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LGD 2005 (1) - Mathews

Imperial Imperatives: Ecodevelopment and the Resistance of Adivasis of Nagarhole National Park, India


Susan Mathews
PhD Candidate,
Tilburg University,
The Netherlands.


This article explores the impact of the India Ecodevelopment Project jointly funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), the World Bank and the Government of India, on adivasi communities in Rajiv Gandhi National Park, Karnataka in Southern India (more generally referred to as the Nagarhole National Park). Colonial conservation practices have influenced wildlife laws in post-colonial India, with conservation used as a technology of colonial control. Postcolonial environmental policies have largely adopted a protected areas model, which has excluded indigenous communities from access and use and has defined indigenous peoples as responsible for the depletion of biodiversity. The protected areas model is part galvanised by missionary zeal and a metaphorical search for the lost Garden of Eden. The GEF, initially created in 1991, provides grants to developing countries, for projects that aim to benefit the global environment while promoting sustainable livelihoods in local communities, with the World Bank as one of its key implementing agencies. This has led to an economic and managerial approach to environmental protection, which has had adverse impacts on indigenous peoples and has thrown into doubt the environmental benefits projected. The colonisation of nature, law’s subordinating logic as regards nature and the creation of protected areas as a simplistic and abstract territorial model of conservation, impacts adversely on indigenous peoples and exposes the real and imagined boundaries of the global financing of environmental protection. Ecodevelopment is an ideology that comes under a green banner, but still reflects decisions made at distant centres, treating the adivasis and the forest as largely peripheral. There is a need for a post-imperial perspective that sees the subordination of nature and of adivasis as emerging from the same imperial imperative.

Keywords: Eco-development, Adivasis, Indigenous Peoples, Protected Areas, Conservation, global financing, Global Environmental Facility, World Bank, Colonialism, Imperialism

Author’s Note: I dedicate this article to the adivasis of Nagarhole. This article is based on a presentation made at a Law and Imperialism workshop, entitled ‘Ecodevelopment’s Imperial Imperatives: Law, Conservation and the Indigenous Peoples of Nagarhole National Park’, Birkbeck College, London, 9-11 May 2004. I would like to thank the organisers and the participants at that workshop for their comments and encouragement. I would also like to truly thank the reviewers who reviewed this article before publication and the editors. I have tried to incorporate their remarks and of course all mistakes are my own. This article is based also on my experience as a lawyer working with adivasi communities in Nagarhole between 1995-1997.

This is a refereed article published on: 5 October 2005

Citation: Mathews, S, ‘Imperial Imperatives and the Global Financing of Protected Areas Ecodevelopment and the Resistance of Adivasis of Nagarhole National Park, India’, 2005 (1) Law, Social Justice & Global Development Journal (LGD). <>

1. Introduction

This article describes a collision of worlds, of forest as wilderness and protected areas (PA) and forest as ‘cosmos’, of the ideology of conservation and the consequences of eviction and exclusion, of the ‘circle of life’ and vicious circles of subordination and dispossession. It deals with imperial and colonial inscriptions on environmental legislation in post-colonial states and the human histories of national parks. It is about global financing of environmental protection and the role of international institutions, in particular the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and the World Bank.

In this article, I specifically explore the impact of the India Ecodevelopment Project jointly funded by the GEF, the World Bank and the Government of India, on adivasi communities in Rajiv Gandhi National Park,1 Nagarhole, Karnataka in Southern India (more generally referred to as the Nagarhole National Park).

The key objective of this article is to draw a clear link between the persistence of colonial techniques, such as ‘conservation’, and the exclusion of indigenous communities, such as those in Nagarhole from national parks as articulated in laws like the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. These colonial techniques abound in the texts and implementation of national wildlife laws in many postcolonial states and international environmental conventions that promote protected area models. This is, in turn, aggravated by global financing policies of institutions, such as that of the GEF and the World Bank. The biodiversity projects that the GEF funds foster policies like ecodevelopment that maintain and fund ‘exclusion and dispossession’ of adivasi communities or are, at the very least, ambivalent to such effects.

2. Imperialism, Ecodevelopment and Indigenous Peoples: A Useful Frame of Reference?

A question that could be asked here is why frame or use the lens of imperialism or focus on the colonisation of nature to examine the ecodevelopment project in Nagarhole? If the focus is on indigenous peoples, there are a number of frames that could address issues surrounding indigenous peoples without having to resort to the heavy, burdened language of imperialism and colonialism.

In an interesting, recent work by Morgan (2004), three different frames are explored for understanding issues surrounding indigenous peoples. The frames explored are contesting discrimination, peace and security and environmental.

In the contesting discrimination frame, the focus is on the right to self-determination for indigenous peoples. The United Nations (UN) International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) recognise in a common Article 1, that ‘all peoples have the right to self-determination’. The importance of these human rights instruments on the indigenous peoples debates have been that ‘it enabled indigenous representatives to assert that indigenous peoples, as peoples, should as a matter of logic benefit from a right to self-determination, and to submit, furthermore, that any other interpretation would unfairly discriminate against indigenous peoples by creating two categories of ‘peoples’ — those who have the right to self-determination and those who do not’ (Morgan, 2004, p 485).

The peace and security frame looks at the issue of self-determination as a contribution to conflict prevention and resolution. General talk of indigenous self-determination within contemporary legal and political discourse has been met with distrust as it is based upon an identification of self-determination with secession (Morgan, 2004, p 488). This has been somewhat resolved by efforts of indigenous peoples in challenging some of these associations. State formation is not necessarily an indigenous conception of self-determination and indigenous peoples have articulated the right to self-determination without relating it to the state and its attendant concepts of territorial integrity and sovereignty (Morgan, 2004, p 490).

The third frame explored by Morgan is the environmental frame. An environmental frame as regards indigenous rights would posit ‘that recognition of indigenous rights, particularly the right to self-determination with all its attributes, contributed to the ecologically sustainable use, management, and preservation of the world’s ecosystems’ (Morgan, 2004, p 492). This frame links indigenous rights with broader issues of environment and sustainable development (Morgan, 2004, p 492). ‘What can be drawn, however, is that the indigenous ‘models’ given voice in various international fora present a complex and intricate relationship with the natural environment as basic to their existence and all their beliefs, customs, traditions, and culture. Thus, where western thinking has tended to view nature as separate from culture, indigenous peoples, it is argued, recognise no such distinction’ (Morgan, 2004, p 492):

‘Indigenous representatives have, however, expressed some concerns of their own about their environmental discourse, resulting in some internal discussions. For one thing, it has been pointed out that there are contradictions inherent in framing claims for self-determination in terms of environmental protection. Self-determination includes the right to change traditional values and exploit resources regardless of environmental consequences. In requiring indigenous peoples to maintain the environmental quality of their territories, however, the frame impairs and compromises that rights. It is therefore inherently contradictory, as a number of writers have also pointed out’ (Morgan, 2004, p 494).

A more crucial critique is that this environmental frame tends to essentialise indigenous peoples, reducing them to a ‘state of nature’: ‘… (T)here is a danger that, in uniting indigenous peoples with nature, the frame romanticizes and primitivizes indigenous peoples, and therefore risks impairing their claims for self-determination. Indigenous peoples have long resisted European stereotypes characterizing indigenous peoples as existing at one with nature because of the role that they have played in justifying the superiority of dominant cultures over ‘inferior’ indigenous cultures, and because they are dangerously at odds with indigenous peoples’ own representations emphasizing their political capacity. The environmental frame, however, arguably risks bringing those stereotypes back in’ (Morgan, 2004, p 495).

The utility of these frames has been in its rewriting of international law generally. ‘It is argued that these frames have played a central role in importing a fundamental change in international law, which, until, very recently, has at best ignored the plight of indigenous peoples and at worst served as ‘colonialism’s handmaiden’ (Morgan, 2004, p 496).

On the human rights front, the rights of indigenous peoples are recognised in a number of conventions and declarations. These include the International Labour Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of 1989, and the United Nations Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (1994). The Declaration was drawn up over a ten-year period from 1985 to 1993 in the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP), a group of five independent experts. ‘The Draft Declaration contains concepts of collective rights and is a pronounced example of human rights dynamism (Morgan, R, 2004, p 482).’ ‘Drafted with considerable input from indigenous representatives, it also contains in Article 3 a right of indigenous peoples to self-determination, which is the ‘central tenet and main symbol of the indigenous movement’ (Morgan, R, 2004, p 482). The human rights elements of indigenous rights cut across the various frames described above.

There is however a lack in the frames discussed which is addressed in the frame of imperialism and colonialism. The peace and security frame tends to be instrumentally focussed on the threats and contributions indigenous peoples might make to peace and security and the nation-state. The discrimination frame instead looks at issues of self-determination and the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender or other characteristics. Both the peace and security and the discrimination frames rely on a passive backgrounding of nature, which allows for a corresponding instrumental and in the case of the latter, an agency view of indigenous peoples. The environment frame on the other hand relies on an essentialising and almost a prescriptive romanticising of indigenous peoples. Human rights standards have buttressed most of these frames, but, as a discourse, has to come to terms with its anthropocentric core as explored in the law and nature section of this article. There is no doubt however that both the discrimination and environment frames, combined with human rights activism offer myriad possibilities for action and strategies of social movements.

In some contrast, the benefit of the frame of imperialism, law and nature is in its potential to focus simultaneously on both the colonising of nature and the subordination of indigenous peoples. This is not to say that postcolonial analysis has necessarily accomplished this task, in fact, the research is still in a nascent form but crucial nevertheless. Colonisation has enabled both the portrayal of the indigenous person as in a ‘state of nature’ but also in opposition to nature and the environment. This frame also shows the concurrence of exploitation and taming of nature now exemplified in global management of biodiversity and protected area management to the detriment of indigenous communities and protected area habitats.

2. 1. Imperialism and Nature: Law’s Subordinating Logic

The Imperial Approach to Nature

Most postcolonial analysis tends to forgo an examination of its own anthropocentric biases and does not examine in any great depth the colonising of nature (Richardson, 2000, p 11). Nature, the physical world and animals tend to get backgrounded in any discussion of colonialism and its impacts. Nature has been colonised and specifically in the case of forests and wildlife, there was a systematic and inglorious pattern of exploitation and plunder during colonial times ranging from using the forest as resource to the hunting of wildlife (MacKenzie, 1988, pp 167-199; Macleod, 2001; Grove, 1998). There also emerged a more romantic notion of conservation that seemed to contradict the prior exploitation. But ‘… colonial conservation has its origins in both a romantic tradition opposed to ‘modernization’, as well as a scientific rational tradition that sought to manage nature for human enjoyment and benefit’ (Adams and Mulligan, 2003). What I would like to stress here is that both exploitation and to some extent conservation is part of the same continuum, part of the same impulse to tame, manage and essentialise nature and as will be shown, indigenous communities.

In this article, I foreground this colonisation of nature to argue that the logics at play in nature’s colonization is similar to the subordinating logic that also plays out in a human sphere, resulting in supremacism in terms of nation, race and gender (Plumwood, 2003, p 53). In the case of indigenous cultures, according to Plumwood (2003), ‘(t)he ideology of colonisation, therefore, involves a form of anthropocentrism that underlies and justifies the colonisation of non-human nature through the imposition of the coloniser’s land forms and visions of ideal landscapes in just the same way that Eurocentrism underlies and justifies modern forms of European colonization, which see indigenous cultures as ‘primitive’, less rational and closer to children, animals and nature’.

This article argues that not only is this colonising of nature played out in terms of conserving and eco-developing the environment through the creation of human-free protected areas, but is then effected through global financing mechanisms, like the GEF, and implementing agencies, like the World Bank, that perpetuate this predominant view of conservation and now globally fund it.

In this article I focus on the imperial rather than merely the colonial, though both terms will be used throughout the paper. Decolonisation might refer to the end of a specific form of imperial domination but imperialism is not a single phenomenon that disappears with the death of specific players and legal forms and should not be equated merely with western colonialism (Nelson, 2003). ‘Imperialism does not refer primarily to a political system or economic system of colonial government but is also a cultural and ecological system that defines and essentialises nature in order to subordinate, exploit, limit, manage and control it. Imperialism is also a geographical concept that includes exploration, organisation and settlement as well as exploitation’ (Griffiths, and Robin, 1997, p 181). Exploration and exploitation are useful concepts in understanding the link between imperialism and nature but so are concepts of enlightenment and civilisation. ‘In its imperialist vision, ‘civilized’ Europe, bearing the torch of reason, had a duty to enlighten the rest of the world, conquering wildness and bringing order and rationality to ‘uncivilized’ peoples and nature. The mission of British colonialism was not only to enrich the imperial metropole, but also, in so doing, to ‘improve’ the world’ (Adams, and Mulligan, 2003, p 3).

