[Answered] Critically examine the impact of Project Tiger on the conservation of biodiversity in India, particularly focusing on the balance between tiger conservation and the rights of forest dwellers.

Introduction: Describe Project Tiger briefly

Body: Highlight the impact of the project on conservation of biodiversity in India

Conclusion: Way forward

Project Tiger, launched in 1973 in India, was a pioneering conservation initiative aimed at protecting the endangered Bengal tiger and its habitat. It came at a time when the population of tigers in India was rapidly dwindling, due to unfettered hunting and habitat loss.

Impact of Project Tiger

  • Tiger Population Recovery: The resurgence of the tiger population is one of Project Tiger’s main achievements. The Indian tiger population has demonstrated a growing tendency from a dangerously low level, proving the efficacy of conservation initiatives. As per the latest data, there are 3,682 tigers now in India, up from 2,967 in 2018 — a rise of almost 24% in four years.
  • Habitat Protection: The project has led to the creation of tiger reserves, which act as protected areas for not only tigers but also a diverse range of flora and fauna. This has indirectly contributed to the conservation of biodiversity by preserving crucial ecosystems. As per the latest data, there were nine tiger reserves in 1973 over 9,115 sq. km; today there are 54 in 18 States, occupying 78,135.956 sq. km.

Challenges and Criticisms

  • Resource Conflicts: The establishment of tiger reserves has occasionally given rise to disputes about the exploitation of natural resources between residents and conservationists. It has always been difficult to strike a balance between the demands of local livelihoods and conservation.
  • Displacement of Forest Dwellers: The relocation of local and indigenous communities residing in or close to tiger reserves is a primary point of contention for Project Tiger. Communities were frequently forcibly relocated as a result of the establishment of these reserves, which caused socioeconomic problems and conflict between the rights of people and the objectives of conservation.

Balance between Tiger Conservation and Rights of Forest-dwellers

  • Inclusive Conservation: Adopting more inclusive conservation tactics is necessary to strike a balance. Aligning conservation objectives with the rights of forest inhabitants can be facilitated by including local communities in decision-making processes, guaranteeing their participation, and honouring their traditional knowledge.
  • Community-Based Conservation: Using community-based conservation strategies can be a more socially just and sustainable way to manage and maintain natural resources because local communities are actively involved in the process.

Conclusion

The rights of forest residents and tiger conservation must coexist peacefully, and this can only be accomplished through a flexible, inclusive, and nuanced strategy that takes into account social and ecological factors.

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