Mr Anil Kumar Sharma, a local journalist showing a broken electric fence: a sign of wildlife-human conflict
One of the causes of wildlife-human conflict in India is the high dependence of rural Indian livelihoods on environmentally unsustainable practices such as harvesting and illegal wildlife trade. A never-ending spiral is created as poverty and food insecurity caused by an unbalanced distribution of food and by a low purchasing power often cause degradation of natural resources, and degraded natural resources contribute to poverty and food insecurity. Problems like inappropriate water management and low access to knowledge and technology to expand productivity are causing widespread soil erosion, the lowering of ground water levels, reducing habitats for wildlife and, therefore, causing a decline in biodiversity.
In addition, as people encroach into natural habitats at the same time that conservation efforts restore wildlife to areas where they may have been absent for generations, contact between people and wild animals is growing. Some species can have serious impacts on human lives and livelihoods. Tigers kill people and elephants destroy crops. Historically, people have responded to these threats by killing wildlife wherever possible, and this has led to the endangerment of many species that are difficult neighbors. The urgent need to conserve such species, however, demands coexistence of people and endangered wildlife. Therefore, based on a content analysis of the coverage of wildlife/forestry news in several Indian newspapers and magazines published in English, the major problems identified were:
- Current livelihoods do not encourage sustainable development.
- The human need to modernize and grow is continuously degrading and fragmenting wildlife habitats with unsustainable practices (i.e. land-use patterns).
- National and international strategies are being planned without including the participation of local communities.
The fact that environmental journalism in India is paying attention to this conflict can contribute to the creation of awareness among NGOs and can be helpful by suggesting policy changes so that natural, human and physical capital can be available for future generations without doing irreversible damage to natural resources. WWF-India should keep on working on community projects and continue developing programs that encourage alternative sources of livelihood. On the other hand, the government in India should focus on the improvement of food security without undermining the base for future production and the environment.