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Managing the Protected Areas of India

S. Theodore Baskaran

Edited by Ghazala Shahabuddin
Permanent Black, 2010, pp. 244, Rs. 595.00


The author begins by saying, ‘this book is an attempt to try and understand the shortcomings of the varied strategies that have been adopted for biodiversity conservation by India since Independence, both in terms of policy as well as implementation’. Keeping the Sariska National Park in view, a background with which Shahabuddin is familiar, she goes on to examine the crucial issues in the discourse on conservation in India today. She begins by citing the extinction of the tiger in Sariska and raises a series of questions as to what went wrong. What have our policies been? How are these policies formulated and implemented? Who are the players, visible and invisible, in contemporary Indian conservation? While critiquing the policy of the Government of India in the field of management of protected areas, Shahabuddin touches upon most of the important issues such as displacing forest dwellers for the sake of protecting the tigers, involving people in conservation work, participatory management and the various acts that have come up in recent decades. Her attention is mainly on people in this book. Shahabuddin supports her arguments with solid empirical data. Effectively combining her experience in the field and the rigour of an academic—indeed a rare combination—Ghazala deals with the problems faced by researchers on Indian forests and explains why there are so few successful field biologists in India and why they are often found working with NGOs. The forest establishment in India makes it difficult for them to gain access to their subject matter, be it a plant or an animal in the jungle. When wildlife biologists appeared on the scene, the traditional forester looked upon them as poaching in their domain. Every single researcher in India has tales of woe when it comes to getting permission from the Forest Department—forget the cooperation and help. Despite the increase in the number of sanctuaries there are not many research projects going on in the country. The author covers the big debate about conservation is India. There are experts who argue that to save what is left of our wildlife we should adopt a different strategy than what obtains now and that local people should not be excluded from the management of sanctuaries; that their traditional rights and privileges should not be denied. They argue that the interests of local communities should be accommodated in the conservation strategies and advocate a participatory ...

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