Law and Nature

The relationship between law and imperialism is a crucial one and it is important to emphasise that imperial rule was effected through subjection to law, a means to exercise power. Meanwhile law’s relationship to nature is deeply imperial. Why the linkage or rather non-linkage of law and nature is important in this article is because environmental protection and conservation in postcolonial states has primarily been pursued using the vehicle of law and specifically legislation demarcating protected areas.

So what does law have to say about nature? Law sets up the power play that allows for the colonisation and control of nature. Law does this through its own unacknowledged and unresolved relationship to nature. I rely on the excellent work of critical geographers in this regard, studying the spatial dimensions of law’s relation to nature. Law is a cultural location or site from which nature is constructed and constituted. Law plays a role in defining nature, proscribing the limits of nature and physicality and its own limits in the process. Law is about the immaterial, the word, a body of rules and regulations, while nature is all about the material, the physical, messy uncontrollable urges and bodies (Delaney, 2001, pp 77, 83).

Nature is not like other categories however. ‘It is a category whose specific function is to render physicality knowable and, often, in need of being controlled’ (Delaney, 2001). But this construction of nature by law is hardly benign; the act of inscription is based on attribution and essentialism. Thus ‘…law may be conceptualized as not only other than materiality but as fundamentally oriented toward the subordination, distanciation and repudiation of the material, and, especially, the corporeal and animal’ (Delaney, 2001). In this mode, nature is constituted by law but in opposition to and in subordination to law.

The contrast of nature to law and even humanness succeeds by ‘rendering the topical entity in terms of ontological negativity’ (Delaney, 2001). Nature and animals within nature are perceived of in terms of a lack that humans possess. ‘In this way animality and corporeality are figures of nature precisely by virtue of their positions as negativities in contrast to the postitivities of minded human subjects’ (Delaney, 2001). Nature is treated as necessity, often used to signify the universal, the permanent, the inexorable or essential (Delaney, 2001, p 88). In viewing nature as metaphor, Delaney states that nature is often termed as ‘dark, deep, mechanistic, hidden, passive, secret, blind and closed’ which is ‘mutually constitutive of the construal of knowledge as enlightening, penetrating, analytical, sighted, active and open’. Delaney (2001), quoting Bookchin, states that ‘[i]n our discussion of modern ecological and social crises, we tend to ignore the underlying mentality of domination of each other and by extension of nature’, instead we focus on ‘an image of the natural world that sees nature as ‘blind’, ‘mute’, ‘cruel’, ‘competitive’, and ‘stingy’, a seemingly demonic ‘realm of necessity’ that opposes ‘man’s’ striving for freedom and self-realization…’. Plumwood contends that ‘…(N)ature is often treated as background, periphery or instrument – as a silent emptiness that provides no meaning and imposes no real constraint’ (Plumwood, 2003). The backgrounding of nature is perhaps the most hazardous and distorting effect of ‘othering’, thus signalling an urgency to reconceive nature in more agentic terms (Plumwood, V, 2003; Orr, D, 2002).

While the ‘othering’ and ‘backgrounding’ of nature allows for its somewhat crude plunder and exploitation, it also allows for conservation, control and management through the domineering but sophisticated forms of reason, science and technology.

Law’s relation to nature plays out in the human sphere and affects those who are constructed as less than human, as inferior, in a ‘state of nature’ as in the case of ‘indigenous peoples’. Law both in conservation policy and indigenous rights debates curiously constructs the relation of indigenous peoples to nature. For indigenous peoples to be acknowledged as indigenous they have to continue to prove their ‘natural’ state, their unique connection to the land and their environment, their ties to their ancestral lineage. To act outside this framework would mean that they are no longer close to nature and that they would forfeit the few concessions, which are provided by the law. As mentioned earlier this can conflict with a self-determination oriented approach, which seeks to move away from essentialist portrayals of indigenous peoples (Morgan, 2004).

3. Colonial Conservation and the Creation of ‘Protected Areas’

3.1. Nature’s Wildness

‘Colonial conservation was based on a myth of nature which emerged from the scientific processes of exploration, mapping, documentation, classification and analysis. Nature came to be defined as the absence of human impact, especially European human impact. Nature thus came to define regions that were not dominated by Europeans’ (Adams, 2003; Carruthers, 1997). This worked to render indigenous people invisible in their homelands paving the way for European control of what they recognised as ‘wilderness’ and not homelands.

According to Adams:‘While pre-colonial notions of ‘wild’ were applied to abandoned places or places untouched by human use, the same notion was used in colonial conservation through the suppression of knowledge of the extent and scope of human occupation in a process of creating ideologically significant landscapes’ (Adams, 2003). Neumann is quoted describing how the poet and author Evelyn Ames was much taken by Arusha National Park. For her ‘the park is primordial, undisturbed, unchanging, and pure in the absence of humans’ (Langton, 2003).

Extending the view of nature as pure in the absence of humans was embodied in the law and implemented by the law. The demarcation of protected areas also possess spatial dimensions and as Roth (2004) has stated, ‘(m)odern forest-making intertwined with modern state-making are territorial processes that produce fixed boundaries and homogenous conservation spaces’. As Roth (2004) describes, ‘(t)he National Park Ideal is an example of a territorial conservation mechanism with a simplistic spatial form. It has strict boundaries, with an interior managed from afar as a static and homogenous landscape subject to uniform regulations’. It is this very abstract spatial form, which disallows and makes difficult the implementation of participatory approaches in spaces that are marked as human-free. The inscribing of the space is made possible by what has been referred to as territorialisation. Roth (2004), quoting Sack, refers to this as ‘the process by which states attempt to control people and their actions by drawing boundaries around geographic space, excluding some categories of individuals from this space and proscribing or prescribing specific activities within these boundaries’.

The development of national parks introduced a new phase to the ‘white appropriation of nature’, from white to the bureaucratic elite in the case of India. This phase, apart from excluding local and indigenous people, opened up these parks to tourists, selling ‘viewability’. The guns replaced by the camera and binocular, changes only in the optics deployed. An example of how ‘viewability’ came about can be observed in the experience in Africa. According to MacKenzie: ‘The national parks introduced a wholly new criterion – ‘viewability’. Animals underwent somersaults in reputation. The lion, formerly vermin, was the notable case of this. Viewers of the ‘real’ Africa wanted lions and lots of them. Rangers, almost overnight, gave up shooting them and started protecting them’ (MacKenzie, 1988).

The emphasis should be on what conservation as a policy conceals. It might have emerged from an ethic, which opposed capitalist overproduction and stressed a romantic view of man’s relation to nature but in the process it showed itself to be oblivious towards its impact on indigenous peoples. Thus ‘… even when conservation action has involved resistance to imperial, utilitarian views of nature, it has rarely been sensitive to local needs and a diversity of world views. It has often been imposed like a version of the imperial endeavour itself: alien and arbitrary, barring people from their lands and denying their understanding of non-human nature’ (Adams and Mulligan, 2003).

3.2 Protected areas and the Garden of Eden

There is an almost missionary-like zeal and messianic overtones to modern environmental rhetoric with authors claiming that it has turned into a substitute for fading interest in organised religion (Nelson, 2003). There are the more obvious religious elements in the language that environmentalists use as in saving the earth from rape and pillage and protecting whatever is left of creation (Nelson, 2003). Although the themes are now altered, even the community based style of international environmentalism remains a political crusade to save the world. This newer form of environmental thinking also includes a greater element of guilt about the past.

With regard to conservation and protected areas, however, I would like to quote Neumann, who states that ‘(t)he identity myth of a colonizing society returning to or discovering an earthly Eden is deeply implicated in the establishment of national parks …’ (Nelson, quoting Neumann, 2003; Rangarajan, 1995; Anderson, and Grove, 1987). His reference is to Africa but this could very easily be applied to the establishment of national parks in other colonies, such as India. In the Eden myth, there is no space for the noble savage in the form of indigenous peoples (Nelson, 2003, p 70). The myths materially appropriate ‘the landscape for the consumptive pleasures of foreign tourists while denying its human history’ (Nelson, 2003, p 81). Neumann recognises that the allusions to Eden are more than a metaphor. Western conservation efforts in Africa are infused with a missionary spirit as explored earlier (quoted in Nelson, 2003, p 83). Young (2002), quoting Guha states that he (Guha) was not alone in fearing that the ‘three Cs of Empire – Christianity, Commerce and Civilisation – had been joined by a fourth: Conservation.’

This desire to find and return to the Garden of Eden or to a mythic condition of ecological innocence ties into the seemingly contradictory nature of colonial and imperial impulses. The imperialist plunders as well as conserves, is brutal as he is romantic, is an aggressor as well as a chronicler, he is armed with guns and the Bible. In this context, there is nothing surprising with the missionary and civilising elements of imperial power and ambition co-existing with elements of exploitation, subordination and plunder. The impulses may be contradictory and fragmented but I argue are part of the same racist and subordinating logic.

3.3 Law, ‘Protected Areas’ and Changing Phases of Conservation

This colonial and abstract territorial model of conservation which fosters ‘a conceptual separation between humans and nature and nature and culture’ (Adams, and Mulligan, 2003) has led to the development of nature conservation areas as areas cleared of all human influence and settlement, with highly restricted access to resources. While in this article I will deal with the specific case of the postcolonial experience of India in this regard, it is important to stress the role of the ‘international’ or the ‘global’ in this regard. This ‘international’ space consisting of state-based standard-setting as exemplified by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 1992 and the missions of relatively powerful conservation unions and organisations, such as the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), have essentially endorsed this colonial and abstract territorial model of conservation but with some changes over the years in response to the challenges and protest by indigenous peoples world wide.

Before detailing some of the provisions in these conventions and organisational mandates, it is necessary to unpack the term of art ‘conservation’. While using the term ‘conservation’, it is important to not see it as a fixed or static concept. The term is contested and conservation has gone through many phases, evolving to an ecodevelopment model at least in financing protected area management by organisations, like the GEF and the World Bank. Norton (2001) describes three phases of growth in ‘biological resources’ conservation over the past years. The first was the focus on individual species. The second phase was a ‘problematic’ perception of biodiversity as all about protection of ‘objects’ — merely expanding the list of ‘items’ from the first phase. Norton (2001) objects to a view of biodiversity being focussed on ‘inventory’ of species, genes, ecosystems neglecting processes that create and maintain natural values. This has led to a third phase being based on ecosystem processes. The term ‘biodiversity’ is used in this context largely as an assumed foundation for ecosystem processes. Norton (2001) sees the process focus as replacing, not complementing, the ‘increasingly obsolete’ inventory/items perspective of biodiversity, arguing that we ‘will likely move away from the inventory-of-objects approach altogether’.

The key thing to remember is that whether it be species protection or an ecosystem approach, a preferred conservation technique has been the creation of ‘protected areas’. The Convention on Biological Diversity contains many provisions on conservation, which seen together provide nations with a set of policies on how to conserve their biodiversity. The emphasis is on action at the national level rather than at the international level. Article 8 of the Convention deals with in-situ conservation and its key thrust is on the establishment of a system of protected areas. In Article 8(i) and (j), there is mention of indigenous and local communities but only to the extent that their knowledge, innovations and practices are respected, preserved and maintained. As some authors have put it, ‘international conventions like the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have come to drive a protectionist programme, including reinforcing the protected area strategy based largely upon a US model of national parks and wilderness reserves …’ (Adams and Mulligan, 2003).

In the case of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), it has altered its mission and themes over the decades but has basically held on to the core belief that ‘a well-desgined and managed system of protected areas can form the pinnacle of a nation’s efforts to protect biodiversity’. Its Ecosystem Approach, comprising 12 overarching Principles and 5 points of Operational Guidance, is the core strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. It was endorsed at the fifth Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CoP 5 in Nairobi, Kenya, May 2000) as the primary framework for action under the Convention’ (IUCN, Ecosystem Management). The IUCN’s definition of a protected area is ‘an area of land/and or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means’ (IUCN, 1994). But its own ecosystem approach aims to look beyond the boundaries of Protected Areas and promotes inter-sectoral cooperation, placing humans at the centre of conservation effort and in 1994, IUCN accepted that indigenous peoples may own and manage protected areas.

In May 1996, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)) adopted a new policy on indigenous peoples and conservation. It recognised the rights of indigenous peoples to the use, ownership and control of their traditional territories, approved the current draft of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and emphasised the principle of free and informed consent in all interactions between indigenous peoples and conservation organisations. The World Conservation Congress at its meeting in Montreal in November 1996 also adopted resolutions recognising the rights of indigenous peoples and their role for conservation of nature.

