India has submitted an application to the World Bank for a loan of US$30 million to improve its fight against poaching. This could cause some of the most controversial aspects of India’s conservation programme to come under scrutiny.
The most concerning aspect of India nature conservation programme is the country’s commitment to exclusive areas for wildlife which has seen voluntary - and not so voluntary – movements of entire villages from their traditional homelands. This a a particular conservation policy often used when new tiger reserves are declared.
The World Bank has a number of core safeguards in place to try and protect both environmental and social standards. There are principles and guidelines in place to protect indigenous people and this could be a source of conflict.
The application for the loan will be used for a number of projects:
- cross border landscape management approach between the countries,
- relocation of people living in parks and sanctuaries to create inviolate wildlife areas,
- satellite based monitoring approach,
- strengthen the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau,
- set up a Virtual Regional Center of Excellence (VRCE) for wildlife conservation,
- and research projects in wildlife conservation.
As part of the application the environment ministry had to put together a Environmental and Social Management Framework (ESMF) to demonstrate that the World Bank safeguards are adhered to.
The framework raises the question that some of India wildlife laws may be in conflict with World Bank requirements. The document admits that the World Bank funding could have an impact on the implementation of environmental laws such as Environment Protection Act of 1986, National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2007, Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 as they come into conflict with the bank’s five policies on environmental protection, natural habitats, forestry, involuntary resettlement and indigenous people.
India has come into conflict with many forest dwelling communities when it puts in place new nature reserves. International indigenous peoples NGO’s have also targeted the country for its views that nature and people are not able to co-exist despite forest people living with nature for generations. In most situations it is not the local forest dwellers who are the greatest threat to endangered species.
India is increasingly becoming isolated in the way that it runs conservation projects. Across the world community-led projects are proving that people and wildlife can live together. In many African countries the old exclusion policies of the 60′s and 70′s are now disregarded in favour of working together with local people to enhance and conserve the wildlife of their areas.
If the World Bank forces the issue then the long running policy of re-locations that has lead to hundreds of thousands of people removed from their homes over recent years will need to come to an end.
There are new younger and enlightened personal coming up the ranks of India’s conservation organisations but the old guard still wields the power. There is every chance though that the need for extra funds could bring about major changes in the way that India operates.