‘Fortress conservation’ is driving us from our homes

Clearing the land: Greenwashed ‘Protected Areas’ programmes are deeply implicated in guaranteeing a pristine space for tourism and oil exploration to flourish.
Kaziranga National Park
© Depiprasad/WikiCommons

The conservationists see nature as separate from humans but we see nature as a whole that sustains us and everything around us. We venerate nature — the animals of the forest, the streams and the trees.

In September, I took part in the ‘Our land, our nature’, an alternative congress organized by Survival International and other organizations in Marseille, France, as a counter to the IUCN conference taking place at the same time, in the same city. Before I spoke I went through the list of people who were attending the IUCN conference and there was nobody who actually represented the pain and grief of people who are going to lose out from these policies — only bankers, large bureaucrats and NGOs like WWF who are complicit in the militarization of conservation in India.

A woman from the Mising tribe who have been the victims of forced evictions and violence. © Survival

The forest and wildlife survive because of the symbiotic relationship most local and Indigenous communities share with other species.

‘Fortress conservation’ takes away the human rights of the communities residing around national parks. In Kaziranga, there are curfews that prevent us from leaving our houses after 6.00pm, as well as regulations which forbid us from collecting staple foods that we’ve relied on and nurtured for hundreds of years. We’ve been completely driven away from our lands and our rights removed. We can’t graze our livestock in the National Park. This is destroying the livelihoods of local and Indigenous communities. As a result of these punitive measures, hundreds of young people have migrated away from Kaziranga for fear of becoming falsely incarcerated and because they are unable to sustain themselves economically. At the alternative congress, Kipchumba Rotich from the Sengwer tribe of Kenya also spoke of how people from their community died of hunger and children were unable to go to school after they were evicted from the Embobut forest. Their villages were razed to the ground by the Kenya Forest Service in the name of ‘conservation’.

Pranab Doley, Mising activist. © Pranab

Fortress conservation hasn’t created any positive results — it’s only resulted in multiple negative impacts and the infringement of human rights.

The forest and wildlife survive because of the symbiotic relationship most local and Indigenous communities share with other species. When we plant crops we do so knowing that we will share what grows with the wildlife, local communities sacrifice their livestock to feed them. In Kaziranga, lands are also being taken away by the rich and powerful to enable their luxurious lifestyles and business ventures, including the aggressive planting of palm oil, while the locals are being thrown out in the name of conservation. So much for the love of nature!

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Survival International

Survival International

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Survival International is the global movement for tribal peoples. We help them defend their lives, protect their lands and determine their own futures.