The 5th World Parks Conference in September 2003 made commitments to involve local communities, indigenous and mobile peoples in the creation, proclamation and mnagement of protected areas (IUCN, Durban Accord, 2003a; IUCN, Durban Accord 2003b).

There seems to be a rupture in the approaches taken by leading global conservation groups towards the issue of indigenous peoples and protected areas. The protected areas model subjected to a barrage of criticism and adverse experience in many postcolonial states has attempted to reinvent itself, become more inclusive and sensitive to indigenous peoples needs.

The argument in this article, however, is that despite the fact that conservation groups and even national biodiversity plans under the CBD might adopt ecosystem and livelihoods approaches which are kinder and gentler to indigenous peoples, this does not crucially alter the very basis of a protected areas discourse. As explored in this section, these models are imperial legacies, based on notions of nature’s wildness, separation of man and nature, nature and culture, European superiority and missionary overtones. Kindler and gentles approaches offer no spatial or axiomatic transformation of the boundaries of protected areas, boundaries which prevent real interaction between people and the Parks. Until these imperial legacies are properly confronted and these models genuinely questioned, while changes at the global level are welcome, they are alarmingly insufficient.

4. Postcolonial Imperatives: Adivasis and Protected Areas in India

4.1. Law and the Imperative of Conservation in India

An important aspect in understanding environmental and wildlife laws and policies in India is how pre-colonial and colonial conservation practices have influenced postcolonial India. While it is difficult to trace the existence of conservation efforts in pre-colonial times or what forms it might have taken, what is certain is that the formal system of environmental conservation and demarcation of protected areas in postcolonial states came through colonial influence. The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 in India that has designated protected areas (PAs), I argue is a postcolonial legislation informed by colonial ideas and notions of conservation, if not literally legislated by colonial dictate.

Postcolonial governments have continued with, sometimes even strengthened colonial conservation practices. ‘In many cases conservation has increased in the post-colonial era, with many new protected areas being proclaimed on the same bases as colonial protected areas, and with little or no regard for the conservation and livelihood practices of the local populations’ (Murombedzi, 2003). This is not just apparent in the case of ecological matters. Rajagopal (2003) quoting Ashis Nandy, states that ‘when after decolonisation, the indigenous elites acquired control over the state apparatus, they quickly learnt to seek legitimacy in a native version of the civilising mission and sought to establish a similar colonial relationship between state and society’.

The conservation model in India has translated into forest and wildlife laws, which have done two things. One is to impose a non-people (read adivasis) policy and restricted access to forest produce and resources, even if for community consumption (rather especially if it is local community consumption). On the other hand. the forests have been made open to selective view of tourists, the colonial legacy of preserving the ‘viewability’ of natural ‘wild’ areas.

The indigenous peoples who are impacted by the exclusionary nature of conservation and the creation of protected areas thus find themselves trapped by these earlier colonial policies embedded in present day laws, compounded by the practical and real confrontations between them and the park management. The forest and wildlife departments in postcolonial states like India, in most cases, embody and represent the conservation logic in its most brutal and yet routine form. It is at the hands of many of these bureaucratic departments that the indigenous peoples have repeatedly faced ‘… humiliation and deprivation that … cannot do other than resurrect memories of the worst injustices of the colonial government’ (Langton, 2003, quoting Neumann). As an illustration, in the Arusha National Park in Africa, ‘… [o]rdinary Africans’ experience of the management of Arusha National Park, as Neumann explicitly characterizes it, amounts to ‘the new colonialism’’ (Langton, 2003, quoting Neumann). For adivasis in India, ‘the new colonialism’ lens aptly characterises their situation as regards the forest department.

4.2. Indian Forest and Wildlife Laws and Policies: A History of Exclusion for Adivasis

Policies Relating to Adivasis

In India, the term that is officially used to generally describe adivasis is ‘scheduled tribes’ (STs), though the term does not cover many adivasi groups. As explained by Bijoy (2003), ‘[t]his is an administrative term used for purposes of ‘administering’ certain specific constitutional privileges, protection and benefits for specific sections of peoples considered historically disadvantaged and ‘backward’. There are ostensibly a number of constitutional provisions that are supposed to protect adivasis though the approach is largely ‘integrationist’ and has been considered protective and paternalistic (Bijoy, C.R, 2003).

Bijoy (2003) notes that ‘[o]ver centuries, the Adivasis have evolved an intricate convivial – custodial mode of living. Adivasis belong to their territories, which are the essence of their existence; the abode of the spirits and their dead and the source of their science, technology, way of life, their religion and culture.’ With the Permanent Settlement of the British in 1793 and the establishment of private property systems that gave power to feudal lords for the purpose of revenue collection, relations between adivasis and other groups were adversely affected. ‘The predominant external caste-based religion sanctioned and practiced a rigid and highly discriminatory hierarchical ordering with a strong cultural mooring’ (Bijoy, 2003). Many adivasi people fought the British in various parts of India but their struggles for independence have not been incorporated in the national narrative.

Colonisation of Forests and Adivasis

The colonisation of forests went hand in hand with the steady but sure dispossession of adivasi peoples, whose rights of use and dependence on forests turned to privileges during the time of kings and finally concessions of the state in the post-colonial period. As Sarkar notes: ‘State-owned natural habitats in India …came into existence earlier in the late 19th century, with a creation of reserved, protected and village forests by the British and with the passing of the Indian Forest Act, 1927. Historians commonly accept that the Indian Forest Act, 1927 was enacted primarily for economic and trophy hunting reasons with ecological considerations playing a minimal role’ (Sarkar,

2000). The Indian Forest Act, 1927 essentially embodies the basic structure of the earlier 1878 Act and ‘remains the seminal law on forests in India’ (Sarkar, S, 2000). It with was with these notions of property, state ownership and the state as landlord that forests and habitats were divided into discrete, bounded units. This role of the state also paved the way for a western model of conservation inherently established on the duality of man and nature.

The concessional stage as regards adivasis coincides with the Forest Policy of 1952, the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. These policies and laws sealed their lack of access and use of the forests, their right to live in their homelands and destruction of their material and cultural base. In 1988, the Parliament passed a new forest policy resolution stressing the welfare of forest dwelling communities as a major objective of the forest policy, and categorically stated that the life of tribals and other poor living within and near forests revolves around forests and that the rights and concessions enjoyed by them should be fully protected. It is interesting to note that while this policy has been lauded for its content, in effect it has not influenced the laws on the matter. In 1990, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) issued a circular for joint forest management (JFM) and resource sharing, with some participatory approaches, which does not apply to those forests that are designated as protected areas. The JFM approach is one of a line of community conservation initiatives but in most cases the laws do not really take into account these initiatives. Communities clearly do not have legal claim to their surrounds. Other initiatives include the National Wildlife Action Plan and the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan under the Biodiversity Act, 2002.

The role of the courts in forest governance also needs to be pointed out here. Since 1996, with the landmark case TN. Godavarman Tirumulkpad vs Union of India and others (1995) concerning the implementation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, the Supreme Court of India has played a pioneering role in forest conservation, donning the mantle of the principal decision-maker in issues relating to forests and wildlife. This had led to fundamental changes in the pattern of forest governance and decision-making’ (Dhavse, 2004).

Wildlife Protection, Protected Areas and Adivasis

The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 was aimed at keeping natural areas pristine, following from colonial notions of conservation. In terms of pre-colonial conservation practices, it is now accepted as Kulkarni (2000) notes that ‘even earlier customary rules regulated the use of forests. Certain types of trees were regarded as sacred and never cut. Certain areas under forest were regarded as God’s groves (Devaraya) and not even deadwood and leaves were taken out from these areas’. However, with the passing of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, aspects of pre-colonial conservation or the relationship between adivasis and protected areas was treated as largely irrelevant. Colonial notions of conserving forests were reinforced in how habitats, plant and animal life were to now be conserved. The adivasis were seen as intruders, ‘encroachers’ in what till then had been their homelands and were largely blamed for its destruction.

The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 demanded the exclusion of adivasis from the now ‘protected areas’, administratively divided all over India as either National Parks or Sanctuaries. The MoEF is the key authority for environmental and wildlife implementation in the country. The declaration and establishment of sanctuaries and national parks can be found in Sections 18-33 (sanctuaries) of the Act and Section 35 in the case of the National Park. Sections 19-26 which include provisions on the settlement of rights by the collector (administrative head of the district) are common to national parks and sanctuaries. The difference between national parks and sanctuaries in the law is Section 24(2)(c) that allows for the continuation of rights in sanctuaries. The Act has in practice severely curtailed the rights of indigenous communities who had in the past considered the forests their homelands, forbidding them to continue to live in the forests or even collect minor forest produce. While the Wildlife law does provide a nominal if inadequate system to ensure ‘settlement of rights’ even that has never been properly carried out in most protected areas or has been done with brute force by the Forest Department. This is in part because the frame for the settlement of rights has been borrowed from the most draconian of colonial legislations carried through in postcolonial times, the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, which enables state domain over land in the country.

About 4.5 percent of the total land in India is covered under protected areas. Under the Act of 1972, the Government of India has created 85 National Parks, 450 Sanctuaries, which involved the forcible removal of nearly 650,000 people from their traditional habitats. Around 3 million people continue to reside within these Protected Areas and are likely to be displaced. The bulk of the people affected by the creation of this network of PAs are indigenous adivasi peoples.

It should be noted that many commentators have also pointed out that designation as a protected area has helped prevent a significant part of India’s biodiversity from being destroyed by development: in Kerala, the Silent Valley rainforest was saved from being a hydroelectric project; in the Gulf of Kutch, approval for a proposed oil refinery has been stalled due to its location near a Marine National Park; and in Orissa, plans to build a luxury hotel complex in the Balukhand Sanctuary have been thwarted. Several species including the one-horned rhinoceros, the Asiatic lion, the swamp deep and brow-antlered deer have been saved from extinction (Kothari, 1995,p. 189). However, the very same commentators have also acknowledged the adverse effect of the Act on indigenous communities. Sehgal (2005) points out that ‘(i)njustices have indeed been inflicted on the tribal communities of India at the hands of dams, mines and other projects, which displaced them mercilessly. What is more, urban India has ruthlessly usurped the water, land and forests of tribal communities, quoting vague justifications of ‘development’ for the greater good’ (Sehgal, 2005) and states that ‘India’s clumsy development machine needs to be curbed, about this there can be no two opinions’. There is now a growing concern that the government has also been making moves to denotify many of these protected areas for the purpose of development projects, which is at odds with the government’s stated policy to conserve the forests. So while the Act might have constrained the government somewhat in exploiting these protected areas, the recent trend of denotification points out the hollow ring and arbitrariness inherent in the law, something the adivasis have been pointing out for decades.

A major Supreme Court case with regard to wildlife laws and adivasis is The Centre for Environmental Law (CEL), WWF vs Union of India and others (1995), concerning the issue of settlement of rights in National Parks and Sanctuaries and other issues under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. This case along with the TN Godavarman Thirumulkpad vs Union of India and others case ‘have been heard for the last ten years and are part of a continuing judicial mandamus, whereby rather than passing final judgments, they keep on passing orders and directions with a view to monitor the functioning of the executive. The Supreme Court of India has through these cases created new institutions and structures and conferred additional powers on the existing ones’ (Dhavse, 2004).

In The Centre for Environmental Law (CEL) case, the petition sought immediate initiation of proceedings under the 1972 Act to inquire into and determine the extent of rights of any person over land within the limits of national parks and sanctuaries. The Supreme Court orders have also included those on the ‘settlement of rights’. Settlement of rights was to be strictly enforced and any regularisation of forest encroachment had to be cleared by the court. These orders and decisions have often resulted in adverse impacts on adivasis and other forest dwellers. In almost counterpoint, the Central government has passed a number of circulars to the States urging steps to clear the disputes over tribal occupation of forest land, providing some concession. It has been pointed out that many of these circulars might have had blatant political aims (Kothari, 2004). The Supreme Court has stayed many of these circulars, reiterating its call for strict enforcement of the Wildlife laws (Kothari, 2004). The curious thing about the role of the Supreme Court is that there are inconsistencies in approach. While coming down strongly on the government as regards its suspect attempts to settle rights, it has remained silent on a spate of clearances to controversial development projects (Kothari, 2004).

