Institute for Social and Economic Change
Working Paper: 518
Biodiversity and Ecosystem Governance in Indian
Protected Areas: A Case Study from Manas in Assam
Biodiversity provides multiple services for the benefit of human welfare. However, conservation of biodiversity in a landscape characterised by human dominance has always been challenging, particularly in developing countries where poverty, high population density and urban expansionism is ubiquitous. In this context, this paper makes an attempt to understand the biodiversity and ecosystem governance of an Indian Protected Area in Manas landscape in Assam. Manas landscape, a part of Eastern Himalayan range, is an important conservation area which is also inhabited by deprived tribal as well as non-tribal communities. Empirical fieldwork was carried out wherein a well-defined questionnaire survey was administered to understand forest resource users, patterns of resource use and forest management systems. Besides that, in-depth interviews were also conducted with forest and NGO officials to corroborate the household data and secondary sources of information were also referred to. The demand for food and other needs have added pressure to the existing forest habitats which is only exacerbated by the changing climate. Meanwhile, strict conservation measures implemented in the protected area have temporarily halted species loss and habitat degradation, but have alienated marginal people from their sources of livelihood. On the other hand, failure to implement forest rules by weak institutions in a non-protected area have deteriorated the forest habitat. This has posed difficulties for forest users, especially for the women as they have to go farther deep in the forest, risking their lives. Tourism offers an alternative livelihood opportunity to the locals to come out of poverty. However, it needs to be extended to other forest areas within the landscape and the revenue collected should be shared for the development of local communities. To successfully conserve this bio-rich landscape dominated by humans, there should be a fine balance between conservation and resource for the sustainability of socio-ecological systems.