by Kevin Krajick
Featuring research by Amrita Neelakantan, Columbia University
It is the black before dawn at the gate to the Kanha Tiger Reserve, in the highlands of central India. The still air carries a dank, penetrating chill. But it is hardly quiet. A buzzing line of tourists is forming at the ticket booth, peddlers are pouring steaming cups of tea. Groups of green-uniformed rangers chat at the entrance. Across the street, dozens of drivers are forming up a military-type vehicle convoy, ready for the visitors to board for the daily sunrise invasion of drive-through safaris.
It was Kanha’s lushly forested hills and ravines that inspired Rudyard Kipling’s famous story collection The Jungle Book, and it is a must-do tourist stop. Unlike much of rapidly developing India, it abounds in wildlife; it is home not only to Bengal tigers, but leopards, sloth bears, unique deer species and other rare and endangered creatures. The 360-square-mile park used to be home also to at least 1,500 extended families, but not anymore. The government started moving them out in the 1970s, and nudged out the last stragglers in 2015. This, theoretically, has been good for the fauna and flora. Whether it has been good for the people is a separate question.
Read more in the original article, posted on State of the Planet, Columbia University's Earth Institute blog.
Species and Landscapes Programme, WWF India
In order to minimize the impact of unsustainable agriculture practices in the Satpuda-Pench corridor, a critical stretch of forest connecting the Satpuda and Pench Tiger Reserves in Central India, 2000 farmers from 22 villages located along the Satpuda-Pench corridor have enrolled in an organic cotton cultivation project implemented by WWF-India and C&A Foundation. Intensive farming practices which entail higher costs have resulted in significantly reduced incomes from agriculture and in turn led to soil degradation, reduced water availability and quality in the villages in this ecologically fragile area.
The organic cotton project has trained the farmers in organic cotton cultivation by setting up demonstration plots and providing training for pest management, preparation of organic manure and bioreagents, nutrient management and use of non-GMO cotton seeds. The cotton produced as a result of this project will be procured by a Denmark based garment company called ‘Neutral’ at a premium. By 2018, the aim is to get 6000 famers in the corridor villages to go organic, earning them a premium for the produce and significantly reducing the impact of unsustainable agricultural practices all along the Satpuda-Pench corridor.
PhD Candidate, National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS)
With 664 million tonnes (Mt) of coal, India was the third largest producer in 2014-15, next to China (3474 Mt) and the USA (924 Mt). The Indian government has announced an ambitious plan to produce 1500 Mt of coal by 2020, at an annual growth rate of almost 20%. In order to meet this target, massive expansion of open cast mines is envisaged. About 80% of India’s coal reserves lie in the central Indian landscape and much of it is under forests. Destruction of forests is inevitable for open-cast mining. Along with deforestation, direct and indirect mining activities change the landscape surrounding the mine. Direct activities include removal of the top soil, followed by excavation of overburden and then coal extraction. Indirect activities include tree felling for constructing roads, houses and other infrastructure, thus increasing the anthropogenic impact on the surrounding landscape.
Under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, whenever forest land is diverted for non-forest use, compensatory afforestation (CA) needs to be carried out on an equal amount of non-forest land, or double the amount of degraded forest land. It is usually recommended that CA should be done at the point closest to where diversion is taking place. Mining companies often reclaim the overburden dumps for afforestation. But can these overburden dumps, after reclamation, support similar species of trees which were found in the forest that was cleared? How different are the physical and chemical properties of the dump soil compared to the soil found in the surrounding areas?
In order to answer these questions, Jitendra Ahirwal and Subodh Kumar Maiti from the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad evaluated the changes in soil properties due to direct and indirect mining activities around Ananta open cast mine in Odisha. They collected soil samples from 5 different sites in 2008:
Joint Forest Management and Eco Development: Do these conservation interventions always achieve what they aspire?
PhD Candidate, National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS)
Participation by local communities has long been recognized as a key component of successful biodiversity conservation. The involvement of local communities in biodiversity management can have different purposes: from conflict management, to generating local community support for conservation and introducing local knowledge to management decisions. Participation can lead to positive attitudes of local people towards conservation, their pro-conservation behavior and ultimately positive changes in biodiversity indicators. The social and ecological conservation outcomes of community participation depend on several factors- the level of involvement of local people, their control over management decisions, interests of the local people and other stakeholders and institutional framework. Institutional framework depends on whether the initiative is ‘bottom-up’ - initiated by local people or ‘top-down’- initiated by the government or other external resources. Evaluation of the success of such initiatives is essential to ensure effective participation of communities and sustainable forest management.
In a case study published in the Regional Environmental Change journal in 2016, Biljana Macura and co-authors evaluated whether people’s involvement in forest management and conservation in a Tiger Reserve in India through two state-initiated incentive-based (top-down) interventions had an impact on selected social outcomes. The two participatory interventions evaluated were Joint Forest Management (JFM) and Eco-development (ED). The impact of these interventions on social outcomes were evaluated by measuring conservation knowledge of the local people, their attitudes towards biodiversity as well as trust in and satisfaction with the tiger reserve management authorities. The study was carried out in the buffer zone of Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR) in Madhya Pradesh.
NatureNet Fellow, Columbia University
Over the last several years, India has been working to improve tiger conservation by declaring as many protected Tiger Reserves as possible — with around five being declared in 2015 alone. A Tiger Reserve is a category of Protected Area that is especially designated for tiger conservation, and has administrative and funding mechanisms that are different from other categories of PAs.
However, because landscapes outside the reserves are changing so drastically, just protecting isolated islands of habitat surrounded by an ocean of development will not be enough to protect the big cats into the future. Mainly because tigers don’t stay inside Tiger Reserve boundaries.
Our paper Connecting the Dots: Mapping Habitat Connectivity for Tigers in Central India,(1) in Regional Environmental Change identifies areas in the landscape that are important to tiger movement.
Read the full article in Conservation India.
Project Spotlight highlights our members' work in Central India.
|Network for Conserving Central India||