Recommendations Of The National Workshop On Critical Tiger Habitats And Critical Wildlife Habitats

8-9 May, 2008
Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
Centre for Ecological Sciences, Karnataka State Forest Department and the
Future of Conservation Network

Background:

This set of Recommendations has emanated from a two-day National Workshop on
Critical Tiger Habitats and Critical Wildlife Habitats held at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) on 8th and 9th May 2008. This workshop was organized by the Centre for Ecological Sciences (IISc), Karnataka State Forest Department and the Future of Conservation Network (FoC)1. It was attended by officers from State Forest Departments, scientists, academics, social activists and a number of groups working on wildlife issues.
The workshop was an attempt to understand the legal provisions relating to Critical Tiger Habitats and Critical Wildlife Habitats as given in the Wild Life Protection (Amendment) Act 2006 (WLPA) and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights Act) 2006 (STOTFDA). Participants gathered to gain clarity on the countrywide status of their implementation, discuss key issues and concerns
regarding their application and work out actions towards effective implementation
including the use of better science/knowledge and consultative methods. Through
dialogue, we hoped to arrive at a common process to secure these habitats in the interest of wildlife while ensuring the livelihood rights of forest-dwellers. During the Workshop, participants discussed at length the various implications and interpretations of Critical Tiger and Wildlife Habitats and the practical difficulties with their implementation. A number of documents were used as inputs to the discussion.

These included, other than the Acts themselves, the MoEF Guidelines and the FoC’s
Guidelines for identifying and notifying Critical Tiger and Wildlife Habitats. At the end of the workshop, most were in agreement that in spite of the extensive differences that exist state-to-state in socioeconomic, cultural contexts and other issues, these Acts could be used as a tool to secure wildlife from serious threats such as mining, expressways and large scale infrastructure. It was also understood that, for various reasons, including for effective conservation itself, the livelihoods concerns of forest dwelling communities have to be integral to the Protected Area (PA) management process. While such livelihoods in some cases also have impacts on biodiversity, it is the massive thrust towards unsustainable economic growth that is the greatest threat. Critical Wildlife Habitats, if applied with the recommendations below could be one tool to safeguard biodiversity against this threat.

NOTE:
1 The Future of Conservation in India (FoC) is a network of ecological and social organizations and individuals committed to effective and equitable conservation of biodiversity. FoC’s objective is to foster dialogue and engagement in complex conservation issues, and help tackle the increasing threats that both biodiversity and people’s livelihoods face. This includes joint action on areas of agreement, and attempts at evolving common understanding on issues where there are differences. FoC is not an organization, but a forum where organizations and individuals can meet, dialogue, and take joint actions. For further details, pl. contact arshiyabose.research@googlemail.com

Recommendations in brief 2

1.
Identification and management of Critical Tiger Habitats (CTH) and Critical
Wildlife Habitats (CWH) needs to be based on sound knowledge and democratic
processes.
2.
The process should not be hurried; it should be time-bound, but with at least one
year to take into account the complexities involved.
3.
The criteria for identifying CTH and CWH should involve a number of factors
relating to ecosystems and species, and be based on the Precautionary Principle.
Areas important for wildlife outside current protected areas (PAs) should also be
considered for CWH or other similar status.
4.
The process for identifying such areas, must involve knowledgeable people from
all sectors including those with traditional knowledge; and the feasibility of
protection, and relevant socio-economic factors should also be considered.
5.
Committees for identification of CWHs should be set up both at the level of the
state and of the PA and its landscape, and involve local experts including from
local communities (the MoEF Guidelines on CWH need to be changed to involve
more than one local expert).
6.
All further processes including impact assessment, assessment of co-existence
possibilities, and of relocation, must be in full consultation with the people to be
affected.
7.
In the process of determining continuation or modification of rights within a CTH
or CWH, appropriate methods need to be employed including thumbrules
acceptable to all those involved, that indicate impacts of human use on the
conservation values of the proposed areas.
8.
The CTH/CWH process should be used as an opportunity to move towards comanagement,
which includes all relevant rightsholders and stakeholders in
decision-making, starting with a few pilot sites where the capacity exists and
conditions are appropriate, and keeping in mind that this may not be an appropriate
strategy for all PAs.
9.
Given that in many or most PAs including within CWHs, there will continue to be
human presence including in many cases settlements, strategies for co-existence
need to be urgently developed; these would include encouraging activities that are
beneficial or neutral for the relevant conservation values of the area, and
alternatives for those that are detrimental.
10.
Where it is determined that co-existence is not possible, relocation options need to
be considered with appropriate processes of consultation and consent. Both the
process and package of relocation need considerable enhancement.

