Environment & Ecology > Species extinction & protection > India biodiversity
- Recently, Standing Committee on Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change in its report suggested that the Environment Ministry must constitute an advisory body of experts to tackle growing instances of human-animal conflict.
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- The report analyses the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2021 tabled in the Lok Sabha in December 2021.
- The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 provides a legal framework for the protection of various species of wild animals and plants, management of their habitat and the regulation and control of trade in wild animals, plants and their parts and products.
- While it has been amended several times, the latest set of proposed amendments by the Environment Ministry were to make it more compliant to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to which India is a signatory.
- CITES regulates international trade in over 38,700 species of wild animals and plants.
- Human-wildlife conflict (HWC) occurs when animals pose a direct and recurring threat to the livelihood or safety of people.
- HWC affects most large carnivores, as well as many other species groups including elephants, pigs, deer, primates, sharks, birds of prey and rhinos.
- India is one of the most affected countries because it has the world’s second-largest human population as well as large populations of tigers, Asian elephants, one-horned rhinos, Asiatic lions and other species.
- People and wildlife have coexisted for millennia but HWC is becoming more frequent, serious and widespread, and a global concern for conservation and development alike.
WHY THEY ARE INCREASING?
- Increase in interface:
- As human populations and demand for space continue to grow, people and wildlife are increasingly interacting and competing for resources, resulting in increased human-wildlife conflict.
- Eg: To meet the rising demands, buffer areas between human settlements and forests are being cleared for agriculture and plantations, which has increased the interface with wildlife.
- Habitat fragmentation:
- Developmental activities such as roads and railways track through animal habitats have resulted in fragmentation of natural habitats and loss of animal life.
- Eg: According to Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), a total of 186 elephants were killed after being hit by trains across India between 2009-10 and 2020-21.
- Changes in land use:
- Developmental activities like creation of reservoirs and construction of settlements around forests have altered the natural habitat of animals, resulting in them changing their behavior and migratory routes.
- Eg: One major reason for elephant attacks in Nilgiri region is the illegal constructions along Nilgiri elephant corridor.
- Climate change:
- Climate change has led to increase in floods, forest fires and droughts, forcing animals to leave their natural habitats in search of food and shelter.
- Eg: During monsoons, the water levels rise inside the Kaziranga national park, prompting animals to move highlands. This leads to an increased human-wildlife encounter due to heavy settlements in the Karbi-Anglong Hills.
- Lack of protected area:
- Marine and terrestrial protected areas only cover 9.67% globally. Hence, a majority of the species live outside protected areas.
- Eg: In India, 35% tiger ranges currently lie outside the protected areas.
- Rise in Invasive alien species:
- Infestation of forests by invasive species like Lantana camara and Prosopis juliflora have resulted in decreased availability of food for wild herbivores. As a result, herbivores come out of forest area and forage on agricultural crops.
- Success of conservation efforts:
- In some cases, successes in species conservation have resulted in creating new HWC.
- Eg: The prohibition of hunting under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 has led to population explosion of vermin such as Wild boars and Nilgai. This has resulted in them encroaching into farm lands, resulting in massive crop damage.
- Illegal poaching reduces the prey base of carnivores, which forces them to roam into nearby villages in search of food. This leads to the killing of cattle by these carnivores, thus bringing them into conflict with humans.
IMPACT OF HWC:
- Loss of life and livelihood:
- Human-wildlife conflict result in the decline of species, while communities experience threats to health and safety, livelihoods, food security, and property.
- Eg: Data from the MOEFCC indicates that 2,361 people and over 500 elephants were killed between 2014-2015 and 2018-2019, mostly due to human-elephant conflict.
- Loss of biodiversity:
- According to a report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), conflict between humans and animals is one of the main threats to the long-term survival of some of the world’s most iconic species.
- Spread of diseases:
- Wild animals are host to numerous zoonotic diseases. Rise in HWC can result in the spread of new diseases, similar to COVID-19, to humans.
- Eg: Several deaths have been reported in recent years in Shivamogga district in Karnataka state due to Kyasanur Forest disease (KFD), or monkey fever.
- Eg: The Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala is believed to have originated from fruit bats.
- Challenge to conservation efforts:
- Recurring conflicts alienate people from wildlife and forest conservation, thereby affecting the conservation efforts.
- Impact on Sustainable Development:
- Though it is not explicitly mentioned as one, HWC is an important theme in attaining the goals of biodiversity conservation, particularly SDG 15 (life on land).
- Affects societal morality:
- HWC can occasionally result in social outrages and question the trajectory of human growth and development.
- Eg: The death of a pregnant elephant in May 2020 in Kerala from eating pineapples filled with fire crackers resulted in a nationwide furor.
MEASURES FOR WILDLIFE PROTECTION IN INDIA:
- Wildlife Protection Act of 1972:
- Under the Act, the government has created Protected Areas like National Parks, Sanctuaries, Conservation Reserves and Community Reserves and imposed punishments on those indulged in illegal act of hunting.
- The Act has divided the protection status of various plants and animals under the following six schedules:
- National Board for Wildlife (NBWL):
- NBWL has been created under the provisions of the WPA, 1972. It serves as an apex body for the review of all wildlife-related matters and for the approval of projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries.
- The NBWL is chaired by the Prime Minister and is responsible for promotion of conservation and development of wildlife and forests.
- Wildlife Crime Control Bureau:
- WCCB has been established under the WPA, 1972 to curb illegal trade of wildlife and that of endangered species.
- Research institutions:
- Special organizations like Wildlife Institute of India, Bombay Natural History society and Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History are formed to conduct research on conservation of wildlife.
- Conservation Projects:
- To check the dwindling population and protect key species, specific projects have been developed such as Project Tiger, Project Elephant and project Rhino.
