Conserving wildlife and resettling farmers in Wayanad


Even as settler farmers with landholdings in the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary had started moving to the safety of rented cottages years ago owing to man-animal conflict, the first phase of the Centre’s voluntary resettlement project is yet to be completed

Human-wildlife conflict may seem inevitable often, but it serves us to preserve nature. Our notion of wildlife would not have changed over the decades if it was not for this awareness.

No doubt, there are people who are on the frontline of conflict, especially those inhabiting areas close to forest. In Wayanad, settler farmers who had been farming for decades in their landholdings in the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS) started moving to the safety of rented cottages outside the forest years ago because of man-animal conflict. But even the first phase of a voluntary resettlement project launched by the Ministry of Forest and Environment seven years ago is yet to be completed.

A survey done by the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, in 2009 had found that 10,604 people from 2,613 families in 110 settlements needed to be relocated. They included 1,388 people from 880 families in 14 settlements to be relocated in the first phase at a cost of ₹88 crore. The resettlement project was implemented in accordance with the village relocation plan and core and critical tiger habitats of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

The package offers two options to settlers — payment of the entire amount (₹10 lakh to each family, irrespective of the land possessed by them) or

relocation by the Forest Department. In eight of the 14 settlements inside WWS, the project has been executed successfully. It was also partially implemented in two others. But that is only the half of it.

Conserving wildlife and resettling farmers in Wayanad

Though land has been allotted outside the sanctuary to close to 50 tribal families in the Kurichyad settlement a few years ago, land registration procedures are still incomplete. The delay in granting fund could be the reason. But farmers have got into a jam over the past two years. They have already relinquished their land for the resettlement project, but they are still to get the compensation.

For the settler families in Chettyalathur — a settlement on the tri-junction of WWS, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu, and Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka — the terms and conditions of the project are a major concern. Those who possess ‘patta’ land in the forest enclosure say they will get only a fragment of the real land value under the resettlement plan.

These issues certainly put the district administration in a bind. It should submit the fund utilisation certificate of the previous project for getting new funds for completing the project. It is not just laxity of officials concerned. Complex issues have also delayed the implementation of the resettlement project. It must be noted that sanctuary officials have started proceedings for implementing the project in the remaining settlements.

One thing is beyond doubt. The resettlement of farmers who have been adversely impacted by human-wildlife conflict cannot afford to be delayed due to bureaucratic procedures. For, we cannot play for time on matters concerning conservation of nature and wildlife and protection of farmers. As environmental and conservation experts say, natural resources are not something that we inherit from our parents. Instead, they are, they say, borrowed from our children.

(MALABAR MAIL is a weekly column by The Hindu’s correspondents that will reflect Malabar’s life and lifestyle)

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 12:09:23 PM |

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