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Relocation is Not Our Fate, Simlipal Tiger Reserve: Part-1

BY: Madhulika Sahoo | Category: Issues | Submitted: 2011-08-29 08:47:54
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Article Summary: "This article depicts the plight of primitive tribals of core area villages inside Simlipal Tiger Reserve, Odisha, India. One of the significant feature about these villagers are self sustainable though with less or no basic facilities of health, education and communication. All is required is rights over their traditional forest.."


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Introduction:
India at present has 657 PAs 99 national parks, 513 wildlife sanctuaries, 41 conservation reserves and four community reserves) (MoEF, 2008). There have been different traditional forest dwellers and schedule tribe communities living inside the national parks and sanctuaries in India. The situation is no different in Simlipal Tiger Reserve Odisha where various tribes and primitive tribes continue to have communities living inside. There have been Government proposals for relocation in the various National parks, since the WLPA (Wild Life Protected Area) mandates this; core zones of sanctuaries, though there is no legal necessity to relocate villages in such areas, critical wildlife habitats declared under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest-Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006. The reasons for relocation may be many but the primary cause is that the relocation will help sustain the current "natural" features of the landscape, without really realising that these features may actually be a result of longstanding human interactions with the resources (Lasgorceix and Kothari, 2009).

However findings from many studies reflected that relocation results in a host of socio-economic impacts. In many cases, especially relating to tribal communities that have been relatively isolated from the outside world, to them the displacement become all the more painful. Government and proposed PA drafts have unfairly ignored the cultural and deep attachment the tribal's have with their forest. In the course of displacement the free access to survival and livelihood natural resources has to be replaced by purchasing these goods in the market, losing their cultural affinity, language and traditional lifestyle. Which lead them to serious exploitations, on the other hand a study by Brun says Displacement causes marginalisation, but in many cases this in turn inspires new and innovative survival tactics (Brun and Lund 2005, Lund 2003, Shanmugaratnam et al. 2003, Skonhoft 1998). Studies of the response mechanisms of the internally displaced also illustrate the varied set of economic activities that displaced person often partake in. It is crucial to understand displaced persons as both victims and actors of change (Brun, 2005).

The present study has tried to examine the tribal's living inside the core area of Simlipal sanctuary and their cultural practices, their dependence on the forest in core areas of Simlipal Tiger Reserve. It has also inspected the condition of displaced people after relocation from Jenabil, Kabatghai and Jamungarh village.

Simlipal Tiger Reserve at glance:
Simlipal Tiger Reserve is situated in the Mayurbhanj District of northern Orissa. It is known for its legendary waterfalls, its rich and varied forest types, and as the source of numerous streams and rivers. The Reserve is 2,750 sq km in size. The National Park consists of seven Ranges with 39 protection camps. The Buffer Zone has three Forest Divisions with 12 Ranges and 19 protection camps. There is a road network of 597 km within the Core, and 139 km in the Buffer Zone of Simlipal Tiger Reserve. It was formally designated a tiger reserve in 1956 and under Project Tiger in May 1973.
Government of Odisha declared Simlipal as a wildlife sanctuary in 1979 with an area of 2,200 Sq Km (850 sq mi). Later in 1980, Government of Odisha proposed 303 sq km (117 sq mi) of the sanctuary as a National Park. Further in 1986, area of the national park was increased to 845.70 sq km (326.53 sq mi). Government of India declared Simlipal as a biosphere reserve in 1994. UNESCO added this National park to its list of Biosphere Reserve in May 2009.

Geographical location:
Simlipal Tiger Reserve has average elevation of 559.31 meters (1,835.0 ft) from total area of 2,750 Sq Km (1,060 sq mt). However, the entire Simlipal area is undulating, rising from 600 metres (2,000 ft) to 1,500 metres (4,900 ft). The high hills of Simlipal are surrounding Meghsani, the highest peak in the national park at an altitude of 1,165 meters (3,822 ft), followed by Khajriburu at above 1,000 meters (3,300 ft) elevation. At least 12 rivers cut across the plain area.