- Judiciary has often stepped in to prevent man-animal conflict and ensure compensation for victims.
- Eg: The Supreme Court in 2019 ordered the demolition of a 2.2-km boundary wall erected by Numaligarh Refinery on an elephant migration corridor in eastern Assam’s Golaghat district.
- National Wildlife Action Plan 2017-2035:
- It allocates responsibilities to MOEFCC, NGOs and scientific institutions to develop national and regional conflict management plans, streamline the process of providing post-conflict relief, and gather relevant ecological information for the formation of local action plans.
- In addition to equipping professional rapid response teams, the NWAP calls for an inclusive approach to managing human-wildlife interactions that engages local community members.
- Insurance cover for farmers:
- Farmers facing damage to their crops due to attack by wild animals can get insurance coverage under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) for such crop loss.
- Culling of vermin species:
- To control vermin population and reduce conflicts governments occasionally adopts mass culling of vermin species in select regions for specific time periods.
- Eg: In December 2015, the Centre approved the culling nilgai and wild boar in Bihar and rhesus monkey in Himachal Pradesh by declaring them 'vermin' under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
- Eco sensitive zones:
- Eco-Sensitive Zone means the fragile area that exists within 10 kilometers of protected areas like National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. The purpose of marking an Eco-Sensitive Zone is to create a kind of shock-absorber around the protected areas.
- Project RE-HAB:
- Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) launched a unique project called Project RE-HAB (Reducing Elephant – Human Attacks using Bees) to thwart elephant attacks in human habitations using honey bees and thus reducing loss of lives of both, humans as well as elephants.
- Project RE-HAB is a sub-mission under KVIC’s National Honey Mission. While the Honey Mission is a programme to increase the bee population, honey production and beekeepers’ income by setting up apiaries, Project RE-HAB uses bee boxes as a fence to prevent the attack of elephants.
- The pilot project was launched at four locations around village Chelur in Kodagu district of Karnataka in March, 2021.
- Regional efforts:
- State governments and forest officials have taken several measures to mitigate HWC.
- Eg: In 2018, the Uttar Pradesh government had given its in-principal approval to bring man-animal conflict under listed disasters in the State Disaster Response Fund.
- Eg: Citing the increasing number of roadkill and disruption of animal life due to vehicles, night traffic has been banned since 2009 on the 19-km stretch of a National Highway passing through Bandipur Tiger Reserve.
- ‘SONITPUR MODEL’:
- WWF-India is implementing ‘The Sonitpur Model’ in two districts of Assam in collaboration with the Assam Forest Department to reduce the threat from elephants.
- Here, locals are trained and equipped to form ‘Anti Depredation Squads’ that can drive the wild elephants back using searchlights, firecrackers and kunki elephants.
- WWF India had also developed a low-cost, single strand, non-lethal electric fence to ease the guarding of crops from elephants.
- The project has brought dividends. For instance, in the Gohpur area of Biswanath district, some 212 hectares of crops were being lost annually to elephants before these interventions in 2015. Afterwards, crop losses dropped to zero for four years running. Human and elephant deaths also reduced significantly.
- VALPARAI “ELEPHANT INFORMATION NETWORK”
- Valparai is a plateau in the Anamalai hills with thousands of hectares of tea plantations and also home to a large elephant population in India.
- The Valparai “Elephant Information Network” (EIN) is an early-warning system, using SMS alerts and display boards.
- Movement of elephant herds are usually observed by local people and Elephant Task Force and the information is used to send SMS alerts.
- At various locations, warning lights have been installed that are switched on at night using mobile phones if elephants are in the vicinity.
- The technology has led to drastic reduction in human death toll in the region.
- DELHI-MUMBAI GREENFIELD EXPRESSWAY
- The 1,380 km Delhi-Mumbai Expressway (DME) is the first in Asia and only the second in the world to feature animal overpasses to facilitate unrestricted movement of wildlife.
- It will have three animal underpasses and five animal overpasses with a combined length of 7 km.
- These bridges have been planned to abide by the concerns of not disturbing the wildlife movement on a section of Ranthambore Wildlife Corridor that comes on way connecting Ranthambore and Mukundra (Darrah) wildlife sanctuaries in Rajasthan.
- Move towards Coexistence:
- Human-wildlife conflict will always exist. Hence, the goal of HWC management should be to enhance the safety of people and wildlife and to create mutual benefits of coexistence.
- Foster development:
- Government should boost socio-economic development and provide sustainable livelihood opportunities for forest dwelling communities, so that they reduce their dependance on forests.
- Community participation:
- Government should provide organizational support and technical capacity to communities so they can mainstream coexistence into their planning and management.
- Reconsider conservation efforts:
- Conservation strategies for conflict-prone species need to consider not only current scenarios but also anticipate emerging conflicts in order to ensure sustainable coexistence.
- Interdisciplinary strategies:
- Interdisciplinary approaches are essential to understanding what a given conflict is about, knowing what is needed for mitigation of a given conflict, and ensuring access to the necessary skills and resources.
- Foster cooperation:
- Strategic partnerships should be developed between governments, humanitarian, and conservation organisations to create synergies in HWC management and HWC risk prevention.
- One health approach:
- One Health is a collaborative, multisectoral, and trans-disciplinary approach to achieve optimal health and well-being outcomes recognizing the interconnections between people, animals, plants and their shared environment.
- Global recognition:
- HWC should be recognised as a critical area in sustainable development and wildlife conservation. For the same human-wildlife coexistence needs to be integrated into the implementation of the SDG framework and made an explicit target of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) process aimed at achieving the 2050 vision of ‘living in harmony with nature’.
Q. Human-wildlife conflict is as much a development and humanitarian issue as it is a conservation concern. Discuss?