Orissa has a unique distinction of being one of the few states in India where there are thousands of local communities that are actively protecting and conserving biodiversity along with meeting their own livelihood requirements. These efforts cover a vast array of ecosystems existing on private land, community owned lands, lands whose ownership is disputed, as well as government owned lands. We can call these initiatives as Community Conservation Initiatives (CCIs). With one third of the population of Orissa critically dependent on the forest resources, biodiversity has always been an integral part of the socio-cultural aspects of the local people. Ethos of conservation and harmonious living with the nature are very much ingrained in the life styles of the local people. In Orissa, we can find hundreds of examples where communities are actively protecting and conserving biodiversity. These efforts encompass conservation of vast array of ecosystems, habitats of wild flora and fauna and follow a wide range of institutional mechanisms, rules and regulation. CCIs play a very crucial role in protection of biodiversity, maintenance of ecological services and gene flow of wildlife as these areas function as corridors between important wildlife habitats. They also play a very important role in providing thousands of people basic livelihood needs, financial resources, cultural and political identities. They synergize the links between traditional agricultural system and forest ecosystems harmonized by interactions among the agricultural biodiversity and wildlife, thus provide larger landscape level integration. Thus CCIs can be cited as community based conservation and economic models.
Despite their contribution to local ecology and economy these initiatives unfortunately, remain unrecognized formally by the state as areas important for local economies or habitats for wildlife conservation. The western conservation model, based on exclusionary principle has always been forcefully extended and imposed on people in India who have always co-habited and conserved the wildlife habitats. One must also recognize that the conservation of biodiversity and wildlife in particular should not be limited to isolated patches/pockets and a larger landscape approach has to be taken into consideration. Efforts by the State agencies to conserve wildlife in National Parks and Sanctuaries coexist with serious conflicts with local communities who reside in and around these areas. These are conceived as ‘islands of conservation’ where any form of human intervention is considered to be harmful for conservation. The Protected Area approach keeps local people away from benefits of conservation and imposes the cost of conservation on them, banishing their fundamental rights, which results into hostility of local community towards conservation affecting whole goal of conservation. While destructive developmental activities permanently wipe out the resources, force resource dependent community into destitution.
In the context of these
contradictions, numerous initiatives by the local communities at
biodiversity and wildlife conservation and generating sustained
livelihoods emerge as a strong ray of hope. In Orissa we can find
hundreds of examples where communities are actively protecting and
conserving biodiversity. These initiatives exist on community owned
lands, lands whose ownership is disputed as well as government owned
lands. These efforts encompass conservation of vast array of
ecosystems, habitats of wild flora and fauna and follow a wide range
of institutional mechanisms, rules and regulation.
Though these community conservation initiatives are much older than the government managed protected areas, yet they are always neglected and remain unrecognized.
SIGNIFICANCES OF CCIs
CCIs play very crucial role in protection of biodiversity, maintenance of ecological services and gene flow of wildlife. They provide livelihood to thousands of forest dwellers and ensure survival of dependent community.
Ecological roles played by CCIs:
They are responsible
for maintenance of essential ecological services, like soil
conservation, water security, stock of genes, etc.
CCIs play very crucial role in conservation of vital ecosystems, critical wildlife habitats and threatened species. Many CCIs function as a corridor for wildlife and establish linkages between official Protected Areas. They synergize links between traditional agricultural system and forest ecosystems and thereby provide larger landscape level integration.
Socio-economic roles played by CCIs:
Some of the CCIs are
very crucial for sustenance of local economy; thousands of
people are depend upon them for survival, and are
socio-culturally attached to them.
CCIs can be seen as
community based models of development built on local ecological
knowledge system that offer integration of traditional knowledge
with current advancements in conservation scenario.
They are a part of local community’s resistance to destructive commercial activities. e. g., community protected forests threatened by mining, dams and industries, over exploitation of marine resources by illegal fishing activities.