Conservation of Wildlife Habitat by the Confederation of Eco-Development Committees, Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) Western Ghats, Kerala.
The Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) lies in the Western Ghats, in the southwestern end of the Indian subcontinent, in the state of Kerala. It was declared a tiger reserve in 1978 and its core area was declared a national park in 1982. It harbours approximately 60 species of terrestrial and marine fauna including tigers, lion tailed macaque, Nilgiri langur, giant squirrel, great hornbill and Asian elephants.
Need for the Initiative
There are village settlements along the periphery of the protected area. Initially, the tigers and other wildlife in the PTR were threatened due to anthropogenic activities such as illegal hunting and poaching, habitat destruction due to over-extraction and smuggling of Non-Timber Forest Products and felling of trees for fuel and construction works. The hunting of prey species forced predators to venture into human settlements, which further fueled the conflict between man and wildlife. The lack of human resources made it difficult for the wildlife and forest department to monitor instances of forest fires and extend efficient services to tourists and pilgrims.
Conservation Initiatives and Impacts
Therefore, the Government of India proposed the upscaling of the existing Integrated Conservation and Development Projects (ICDPs) for management of PTR and linking of biodiversity conservation with socio-economic development. Thus, the India Eco-Development Project (IEDP) was implemented by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and World Bank in 1996. The eco-development committees (EDCs) in the PTR were formed within the same project under the umbrella of EDC, PTR East and West. The Confederation of EDCs and PTR West covers an area of 218 sq.km. PTR pioneered the formation of different EDCs based on the previous activities of the ‘ex-offenders’. For instance, there are EDCs of ex-cinnamon (Vayana) bark collectors (EVBC-EDC), ex-poachers (Vidiyal EDC), ex-black resin collectors and Firewood and Thatching Grass Collectors (FDGC-EDC). A trained Tiger Monitoring Team (TMT), consisting of tribal youths, regularly collects evidence of tigers, co-predators and prey through patrolling and camera traps deployed in fixed locations. Since inception, Liquefied Petroleum Gas and iron and bamboo poles have been distributed to the communities to reduce dependence on wood for construction and fuel. The Sabarimala temple which invites millions of devotees visiting every year is located in the reserve. In order to minimise plastic waste during the annual Sabarimala Pilgrimage, ‘Sabarijalam’, drinking water was introduced, with a cash back system on return of the bottle at the end of journey. Alternate livelihood opportunities were provided through employment as guides to tourists and millions of pilgrims and through engagement in Pampa Jyothi LPG agency. There is a significant rise in the standard of living and household income that is reflected in increase in savings accounts, investments and purchasing power. As a result of the initiatives, the density of tigers increased from 3.88/100 sq.km in 2008 to 5.41/100 sq. km in 2011.Changes are visible in the elephant population as well, where the proportion of tuskers in the population has increased from 16.95% in 2005 to 27.4% in 2010. 25 km trek path and the forest is now well maintained and protected. Consumption of firewood was reduced by nearly 18,615 tons by 2013. Unsustainable harvest of forest produce has been minimized and the efforts have led to regeneration of cinnamon tree density. There is also a significant reduction in incidences of sandalwood smuggling and collection of black resin from the trees. The conservation of forest ecosystem contributes to ecological functions such as carbon storage, nutrient cycling, water and air purification and providing a safe habitat to the wildlife. The ‘Periyar model of conservation’ has influenced an amendment to the Wildlife (Protection) Act,1972 in 2006, encouraging the establishment of similar foundations in all tiger reserves in the country. It has been recognized as a ‘learning centre’ under the Biodiversity Conservation of Rural Livelihood (BCRLIP) Project.
Recognition in India Biodiversity AwardsPeriyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) West won the India Biodiversity Award under the category ‘Protected Areas’ in 2012
Contact- S.Sandeep Tel. +91 8547382391 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org