Political ecology of tiger conservation in India: Adverse effects of banning customary practices in a protected area

Protected areas have had significant impacts on local communities primarily through the physical removal of people. In some instances, people continue to live within protected areas due to the inability of the state to evict them. The restrictions on livelihoods placed on people living inside protected areas lead to in situ displacement. This study shows how conservation enclosures in the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve have produced a class of people that the state ‘lets die’ by banning customary practices such as fire use, hunting and harvesting of forest produce. Using longitudinal ethnographic, socio-economic and ecological data, the study demonstrates that conservation policy has alienated indigenous forest dwellers from their agricultural and forest-land. The outcomes of conservation policy include dispossession through increased crop losses, reduced income from agriculture and forest produce, as well as a forest that is dominated by weeds due to fire suppression. The ban on hunting in particular has increased wildlife densities, which has enabled the state to accumulate revenues through the establishment of wildlife tourism facilities. All in all, centralized protected area governance has changed the relationships among people, forest and the state in a way that has produced adverse effects for both livelihoods and the ecosystem.

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