Tribes Blame Exploitation Not Tiger Conservation
Survival International has received disturbing reports that several tribals are facing imminent eviction from tiger reserves in Odisha in eastern India, despite the villagers’ desperate appeal to stay on the land and to involve them in protecting the forest.
Testimony obtained by Survival shows that tribes in the Similipal Tiger Reserve, who have been living with the forest’s wildlife for generations, are determined to stay on their land, but have been facing years of harassment and pressure from forest guards to force them out of the reserve.
A Munda man from Jamunagarh, one of the villages slated for eviction, told Survival, “We are very much dependent on the forest…We don’t have any conflict with the wildlife. We don’t hunt or cut down trees. If we leave we will face a lot of hardship… Please don’t displace us!”
In potential breach of the law, wildlife authorities in Odisha are determined to clear ‘core areas’ inside Tiger Reserves of all human habitation. Three out of six villages have already been removed from Similipal and eviction plans are currently underway in the neighboring Satkosia Tiger Reserve.
During the most recent eviction from Similipal in December 2013, 32 families of the Khadia tribe were moved to a resettlement village outside of Similipal and only received a fraction of the compensation they were promised. Sheltering under plastic sheets on a tiny patch of land, the tribe is now entirely dependent on government handouts for their survival.
Two Munda men from Jamunagarh village have launched a desperate appeal to remain on their land inside Similipal Tiger Reserve.
According to Indian law, the villagers’ consent needs to be obtained and their claims to their forest land processed before such resettlements can go ahead. But their rights are ignored and communities are worn down with harassment and promises of money, food, livestock and land – most of which never materialises.
As the original conservationists, tribal peoples inhabit the world’s most biologically diverse regions – and it is often because they have protected their fragile environments that the wildlife has managed to survive. But authorities in India seem intent on creating human-free zones inside tiger reserves around the nation.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said, “Tribal peoples are usually the best conservationists. In spite of this, in many places around the world they are being illegally evicted from their lands in the name of ‘conservation.’ Nowhere is this more blatant than in reserves where people who have lived alongside wildlife for generations are kicked out to make way for busloads of tourists and the roads and infrastructure they demand. It’s not about conservation, it’s about others profiting from tribal lands.
Sacred Seedlings is a global initiative to support forest conservation, reforestation, urban forestry, carbon capture, sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation. Sustainable land management and land use are critical to the survival of entire ecosystems.
Sacred Seedlings is a U.S.-based program that supports the vision of local stakeholders. We have projects ready across Africa. We seek additional projects elsewhere around the world. We also seek volunteers, sponsors and donors of cash and in-kind support. Write to Gary Chandler for more information firstname.lastname@example.org