High and dry
Since early this year, the news on tigers vanishing from Sariska and Ranthambore, India's flagship conservation areas in Rajasthan, has dominated the media and shocked the Indian public. But few are aware of the parallel decline, rather the near-death, of India's pastoral cultures, even though it concerns the livelihoods of millions of poor people throughout India.
As a signatory to the un Convention on Biological Diversity (in force since December 1993), India has committed to "respect, preserve and maintain the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity'. However, this commitment has been rudely shaken by certain events over the last one year.
The whole situation was triggered by a letter, sent on July 2, 2004, to the chief secretaries, principal chief conservators of forests and chief wildlife wardens of each state, by the Supreme Court's (sc) Central Empowered Committee (cec). The cec is composed of two wildlife conservationists (one of them is tiger expert Valmik Thapar), besides three officials from the Union ministry of environment and forests.
The cec letter referred to an sc order, dated February 14, 2000, which had restrained the removal of dead, diseased, dying or wind-fallen trees, driftwood and grasses from a national park or game sanctuary. The letter also listed several activities