Balukhand Konark Sanctuary

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 Location Ecosystem Type   Conservation Type   Area(hectare) Legal status 
 Puri, Odisha Forest Ecosystem Conservation 7172 Wildlife Sanctuary

Case Study (2009)

Background

The Balukhand Konark Sanctuary, stretching over an area of 71.72 sq km, is located in Puri district between 85º 52’ to 86º 14’ longitude and latitudes 19º 48’ to 19º 54’. Balukhand- Konark was declared as a sanctuary on 23 April 1984, vide notification no. 9013, which was further revised on 1 September1987, vide notification no. 15216. Though final notification has not been issued till date, it is being considered as Deemed Wildlife Sanctuary as per the provision laid down in 1991 amended Wild Life Protection Act (WLPA). The sanctuary comes under the administrative control of Puri Wildlife Division, Puri district.

Floral and faunal diversity

Balukhand-Konark sanctuary was established on the sandy tract covered by plantation of casurina and cashew trees, along the coast between Puri and Konark. Apart from cashew and casurina plantation, Australian acacia and eucalyptus plantation has also been done. Jamun, ficus, neem, karanj and polang trees are also found, mostly along the course of the Khushabhadra and Nuanai rivers.

The region is famous for the occurrence of a large number of blackbucks and spotted deer. Stripped hyena, jungle cat, jackal, etc. can also be spotted in the area. According to the villagers, as the plantation cover became dense and luxuriant, the blackbuck and deer population also increased. These animals are believed to have migrated from the adjoining Mal reserved forest. The rivers Khushabhadra and Nuanai cut through the sanctuary and are major freshwater sources for the adjoining villages.

There are 45 villages along the stretch of Balukhand-Konark Sanctuary. The villagers have been actively protecting the forests and wildlife of the sanctuary. The good protection work of the villagers in preventing the poaching of animals has also led to the steady improvement of the habitat and wildlife of the said sanctuary, in which the main species are spotted deer and blackbuck. The DFO, Puri Wildlife Division, Mr. Sarat Mishra, acknowledges that due to the active protection activities of the villagers, the number of blackbuck and deer have increased significantly. According to him, in the last census held during 2005 the number of blackbuck recorded were around 110 and the number of spotted deer recorded were more than 2000. The good protection work done by the committees has been acknowledged, for which the villagers have also received several awards, testimonials and certificates from the forest department and other government departments. The cashew and casurina plantation was done by the forest department around 40 years ago, much before the area was declared a sanctuary. Initially the protection activities were not carried out in an organized way by the villagers. The drive of the people to protect the forest started after a massive cyclone in this area in 1980-1. According to the villagers, the 1980-1 cyclone was an eye opener for them. Due to the casurina plantation, the villagers felt that the impact of cyclone was highly reduced. These villages therefore experienced much less damage as compared to many others, which were devastated by the cyclone. It was since then that they started protecting these plantations. This relationship of the villagers took on a greater significance once the cashew trees grew and started yielding fruit. The people even felt the importance of the forest in their daily life as they could get fuelwood, wood for construction purposes (like doors, roofing, etc.) and even for occasions like marriages, festivals etc. from the forest. The protection activity started with a group of enthusiastic people like Benudhar Pradhan, Bhagirathi Babu, Okilya Swain and others, who motivated the villagers to protect the forest patch adjoining their respective villages. A few villages then got together and formed the Sri Sri Belaswar Belabhoomi Bana Suraksha Samiti (named after local Belaswar temple) and elected Benudhar Pradhan as the president of this samiti. This committee works as an apex body of the individual committees that exist in all the villages. 90-year-old Benudhar Pradhan is an energetic man, still

Impact of the sanctuary status Because of the changed status of the area the VSSs in the villages were dissolved in 1996 and eco-development committees (EDCs) were formed. Till date 25 EDCs have been formed in different villages in the Balukhand- Konark area. In the Balukhand area, which comes under Puri Sadar and Gop blocks of Puri district, nine EDCs have been formed. The remaining 16 EDCs have been formed in the Konark area. The villagers agreed to this decision. Before the formation of the EDC, the forester and the range officer had conducted meetings in every village explaining about the dissolution of the VSS and the formation of EDCs. In most of the villages there was no change in the members of VSS and EDC. The executive members of the VSS automatically became executive members of the EDC. However the EDC mandated at least seven members from the village (two female and five male) and one forester as the secretary.

According to the villagers, till 2002-3 cashewnuts were being auctioned from the sanctuary. The villagers were engaged in the collection of the cashewnuts as wage labourers. Women and children of the marginalized and Scheduled Caste families and the landless families were primarily engaged in the collection activity and were earning Rs 5 per tin of cashew. In a particular day they were able to earn around Rs 15. Their monthly income came to around Rs 4500-5000 per family from the two months of cashew collection.

The order of the Supreme Court in IA No. 548, dated 14 February 2000, prohibited the removal of dead, diseased, dying or wind-fallen trees, driftwood and grasses, etc. from any national park or sanctuary. The direct implication of this blanket ban order was a ban on the collection of cashewnuts by the villagers from the sanctuary area.

