Conserve or pickle?
Both the Forestry Research Education and Extension Project (FREEP) and its later, larger avatar, the India Eco-development project (IEDP) had a single objective: conserve biodiversity. What also made it a different form of rural development, quite unlike anything government had hitherto done, was the equal emphasis on improving the lives of people in tandem with the forest. But, to date, the impacts of village eco-development on the ecosystem, in both the projects, remain elusive. Worse, the a priori assumption that villagers and tribals are the primary consideration in any PA that needs to be eco-developed remains contested. Kalakad Mundantharai Tiger Reserve, a FREEP site, is affected by an entire colony of government officials living inside the forest, 28 other enclaves of human habitations and a large network of dams providing water to the parched Tirunelveli district. While this project did tackle the harm done by headloaders and cattle to the forest, it refused to fight uncontrolled tourism and an entire township in the heart of the park.
Park authorities often never look beyond the obvious. Critics say this is due to a lack of understanding