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Community Based Conservation

The Himalaya are a very sensitive young mountain range. Eastern Himalaya, of which Darjeeling is a part of, is among the world’s most critical centres for biodiversity and endemism. Darjeeling is within this global biodiversity hotspot and has 4 protected areas within its geographical boundary. The protected area conservation adopted is based on ‘conservation in islands’ and ‘exclusive of communities’. On the long run this practise is unsustainable from the perspective of ‘limited gene pool’ and ‘community exclusion’.

Today the green cover is only 41.2%(official figure) due to rampant legal and illegal felling; of this more than a quarter of the forest has undergone degradation to less than 10% canopy cover. (Sanskritayana1997). Deforestation is a complex problem and cannot be attributed to a single factor. Some of them are: malfunctioning of the administration, corruption, extractive and exclusive management systems, energy needs, and unemployment. This has led to serious problems of landslides and water scarcity. A recent trend is the influx of wild animals in the agricultural fields.

DLR Prerna’s collaborative effort with ICIMOD, Nepal and other partners in the Village level planning in the Transboundary Conservation Landscape in the Kangchenjunga Landscape and its continuing conversations, is our contribution to the larger issue of conservation and development. Efforts of community based conservation in 5 fringe forest villages in the Singalila National Park which addresses issues of sustainable livelihoods and community stewardship of conservation is being implemented. Through the process of promotion of agro-biodiversity and food forests, communities’ lives and livelihoods are enhanced as well as forest connectivity improved in this fragmented landscape. Issues of human wildlife conflict in mountain regions are being highlighted in appropriate fora.
Within the discussion of conservation, agro-biodiversity loss is not given its due. The hills face dramatic loss of agro-biodiversity due to policy gaps of focus on monocultures of improved varieties from a small gene pool bank as well as lack of incentives for traditional and local agro-biodiversity. DLR Prerna recognises this loss and actively documents and promotes seed saving at source.