The collection of cashewnuts has been stopped from the sanctuary since the year 2002-3. According to the DFO, Puri Wildlife Division, despite the ban, during the years 2002-3 and 2003-4, the quantity of cashewnuts collected was 953.37 quintals and 515.75 quintals respectively. These collections were seized by the FD and disposed off through the Tribal Development Cooperative Corporation Ltd (TDCC). The revenue released and remitted to the government is as under: 

 

Interim application filed in the Supreme Court In response to the Supreme Court order, the local people of the Balukhand-Konark sanctuary area have filed Application No. 604 in the Supreme Court regarding the collection of the cashewnuts by the villagers from the Balukhand-Konark Sanctuary in Orissa in relaxation of the court order dated 14 February 2000 passed in IA No. 548.

Application was filed by Shri Benudhar Pradhan, President of Sri Sri Beleswar Belabhumi Banasuraksha Samiti, Balukhanda, Puri, Orissa State and the other villagers had also signed the application.

The main submissions made by the applicant are as under:

1. That several villages which are located close to the Balukhand- Konark Sanctuary have been helping in protecting and maintaining the forest and wildlife of the sanctuary from 1996 to 2002, when the van suraksha samitis (VSS) were dissolved and Eco-development Committees (EDCs) were set up;

2. That because of good protection work done by these committees in preventing poaching of animals, there has been steady improvement of the habitat and the wildlife in the said sanctuary in which the main species found are blackbuck and spotted deer.

3. That the villagers have been collecting the cashewnuts from the sanctuary, which are not consumed by the animals; in fact they are harmful to the animals. Besides being harmful, if the nuts are not removed there will be more regeneration of cashew plants, which is not good for the sanctuary and the animals inhabiting it.

4. That as a result of the stoppage of the collection of the cashewnut from the sanctuary, no funds from the sale/auction of cashewnuts have been received by the EDCs, due to which their community development and other works have suffered.

The Orissa Forest Department supported the Applicant’s Application and has observed that cashew being an exotic species, its nuts are not eaten by the wild animals. In fact they are harmful to the animals if they eat them. There are about 1,12,245 cashew plants growing in the sanctuary, and if the collection is stopped there would be profuse regeneration of these plants, which will be detrimental to the habitat as well as to the wildlife of the sanctuary. On the other hand, large quantities of cashew if not removed will lead to the entry of the unscrupulous elements which could not be prevented by the Department due to shortage of staff.

Further the removal of cashewnuts is also permissible under Section 29 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, as it would help benefit the wildlife and habitat of the sanctuary. The said provision prohibits removal and commercial exploitation of any forest produce from any National Park and Sanctuary but since cashew is a peculiar forest produce and cannot be used for the personal bonafide needs of the local people, the Orissa Forest Department urged the Centrally Empowered Committee (CEC) (set up to deal with forest related cases by the Supreme Court) to relax the order of Supreme Court passed on 14 February 2000 and authorize the Chief Wildlife Warden to issue necessary permit for the removal of cashewnuts from the said sanctuary.

The Orissa Forest Department has definitely taken a positive move by supporting the community in front of the Supreme Court. The application filed by the villagers under the leadership of Benudhar Pradhan was done under the guidance of Mr. Chhadda, the then DFO, Puri Wildlife Division.

After its observations, the Centrally Empowered Committee (CEC) recommended that the Chief Wildlife warden, Orissa, may be permitted to allow collection of cashewnuts by the villagers adjoining the Balukhand–Konark Sanctuary through their respective Eco-Development Committees under the supervision of the Orissa Forest Development Corporation Ltd (OFDC) or the Tribal Development Corporation Ltd (TDCC). The sale proceeds should be utilized in improving the protection and management of the sanctuary and also for creating community assets through the EDCs in the respective villages on a pro rata basis.

The CEC recommendation came on 30 August 2005 and the orders of the CEC will come into force from the forthcoming season of cashew collection, i.e., April-May 2006.

While discussing the case with the DFO, he agreed about the ongoing cashew collection inside the sanctuary and said that on record the Department shows certain amount of cashew collected by the villagers as being seized by the Department, which is disposed off through TDCC. The revenue remitted to the government in the last two years has been shown in the table above. Such an arrangement, though not on legal lines, has served not only the benefit of the poor people but also the wildlife and the sanctuary. 

The forest department acknowledges the role and efforts of the local people in the protection of the forests of the area and is hence supportive of their activities. The case of Balukhand–Konark Sanctuary stands out to as an exemplary case towards co-management in protected areas. In Orissa, Balukhand-Konark sanctuary stands out as an exemplary case, where

• The communities have got their rights of cashew collection and, more important, the FD has supported them in their struggle.

• The FD acknowledges the fact that communities have been actively protecting the forest in and around the sanctuary and there has been not yet been any incidence of poaching or man-animal conflict.

• The activities undertaken for sanctuary development are carried out in consultation with the respective villages.

Thus it definitely reflects a case of co-management, but there still is space left where both FD and the communities can coordinate and work together for better management of the sanctuary. 

   

Sweta Mishra
Vasundhara
Plot no. 15
Sahid Nagar, Bhubaneshwar
Pin 751007
Ph: 0674-2542011/12
Email: [email protected]

This case study was part of the Directory on Community Conserved Areas (2009), published by Kalpavriksh. The directory can be downloaded here.

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Related Information

Balukhand - Konark Conservation Program

Wild Orissa is an organisation for nature and wildlife conservation. They run a program on conservation in Balukhand-Konark wildlife sanctuary.

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