Buxa Tiger Reserve, West Bengal, India

Many cases of murder by shooting by forest guards within the Buxa Tiger Reserve were reported . There was a dispute on whether the victims were members of a "timber mafia" or rather local tribal villagers.


Description

Buxa Tiger Reserve is situated in Alipurduar Sub-division of Jalpaiguri District, at the north-eastern edge of West Bengal, India. It has been declared a Tiger reserve in the year 1983 in Jalpaiguri District when it became the 15th Tiger Reserve of the Country. Since then the area has been a territory of conflicts between the government forest department and the local people inhabiting the area and excluded from the use of their natural resources. The territory is inhabited by 38 forest villages living within the limits of the park, and 49 villages living at the fringe of the park. The population is comprised of tribes such as Rava, Garo, Mechia, Modesia (Santhal), Rajbanshi, Nepali, Bhutia etc., and the majority are farmers of tea garden labours. Since the enactment of the Wildlife Protection Act (WLPA) in 1976, the restrictions on the use of natural resources have increased and the people have found themselves fighting for the reclamation of their traditional rights and the use of their natural resources for subsistence.

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Basic Data
NameBuxa Tiger Reserve, West Bengal, India
CountryIndia
ProvinceWest Bengal
SiteAlipurduar
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Establishment of reserves/national parks
Specific CommoditiesTimber
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe total area of the Reserve is today of 757,90 sq km ( as per Notification 6027, dated 18.12.2007), of which 390.58 sq km constitutes the core area of the park, and the other 367.32 the buffer area. The limits of the core area have been expanded since 1992 when the National Park, which constituted the core area of the park, was of 117.10 sq km. In 1996 Buxa Tiger Reserve was one of the 7 Protected Areas chosen for the implementation of the Indian Eco Development Projects (IEDP), a project financed by the World Bank with the aim to protect biological diversity by implementing an eco-development strategy. The estimated total cost of the project, which was approved in 1996 and closed in 2002, was of about $ 67 million, of which the IDA share was of US$ 28 million, GEF US$ 20 million, the national and the state government US$ 14.42 million and local communities US $4.5 million. Although this project’s aim was the involvement of the communities into the conservation management, gave only more power to the forest management department creating programmes which were excluding the idea of the use of natural resources by the local people, and criminalizing whoever was adventuring into the forest.

In 2007 the National Park and the Wildlife Sanctuary have been notified as a critical tiger habitat (CTH). About 10 villages are residing inside the new inviolate core area. The other 28 are residing in the buffer forest area. A plan of relocation was announced in 2010 by the Gov. of West Bengal and it was declared the displacement of 18 thousand people residing in the 10 villages within the core limits. However, as per local information, no one ever agreed to relocate. Indeed, the authorities came to the villagers proposing a displacement based only on monetary compensation (contrary to the law which offers the possibility of entire relocation). Till date relocation has not yet started in the area, as the people movement is struggling against it, and the people are asking for the full implementation of their forest rights under FRA.
Project Area (in hectares)75,790
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population18,000
Start Date16/02/1983
Relevant government actorsWest Bengal Forest Department
International and Financial InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) from Switzerland
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersUttar Banga Ban-Jan Shromojivi Manch (UBJSM)

All Indian Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP)

Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Social movements
Rabha indigenous group
Forms of MobilizationOfficial complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Other Environmental impacts, Global warming
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Criminalization of activists
Deaths
Land demarcation
Migration/displacement
Violent targeting of activists
Fostering a culture of peace
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The people are resisting, but the militarization is still very high in the area and people have not the freedom to access to their resources. However, thanks to the union of the local people and their resistance, the violence seems decreasing in the last 7 years.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

Legislations

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, 2006
[click to view]

Wildlife Protection Act, 2006 Amendment
[click to view]

References

The Tiger Game
[click to view]

[3] B.G. Karlsson. "Ecodevelopment in Practice: Buxa Tiger Reserve and Forest People". Economic and Political Weekly. Vol. 34, Issue No. 30, 24 Jul, 1999.
[click to view]

B.G. Karlsson. "Contested Belonging: An Indigenous People's Struggle for Forest and Identity in Sub-Himalaya, Bengal". 2000. Curzon Press.
[click to view]

Links

Rehabilitation package for Buxa Tiger Reserve villagers
[click to view]

Wikipedia aticle, with description of threats to the park (including dolomite mining, fires, cattle grazing etc)
[click to view]

[1] The Hindu Business Line, Tribals falling victim to fire from forest guards, 27 August 2012
[click to view]

Aljazeera: Saving tigers, killing people. 6 July 2018. Author: Souparna Lahiri.
[click to view]

[2]Killing of tribal youth at the hands of the Forest Department in Buxa Tiger Reserve, North Bengal, condemned by NFFPFW. Feb 8 2008.
[click to view]

The Wire, 27 May 2017, Criminalising Forest-Dwellers Has Not Helped India's Forests or Wildlife. It's Time for a New Deal.



Instead of evicting forest-dwelling communities for engaging in traditional activities in protected areas and reserved forests, the government should use them for co-management. By Meenal Tatpati and Sneha Gutgutia (Kalpavriksh)
[click to view]

Other Documents

Buxa Tiger Reserve Entry of the Tiger Reserve.
[click to view]

Other CommentsSome data have been collected from the field through interviews and discussions with the local activists and members of the Uttar Banga Ban-Jan Shromojivi Manch.
Meta Information
ContributorEleonora Fanari, ICTA. [email protected]
Last update14/12/2018
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