Human-wildlife conflicts in India:
A direct consequence of illegal encroachment into forests
By: Saikat Kumar Basu*
Apropos to the Indian media report that in the western state of Goa, peacock may well be termed a vermin; it is important to mention that is another classical example of human-wildlife conflict; plaguing not just India but all the subcontinent nations. Rather than taking sides as a knee jerk reaction, let us try to analyze and understand the grave situation from an unbiased perspective. In spite of being the world’s largest democracy, a global military power house and an impressive, expanding economy; India is still a developing nation with poor human indices, low on social development, super high on human populations beyond the carrying capacity of the land; but at the same time harbors a rich biodiversity. As a consequence, it is quite expected that the nation will face critical challenges of human-wildlife conflicts. But why are these conflicts happening across the nation so frequently? One of the simple answers is illegal encroachments into the protected forests of the nation with under lying support of various stakeholders, namely, the respective state governments and law makers, local politicians and administrators and major industrial and agricultural groups who are desperately looking for additional land to expand business and serve for the powerful corporate India. The easiest way to incorporate these lands is by illegal encroachments covertly promoted by political parties and administration; and backed by a powerful land mafia-realtor nexus secretly operative in different parts of the nation (read every square inch of the land) more and more into forested areas. Not a single state or union territory of the nation and the adjoining neighboring countries of the entire SAARC region is immune to this perennial problem. Why are these so frequent now, such as elephants rampaging into cities and tea gardens, leopards moving into school campuses or tigers or monkeys raiding villages? The fact is that, it has always been there; only the media has become more active and educated in highlighting this with prominence in the recent times that the reports of human-wildlife conflicts are being appearing so frequently. Furthermore; abject poverty, lack of any socio-economic opportunities, pressures of insurgency, lack of crop insurance facilities for marginal farmers in remote locations is also generating fringe groups who are completely dependent on the fragile forest resources for their survival. The extra pressure of unaccounted communities on the fragile forest base of India is reducing the forest resources drastically for the wildlife to sustain within small pockets; and they are being pushed to get into direct confrontation with the local populations for their own survival as the fundamental rule of evolution, survival of the fittest. Humans being empowered more in this process have an upper hand in lawfully exterminating the helpless wildlife. The broader question is this that it may be the turn for the helpless wildlife today; but will the human stakeholders be too far from accessing similar environmental and ecological gallows in the not so distant future?
*UFL, Lethbridge AB