On October 8th, 2020, the Conservation and Livelihoods team of Kalpavriksh along the Environmental Justice Atlas team represented by Eleonora Fanari launched an interactive map highlighting the negative impacts of the current model of exclusive ‘Wildlife Conservation’ policies and practices on local and indigenous communities in India. The map reveals the ways in which rights of communities have been undermined and how mainstream conservation efforts through the ‘Protected Area’ model has impacted the livelihoods and sustenance of communities who have been living in and around these areas for generations. The map is a product of an extensive collaborative study carried out in association with local communities living in and around protected areas, civil society organizations, activists and independent scholars for 3 years and aims to make such information available for all those working on similar issues.
The map includes case studies from protected areas including tiger reserves, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries highlighting issues of illegal alteration of protected area boundaries, large scale displacement of local communities through relocations and evictions and the discrepancies and legal violations during such processes, instances of human-rights violations including harassment of communities often leading to injuries, false arrests and deaths. In addition to such environment injustices and human rights violations, the map also aims to address the low implementation of the forest rights act 2006 and the reasons for such low implementation of the act especially in protected areas. While it is clear that there are several restrictions on local communities’ rights and access to these forests, on the other hand, large scale developmental projects continue to be given clearance in protected areas therefore leaving wildlife, the landscape and local communities vulnerable to such destruction.
This thematic map is an ongoing process towards recording and analyzing the socio-environmental conflicts emerging within various protected areas in India. With the hope that highlighting these issues will create a wiser debate around whether official conservation policies and praxis in India want to continue to be alienating, conflict ridden and violative of laws of land or they want to comply with become part of a sustainable and just society with a much greater and wider support for conservation among local, national and global communities.