(Update written by Sourabha Rao)
Today’s IFS training course began with Mr. K. K. Sunil Kumar’s presentation. He is presently working in Mannarkkad Forest division. While preparing a plan for voluntary relocation of families from Wayanad in 2003-2004, he visited the new settlements, interacted with the voluntarily relocated families and with NGOs who assisted in the relocation process and got inspired and played an important role in the process.
Mr. Kumar said, "Remoteness of settlements; high intensity of human-wildlife conflict; few livelihood options; inaccessibility to hospitals, educational institutions, development programmes of the government; social issues such as students having to live away from their parents for education and youngsters finding it hard to get married; and most importantly, the willingness of people themselves to move out of the protected area were the key factors behind the success of voluntary relocation at the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary."
Following this, our Country Director, Ms. Prakriti Srivastava, gave a talk about the procedures and process of voluntary relocation in India. She explained the significance of the role of committed NGOs that handhold people and help them avail of the voluntary relocation benefits.
"It is a democratic right of people living inside protected areas to move out when they are willing to do so, in order to avail of better social and economical benefits of voluntary relocation. When done with transparency, setting the expectations right and building trust, it is a win-win situation for both people and wildlife. While people get to live better lives with access to education, jobs, health benefits, our forest ecosystems thrive naturally,” said Ms. Srivastava.
Mr. Soumitra Dasgupta joined us after Ms. Srivastava’s presentation, and explained the role of government institutions in voluntary relocation, which has multi-pronged positive consequences for both people and wildlife of our country. The ADG Wildlife also reaffirmed that CAMPA funds will be used in project mode for voluntary relocation and this initiative is a priority for MoEFCC.
Mr. Dasgupta is presently holding the charge of Additional Director General of Forests (Wildlife), is also the Director, Wildlife Prevention under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and also the CITES Management Authority for India. He is also the International Whaling Commissioner for India and developing the Plan for Marine Mammal Conservation of the country. He will also be acting as the focal point for the recently announced National Dolphin and Lion Projects. The Wildlife, Project Elephant and Forest Policy Divisions are being monitored by him. He has been instrumental in intensive species conservation and community participation in wildlife conservation and mitigation of human-wildlife conflict.
Ms. Prerna Bindra, drawing from her field work experience in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, says that the voluntary relocation process calls for effective leadership at various levels: among the affected communities, NGOs, forest staff, government authorities at local, regional and national level. She asserts that the perception of voluntary relocation needs to shift to a ‘human welfare’ perspective and not solely as a wildlife conservation initiative.
Ms. Bindra is a wildlife conservationist, writer, communications and policy strategist, with a primary focus on conservation of wildlife habitats. She was formerly a member of the Standing Committee, National Board for Wildlife, and the State Board for Wildlife, Uttarakhand. She has been part of other government high-level committees including NTCA’s Member of the Management Effectiveness Evaluation team.
Ms. Bindra is also a prolific writer on nature and wildlife in mainstream media, and has authored the critically acclaimed ‘The Vanishing: India’s Wildlife Crisis’. In 2019, she co-edited ‘Wild Treasures, An Anthology on Natural World Heritage Sites of Asia’, jointly published by the Wildlife Institute of India.
Every speaker of the day also answered the questions that the participants had after their respective presentations. We will get back to you with our daily report tomorrow and hope that you will return to this space for the same!