wildlife Action Plan

This analysis of the draft wildlife action plan says that it takes note of the injustices historically carried out upon the local communities and addresses such injustice to be able to create local support for conservation. It also examines the extent to which the draft has explored complementarities between national laws and international obligations.

The draft wildlife action plan (hereafter DWAP) is a vision document meant for guiding the direction of wildlife conservation in the country. The Government of India (GoI) is currently revising its wildlife action plan for the period 2017 to 2031. No wildlife policy or action plan in India would have much relevance without emphasising the human–wildlife interface. Over 300 million people are directly or indirectly dependent on the forest ecosystem alone (Ministry of Environment and Forests 2009). If the dependence data on inland wetlands and marine ecosystems is added to this it will be many scores more. These forest-dependent communities include a tribal population of 67.7 million,1 representing 461 tribes with distinct linguistic and cultural traditions (IAITPTF 1998), particularly dependent on produce from forests such as fuel wood and non-timber forest products (NTFPs) (Prasad 1999). Livelihood and cultural security for such ecosystem-dependent communities is critically linked to both ecological security and the security of access and control over natural resources (Kocherry 2001).

The DWAP acknowledges this fact and clearly “underscores people’s support for conservation” as an important requirement for wildlife conservation. It also recognises that the exclusionary nature of wildlife policies thus far has led to a lack of tenure security for local communities, including large-scale relocation of local communities residing in and around protected areas to create “human free” spaces for wildlife. Comprehensive figures for displacement from protected areas are not available but some estimates suggest this figure to be around 3,00,000 families over the last three to four decades (Lasgorceix and Kothari 2009). Much more than physical displacement, however, there has been heavy restriction on access to forestland and resources, resulting in local communities dependent on ecosystems within protected areas becoming amongst the most marginalised groups in the country (Wani and Kothari 2007). A constant state of conflict with the wildlife conservation laws and authority has led to lack of local people’s support for wildlife conservation. Thus by setting two of the most voiceless groups (ecosystem-dependent communities and wildlife) against each other, the wildlife policies work for the disadvantage of both (Kothari 1996).

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