Maldharis Tribe | UPSC
Project Lion could displace Maldharis within Gir to create ‘inviolate space’
WHY IN NEWS:
The proposal seeks to relocate 2,500 families of the community from the Gir protected area within 10 years
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 1 : Tribe
For PRELIMS go through distribution , Project Lion and the invasive species of Gir national park.
For MAINS it is important to understand the man-animal conflict . Note down the threats . This is an important issue . Let us dive in !
PROPOSAL FOR INVIOLATED SPACE
- Project Lion, created by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Gujarat forest department, talks of creating ‘an inviolate space of 1,000 square kilometres’ (sq km).
- Resource extraction of forest produce like fuel wood, fodder and minor forest produce as well as human habitation are not allowed in such places.
- Project Lion was launched on August 15, 2020.
- The proposal draws from the practices adopted by the Project Tiger.
- The Maldhari community is a tribe of herdsmen in the border state of Gujarat.
- The lions have been periodically hunting the Maldhari cattle for food, but the Maldharis understand the cycle of life.
- They consider the taken cows an offering to the lions, whose territory they share.
Maldharis Tribe | UPSC
- They have co-existed with the lions, which the Gir National Park was created to preserve, for these thousand years.
- The unbridled development over past few years has disturbed the centuries-long lifestyle of these nomadic herdsmen.
- Although the grassland reserve is off-limits to industries, several exist at its periphery and have been dumping toxic contaminants into the reserve’s natural resources.
- Recently built dams, overgrazing have also taken their toll.
- The tree grew into an invasive species threatening local grass and tree species.
- However, the tribe and its lifestyle was most threatened by the creation of the Gir National Park.
- Creation of a sanctuary for lions necessitated movement of humans out of the region, so as to provide a safe shelter for the large cats.
- However, the Maldhari community steadfastly protested any relocation.
- The Maldhari tribesmen have had to face eviction threats and accusations by government authorities of endangering the lions, just for living in the land of their forefathers.
- In addition, due to mismanagement of the existing population of lions in the National Park, the interaction between the lions and the tribals have increased over the past few decades.
- Experts note that although the populations of lions have been increasing, the land has been shrinking.
RIGHTS UNDER FRA
- Under the provisions of the Act, forest dwellers cannot be displaced unless the rights settlement process has been completed.
- Only forest rights committees have been formed, but nothing has moved beyond that.
- Moreover, the Act has a special provision for setting up ‘Critical Wildlife Habitats’ (CWH), for the conservation of the species.
- Lions are found in Gujarat across an area of 30,000 sq km called the Asiatic Lion Landscape (ALL).
- These people are the Maldharis, who have resided in the area for several generations.
- They live in settlements called ness and make their living by selling milk from their water buffaloes.
- The Project Lion proposal acknowledges that the Maldharis who stay within the Gir protected area.
- They make a 75 per cent higher profit compared to those living outside it due to free access to grazing, sale of manure with topsoil and compensation for predated livestock.
- The proposal offered to all forest dwellers within the core zone to relocate outside with hand holding Additional perks.
- The budgetary outlay proposed for the relocation of 2,500 Maldhari families has been kept at Rs 500 crore over the next 10 years.
- Each family eligible for a compensatory sum of Rs 20 lakh.
THE TUSSLE FOR CONSERVATION
- Not only have some lions started exploring outside the reserve for food, but some tribesmen from Maldhari and other communities have also been charged of poisoning or poaching lions.
- This tussle between local communities and conservation almost always turns out bad in the long run.
- Communities not only possess the knowledge required for devising conservation practices, but also the tools and the zeal.
- In this direction, the government did make an effort by passing the Recognition of Forest Rights Bill in 2006.
- The bill recognized the rights of forest-dwellers to stay in the land of their ancestors.
- However, more efforts are required to ensure proper integration of local communities in conservation efforts.
- It is important that Project Lion restores sufficient exclusive lion habitat of about 1,000 sq km through incentivised voluntary relocation.
- Presently Maldhari and lions coexist in a win-win state where lions get a considerable part of their food from Maldhari livestock and Maldharis profit substantially by free access to forest resources.
SOURCES:DownToEarth | Maldharis Tribe | UPSC