Protected Areas and the Impact of Restricted Access on Local Livelihoods: The Case of Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary, India

Posted: 28 Mar 2011

See all articles by Ozmond Roshan D'Souza

Ozmond Roshan D'Souza

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Nitin D. Rai

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: March 23, 2011


Forest dwelling communities, and indigenous tribes, have for centuries depended on forest resources for their livelihoods. In recent times the establishment of protected areas has affected this dependence. Here we discuss the impacts of protected areas on local livelihoods. The core argument of the paper is that conservation policies have ignored the people dependent on forest resources for generations and this contributes to increased poverty. While there is no denying the fact that conserving biodiversity is a top priority for environmentalists, we might ask why doing so should be at the cost of driving forest dependent communities to poverty.

Our paper while discussing conservation (protected area) induced displacement and it’s impact on forest dwelling communities, draws upon Cernea’s (2006) argument that ‘restricted access’ has the same effect as that of physical relocation. We argue that ‘restricted access’ to a community’s resource streams negatively impacts their livelihoods, and drives them to poverty.

Soligas, an indigenous tribe, have been residing in the forests of Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wild Life Sanctuary (BRT) in India for generations. Before the establishment of the protected area they subsisted through shifting agriculture and hunting-gathering. Using socio-economic data from studies in 1995 and 2006, we show that as a result of restrictions on access to forest resources and land use since the establishment of a protected area in 1974, not only is there a change in income pattern, but also, a decrease in household and per capita income. Between 1995 and 2006 there was a 21.2% reduction in income from Non Timber Forest Produce (NTFPs). During the same period the income from labour increased by 22.46%. Although the data suggests a marginal increase of 3.8% in income from agricultural sources, it is explained by the change in cropping pattern (from subsistence farming to cash cropping), than by increased agricultural activities. Overall, the decrease in per-capita income over the ten year period was 20.8%. This is a clear indication of an increase in poverty levels among the members of the community.

We conclude by suggesting that proper implementation of progressive policies such as the Forests Rights Act 2006 (FRA) can prove to be beneficial for forest dwelling communities. FRA provides for the right to domicile and land use, and more importantly, the right to collect NTFPs. These provisions not only guarantee livelihoods for the forest dwelling communities, but also help in increasing their household income, and alleviate poverty.

Keywords: Restricted Access, Forest Rights, Forest Dwelling Communities, Livelihoods

Suggested Citation

D'Souza, Ozmond Roshan and Rai, Nitin D., Protected Areas and the Impact of Restricted Access on Local Livelihoods: The Case of Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary, India (March 23, 2011). Available at SSRN:

Ozmond Roshan D'Souza (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Nitin D. Rai

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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