Maldharis Tribe | UPSC

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



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 !


Maldharis, a traditional pastoral people might end up being uprooted from their homes, if the Project Lion proposal takes shape


  • 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).

Inviolate spaces are areas free from anthropomorphic pressures.

  • 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.

An inviolate space of 800-1,000 sq km is required as ‘core area’ for a tiger reserve and with a buffer of another 800-1,000 sq km, according to the NTCA’s .


  • The Maldhari community is a tribe of herdsmen in the border state of Gujarat.

The name Maldhari means owner of goods – in this case, goods referring to cattle.

  • 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

Maldharis Tribe | UPSC


The Maldharis have lived in the Gir National Park, in the Banni Grasslands Reserve area, for the past thousand years.

  • 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.

Another concern is the tree Prosopis juliflora (Ganda Bawal), which was introduced by the Forest Department for its salinity-resistant characteristic in the 1980’s .

  • 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.

There were a few tribal groups that were moved from the National Park, however, their relocation procedure was mismanaged.

  • 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.


  • Under the provisions of the Act, forest dwellers cannot be displaced unless the rights settlement process has been completed.

In the Gir region, which is a non-Schedule area, the process of rights recognition under FRA has not started at all.

  • 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).

But only 250 sq km of the Gir National Park is the exclusive space for lions while the rest is shared with people, according to the Project Lion proposal.

  • 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.

Therefore, an appropriately lucrative rehabilitation package for incentivised relocation would need to be worked out.

  • 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.


  • 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.

Thus, it is quite critical to involve the local communities in conservation if any tangible, lasting benefits are to be reaped from the effort.

  • 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.

      IASbhai WINDUP: 

  • It is important that Project Lion restores sufficient exclusive lion habitat of about 1,000 sq km through incentivised voluntary relocation.

Asiatic lion population will get the space it requires for performing its ecological role.

  • 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



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