This case is emblematic of the failings of a strict view of conservation and protected areas. While this case could have opened up a real discussion on the rights of adivasis and the protected areas models, it opted for a literal and obvious construction of the law with all its colonial trappings. On the contrary, ‘several judgments delivered by the Supreme Court have impacted heavily on Adivasis, fisher folk, peasants and pastoralists: the presumption has often been that they are in some way primarily responsible for environmental damage. Simultaneously, there is a trend of condoning massive ‘development’ projects that are obviously ecologically destructive’ (Kothari, 2004).

Some new developments in environmental legislation need to be pointed out that have altered the legal landscape. There is a recent amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act in 2002, which has now allowed for the provision for Community Reserves. This means it officially recognises the efforts of certain communities that are conserving habitats and wildlife around them. The new Biological Diversity Act 2002 has a provision for Biodiversity Heritage sites. If the rules can be appropriately framed, this Act could be used by/for communities. Finally, the Panchayat (local council) laws (especially the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996) have provisions that could be used by communities’ conservation initiatives. But in none of these laws are the provisions explicit and strong enough for this to automatically happen. There will have to be considerable lobbying and struggle before the potential is utilised. For example, the Wildlife Protection Act undermines its own potential by disallowing Community Reserves to be declared on government land (Dhavse, 2003).

Growing Gap in the Protection of Adivasi Rights

The forest and wildlife policies apart, despite ‘positive political, institutional and financial commitment to tribal development, there is presently a large scale displacement and biological decline of Adivasi communities, a growing loss of genetic and cultural diversity and destruction of a rich resource base leading to rising trends of shrinking forests, crumbling fisheries, increasing unemployment, hunger and conflicts’ (Bijoy, 2003).

It is crucial to note that ‘[t]he Adivasis have preserved 90 percent of the country’s bio-cultural diversity protecting the polyvalent, precolonial, biodiversity friendly Indian identity from bio-cultural pathogens. Excessive and indiscriminate demands of the urban market have reduced Adivasis to raw material collectors and providers’ (Bijoy, 2003).

A positive development as regards adivasis has been that following the recent 73rd Amendment to the Constitution and the recommendation of the Bhuria Committee appointed by the government and the Panchayat Raj (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act of 1996, several states have made provisions for Panchayat Raj institutions in the scheduled areas, allowing scheduled tribes wide powers of control over the natural resources including land and forest produce. While some have referred to this as a radical redefinition of self governance, it is still not clear how this Act will meld with the Wildlife Protection Act and how the competing governance regimes will be organised. The other problem is an administrative one. The control that is given over is only in scheduled areas, which are declared as such by the President or Governor while many adivasi areas, including Nagarhole are not declared as scheduled areas.

More recently in India, there have been developments of a mixed kind regarding adivasis and forest rights. In May 2005, the Union Environment and Forests Minister informed the parliament that the MoEF had issued directions to all State and Union Territory governments not to resort to eviction of tribal people from forest land in the absence of verification and determination of their rights (The Hindu, 2005).

The other main development has been the floating of a bill titled the ‘Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, 2005’ that is to be introduced in the Parliament for discussion during this ongoing session. The proposed Bill aims to recognise and vest forest rights and occupation of forestland in forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes, whose rights have not been recorded. According to Nair: ‘The draft Bill, probably, the first measure by the Union Government to recognise forest communities’ rights and obligations, has become a major point of contention between campaigners for their rights and the bureaucracy’ (Nair, 2005).

The Bill has sparked a heated debate on issues surrounding adivasi rights and environmental conservation. In the view of forest and wildlife groups, this bill is the ultimate sell out of the environment. Dr MK Ranjitsingh, Member of the National Commission on Forests said: ‘The proposed Bill severely endangers forests and wildlife. The Bill on becoming an Act would undo whatever has been achieved over the years by way of the conservation process. Forest officers believe that the Act would have very damaging consequences on the environment’ (quoted in Noronha, 2005). The forest department claims that the country would lose nearly 16 per cent of the forest cover while the state would lose about 15 per cent forest cover to the encroachment regularisation exercise (Noronha, 2005). In response to the claim that forest cover will be depleted and that wildlife will be affected, a report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) (Chakma, 2005) notes that the singling out of tribes does not address commercial exploitation of forests by logging companies and complicity of forest officials. On the issue of wildlife conservation, ACHR asks whether ‘poor Scheduled Tribes are to be blamed given the existence of stringent Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 for the reduction of tigers? That organised criminal gangs and poachers are responsible for the reduction of tiger populations have been confirmed by conservationists, forest officials, police and other related agencies’ (Chakma, 2005). In fact, ‘[p]oaching by organised networks of smugglers remains the most serious and major cause of decrease in the population of the endangered species including the tiger throughout the country’ (Chakma, 2005).

The MoEF meanwhile claims that ‘while it is against forcible eviction of tribals from forests, it is now protesting giving legal rights of inhabitation to tribals. It also feels that leaving out the non-tribal populations residing in the forests for several decades from the ambit of the proposed law could foster ill-will among the social groups and lead to violent clashes (Noronha, 2005). Sehgal (2005), a noted wildlife activist, in India goes on to note that this ‘unbelievable ‘Tribal Act’ will set into motion a ‘Green Gold Rush’ for land’. Sehgal (2005) also bemoans the land grab that will follow in reserved forests, national parks and sanctuaries, which have also been included in the Bill. In response it must be noted that the Draft Forest Bill clearly states: ‘The recognition and vesting of forest rights to forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe where they were scheduled, in respect of forest land and their habitat is subject to the condition that such forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes have occupied forest lands or acquired rights before 25 October 1980’ (Chakma, 2005). In fact the Draft Forest Bill does not address the concerns of hundreds of thousands of Scheduled Tribes who have been turned into encroachers because of the differentiation between the pre-1980 and post-1980 encroachments. Besides which the Bill is about more than land and recognises different Scheduled Tribes rights over a number of subjects, including minor forest produce to intellectual property rights on traditional knowledge and also imposes duties and checks and balances in the Bill.

The real concerns with the Bill relate to the poor state of governance and the quality of administration in India generally (Bijoy, 2005). The question is that if the Bill is passed, how can ensure that it is not misused? Also, ‘[a] worrying aspect of the Bill is the hurry with which it is being pushed through. A more participatory process involving NGOs, communities, and government officials is needed for finalising it. But this process should not become an excuse to indefinitely delay or shelve the promulgation of a law, that for the first time, could provide a comprehensive framework for rights and responsibilities to protect both forests and forest-dwellers’ (Kothari, 2005).

Also as mentioned earlier, ‘tribal’ is merely an administrative marker. Adivasis in Nagarhole National Park and many others are not recognised as ‘Scheduled Tribes’ and thus this proposed bill does not even apply to them. The law also does not apply to other forest dwellers. Even the limited justice offered by the Bill has been subjected to tremendous backlash. At a more fundamental level even this law is not remotely enough to make up for the injustice that adivasis have faced in colonial and postcolonial India. ‘The development monologues have raised question as to whether the failure to develop the Scheduled Tribes in the last 50 years can be compensated by the Draft Forest Rights Bill’ (Chakma, 2005).

A recent editorial in the Economic Times in India provides an apt counter to some of the concerns raised by forest and wildlife groups thus linking the debate over this bill with the arguments in this article. ‘Ecological conservation and tribal rights over forest land and minor forest produce are not mutually exclusive: in fact, they reinforce each other. The colonial and state-centric conservation paradigm of the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) – which envisages forests as virgin wildernesses without human beings – is fatally flawed’ (Economic Times, 2005). This has ‘deprived local communities of their traditional right over forests and its resources, turning them into ‘encroachers’ and criminalising them. The MoEF surely knows that 60 per cent of India’s best forests are found in adivasi areas’ (Economic Times, 2005).

The issue of the proposed Bill, the self-governance law and other issues discussed illustrate the growing gap in adivasi rights protection in India. The problem in India as regards adivasis has been constructed as one of a lack of progress on the part of adivasis and in terms of the environment they are posited as the greatest threat, with the motif of local plunder in colonial times carried through in postcolonial times. Bijoy (2003) notes that ‘[t]he struggle for the future, the conceptual vocabulary used to understand the place of Adivasis in the modern world has been constructed on the feudal, colonial and imperialistic notions which combines traditional and historical constructs with the modern construct based on notions of linear scientific and technological progress’. The way in which this problem has been framed has resulted in policies exacerbated by religious and caste discrimination, which have harmed and destroyed adivasi communities and the environment in the process.

5. The Global Environmental Facility, Environmental Protection and the World Bank

5.1 The Creation of the GEF: Financing of Environmental Protection or Covering Up the Environmental Costs of Development

The Global Environmental Facility (GEF), initially created in 1991, provides grants to developing countries for projects that aim to benefit the global environment and promotes sustainable livelihoods in local communities. In March 1990, the World Bank convened a meeting with seventeen countries (rich, northern countries) to discuss the possibility of forming a funding mechanism for global environmental programs. In April 1991, member nations signed Resolution No.91 – 95, which created the GEF. The GEF was initiated as a pilot program with a USD1.5 billion budget donated from 22 participating countries. The World Bank, in conjunction with the United Nations Development programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), constituted a tripartite body, which ultimately became the major enforcement and implementing entity of the GEF pilot phase. While the UNDP runs technical assistance projects and the UNEP provides overall scientific guidance, the World Bank houses the GEF secretariat, runs investment projects and administers the trust fund, leaving in no doubt who the junior partners are (Young, 2002). Through the GEF, the World Bank aims to assist member countries by providing new and additional grant and concessional funding to meet the agreed incremental costs of measures to achieve environmental benefits in four focal areas – climate change; biological diversity; international waters; and ozone layer depletion. It can be stated that the GEF is the only institution created exclusively for the finance and implementation of projects to protect the global environment. Sharma notes: ‘The GEF is unique because it is currently the only institution that aims to fund specifically the incremental costs of environmental projects where domestic costs are greater than domestic benefits but global benefits are greater than domestic costs’ (Sharma, 1996, p 82).

The GEF is the international financing mechanism for the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD).2 The Third Replenishment for the third phase of the GEF amounted to USD 3 billion for the period July 2002 to June 2006. The Conference of the Parties to the CBD provides guidance to the GEF Council, which is mandated to convert this guidance into its operational guidelines in GEF policies and Operational Programmes.

In response to a number of criticisms including the extent of World Bank influence and based on an independent evaluation of the pilot phase (GEF, 1994b), the GEF underwent a restructuring concluded in March 1994 with the approval of the Instrument for the Establishment of the Restructured GEF (GEF, 1994a). The restructuring was mandated to establish the GEF as one of the principle mechanisms for global environment funding and to ensure that the governance is transparent, democratic and to promote universality in its participation (GEF, 1994a). The GEF solidified its existence by negating much of the Implementing Agencies’ decision-making capabilities and vesting the GEF with power to decide policies, program priorities and eligibility criteria in the Council.

All GEF-financed or co-financed activities must be consistent with ten operational principles established in the Operational Strategy adopted by the GEF Council in 1995 (GEF, 1995; Griffiths, 2005b, p.85). These include obligations of full disclosure, consultation and participation of beneficiaries and affected groups of people and monitoring and evaluation: ‘The Instrument and the Strategy transformed the GEF from a vague, unintelligible penumbra into a user-friendly and accessible financial mechanism’ (Walcoff, 1998). Young adds: ‘In the ten years since it was created, the GEF has channelled $4.1 billion from mostly North American, Western European and Japanese treasuries to over a thousand projects in over 150 Southern and former communist countries’ (Young, Z, 2002).

The Facility has a Secretariat housed within the World Bank, its own board of directors known as the GEF Council, a Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) and its own general assembly made up of its 176 government members known in GEF jargon as ‘participants’ (Griffiths, 2005b, p 58).

5.2 GEF, Biodiversity Protection and Indigenous Communities

A substantial amount of the GEF’s total funds are allocated to projects under its biodiversity ‘focal area’. According to the Forest peoples’ Programme (FPP): ‘Much GEF funding has also been channelled to the establishment and management of protected areas – for both individual protected areas and for National Systems of Protected Areas and for biological corridors. Between 1991 and 2001 the GEF had spent USD 960 million on protected areas (average of USD 96 million per year) making it one of the key international mechanisms for funding national parks, biosphere reserves and other conservation areas’ (FPP, 2004). ‘The cornerstone’ of GEF biodiversity projects are those that promote protected areas – many or most of which overlay the lands and territories of indigenous peoples. Yet indigenous peoples have repeatedly claimed that these conservation schemes ignore their rights and undermine their livelihoods (Griffiths, 2005b).