NOTE:
2 Not all participants were in agreement with each of the recommendations articulated here. However, these
recommendations represent the views of the majority of the participants.

Recommendations3

Participants of the National Workshop on Critical Tiger Habitats and Critical Wildlife
Habitats, welcome the protection of areas of crucial importance for wildlife as envisaged by the provisions of ‘Critical Tiger Habitats’ under the WLPA and ‘Critical Wildlife Habitats’ under the STOTFDA. The scope of the above provisions to strengthen conservation, including securing the habitats of many wildlife species and simultaneously the livelihoods of forest-dwelling communities is recognized as extremely significant. Critical Wildlife Habitats once notified, cannot be diverted for any other use (as per Section 4(2) of STOTFDA), which is the strongest provision for conservation available in any law in India. The provisions for Critical Tiger and Wildlife Habitats, however, require the use of scientific and local knowledge for identification, and a democratic process of consultations during the entire process from identification to notification to dealing with people’s rights to management and monitoring.

In view of this, we recommend the following:

Time frame
Given the need for a thorough, knowledge-based, democratic process, it is critical that the Central and State Governments do not hastily undertake the identification and notification of Critical Wildlife Habitats and the implementation of already notified Critical Tiger Habitats. This process needs to be time-bound, but with at least one year for completion.

Criteria for Identifying Critical Wildlife Habitats
A key presumption operating here is that the decision on which PAs, how much and which parts of a specific PA and its landscape would be declared Critical Wildlife Habitats will be on a case-by-case basis. We recommend that these areas be identified based on a set of ecological and biological criteria and in relation to the conservation goal of the specific PA. Ecological and biological criteria would include sites that are unique or crucial for:
• Exclusive representation of a Biome
• Rare and/ or restricted range species
• Endemic species
• Key wintering or stepping stone sites for migratory species
• Species richness (relative to biogeographic context)
• Status of a particular species or habitat using established importance/threat criteria, e.g. IUCN Red List, Ramsar Sites, World Heritage Sites.
• Ecosystem service providers i.e. pollinators, seed dispersers
• Key habitats for ecosystem integrity e.g. riparian forest in arid area, catchment areas for watersheds
• Unique geomorphologic features and scientific archives of evolutionary processes or climate change e.g. fossiliferous rocks and peat bogs
• Wild relatives of important crops/domesticated animals
• Current roosting, breeding and display sites e.g. lekking sites for floricans
• Species range during periods of stress, e.g. severe drought years and including adaptation to climate change
• Regeneration sites for endangered plants or plants that are characteristic of that PA, e.g. regeneration of shola trees within shola-Acacia plantation matrix
• Areas with relatively high densities of wild animals and relatively low human densities

NOTE:
3 Not all participants were in agreement with each of the recommendations articulated here. However, these
recommendations represent the views of the majority of the participants.

Given that the above criteria could be interpreted to include or exclude nearly all parts of the country, an additional factor of feasibility of protection could be considered. Areas that are of high biodiversity value and low human use, would be high on the priority list, but those with high biodiversity value and intense human use would also need to be considered.

We recommend that essential areas outside National Parks and Sanctuaries that are also crucial for wildlife, such as corridors, be identified as part of the current process. These can be considered for declaration as Critical Wildlife Habitats after going through the required process, or where this is inappropriate, they can be given legal backing through other various options in the WLPA (including as Conservation and Community Reserves), the Biological Diversity Act (as Biodiversity Heritage Sites), the STOTFDA (as community forests), and the EPA (as eco-sensitive areas). We strongly advise that the Precautionary Principle4 is used when there is genuine absence of adequate information on the above criteria. General rules for the application of this principle are however very difficult to provide; local stakeholders and rights-holders will need to apply the principle based on site-specific situation and knowledge, giving the benefit of doubt to actions that are least likely to cause harm. Such an approach, however,

