Theses Doctoral

Moving people for tigers: Resettlement, Food Security and Landscape-Level Conservation in Central India

Neelakantan, Amrita

Resettlement of humans from protected areas conserves habitats for wildlife. However, impacts of resettlement on the well-being of resettled communities and on broader conservation goals at the landscape level have been poorly quantified until now due to inadequate documentation and baseline information. Recent documentation and advances in measurements of human well-being enable studies that examine the impacts of resettlement for both people and conservation.
In India, the current standardized resettlement policy by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is explicit in its goal to create inviolate habitats for tigers within protected areas. More than 70% of the global tiger population lives in protected areas in India. The central Indian national parks hold approximately 40% of Indian tiger populations. Implementation of the NTCA policy provides an opportunity to study resettlement with relatively accurate records of where resettled households moved, a standardized monetary compensation and the potential for replication with large representative groups to study impacts in various landscapes across the country.
This dissertation focuses on resettlement in Kanha National Park in central India, one of the most well-known and oldest tiger reserves in the country. The Kanha National Park (KNP) landscape mirrors the realities of many people-park interactions in human-dominated areas with high percentages of indigenous human populations, historical forced displacements, and current resettlements that follow a standardized national policy. From a conservation point of view, connectivity between KNP and other protected areas across central India is crucial for genetically healthy tiger populations.
This dissertation consists of three analyses that combine data from field surveys and existing data sources to examine the impacts of resettlement on food security, landscape connectivity for wildlife, and human-wildlife conflict in the KNP landscape. In Chapter 1, I use household surveys to compare the food security and livelihood associations of resettled households compared to their non-resettled neighbors at new settlement locations. I show that resettled households have similar availability and access to foods as their non-resettled neighbors. Increases in off-farm income sources are associated with higher food access for all households. In Chapter 2, I explore the pattern of low food access in the KNP landscape using the five capitals model for sustainable development to illustrate significant associations between livelihood factors and household food access. Salaried stable incomes and kitchen garden diversity are significantly associated with higher food access. Financial capital dwarfs the contributions of social and natural capitals which have supplementary roles in times of financial stress.
In Chapter 3, I address resettlement impacts on habitat connectivity between protected areas and human-wildlife conflict that resettled households face after relocating outside the park. Resettled households are not disproportionately moving into corridors between protected areas, especially when compared to the manifold more non-resettled households already residing in these areas. Resettled households however are moving into areas of high human-wildlife conflict due to their continued proximity to KNP. Outcomes from Chapter 3 also confirm that steady incomes can alleviate forest use and lower human activities in forests reducing human-wildlife conflict. In human-dominated landscapes such as KNP, financial capital and the stability of household incomes can aid both food security, lower pressures on non-protected forests and potentially lower human-wildlife conflict. The results counter assumptions that resettled communities continue to follow traditional natural resource reliant livelihoods. Local populations are not likely to engage in livelihoods that are heavily reliant on natural resources as rural populations become integrated into urban economies.
The results from this dissertation imply that managers in the KNP landscape can alleviate food security and aid landscape wide conservation goals by increasing off-farm salaried incomes. Finally, in India, there is a high potential for replication of this study around other protected areas, with nationally standardized resettlement in landscapes that vary geographically, ecologically and socially.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology
Thesis Advisors
DeFries, Ruth S.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
November 2, 2018