While its earlier biodiversity portfolio was for the establishment and financing of protected areas, since 1996, the GEF has supported 133 grants worth a total of USD 26.7 million for the development of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs). One major objective of the current GEF biodiversity portfolio in GEF-3 (2003-2006) overseen by its Biodiversity Program is to support the goals of the 2010 Biodiversity Target adopted at COPVI of the CBD in 2002 under which parties to the Convention aim to achieve a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on earth.

Given that many of the areas designated as protected areas are inhabited by indigenous people, there is decided impact of GEF policies. ‘But surprisingly there is little official information on how GEF activities have influenced the welfare and rights of indigenous peoples affected by its projects over the last ten years. Indigenous communities and their organisations have undertaken their own independent and critical evaluations of GEF projects. When the World Bank has been the implementing agency, some indigenous groups have launched complaints to the bank’s accountability mechanism’ (Griffiths, 2004), such as in the case of Nagarhole discussed in the article.

There have been strong grievances detailed against the GEF by indigenous peoples including that of lack of availability of project information and consultation during the approval and implementation stages. Griffiths (2004) provides examples of the Meso-American Biological Corridor Project in Panama and the Philippines Conservation of Priority Protected Areas Project (CPPAP) both of which did not involve local people till the projects were already underway. Regarding project information, there have been cases of poor translation, the economistic language being difficult to comprehend and non-disclosure of key documents including evaluations. This is despite guidelines on public involvement in projects financed by the GEF (GEF, 1996). These guidelines are very much in the usual frame of consultation and participation that the World Bank employs which might explain its lack of real impact (also see GEF, 2001).

Griffiths (2004) notes that ‘[e]ven where projects are specifically intended to promote the participation of indigenous peoples in protected area planning and management, it is clear that ensuring effective and empowering participation is far from straightforward’, adding that ‘[t]he failure to deal adequately with participation and support for restrictive protected areas regimes means, that according to the GEFs own evaluations, 80 percent of GEF protected area projects do not properly involve local communities’ (Griffiths, 2004).

There is a severe contradiction in GEF policies and operational programs in support of biodiversity conservation. In relation to biodiversity, the GEF has six operational programs, of which forests ecosystems is one (GEF OP Number 3: Forest ecosystems; GEF, 2004) which does not deal with issues relating to indigenous peoples even though these issues are very much at the heart of forest ecosystems in most cases.

While there is a public and, much publicised, policy regarding the participation of indigenous people and local communities, the projects that are financed in many cases have been in park buffer zones, ignoring communities living in protected areas, an attempt to bypass core issues by any account (Griffiths, 2004). And curiously enough, when there is an attempt to engage with indigenous peoples living in protected areas, it comes in tow with the euphemistic notion of ‘voluntary resettlement’. Griffith (2004) notes that in 1994, the GEF adopted an unofficial policy to not fund involuntary resettlement, although this crucial institutional safeguard has yet to be consolidated in official GEF policies while in 1996, the GEF’s project cycle guidelines allow for resettlement without defining it or qualifying it any way. The FPP contend that ‘[a] 2004 internal evaluation of 48 full-size and medium-sized projects undertaken by the World Bank GEF team affirmed that around one fifth of projects involved involuntary restrictions of access which triggered the Bank’s Involuntary Resettlement Policy (OP 4.12), although it is noted that an evaluation of the quality of implementation of the policy has yet to be undertaken by the Bank’ (Griffiths, 2005b, p 57).

These conservation models in the case of GEF are dealt with under an eco-development label, which basically aims to reduce pressure on biodiversity by providing alternative monetary livelihoods for indigenous communities and local people. Indigenous peoples groups have argued in some cases that these alternatives, so called do not compensate the loss of the cultural, material and spiritual subsistence from the forests. This has not stopped the GEF from promoting widely this alternative non-land and non-natural resource livelihoods.

The GEF in response to some of the problems raised have conducted reviews, which have validated many of the concerns raised by indigenous peoples. Griffiths note: ‘There are signs that the GEF secretariat is aware of changing paradigms for resource conservation and recent GEF public relations documents at least acknowledge the importance of clarifying property rights and shifting the ownership of land and natural resources to communities’ (Griffiths, 2004). However, what is not clear is whether this awareness will lead to fundamental changes in GEFs key objectives or its approach. The GEF does not have a policy on social or poverty risks assessment or a specific policy on indigenous peoples.

There are also serious accountability gaps including the fact that they do not have appeals and complaints procedures for communities who have been adversely affected by GEF projects, though NGOs and indigenous representatives may raise concerns formally via project managers and ultimately in the GEF Council (FPP, 2004, p 9).

In a recent ‘multi-focal’ Operational Program (OP12) adopted in 2000, the GEF affirms that it will not support activities that may have negative environmental or social impacts. ‘There are also indications that the GEF is seeking to promote better community involvement and …‘limited’ community use of park resources, and that some community-based natural resource management and poverty reduction projects are appearing in its portfolio’ (FPP, 2004, p 9).

Griffiths (2004) contends that ‘[i]n the meantime, GEF projects continue to be processed and approved in the old frame, often applying the outdated exclusionary model of conservation, which risks leaving more indigenous peoples further marginalised and impoverished as a result of GEF financing’.

‘In sum, there is cumulative and compelling evidence that some GEF-funded biodiversity projects are failing indigenous peoples. They fail to secure their rights to their lands, territories and natural resources. They limit and curtail their livelihoods while providing inappropriate alternatives. They provide inadequate mechanisms for their effective participation in decision-making. In so doing the long-term sustainability of these projects is being set in jeopardy’ (Griffiths, 2005b, p 57).

Griffiths (2004) and Griffiths (2005b) suggest a number of crucial reforms including adopting a rights-based approach in GEF projects and programs, replacing alternative livelihoods with sustainable livelihoods, formulating a specific policy on indigenous peoples and formalising the prohibition of involuntary resettlement in GEF projects.

The difficulty, this article argues is that while all the reforms suggested are important and necessary, the changes are programmatic and not paradigmatic, not challenging the very basis of conservation and ecodevelopment. One of the objectives of the GEF Operation Programme Number 3: Forest Ecosystems is: Conservation or in-situ protection of old growth forests and mature secondary forests by establishing and strengthening systems of protected areas. In its expected outputs is included that protected areas are established with effective management plans, threat removal, for example, through reduced encroachment and addressing livelihood issues of local and indigenous communities living in buffer zone areas (GEF, OP Number 3). The very objective of GEF’s forest ecosystem programme exemplifies the very basis of colonial policies towards nature and indigenous peoples, which creates human-free (read indigenous peoples) parks with fixed boundaries based on subordinating and imperial logics.

5.3. The World Bank as Implementing Agency

The FPP state: ‘The World Bank is one of the main implementing agencies for GEF projects. According to the GEF project database, the Bank has prepared and managed more than 375 GEF-financed and co-financed projects since 1991. Over (223) of these projects fall under the GEF Biodiversity Focal Area’ (Griffiths, 2005b, p 70).

As a key implementing agency and the senior partner in the tripartite implementing structure of the GEF, it is essential that the role of the World Bank in GEF operations be interrogated. When the donors created the GEF, they did so with the intention to keep the implementation of the environmental conventions under the World Bank’s legal authority. According to Young: ‘Building on a reputation for political conservatism, the Bank promised its major donors a ‘business-like’ approach to ‘valuing the environment’ and financing ‘sustainable development’’ (Young, 2002). There was outright criticism by Southern governments while some went as far as saying that ‘giving the Bank responsibility for global conservation was like putting a fox to guard chickens’ (Young, 2002). ‘Through its effective control of the GEF, the World Bank has been able to bring its economistic vision of development into what was previously UN territory of global environmental protection’ (Young, 2002). With all the criticism that was mustered against the GEF, it really was the only source of multilateral aid on offer (Young, 2002, p 7) and some compromises and offers of participation and accountability on the donor’s side appeased the dissenters.

However there have been contrasting views on the subject that have a more optimistic take on the World Bank’s involvement. Dolzer (1998) states that ‘[t]he mission of the World Bank is linked to global environmental politics in a double context. Given its financial, technical, and personal resources, the Bank today can initiate global environmental projects more specifically than any other aid organization. Moreover, the Bank can make an even greater contribution to the global environment if it orients its entire activities towards this goal and promotes positive effects for all of its projects and activities. This is especially evident in the area of energy politics. Finally, the Bank can indirectly influence the conduct of other actors in the area of global environmental politics with its unique international knowledge, know-how, and persuasive power’. He goes on to note that, in 1986, the World Bank established its own environmental division. Recent allocations of the Bank’s resources have been increasingly spent specifically on environmental projects. In addition to economic development and the eradication of poverty, the protection of the environment may become the third pillar of the Bank’s mission. Dolzer (1998) continues to cement the point by mentioning that ‘… the Bank’s reputation was that of an institution blind or even hostile to the environment, but with little fanfare it has become the most important actor in international environmental politics in terms of its financial volume, personal resources, and especially its willingness to implement innovative policies’.

In this paper, I argue that the more optimistic take on the World Bank’s potential and actual involvement is belied by the operation of the GEF in its first decade and the World Bank’s routine adjustment policies and projects that have impacted the environment in adverse ways. One of the ideas behind the GEF was to ‘mainstream’ environmental issues in the development work of the implementing agencies. Horta et al (2002), challenge this and point out that ‘[t]he World Bank however, has not only failed to mainstream environmental considerations into its general economic development work, it has continued and expanded environmentally destructive practices through its lending portfolio. Further, it has used the GEF to externalise environmental costs and increase the indebtedness of Southern countries by ‘sweetening’ proposed loans with green grants’. ‘Indigenous peoples’ organisations and NGOs question the legitimacy of combining GEF grants with World Bank loans in environmental projects. They argue that in principle it is unjust to increase the national debt and burden on taxpayers for biodiversity conservation projects which are usually unable to generate sufficient income to repay foreign loans (Griffiths, 2005b, p 71).

On the issue of mainstreaming, it was found that the World Bank did not put global environmental concerns on par with traditional bank business, had not systematically integrated global environmental objectives into economic and sector work or into the Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) process. Besides the World Bank’s ‘normal’ business portfolio and its energy policies have encouraged the use of fossil fuels, extractive industries and dams, all of which have been shown to have devastating environmental impacts. On the issue of its operational policies, this needs to be linked with GEF-funded projects where Griffiths (2004a) notes that the World Bank routinely fails to properly follow their own internal social and environmental policies.

When it comes to its regular project and adjustment lending and biodiversity as an example, the World Bank has in fact now weakened some of its environmental safeguard policies, such as proposed policy changes in the Forest Policy which removes necessary institutional and policy frameworks in order to qualify for forestry loans: ‘The World Bank’s new 2002 Forest Policy has also been criticised for its narrow focus on commercial timber production and certification, its lack of adequate social safeguards, and its failure to require Borrowers to adhere to human rights instruments they have already ratified’ (Griffiths, 2005b, p 92).

On the issue of adjustment lending, while economic policies have been shown to have adverse impacts on the environment and on deforestation, there is no evaluation of these policies in terms of its environmental impact. This only substantiates the view that what the GEF was not designed to do however was to help solve global environmental problems by ‘reforming the lending process of development institutions to take account of non-economic social and ecological costs and benefits’ (Young, 2002).

On the issue of externalising environmental costs, the GEF has allowed the World Bank to externalise its own environmental costs, by having GEF grants cover the costs of environmental components in a regular loan (Horta et al, p 16). The GEF grants also ‘leverage’ other investments in indebted countries, sweetening the terms of other loans, making it appear more financially viable. In reality, this only adds to a country’s indebtedness in the guise of financing global benefits (Horta, et al, p 16).

On the specific issue of the World Bank and indigenous peoples, the World Bank’s record has hardly been stellar, though some commentators have noted that ‘(i)n the trend among international institutions having major field programmes and responsibilities to adopt normative operational policies on issues affecting indigenous peoples the World Bank has been a leader …’. In contrast Bustillo notes: ‘World Bank policies and practices regarding indigenous peoples have also been the subject of extensive activism and advocacy by indigenous rights organisations and NGO networks throughout the world, as part of the broader international debate regarding the role of the Bank, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the WTO (World Trade Organisation) in the context of globalizing processes hegemonised by ‘neo-liberal’ policies of free trade and structural adjustment’ (Bustillo, 2003, p 158). These longstanding criticisms have been recorded by a number of authors and commentators (Fox and Brown, 1998; Danaher, 1994; Rich, 1994) — ‘World Bank policy towards indigenous peoples has a complex and contradictory history dating back to its first explicit, official origins in 1981’ (Bustillo, 2003, p 172; Kingsbury, 1999). Kingsbury observes: ‘Within the Bank, the policies on indigenous peoples and on involuntary resettlement have been among the most controversial of the entire corpus’ (Kingsbury, 1999, p 327).

