Restoration of Degraded Habitat
Biodiversity conservation through eco development – an Indian case study
The Forestry Research Education and Extension Project FREEP (A World Bank Initiative) in India is employing a strategy called ‘eco development’ which enlists local commodities in the preservation of biodiversity. The strategy involves developing alternate resources and sources of income for those who depend on the protected natural habitat (forest) for their livelihood.
FREEP is conducting pilot eco-development programmes in the Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR) in Tamil Nadu. The reserve contains a unique and varied array of flora ranging from thorn and dry teak to tropical evergreen, and supports a rich variety of birds and mammals, including tigers, leopards and elephants.The last tiger refuge in Tamil Nadu, the KMTR is one of 50 sites covered under the Indian Government’s Project Tiger, a programme receiving international assistance to enhance tiger habitat.
Over 100 villages are now participating in the KMTR project. Communities and individual farmers have planted fuelwood and fodder plantations. Some villagers have installed cow dung-based gas plants for home fuel needs and are using fuel-saving pressure cookers and more efficient wood-burning stoves (smokeless chulas). Loans for a wide array of alternative income-generating activities such as dairy and poultry farming, tailoring, coconut leaf weaving, and setting up tea and dry goods shops are made available. Thus, the eco-development programme at the KMTR is rapidly coming to be seen as a model for conserving biodiversity through local participation.
The United Nations convention on Biological Diversity, known as CBD in short, was signed by India and 172 other nations on December 29, 1993. The CBD was an attempt to establish an international program for conserving and using the world’s biological resources. This historical treaty recognizes the “sovereign right of nation over their genetic resources” and considers “appropriate access to genetic resources.” The treaty also takes into account the “fair and equitable sharing” of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.