Saving the tiger (contd)

More on tiger conservation. An entirely new area for me – I am only trying to get a 5-min summary of the debate and obviously, am not in any kind of position to debate the specifics with environmental experts.

This morning, I caught up with an old friend of mine, a keen student of Ecology, who I was sure could give me a bit of a lead into the issue. He admitted he didn’t know much about what exactly was wrong with the World Bank approach and what had gone wrong in the specific cases in the past – but the crux of the matter is – the WB doesn’t have a great reputation for eco-development projects. And, typical international efforts to promote conservation efforts have (rightly or wrongly) given left the on-ground implementers very little room for maneuver. As the conservation sector in India had gradually matured, there has been a tendency to determine an independent course and not rely on external aid, even when easily available.

Sounds like a typical donor-driven development scenario. Except, it is not often that we get to hear of a recipient country politely declining assistance. Sure, these days, India is not your typical recipient (not for good reasons though, if it has to do with India’s megalomania of being a to-be-superpower) waiting for any aid for be thrown its way. But I am only looking for a rough illustration.

More on tigers – I came across this blog – Indianaturally by Prerna Bindra, and realised that there is hardly anything news-worthy about this issue. There has been opposition building over the last few years in India, urging the government to resist advances made by the World Bank to include India in its tiger conservation initiatives. An old post from the blog is titled – Save tigers from the World Bank. A little excerpt from the post:

“…the high-profile GEF-India Eco-development Project in the 1990’s — not only failed to achieve the desired conservation but also ended up having a lethal effect on tigers. The bank had pumped in colossal amounts of money, but PK Sen, former director of Project Tiger, estimates that consultancies and WB overheads alone consumed over 40 percent of the funds. The WB’s policies and its efforts to marry conservation with development goals were a failure, leading to a mission drift in wildlife management, the collapse of protection systems and destruction of natural habitats” and “…eminent tiger conservationists like Valmik Thapar, Ullas Karanth, PK Sen, Brijendra Singh, Bittu Sahgal, Belinda Wright and Raghu Chundawat had written that the project “had massive deleterious effect on tigers and their habitat by sheer scale of corruption and incompetence which accompanied their execution”.

Seems like the project got a lot of flak. The Bank’s own assessment report for the project in 2007 wasn’t too flattering, with the outcomes judged ‘moderately satisfactory’. The completion report in 2004 had said pretty much the same thing (the outcome though went from ‘satisfactory’ in 2004 to ‘moderately satisfactory’ in 2007). And local experts and activists have now prevailed in convincing the government that we can do without WB funds. Fortunately, as Prerna Bindra points out, the government isn’t just sitting back after refusing external help. That is really encouraging. And that, is what could make this a good example.


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