NOTE:
4 It is recognized that uncertainty is an integral characteristic of complex ecosystems. In conservation, many situations require for urgent action and in these cases, conservation decisions are made based on great uncertainties. Requiring all information to be available before making conservation decisions and knowing the exact outcomes of those decisions before undertaking them is neither practical nor feasible, particularly when capacity and resources are limited. In these circumstances, it is helpful to adopt the “precautionary principle” which advises that an absence of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason to postpone measures where there is a risk of serious or irreversible harm to both wildlife and local communities. Additionally, if there is a doubt about an animal’s or plant’s exact conservation status, the strongest protective measures should be chosen. In these circumstances, it is crucial to adopt an adaptive management approach, where conservation decisions are periodically reviewed and amended in the light of new information. However, given that the precautionary principle could be used as a rationale to support conservation interventions that are detrimental to local communities, this principle should be applied in a manner that involves all stakeholders. (Source: “The Precautionary Principle in Natural Resource Management and Biodiversity Conservation”: Workshop Final Report. Fourth Regional Session for Asia of the Global Biodiversity Forum, South-East Asia Manila, The Philippines. June 20-23 2004 URL: http://www.pprinciple.net/publications/PP%20Workshop%20Report_Manila%20GBF.pd f)

Process to Identify and Notify Critical Wildlife Habitats

It is crucial to note that a Critical Wildlife Habitat is being identified because the area is critical for wildlife. Such identification should not be made with the intention of modifying rights. Any modification of rights, if required, should occur only after the PA level sub-committee has conducted an objective evaluation of human impact on wildlife and wildlife habitat. We emphasize that the process to identify Critical Wildlife Habitats is undertaken on a case-by-case basis and considered as an opportunity to evaluate the ecologically representative quality of our current PA system. In addition, the following should be factored into the process:
• The process to identify Critical Wildlife Habitats should be at the level of PAs and their landscapes so that it is situated within varying local contexts.
• It should engage scientists (ecologists, biologists, geologists, hydrologists, social scientists etc.), professionals, holders of traditional knowledge and other primary stakeholders at PA level.
• If the impact evaluation (for which appropriate criteria need to be developed and applied) reveals that the rights of certain groups need to be modified, we urge that various social considerations are brought into the process. Within this, crucial steps would be to: (a) Consider traditional use of sacred sites, species and other entities within the proposed Critical Wildlife Habitat (b) Cultural sensitivities, e.g. particularly vulnerable groups, access to culturally important sites or where displacement from PAs could cause cultural disintegration of the community.
• Socioeconomic factors, e.g. process of modifying or relocating bona fide rights holders under STOTFDA or when the number of people affected is large.

Strategies for Relocation
We recommend that the relocation of traditional resident communities should be adopted only after the following processes have already occurred and been found inadequate for relevant wildlife and wildlife habitat (as indicated in the legal provisions for CTHs and CWHs):
• Objective evaluation of impacts of human activities on wildlife and wildlife habitat (And impacts of wildlife on humans within PAs). Given that a thorough evaluation 9 may in many situations be time-consuming, the use of thumb-rule indicators all members of the CWH sub-committee are agreeable to, may be necessary best available methods for doing this should be employed, including available from traditional knowledge, and care will need to be taken not abuse of such methods to take arbitrary decisions based on assumptions impact of human use. Simultaneously, comprehensive long-term studies initiated to gauge any mistakes that may be made in the use of thumb-rules, on board the need for adaptive management in all processes.
• Negotiating specific modifications in human activities, through a fully consultative process.
• Providing appropriate livelihood alternatives that are feasible.

When carrying out relocation and resettlement of forest-dwelling communities, critical to consider the following:

