02 Dec, 2020
A half-day virtual workshop on the ‘Role of Block Development Officers (BDOs) and Village Development Officers (VDOs) in Wildlife Conservation and Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC) Mitigation’ was jointly organised on 2nd December 2020 by the Indo-German Project on “Human Wildlife Conflict Mitigation (HWC)” in India and the Uttarakhand Forest Department with support from Centre for Environment Education (CEC). The workshop was held with the BDOs and VDOs of Dehradun and Haridwar districts of Uttarakhand with purpose of orienting them about wildlife conservation, human-wildlife conflict (HWC) mitigation and the project, building cooperation and increasing resilience of local communities towards HWC and facilitating the formation of Village Primary Response Teams (PRTs). The meeting was also an opportunity to understand the perspectives of the BDOs and VDOs and to discuss action points for the way forward.
Dr Pradeep Mehta, Technical Advisor GIZ, opened the session by welcoming the participants and shared an overview of the HWC mitigation project and its scope at the national, state and pilot site levels. He explained how the underlying principle of the project uses an inclusive and harmonious approach to promote coexistence between humans and wildlife. He also gave the context of the workshop, expected outcomes, and state-specific information. He encouraged the participants to share their suggestions, opinions and challenges posed by HWC in the upcoming sessions.
The inaugural session had an interesting presentation by Dr Aditi Sharma, Senior Veterinary Officer, Uttarakhand Forest Department, on the ecological importance of Rajaji Tiger Reserve along with the associated landscape. She emphasized upon the existing HWC challenges at landscape level, scientific reasons and drivers behind the increasing trend in HWC cases and ecosystem services. Dr Sharma gave interesting insights into the lesser-known behaviour of leopard and elephant that are emerging as the key conflict species in the region. She also shared best practices adopted by the state forest department to address the HWC issue like during religious season of Kanwariyas and other situations where humans and wildlife are prone to conflicts. Finally, she highlighted adopting mitigation measures that support harmonious approach which is also in line with the key principles of the project.
Mr Neeraj Kumar Sharma, Divisional Forest Officer, Haridwar talked about the steps taken by the Forest Department in the critical landscape to mitigate HWC and the need for enhanced collaboration and teamwork among various agencies and departments during crisis situations for effective mitigation of HWC.
Ms Alka Tomar, President and Co-founder, Centre for Environment Education (CEC) shared the outline of role, composition and selection criteria of the Village level Primary Response Teams (PRTs) and the three-tiered multi-level structure of the response teams as envisaged under the project. Ms Tomar also presented on the relevance of BDOs and VDOs and how their role is instrumental in proactive engagement with the Gram Panchayats and in the long-term goal of connecting with various key stakeholders like women, farmers, youth and other village level functionaries for the effective implementation of the mitigation measures.
Uttarakhand Forest officials spoke about installing alarms to alert people about elephants' movements, solar fencing and formation of response teams in the state to mitigate conflicts with wildlife.
The workshop was attended by over 60 participants from Panchayati Raj, Forest and other related departments including Chief Development Officer, District Development Officer, BDOs and VDOs, Senior officials from State Forest Department, MNREGA, DPOs, ABDOs, JE, GIZ and CEC team and communication and other experts. The sessions followed a participatory approach and saw significant contributions from the state forest department and the BDOs and VDOs from the state of Uttarakhand.
The workshop concluded with a brainstorming session that threw some practical and valuable suggestions for steering the activities ahead. Some of the key suggestions included holding offline meeting at a strategic location for clusters of villages; formation of WhatsApp groups by BDOs and VDOs for outreach with the Gram Panchayats and including the Forest Department in the process; starting dialogues with the Gram Panchayats regarding block level and village level meetings with the farmers’ groups and Self Help Groups (SHGs); and dedicating one of the training meetings with the Gram Panchayats on waste management which is one of the leading causes of HWC; exploring the possibility of integrating of HWC mitigation measures in the existing MNREGA scheme.
The Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation (HWC) project implemented by GIZ in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and State Forest Departments of Karnataka, Uttarakhand and West Bengal, aims at providing technical support at the national level, and effective implementation of HWC mitigation measures in selected states of India. The project pilot sites are: Haridwar Forest Division and adjoining landscape including Rajaji Tiger Reserve in Uttarakhand, Gorumara Wildlife Division in West Bengal, and Kodagu Forest Circle in Karnataka.
The main objective of the project is that the rural population in project areas, where agreed guidelines and tools are applied to mitigate human-wildlife conflict, is better protected against it. The project takes the approach of harmonious coexistence, by ensuring that both—human and wildlife—are protected from conflict. Read more
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