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Individual study: Successful relocation and resettlement of village communities at Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, Karnataka, India

Published source details

Karanth K.K. (2007) Making resettlement work: the case of India's Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary. Biological Conservation, 139, 315-324


This study reports a project regarding relocation and resettlement of rural village communities as a nature conservation tool in India. The early success of the project in the vicinity of Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary was assessed through interviews with those households involved. The hoped for benefits for conservation are outlined.

Study site: Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary (492 km²) is located in the hills of the Western Ghats, Karnataka State, southwest India. Vegetation includes deciduous and evergreen forest, and grassland.

Villages in Bhadra prior to relocation: In 2002, approximately 4,000 people (mostly poor subsistence farmers) lived in 13 villages inside Bhadra. These villages comprised a mix of legally present households, and areas of former forest occupied illegally, and converted to agriculture fields and plantations. Livestock were also grazed and forest products collected in the reserve. To assess attitudes to living in the reserve and the relocation plan, 63% of households from all villages were interviewed. Amongst other things, it was apparent that there was great conflict between people and wildlife: tigers and leopards were blamed for killing 12% of livestock, and elephants and ungulates destroyed 15% of crops each year.

Villager opinion of relocation success: Official implementation of the relocation began in October 2001. Households received land deeds in the two purpose-built resettlement villages outside the reserve. The opinions of people from the 419 households who moved to these villages were assessed through interviews with 61% and 55% of relocated households in 2002 and 2006, respectively.

In 2002, 71% of households were satisfied with the relocation effort and their quality of life; in 2006 52% of households said they were satisfied with their quality of life. By 2006, all households had access to electricity, water, and basic facilities including schools and health care. Many households have increased their income and assets. Despite overall increases in living standards, hardships and uncertainty were still expressed by some.

The Bhadra relocation is now complete and is considered a success by the government, non-governmental organizations and crucially, by the majority of those relocated. There are considered many reasons for the relocation success, including importantly that there was no forcible evictions, with some voluntarily choosing to relocate and others choosing to relocate once they received compensation. Successful resettlement required substantial financial support to meet people’s socio-economic needs, ongoing consultation with the people involved, and partnerships of committed non-governmental and governmental organizations.

Conservation implications: It is estimated that human activities in six of these 13 villages disturbed 8-10% of the forest. The households in the reserve owned 4,000 livestock, there removal will allow forest regeneration and allow wild herbivores more forage. Relocation has resulted in a decrease in the number of trees lopped, cut, and burnt. It is hoped that several commonly hunted species will recover.

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