Climate:
Summers are very hot with temperatures around 40 °C (104 °F) whereas the temperature during winter months can be as low as 14 °C (57 °F). The rainfall ranges from moderate to heavy.

Flora and fauna:
How can one forget about the 'Maha Brukhya' the longest tree and the famous tale buried inside it? The sky touching trees of Simlipal has its own beauty. Beside the park is consists of 1076 species of plants belonging to 102 families. 96 species of orchids have also been identified here. It has a mixed type of vegetation known as Orissa semi evergreen forest with tropical moist broadleaf forest and tropical moist deciduous forest with dry deciduous hill forest and high level Sal forest. The forest boasts of innumerable medicinal and aromatic plants, which provide a source of earnings for the tribal people. A total of 42 species of mammals, 242 species of birds and 30 species of reptiles have been recorded in Simlipal National Park. The major mammals include Tiger, Leopard, Asian Elephant, Sambar, Barking deer, Gaur, Jungle cat, Wild boar, Chausingha (four horned antepope), Giant squirrel and Common Langur] 231 species of birds nest in these forests. The elephant census in April 2010 revealed a population of 551 elephants in Simlipal, up from 434 in 2007. In 2008, the Wildlife Institute of India reported a population of 21 tigers in Simlipal. The census carried out by the Orissa Forest Department in January 2009, reported the somewhat optimistic figure of 47 adult tigers Apart from the large number of mammals and bird species, the park has a sizeable population of reptiles, which includes snakes and turtles .

Population:
The Similipal forest area comes under one of the Scheduled Vth districts of Odisha i.e. Mayurbhanj district. There are 1265 villages inside the Simlipal Biosphere Reserve with a total population of 4.62 lakhs of which is 73.44% who belongs to minority groups. Out of 1265 villages, 65 villages are situated inside the Sanctuary area of which 61 villages are in the buffer area and rest 4 villages are in core area. According to Census 2001 the total ST population in Simlipal area is around 11,520 (91.77%). Similipal Forest area is known for the homeland of primitive tribal groups such as Ho, Kolhas, Bathudi, Santhal, Bhumij, Munda tribes. The population of Kol/Kolhas, the Hill Khadias and the Mankadias is higher than the other tribal community. Apart from the primitive tribal groups there are non-tribal population such as Mohantas and the Goudas. However, their percentage is insignificant in comparison with the tribal population (Dash, 1998).

People and Culture:
People and culture (Kharia, Birohro, Kolo, Batudi tribes). The growth rate of tribal population in Mayurbhanj district during the year 1998 was 10.30%, which increased to 17.98% during 2008 where as in the 1,555.25 sq km Buffer Zone has 65 villages, with a population of over 12,500 people, mostly within the Simlipal Reserve Forest. An estimated 250,000 people from nearly a dozen tribal denominations reside in over 400 villages on the fringes of Simlipal Tiger Reserve. All the villages of Biosphere Reserve are categorised in 8 CD Block, while the 65 villages of Sanctuary area comes under the jurisdiction of Jashipur and Bangiriposi CD Block. The villages which are coming under Sanctuary falls under the 5 Gram Panchayats namely Gudugudia, Astakumari, Barehipani from Jashipur CD Block and Brahmangoan and Sarispal GP of Bangiriposhi CD Block. The villages in Simlipal are inhabited of Ho, Kolhas, Bathudi, Santhal, Bhumij, Munda tribes. About large chunks of villages are dominated with Kol/Kolhas, the Hill Khadias and the Mankirdia. However the growing population of 65 villages located within the sanctuary are posing greatest challenges for its coexistence that heavily depends on the forest reserve for their resources .

The Simlipal is widely known for its century old history of human settlement of Khaira (Savara), Kolho, Manrkedia, Batudi and Birohro. The Simlipal is said to be the homeland of the Batudi and the Kharia. Although both the communities are comprehended to be the original settlers of the Simlipal areas but there is no written evidence who came first (Dash, 1998). The ethnographic details of the Kharia, Mankirdia, Bathudi and Kolho collected from different sources are presented below.

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