This study attempts to understand the:

  • impacts of some of India’s conservation policies and programs on the livelihoods and livelihood rights of ecosystem-dependent communities,
  • ongoing attempts to evolve alternative models that integrate conservation and livelihoods and 
  • The study places itself within the context of United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving extreme poverty by 2015.

    The paper is based on site visits to study the actual on-ground situation in PAs in 3 states of India (Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh), and an analysis of conservation policies, undertaken as part of a Small Grants Programme research project funded by UNESCO. It places itself within UNESCO’s perspective that freedom from poverty is an issue basic to ensuring the protection of human rights.

    Our research at these 3 states of India suggests that conservation policy is having significant adverse impacts on resident and user communities. Some sincere attempts by the state and/or by NGOs to mitigate or minimize these impacts have been made, but they remain very inadequate. Our studies show that poverty has indeed been a significant feature of the communities living within protected areas. Issues of poverty, conservation, human rights, citizenship rights, and land/resource tenure rights specific to India’s history and social-economic conditions cannot be addressed in a piece-meal manner, as has been done so far. A Human rights based approach to poverty, that: integrates conservation and livelihoods issues and evokes active and informed participation of the poor people and communities living within protected areas. needs to be adapted. Conservation policy itself needs to embrace new paradigms of governance and participation that many countries are exploring.

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