Equipped with substantial relocation experience and critical assessment data, WCS – India supports voluntary resettlements that are carried out equitably and justly across all its conservation sites. WCS – India has been working with the forest departments in facilitating a smooth and fair transition for resettled families. We have worked with the government to facilitate voluntary relocation of 1129 families from the protected areas in Karnataka and 305 families in Kerala, so far.
Around 792 households in Nagarahole tiger reserve have been relocated since 1997. In 2001-2002, 457 households voluntarily moved out of Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, thanks in large part to WCS – India support and local conservation partners The transformation in the lives of the people two decades down the line speaks for the success of the voluntary relocation. This project today stands as a benchmark for resettlement programs across the country, inspiring policy makers to implement many such packages across various protected areas. Around 228 families from Kudremukh National Park and 109 from Kali tiger reserve have moved out to date.
WCS – India is also involved in voluntary resettlement programs through direct land purchase. Back in 2003, WCS – India supported its partner organizations Kudremukh Wildlife Foundation, Bhadra Conservation Trust and WildCat-C in the first of its kind privately-funded voluntary relocation project in Kudremukh National Park. An enclosure in Kudremukh National Park, Bhagawathi, had eight families with over 450 cattle head in all, living in the forest. They were incentivised to move out into a better life while leaving the forests inviolate for wildlife. It was done on the request of the people. Since then, the organisation has facilitated at a cost of over Rs 4 crores, the voluntary relocation of over 73 families from protected areas, freeing over 135 acres of land for wildlife. In this, WCS-India has been assisted by UK-based charity Adventure Ashram and Cat in Canada, as also individuals like Harvey Bookman and Vikram Nagaraj.
WCS India staff works with the resettled families before and after the voluntary relocation. If in the pre-settlement phase, it is by helping families procure Aadhar card and ownership titles and facilitating the application process, after the relocation our staff work with the families in finding livelihood means for the new life. Sponsoring higher education for more than 500 tribal students, providing medical help to the resettled families, exposing them to farmer workshops and trainings, helping to secure admissions in college, the list reads on.