The key Operational Directive (OD), which deals with indigenous peoples, is now OP/BP 4.10, which replaces the earlier policy (OD 4.20, Indigenous Peoples). The revised policy has retained the policy requirements of OD 4.20 that Bank-financed projects are designed not only to avoid adverse impacts but also to provide culturally appropriate benefits. The process by which the present policy came about has been controversial to say the least. ‘Since 1995 indigenous peoples’ organisations have repeatedly called on the World Bank to ensure that any revision of its Indigenous Peoples Policy is informed by a thorough participatory implementation review of OD 4.20 (OED (2003a); FPP, 2005, p 56). In April 2001, the Bank launched an implementation review and in January 2003, the Operations and Evaluation Department (OED) published the first phase of the review (OED (2003b); Bustillo, C.P, 2003; FPP, 2005).

The first part of the OED review confirmed ‘the variable pattern and poor quality of policy implementation found by independent studies undertaken by indigenous peoples and NGOs’ (Griffiths, 2005b, p 56). Some of the findings were failures to apply the indigenous peoples policy when required, failure to prepare an indigenous peoples plan or component and poor quality implementation which include inadequate measures to mitigate the adverse impact of the project activities and poor participation of indigenous peoples in decision making and in financial management (OED, 2003a and 2003b). The Bank then released a further revised policy in December 2004. The FPP observed: ‘This document has partially addressed indigenous concerns, but shortcomings and potential loopholes in the draft policy remain, particularly in relation to the issue of free, prior and informed consent’ and instead the draft used the language Free Prior Informed Consultation which was explicitly rejected by indigenous peoples. The draft did have a mandatory requirement for social assessments, which was welcomed (Griffiths, 2005a). Apart from the problems with the draft, there were also processual problems regarding the non-disclosure of the Bank Procedures (BP), which was to accompany the Operational Procedures (OP). In May 2005, the World Bank approved OP 4.10 without ‘any significant changes to the December 2004 draft’ (Griffiths, 2005a). ‘Indigenous peoples’ have noted some positive elements in the new policy, but express disappointment that the final revised policy fails to uphold their right to free, prior and informed consent, lacks effective provisions to recognise and respect indigenous peoples’ customary rights to their lands, territories and natural resources and contains scant language on the need for fully informed and effective participation’ (Griffiths, 2005a).

So all the fanfare aside, the greening of the World Bank and its record on indigenous peoples policies has still left a lot to be desired.

5.4. Funding Environmental Protection

In this article, I will not go into details or presume to suggest how environmental treaties should be implemented and environmental protection paid for. However, what I have attempted to do in this article is to point out the problems with the GEF and its largely economistic and managerial approach to environmental protection in the case of biodiversity, buttressed by the World Bank as one of its implementing agencies on the economic front and the managerial view towards nature largely unchallenged by the UNDP and UNEP. This approach has led to GEF projects, such as those illustrated in the biodiversity ‘focal area’, largely ignoring indigenous peoples concerns and adopting a model for protected areas, which is being challenged in most postcolonial states.

International environmental law makes much issue of the notion of common but differentiated responsibility. This responsibility maintains that for developing states to participate in the negotiations and implementations of global environmental protection strategies in the form of binding international treaties, it is with the precondition that the industrialised states agree in advance to bear the ensuing costs for the developing states (Matsui, 2002). The creation of the GEF can be seen as exemplifying this principle, ensuring implementation of environmental treaties and getting rich donors to foot the bill. There are some fundamental problems with this approach in the case of the GEF.

One is that somehow the conventional wisdom seems to be that the only way to protect the environment is to throw a lot of money at it. It will be seen later in the case of Nagarhole National Park, that the bankers’ approach to conservation and ecodevelopment can be seriously flawed and ‘inefficient’ even in their own evaluation.

Second is that the term ‘global benefit’ is sometimes defined in ways that ignore environmental priorities at a country level, at a level of place. This is not to say that so-called global problems are also not local ones. As Dolzer (1998) notes, ‘[t]he allocation of tasks at the international level is even more complex because, in practice, issues of global environmental politics overlap considerably with the working areas of local environmental protection’. Even when there is such an overlap the decisions on what to do with those priorities and agendas are taken by institutions like the GEF in conjunction with the governments. This insulates it from local scrutiny in the places that are targeted by the projects, reinforcing in many cases existing governmental policies that are being challenged locally. By the time it reaches the project area, people are only treated as so-called target beneficiaries, affected persons or oustees, ticked off in some checklist or the other. As put aptly the important question is ‘(w)hen does biodiversity conservation stop being a local environmental issue deeply connected with the livelihoods and knowledge of innumerable, poor rural communities of the world and when does it start becoming a global issue, is very difficult to define’ (Centre for the Science and the Environment, 1998).

Third, the approach does not challenge conventional development and conservation models and its impacts on the environment and indigenous peoples. While countries continue to develop in ways that are damaging to the environment, additional increments like the GEF promises will only have minimal incremental benefit, if any on the environment.

Some commentators have made some interesting suggestions with regard to differential obligations, which seek to bypass some of these problems. One suggestion has been to rework differential obligations around environmental justice (Iles, 2003). According to Iles (2003), ‘environmental justice starts by questioning the nature of the development, and whose development it is, that takes place in the course of preserving biodiversity, and by moving away from simple resource transfers to open up the processes for deciding on ‘just’ development that benefits both biodiversity and human populations’. Recommendations and reworkings of this sort can only contribute to constructive changes in how financing and funding is promoted and require more exploration.

6. Financing the India Ecodevelopment Project

6.1. The Rationale of Ecodevelopment

Ecodevelopment is simply put ecological conservation blended with economic development, based on the assumption that what adversely affects biodiversity and habitats is local use and abuse. ‘Ecodevelopment is an attempt to reduce forest dependence and to compensate local communities – in cash and kind as well through alternative off-farm income generating opportunities – for the lost access to resources in PAs’ (Badola, 1999). Badola contends : ‘Since 1991, the Government of India has committed funds, particularly in the field of PA management, for ecodevelopment (also called integrated conservation and development) and site-specific package of measures for conserving biodiversity through local economic development. The government has launched ecodevelopment projects in 80 PAs through a centrally sponsored scheme and in seven PAs with World Bank assistance. Two PAs are being supported through World Bank Forestry Research, Education and Extension projects. All the ecodevelopment activities are administered by village ecodevelopment committees (VECs) or forest protection committees (FPCs)’ (Badola, 1999).

Ecodevelopment integrates environmental and forestry activities with those of other development agencies. Social welfare activities include the provision of drinking – water and irrigation facilities, soil and moisture conservation, fencing, village road-work, health care camps and employment generation for local communities in the vicinity of PAs.

6.2. Aims of the India Ecodevelopment Project

The India Ecodevelopment Project was initially conceived as a pilot project in June, 1994, on the basis of an Indicative Plan prepared by the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA) on behalf of the Government of India after the study of eight sites selected by the Ministry of Environment & Forests.3 The project was to be implemented in seven sites in seven different States viz. Palamau in Bihar, Buxa in West Bengal, Nagarhole in Karnataka, Periyar in Kerala, Pench in Madhya Pradesh, Gir in Gujarat and Ranthambore in Rajasthan.

The project was co-financed and amounted to a total of USD 67 million, with a grant allocation from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) at USD 20 million, USD 28,000,000 from the International Development Association (IDA, World Bank) and the rest from the Government of India, state governments and project beneficiaries. The World Bank was the key implementing agency.

Objects included conserving biodiversity, reducing negative impacts of local people on biodiversity and of protected areas on local people and increasing collaboration of local people in conservation efforts as promoted by the term ‘ecodevelopment’. The overall benefits of the projects as stated would conserve globally significant biodiversity, slow, halt, or reverse negative environmental impacts of local people on biodiversity and threats to ecosystems and species and increase local support for protected areas and provide models of protected area management and sustainable use of resources by local people for use elsewhere in India (Staff Appraisal Report, 1996).

It must be stressed that ‘[e]codevelopment does not challenge the structural inequalities, which cause conflicts between people and wildlife conservation, nor do they confront the processes, which lead to people being evicted from protected areas’ (Kothari, A, et al, 1995)

The project ran for seven years from 1996 until 2003. ‘From its outset, the India Ecodevelopment Project (IEP) generated public criticisms and controversy. Critics noted that national policy towards Adivasi peoples diverged significantly from the World Bank’s Indigenous People’s Policy (OD 4.20) and notionally, promotes ‘integration’ rather than ‘participation’ (FPP, 2005). Other general criticisms of the project were that it would primarily finance an exclusionary model of conservation that aimed to separate local people from their environment with little or no recognition of their customary resource rights. People also protested that the project design had not been derived from baseline field studies in each of the seven protected areas (FPP, 2005, pp 22-23).

The FPP notes: ‘Once project implementation began, however, affected communities in several sites including Nagarhole, Buxa, Gir and Pench suffered severe negative impacts’ (FPP, 2005, pp.22-23), adding that ‘[o]verall …the IEP is judged by most affected communities to have been detrimental to the rights and interests of Adivasi communities’ (FPP, 2005, p 23).

7. Experience of Ecodevelopment in the Nagarhole National Park

7.1. Adivasis of Nagarhole National Park

It is important to point out the ecological and human history of Nagarhole National Park before describing how the ecodevelopment project unfolded there. Nagarhole is primarily a deciduous forest and is watered by five perennial rivers and 40 artificial water tanks. The fauna of Nagarhole is said to compare with some of the finest natural habitats of the world and some of the endangered fauna include the tiger, leopard, elephant, wild dog, sloth bear, bison, spotted deer, barking deer, mouse deer, four-horned antelope. Nagarhole lies in a belt that boasts of the highest concentration of the Asiatic elephant anywhere in the world (FPP, 2000). In line with colonial models of wildlife management, Nagarhole is segmented into seven ranges under two conservation circles, one territorial and one wildlife circle.

This is not based on a recent figure but a total of about 32,000 adivasis reside in 138 haadis (settlements) in and around the Park spread over three talukas (sub division within a district) of Kodagu and Mysore districts. Residing at present within the limits of the Park are 58 haadis with a population of 1550 families (around 7,200 people) (FPP, 2000). When the British first came to the region in 1847, they found that nearly 75 percent of the people were adivasis – mainly hunter-gatherers, pastoral people and shifting cultivators. The adivasis groups include the Jenu Kurubas, primarily hunter-gatherers who are expert honey gatherers and also earn a living by casual labour. The Betta Kurubas (hill dwellers) are food gatherers and specialise in the bamboo craft. The Yeravas specialise in fishing and subsistence agriculture, and have four sub-divisions, of which the Pani Yeravas and the Panjeri Yeravas are the inhabitants of the Park. All the adivasis living in and around the National Park are dependent upon the forest for their lives and livelihood (FPP, 2000).

The Gazetteer of India, Karnataka State, Kodagu District, 1993 and Mysore District, 1988, states that the tribal communities of the region have been dwelling here since time immemorial and had enjoyed an unrestricted life. Land was owned in common and the people hunted, fished, trapped small birds, collected minor forest produce and practiced slash and burn cultivation. The tribal people sustained their lives and livelihood through various minor forest produce such as tubers, fruits, flowers, roots, honey, herbs, vegetables, scrapings of the barks of trees etc. for food, medicine and household implements (FPP, 2000).

Under the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, once an area is notified as a National park/ Sanctuary (under Sections 18, 26-A, 35, 38(1) or 66(3) the Collector (the principal administrative and revenue authority) is to inquire into and determine the nature and extent of rights held by the people in or over the notified land. In the case of the Nagarhole National Park, the Chief Wildlife Warden issued a notification dated 4 February 1975 (G.O. NO. AFD.14.EWL.78 dated 4.2.1975. Government of Karnataka, Bangalore) declaring the intention to constitute an area of 571.55 sq km as the Nagarhole National Park, under relevant sections of the Wildlife Protection Act. The final notification for the park was issued on 16 March 1983 (Notification No FFD 195 FWL 82 dated 16.3.1983 Government of Karnataka, Bangalore). The government is supposed to have inquired into and settled the rights of all people, but it appears that no such inquiry was conducted and no notices were issued as prescribed in the Act of 1972 (FPP, 2000).

The Deputy Commissioners of Mysore and Kodagu did not conduct the inquiry and the adivasis in and around the Park were completely in the dark regarding the creation of a National Park or their rights in the Park. Displacement of people from the PA was projected as necessary in the largest ‘public interest’ of conservation and protection of the environment. In any case the very settlement of rights in Nagarhole National Park, even if conducted properly would have only dealt with recorded rights, ignoring the historical processes both during the British period and after that saw their rights being gradually eroded (FPP, 2000).

