C062610_Are_Conservation_Sanjay_Gubbi

C062610_Are_Conservation_Sanjay_Gubbi - COMMENTARY Are...

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COMMENTARY JUNE 26, 2010 vol xlv nos 26 & 27 EPW Economic & Political Weekly 22 Are Conservation Funds Degrading Wildlife Habitats? Sanjay Gubbi Sanjay Gubbi ( [email protected] ) is with the Wildlife Conservation Society-India Programme, Bangalore. There has been increased funding for wildlife conservation efforts in recent years. These funds have largely been spent on “habitat improvement” activities. In the absence of a scientific evaluation of such activities, inappropriate management of landscapes has led to human-wildlife conflicts in certain areas. Moreover, funds are being used for construction of conservation structures, forest roads and planting of exotic tree species without assessing the resulting adverse ecological effects and the gradual degradation in the quality of wildlife habitat. T he goal of the Imperial Forest Ser- vices in India, formed in 1864 under the German and French models, was revenue generation through sustainable forestry and game management (Beinart and Hughes 2007; Gadgil and Guha 1992). It aimed at meeting timber demands for ship building, railway supplies and coal demands of the colonial empire. These strategies and production forestry practices were continued post-independence. How- ever, since the early 1970s, conservation management took precedence over reve- nue generation forestry. Policies were for- mulated and implemented to enhance the protected area network and reduce threats to wildlife, which would result in aug- menting wildlife populations. This change in management policy led to success in conserving large-bodied, ecologically sensitive wildlife species, some from the brink of extinction, such as the tiger, Asiatic lion, elephant, one horned- rhinoceros, lion-tailed macaque, brow- antlered deer and others. This success has been impressive, and gains importance given the poor results in other Asian coun- tries. A critical aspect of this conservation success story has been the support of a dynamic political leadership and a com- mitted bureaucratic set-up that focused on priority conservation policies. Enactment of stringent laws, establishment of pro- tected areas and other important protec- tion measures were accorded precedence. However, currently wildlife conserva- tion is going through a difficult phase due to a burgeoning human population, rapid economic growth and other factors. Direct extermination of large carnivores for international wildlife trade, hunting of prey species for local consumption, large- scale habitat loss and chronic threats such as human-induced forest fires, commer- cialisation of forest products and timber smuggling have largely contributed to the list of threats to wildlife conservation. In most protected areas where threats persist and wildlife populations are far below their biological carrying capacity, short- age of staff and a severe crunch in funding have been cited as the two most important limiting factors in achieving the goal of wildlife conservation ( TTF 2005).
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