• Memorandums of Understanding regarding the details of relocation including extent of resettlement facilities must be signed between the community and the relevant government agency prior to initiating the resettlement process.
• The consent of both the household (must include women) and the gram relocation must be taken in writing. There should also be a provision for withdraw consent if it is found that the prerequisites for rehabilitation place, but with safeguards against withdrawing consent on flimsy grounds; of an independent agency in all this would be useful.
• The relocation process must be initiated after the State Government has the required funds and the relevant committees have been constituted and least once; this is to ensure that there are not too many delays once relocation announced and initiated.
• In order to avoid interminable delays in the payment of funds to individuals, deterrents must apply, e.g. an annual interest on the delayed could be considered. PA Managers or relevant authorities must have the option to outsource either components or the entire relocation process if they feel they are not equipped carries it out single-handedly. This should happen through local community institutions, and/or NGOs and/or independent agencies that are accountable communities being impacted.
• The same relocation package, building in appropriate special measures disprivileged sections such as landless and women, must be used to resettle households in a given community to avoid conflict and resentment between and landless families.
• In situations where the assets owned by a family exceed the relocation package, State Government should be responsible for additional funds that exceed lakh budget provided by the Central Government.
• The new site for resettlement should be acceptable to the affected communities as far as possible culturally and ecologically similar to the site from relocation occurred.
• Various mechanisms for reviewing the quality of resettlement should undertaken after the relocation process, e.g. through a PA Rehabilitation
• The cash allotted under the relocation package must be enhanced for difficult where costs may be higher.
• With respect to cash compensations, additional measures must be taken to ensure that individuals do not occupy any further forestland once they have already been given funds, e.g. in Madhya Pradesh, the final installment of the cash compensation is proposed to be released only when the affected individual purchases a permanent asset.
• Although, the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) and MoEF’s ‘Format for Preparation of Village Relocation Plan from Core/Critical Tiger Habitats’ provides an option between a ‘cash only’ and ‘relocation and rehabilitation by Forest Department’, we recommend that ‘land for land’ be considered the first option and ‘cash only’ only as a last resort, except where it can be independently verified that communities prefer the cash option and conditions are in place to ensure they are not exploited or do not lose out in the process. Independent institutions should be involved in monitoring the entire process of relocation and rehabilitation.

Conclusion

As participants of this workshop, we request the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Ministry of Environment and Forests to incorporate the above recommendations into existing CTH and CWH Guidelines and all future material on these critical habitats. It is crucial that the distinct but complementary roles of the central and state governments be clarified in this process.

Participants at the workshop

Ajith Kumar, Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bangalore
AJT Johnsingh, Bangalore
Amit Sharma, WWF-India, Assam
Anand Sekhar, IBA Advocacy Officer, Delhi
Anil Johri, Gujarat Forest Department, Gandhinagar
Aparajita Datta, Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore
Arshiya Urveeja Bose, Kalpavriksh, Pune
Arunava Das, Green Peace and National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore
Ashish Kothari, Kalpavriksh, Pune
B.B. Mallesh, Karnataka Forest Department, Mercara
B. Venkata Reddy, Sahajeevan, Andhra Pradesh
Bishan Singh Bonal, Assam Forest Department, Guwahati
C.M. Hegde, Maharashtra Forest Department, Dandeli
Dilip Gode, Vidharbha Nature Conservation Society, Nagpur
Guman Singh, Himalaya Forest Policy Campaign, Kulu
H.S. Pabla, Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, Bhopal
James Zacharias, Tribal Rehabilitation Commission, Kerala Forest Department, Kochi
Janardhanan Pillai, CES, Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore
Kishor Rithe, Satpuda Foundation, Amaravati
M.D. Madhusudhan, Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore
Md. Firoz Ahmed, Aaranyak, Guwahati
Mohan Jha, Maharashtra Forest Department, Pench
Mohan Raj, WWF-India, Ooty
B.K. Patnaik, Orissa Forest Department, Bhubaneswar
Vanashree Vipin Singh, Karnataka Forest Department, Bannerghatta
Nitin Rai, ATREE, Bangalore
P. Mullai, WWF-India, Coimbatore
Pankaj Sekhsaria, Kalpavriksh, Pune
Pratyush Mohapatra, Vasundhara, Bhubaneswar
R. Sukumar, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
Ranjitha B.N., WWF-India, Bangalore
Ravi Chellam, ATREE, Bangalore
Renee M. Borges, Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
S. A. Thorath, Maharashtra Forest Department
S. Pallavi, WWF-India, Bangalore
S.H.Patil, Maharasthra Forest Department, Tadoba-Andhari
Seema Mundoli, ATREE, Bangalore
Shivaji Chavan, WWF-India, Mandla
Sisir Kanta Pradhan, FES, Angul
Sudha S., Sahajeevan, Bangalore
Sunil Chaudhury, Bhagalpur University, Bhagalpur
Sushmita Mandal, ATREE, Bangalore
Thomas Mathew, Bangalore
V.D. Chafekar, Maharashtra Forest Department, Nashik
V.S. Varughese, Kerala Forest Department, Thiruvananthapuram
Vinay Tandon, Himachal Pradesh Forest Department, Shimla
Vishaish Uppal, WWF-India, New Delhi
W.S. Suiting, Kerala Forest Department, Palakkad

Advertisements