Indigenous communities in the Nagarhole National Park and in nearby regions in addition to being excluded by the creation of national parks, have been displaced due to hydro-electric projects, deforestation and formation of government and private plantations. This has in turn at various stages led to bonded labour, encroachment of their lands, evictions, threats to food security leading to starvation and malnutrition, dissembling of their cultural sustenance base and their livelihoods. Young and Makoni note: ‘At Nagarhole in Karnataka, some dispossessed adivasi had been rehoused, but in rows of airless matchbox houses next the main road through the park and without access to their traditional sources of livelihood. Most of the 6-8,000 who remain near the forest shrines and burial sites are driven to work as coolies (wage labourers) for the Forest Department (FD) and for encroaching planters of teak, coffee and tobacco… Highly insecure, forbidden to cultivate, gather food or keep animals, even those adivasi who want to live as ‘flexible’ labourers find few lasting and dignified – let alone well-paid – jobs in an alien culture – except as guides to timber and wildlife smugglers’ (Young and Makoni, 2001, p 8).

Indigenous communities in Nagarhole consider the areas to be their traditional territory – Jamma – and believe that they belong to this land, which has sustained them for centuries and it is on this land that their Gods exist, where their ancestors are buried. The traditions of the adivasis of Nagarhole revolve around the 12 ‘kottis’ (sacred spots). The adivasis believe in Devaru (force of creation) and Hettaya (spirits of their ancestors) (FPP, 2000). It has been difficult for them to maintain their religious and spiritual beliefs that were tied to the forest (the cosmos) and the ecosystem what with the dominant Hindu communities appropriating tribal Gods into their pantheons, co-opting certain traditions and beliefs. As cheria (1997) puts it, ‘(a)divasis have been dispossessed by a wrong forest policy, deprived of their place in society and have been left behind by the dominant classes, they have been exploited and their ancient community lifestyle has been destroyed’.

This has been aided in most part by a forest department that has laid down the law in the Park, harassing local adivasis, evicting them through force and threats. ‘In charge of Nagarhole Forest … is the Indian Forest Department (FD). Originally set up by the British to manage woodlands for maximum timber extraction, Indian forest management was structurally largely unchanged after independence. Since responsibility for nature reserves was added to the FD’s brief, park areas have been policed by an armed and khaki-clad protection force’ (Young, 2002).

When the forests were used as a Royal Hunting Reserve the Kings employed the adivasis to trap and domesticate elephants and later the British and the Indian Government’s Forest Department used them as labour on logging and other forest operations. When the forests came to be constituted as a National park the forest department initially used the adivasi people in various forest related activities. But they were also harassed and systematically evicted or facing the threat of eviction. This has led to the situation in Nagarhole National Park being one of extreme distrust between the adivasis and the forest department, exemplified in certain prominent forest officers who have exerted formidable authority in the region, abetted by ecologists who have reiterated that the adivasis are responsible for poaching and degradation of the forest.

7.2. Adivasi Resistance to the Ecodevelopment Project in Nagarhole

Adivasi resistance to the ecodevelopment project in Nagarhole mainly related to protests against the very rationale of the project, participation, relocation and resettlement and the issue of alternative livelihoods.

From the first exploratory mission in 1993, the adivasis and local groups supporting them have protested World Bank funding of the ecodevelopment project and its aims and objectives. Some of the reasons for the protest were that the goals of the ecodevelopment project were based on a view that local people were responsible for plundering and degrading the forest, which was not subject to negotiation (Young, and Makoni, 2001). Also the project was very much in the frame of conservation laws in India, which in the past had subjected indigenous peoples to exploitation and displacement, not a departure from it.

The environmental benefits, according to the adivasi groups would be minimal if at all as the pumping of large amounts of cash into the forests would only enable its decline and lead to widespread corruption (cheria, 1997). The adivasis’ claimed that they hunt only small game, practise restricted poly-crop agriculture, collect forest produce such as firewood and honey and view the forest as home to their sacred sites. They asserted that it has been the encroachment of villages, the mass game hunting by royalty in the past and the advent of timber and teak plantations that have led to the dwindling forest area and decreasing biodiversity. As an illustration ‘… since the designation of Nagarhole National Park in 1974, there have been numerous encroachments by higher-caste settlers from outside the area and large-scale planters of coffee and tobacco. Smugglers come from town with trucks to cut wood and shoot wildlife wherever they can bribe officials to let them pass unhindered, sometimes shooting their way to freedom and large pay-off’ (Young, 2002, p 249).

Substantive Problems with the Ecodevelopment Project


Though the draft Project document had references to ‘local people’s participation’, in reality, the tribals living inside the national park were already told to move out without their consent. Throughout, the adivasis stated that they were not invited to participate, or were they consulted (Cheria, 1997; Young, and Makoni, 2001). ‘Adivasi organisations like the Budakattujanara Hakusthapana Samithi, through which younger leaders have recently begun to present their case to the outside world in their own terms, were not consulted when the project was proposed. Before the project started, two substantive World Bank consultations in Bangalore (most of a day away by bus), reportedly took no note of adivasi concerns’ (Young, and Makoni, 2001, p 18).

Between 28 March and 3 April 1998, a GEF Assembly was held in New Delhi, India. ‘Buidling hostility to the World Bank project led in 1998 to a visit by three adivasi activists to the GEF Assembly in New Delhi, where passionate public debate ‘ventilated the issue’ (Hutton Archer, GEF Secretariat, quoted in Young, and Makoni, 2001, p 18). Complaints about the Ecodevelopment Project made by adivasis at the GEF Assembly in Delhi were publicly dismissed as unfounded by World Bank officials. At the same Assembly, GEF officials were criticised for failing to respect grassroots calls for suspension of the entire Ecodevelopment project (FPP, 2005).

In any case participation would not be able to deliver the one thing that the adivasis of Nagarhole were demanding and that was the withdrawal of the project or changing its key mandate. In an example of the World Bank’s attitude, at a GEF Assembly held in India between 28 March and 3 April 1998, in a meeting with the Centre for the Science and the Environment (CSE), representatives from Nagarhole and the Indian government, the World Bank stated that the Ecodevelopment Project strategy was non-negotiable (CSE, Press Release, 1998).

Involuntary Relocation and Alternative Livelihoods

The ecodevelopment project envisaged the setting up of village ecodevelopment committees, who would be provided with funds for village development and alternative livelihoods. The benefits would include the provision of largely domestic animals, wells, village halls, biogas plants for cooking etc (Staff Appraisal Report, 1996). Some authors have pointed out that some of these provisions did benefit some quarters. In exchange for the promise that they would not take wood from the forest, people were ‘apparently delighted with the pump wells, bio-gas plants, goats, sewing machines and community centres they had received in return’ (Young, 2002, p 252). But this must be seen in context as these were only offered to those who resettled outside the park.

The plan itself had a component for ‘voluntary relocation’ outside of the forest. In fact the very basis of the project is based on the human-free protected area model. The terms ‘voluntary relocation’ and ‘alternative livelihoods’ were largely euphemistic. The forest department in many cases made veiled threats that they would cut off electricity and hamper access to water and other resources if the adivasis did not move. While microplans were supposed to have been made both within and outside the Park, the only plans that were completed were for inhabitants outside the Park. As Young and Makoni (2001) note, ‘[e]codevelopment [was] intended to keep people out of parks with the reward of small-scale ‘green’ development shaped by village committees. Yet particularly at Nagarhole, the project (had) no solution for people living in parks’. The FPP contend,‘[i]n Nagarhole, the project served to strengthen the forest department who forcibly relocated Adivasi communities and blatantly violated the project agreement by restricting ‘development’ benefits only to those people willing to move out of the park’ (FPP, 2005, p 22).

Those who did move were relocated to generic, airless houses outside the Park. Babu, a local adivasi states: ‘In Nagarhole the government has already rehabilitated six, sometimes seven times in the name of wildlife conservation …they have given us matchbox houses, with no livelihoods and turned us into slaves who work for low wages’ (CSE, Press Release, 1998). In the case of the ecodevelopment project, the Forest Department was using separate funds to resettle forest dwellers on formerly reserved forest land outside the park, which was stripped of trees consisting of arid and rocky soil (Young, 2002).

It has been suggested that the World Bank should have encouraged and seen to it that the Indian government respected the Staff Appraisal Report (Staff Appraisal Report, 1996) and ensured that only voluntary relocation was conducted. It seems to be a typical response to issues of aid, development that somehow the World Bank should mentor or discipline the erring debtor or grantee in case of non-compliance. In this article, I argue that that notion should be treated with great caution, if not discarded altogether. The adivasis did argue that the World Bank’s operational directives were violated in this case but it was as much an indictment of the World Bank as the Indian government. The World Bank would have been well aware of the Wildlife Protection Act’s exclusionary model and such models in most postcolonial states and therefore allowing for ‘voluntary relocation’ was either a negligent papering over of controversial legal and human rights issues or rather a persistent and routine application of biodiversity protected area policies, repackaged by the GEF which treats voluntary relocation as a minor irritant rather than a fundamental problem with the protected area model that they are financing. ‘Here, the relevant Indian government agencies had accepted the Bank policy against displacement and resettlement for the purposes of this project, but the little-enforced Wildlife Protection Act 1972 potentially conflicted with this policy in requiring exclusion of people from protected areas’ (Kingsbury, 1999, p 338).

Alternative livelihoods as suggested by the project did not compensate in any commensurate way for the lack of access to the forest. A succinct and evocative challenge to the project was that ‘… it is, verifiably, to wean away the adivasi from the forest by nominally ‘training’ them in subsistence occupations such as pig rearing, so that they can be shown to be independent of the forest’ (cheria, 1997).

In fact the one livelihood option that was not really suggested was that of aiding in conservation. The adivasis had prepared a people’s plan for protecting the National Park to be organised at a haadi (village unit) level based on the recognition of their rights and keeping the larger interests of conservation in mind. Babu, a leader of an adivasi organisation in Nagarhole stated that ‘I am told that millions will be spent on the project. I don’t know what millions are, but I think the millions are not required’ (CSE, Press Release, 1998). In sum, alternative livelihoods as promoted by the ecodevelopment project did not encompass natural resource based livelihoods and did not take into account losses which are not material but were linked to the adivasis’ cultural and spiritual sustenance base.

Complaint Before the Inspection Panel

In 1998, a complaint was made before the Inspection Panel of the World Bank, which was possible because of International Development Association (IDA)’s involvement in the project stating that the World Bank had caused harm and had violated its own operative directives on indigenous peoples. The Inspection Panel of the World Bank was established in 1993 and is considered ‘an innovative means of introducing a degree of independent scrutiny and public accountability for compliance by an international agency with its own policies …’(Kingsbury, 1999, p 330). The panel’s formal mandate is to make specific recommendations to the Bank’s board arising from complaints by people claiming to suffer a material adverse effect from failure by the Bank to follow its operational policies and procedures with respect the design, appraisal, or implementation of a project’ (Kingsbury, 1999, p 330). The point to stress here is that the inspection panel’s mandate is to investigate the Bank’s project performance against the standards of Bank policies and procedures but not to assess the adequacy of these policies and procedures, although some commentators believe that even investigation might create an incentive for change (Kingsbury, 1999, p 331).

In October 1998, the panel visited Nagarhole in which they discussed a peoples’ plan for the protection and conservation of Nagarhole. The Panel reviewed documents, talked with tribal people, interviewed forest department and government officials and submitted their evaluation of the situation to the most senior members of the World Bank (Paulraj, 1999).

The Inspection Panel found that many of the World Bank’s operational policies had been violated, in particular Operational Directive (OD) 4.20 and also criticised the lack of an Indigenous People’s Development Plan. (Panel Report and Recommendation on Request for Inspection, 1998) The Panel found a number of inconsistencies in the way the project was handled, citing inadequate participation and failure to note that 97 percent of the adivasis did not want to be relocated. The Panel stated that amongst other violations, GEF guidelines on participation were breached and indigenous people had no choice about whether to remain in the park (Memorandum to Executive Directors, 1998). Also, the future of the tribal population within the park was uncertain as a result of the Wildlife Protection Act and the Supreme Court Decision in The Centre for Environmental Law (CEL), WWF vs. Union of India and others in 1997, which passed an order asking for strict implementation of the Act.

The panel report in its analysis came out strongly against the Bank’s handling of the affair. The World Bank management issued a response to the Inspection Panel’s report, which denied a breach of all the Bank’s directives. It responded to the major allegation that no Indigenous Peoples’ Development Plan had been prepared by saying that the entire project had been constructed for their benefit (Management Response, 1998).

The management essentially boiled down the problems in Nagarhole to intense suspicion between the forest department and the tribal population. The Government of Karnataka also defended its Forest Department. ‘It claimed that the local political machine had led both the Inspection Panel and the tribal population astray. It defended the eventual need to relocate the tribals as its studies had shown that they had a negative impact on wildlife population of the park’ (Paulraj, 1999).

When it was then sent to the Board of Directors, they did not order a full investigation based on the response of the management team. ‘Despite a six month deadline for Bank management’s response to the Panel’s findings being long past, the World Bank’s governing Board did not approve a full inspection, and the project continued apace amidst acrimony and agitations’ (Young, and Makoni, 2001). It was essentially on the response of the India Ecodevelopment management team to the Inspection Panel report that the World Bank officials dropped the recommendation for a full investigation of the implementation of the project.

It has been pointed out that ‘[t]he inspection panel’s 1998 report on the India: Ecodevelopment Project, which involved ‘ecodevelopment’ of the Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka in an area already inhabited and used by tribal people, shows the meaning and importance of full rather than cursory consultation with indigenous and tribal peoples, both before and during projects affecting them. This case also illustrates the risks of beginning a project without harmonisation of international agency policies and national law on sensitive policy issues’ (Kingsbury, 1999, p 338).

The complaint could be hailed as a very important step for the adivasis in the sense that they did effectively use international mechanisms available and even received a favourable response by the Panel but the limitations need to be clearly mentioned. Firstly, the Panel report in the case of Nagarhole was highly positive but World Bank management response and that of the Indian government ultimately thwarted it. A more fundamental critique is that the petition process in the case of the World Bank Inspection Panel could be termed as an exercise in ‘institutionalising resistance’ (Rajagopal, 2003, p 67). This is evident in the Nagarhole case where the complainants could challenge the World Bank’s adherence to its operational directives but could not challenge the very basis of the project, ecodevelopment.

Rajagopal (2003) suggests that that the techniques that the Permanent Mandates Commission (PMC), a creation of the League of Nations ‘developed for dealing with the petitions essentially remain unchanged in the institutional practices of subsequent international petition processes, from UN human rights procedures to the recent World Bank Complaints Panel’ ((Rajagopal, 2003, pp 67-68). The argument is not so much that the Inspection Panel is just a wolf in disguise but that like the PMC ‘disputes/grievances from the mandate-inhabitants get converted into questions of institutional self-preservation and identity’ (Rajagopal, 2003, p 68).

While partially useful as a strategy for social movements, the Inspection Panel process should not be overstressed in the case of the Nagarhole National Park or become a handy advertisement for the petition system in international institutions. It had its uses in the case of Nagarhole but it was clearly not enough as will be shown.

Ecodevelopment Project: Failing Biodiversity?

After the complaint before the Inspection Panel, ‘dialogues with the Forest Department initiated by the Bank management finally occurred in late September 1999’ (Paulraj, 1999), but did not result in any real change. ‘Ecodevelopment Committees were belatedly set up inside the Park, but they lacked funding and were often dominated by Forest Department agendas’ (FPP, 2005, p 22). In response to the then continuing struggle and protest against the plans to remove them from the National Park, there was widespread harassment and intimidation of the adivasi groups and local groups supporting them. This included a number of false criminal cases against adivasis and leaders of local groups, arrests of leaders, subsequent hunger strikes. As of 2002, the World Bank’s involvement in the project is over, though significantly the management plan made under the ecodevelopment project stands.

The forest department claimed and still claims that the ecodevelopment plan is a success story, with one senior consultant saying that he would give it a seven out of ten. However, in 2003, the Lokayukta (Ombudsman) of Karnataka, an ex-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court conducted a raid of the forest department offices discovering an alleged misuse of funds (6 million rupees) in the ecodevelopment project, including funds that were earmarked for tribal welfare (Protected Area Update, 2003). Wildlife groups who in the past were largely promoting the eviction of adivasis from the forest have appealed to the Chief Minister and Forest Minister to stop the project and to scrap the present management plan written under this World Bank project, as per recent news from the area. Another report that is disconcerting is that there have been a number of fires reported in Nagarhole in February 2004 (Protected Area Update, 2004). Fire control work has apparently been hampered due to the absence of fire watchers. The Chief Wildlife Warden was quoted as saying that there was a severe shortage of financial resources. He claimed that money from the World Bank was no longer available and that which was available with the Forest Department could not be diverted for fire control.

The corruption, misuse of funds and the failure to meet even the lauded environmental objectives in the Indian Ecodevelopment project only underscores the deep-seated and fundamental problems with global financing of biodiversity projects by the GEF/World Bank. There is nobody to watch the fires much less fight it.

Ecodevelopment Beyond Protected Areas

There have been some reviews of the India ecodevelopment project, which pointed out some key lessons (GEF, 2004b). In relation to indigenous peoples, some lessons learned include a need for direct participation of local communities in park management activities through reciprocal commitments and specific action would be needed to address the needs of the poor, landless and most forest dependent members of the community.

The ecodevelopment project is not the end of GEF/World Bank interventions and neither will it be focussed merely on protected areas. There is now a proposed project in India titled ‘Linking Biodiversity Conservation and Rural Livelihoods’ with a total project cost of USD 48.0 million with the majority share from the IDA. The project objective is to conserve biodiversity while improving rural livelihoods through testing and establishing decentralised participatory approaches of sustainable management. The proposed project envisages a focus on five or six sites of global and national biodiversity importance in India, which would not be just protected areas.

The proposed project attempts to press beyond the spatial confines of the earlier ecodevelopment project, essentially pushing through similar objectives as in ecodevelopment with some lessons added-on (GEF, 2004b, p 11). One might say that in the case of the GEF and the World Bank repetition, not practice makes perfect, in rhetoric if not in reality.

Through Imperial Frames: Beholding the Ecodevelopment Project in Nagarhole National Park

The ecodevelopment project in Nagarhole National Park, through an imperial frame shows us the deep, green pit that conservation can drag us into. Conservation models in India, based on colonial notions of taming and managing nature and the subordination of indigenous peoples have resulted in draconian laws like the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Even with some moves to community conservation efforts and a fair settlement of rights, the historical and present day injustices meted out to adivasis like those in Nagarhole continue. But it is not Indian laws or judicial decisions alone that rely on these colonial notions. As stated earlier, the objective of the GEF Operation Programme Number 3: Forest Ecosystems is conservation or in-situ protection of old growth forests and mature secondary forests by establishing and strengthening systems of protected areas. The Programme clearly stipulates and places reduced encroachment and addressing livelihood issues under the rubric of threat removal. And to add, any programmes are for those living in buffer areas, making invisible those within the parks, as was also the case in Nagarhole.

It was with this protected areas model that the GEF/World Bank project came to the forests of Nagarhole with a plan of ‘ecodevelopment’, identifying adivasis as the key threat to the forest. Little wonder then that they met with so much resistance. The ecodevelopment project on paper mentioned voluntary resettlement and alternative livelihoods, with no scope for rethinking their basic objectives. The GEF/World Bank papered over the complex legal encumbrances under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. But it was not just a question of national policies catching up with international standards. The Indian laws along with the GEF’s Operational Programmes are both based on exclusionary protected areas models even if there may be a difference in degree and effect. In the end, the project failed even its biodiversity objectives, as a result of corruption and misuse of funds by the Forest Department. Which makes one think that the ‘protected areas’ model as imperial legacy is less about protecting areas, as it is about protecting the model.

8. Conclusion

In this conclusion I would like to do a couple of things. One is reiterate some of the positions taken in this article and re-emphasise its importance. The second is really to carry forward the debate on issues that need to be discussed further and taken as points of departure.

Imperialism does not refer to any and every form of domination. Subordination and power plays do not have to come packaged in an imperial pill. So the linking of ecodevelopment and imperialism is not an only choice and definitely not the only lens in which to observe the events in Nagarhole National Park. But there are facets to imperialism and postcolonial analysis that lend itself to a better understanding of issues of environmental conservation, the marginalisation of indigenous communities in postcolonial states and the role of international institutions like the World Bank and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF). The colonisation of nature, law’s subordinating logic as regards nature and the creation of protected areas as a simplistic and abstract territorial model of conservation, impacting adversely on indigenous peoples only go onto to expose the real and imagined boundaries of the financing of environmental protection.

Global financing of environmental protection is based on ostensible altruistic intentions but they intersect particular places, and in the case of ecodevelopment and the adivasis, the intersection has been particularly problematic.

There is another element to imperialism and ecodevelopment and that is the role of international institutions like the GEF, the World Bank as implementing agency and the World Bank Inspection Panel. As Chimni notes: ‘If the story of international law and institutions is read as an integral and inextricable part of the history of colonialism and imperialism it is perhaps easy to understand why the renewal efforts have had a similar structure’ (Chimni, , 2004). In the context of the India ecodevelopment project and the events at Nagarhole, this does explain to some extent why even with institutions such as the GEF whose object is to fund environmental protection, an attempt at renewal and departure, the same fissures appear and the projects can so disadvantage third world peoples. Chimni (2004) notes that International Institutions are contemporary embodiments of imperialist policies and strategies and even human rights and environment agendas are being increasingly drawn up to serve a neo-liberal agenda, creating social conditions that assist the functioning of transnational capital.

The very basis of conservation and ecodevelopment is on in-situ conservation to the exclusion of indigenous peoples, the privileging of expert knowledge and ecological sciences over local, indigenous knowledge, the subordination and discarding of social and human histories of protected areas. Conservation and ecodevelopment mount a weak and ineffective challenge against economic liberalisation and other routine financial orthodoxies promoted by for example, the World Bank.

Regulatory spaces constructed by international conventions, including human rights and environmental ones have impacted on indigenous communities in contradictory ways. There is no doubt that there have been progressive developments in the UN human rights system with indigenous peoples as an issue being given prominence. But while there is more space to discuss indigenous peoples’ rights and traditional rights to resources, ‘it is in the hegemonic discourses of such international bodies that local traditional and indigenous discourses become ensnared when global interests – whether corporate or regulatory – oppose the local populations and claim a regulatory authority over them’ (Langton, 2003). So even while there have been signs that modern environmental policy circles have to some extent moved away from the non-people policies in National Parks, it is unclear how much of the change is a fundamental one and how much of it is really an exercise in more control of the adivasis for the purpose of environmental protection. On the human rights front, it needs to be explored whether the human rights regime can deal adequately with such issues that emerge from conservation policies and in any case there would first have to be a challenge to the anthropocentric biases of human rights discourse.

In the context of World Bank operational policies stressing the need for participation, which in the present case of Nagarhole was unfulfilled, there is a danger of participation turning into artefact. Participation seems to be largely a tinkering around with projects whose basic contours or ideologies cannot be questioned. ‘Participation, identity and interpretation thus name different ways in which those who see themselves as subjects of self-determination might experience the process of formulating its meaning, negatively, as yet another imperial imposition or, more positively, as engagement’ (Knop, 2002).

Ecodevelopment is an ideology that comes under a green banner, but still reflects decisions made at distant centres, treating the adivasis and the forest as largely peripheral. ‘To recognise that both nature and indigenous peoples have been colonised, we need to rethink, relocate and redefine our protective concepts for nature within a larger anti-colonial critique’ (Plumwood, 2003). Seeing imperialism as a cultural and ecological system reveals that the issue should not be adivasi versus the forest but the adivasi and the forest versus imperial law and policy. The importance of a post-imperial perspective is that it sees the subordination of nature and of adivasis as emerging from the same imperial imperative. There is a strong movement in India to do exactly that, break down artificial divides between conservation and adivasi rights, seen as ‘essential if India’s cultural and biological diversity is to survive the juggernaut of economic liberalisation’ (Kothari, et al, 1995).

Financing of ecodevelopment by the GEF and the World Bank has been, in conclusion a revival of an old ‘civilising mission’, one that embeds the managing of nature and the taming of the savage, attempting to perfect the technology of colonial control that is ‘conservation’.


1 The term adivasi, unlike the term tribal is not an administrative term. The communities refer to and perceive themselves as ‘adivasis’, original inhabitants, indigenous peoples. I will use the terms adivasis, indigenous communities, and when applicable the term tribal in this article.

2 The GEF is also the financing mechanism for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. It also provides support to Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, the Montreal Protocol of the Vienna Convention on Ozone Layer Depleting Substances, and various agreements on the protection of international waters.

3 See India Eco-Development Project, a Brief Note on the Project at


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