11: Biodiversity conservation: “militarized conservation” vs “convivial conservation”
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This chapter makes a journey around the world, showing cases of biodiversity conservation mainly in India and Africa that illustrate the dilemma between “militarized conservation” and “convivial conservation”. One reason for biodiversity loss is the human appropriation of net primary production of biomass (HANPP). The higher the HANPP, the less biomass is available for other species. We discuss the distribution of the HANPP, and also the presence of the network ICCA (Indigenous and community conserved areas). Traditional conservation from the top-down with its focus on conserving ‘wild’ ecological landscapes and species, has practised “fortress conservation” or “militarized conservation” from which local communities are excluded. Most cases in this chapter belong to this category where Indigenous populations are evicted. However, there are attempts to move towards “convivial conservation”, where conservationists have come to agreements with the local populations who fight against economic extractivist interests.


This chapter traces the contrast between “militarized” and “convivial” conservation. We need first to look at the loss of biodiversity at the level of species (and varieties among the species), and also at the level of ecosystems. Ecosystems are endangered and species are disappearing because of human influence. The IPBES (the body of expert scientists in the field of biodiversity and ecosystem services parallel to the IPCC on climate change) announced in Paris in 2019 that one million species were threatened – providing a plausible explanation. In terms of the planet's long life of over four billion years, we are now at the sixth great extinction, the first one caused by human beings. The fifth one had been caused by a meteorite falling on earth, which led to the disappearance of dinosaurs. The earth certainly has a great resilience, allowing her to come back and produce new biodiversity.

One indicator of social metabolism that the Vienna School has used often (Haberl et al. 2007) and that was first proposed by Vitousek et al. in 1986, is the human appropriation of net primary production of biomass (HANPP). It is an indicator that complements other physical indicators of social metabolism, mainly those provided by material and energy flows accounting (MEFA). The higher the HANPP, the less biomass is available for other species. Population growth drives the increases in the HANPP together with the growth of the economy and the concomitant increases in materials and energy flows.

All species on earth have evolved by “choosing” the available sources of energy provided largely by photosynthesis produced by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere plus water and sunlight. The vegetarians consume the food they require from plants, the omnivorous species consume food provided by plants or by animals that feed on plants. An increase in the HANPP results from a decrease in the biomass produced (soil sealing for roads and infrastructures, forest fires) and from the appropriation of a large share of the biomass as wood, paper pulp and biofuels much beyond human food requirements. There is a contradiction between the objective of keeping biodiversity and the objective of producing and appropriating more biomass energy to absorb carbon dioxide and slow down climate change. The IPBES and the IPCC should face this contradiction. The IPBES should take much more into account the HANPP calculations.

Moreover, the HANPP is not appropriated equally by all humans – those who eat much meat indirectly use more vegetation, those who fuel their cars with ethanol or biodiesel, even more. The poor use less paper and wood than the rich (with the exception of wood or charcoal for cooking). Those responsible for asphalting more land –for airports and motorways, or for big housing in rich suburbia – prevent the growth of biomass much more than poor people do. Inequality appears also in the appropriation of land for monocultures such as eucalyptus, p. 216rubber or oil palms, which are enemies of biodiversity. In the next chapter, I refer to calculations of the HANPP and its distribution in the Tana delta in Kenya (Temper 2016).

Because of the increase in the HANPP, the richness of species on the planet is decreasing. One single figure illustrates the biodiversity loss in India. About one hundred years ago, the number of tigers living in the wild was estimated at about 100,000, and today there are perhaps 3,000. The situation is so dramatic that even the fate of individual tigers is being followed in Tiger Reserves such as Sariska. “Beneath” each tiger, as a keystone species, there must be much biodiversity. Conservationists are sensitive about this. In some cases, biodiversity might be decreasing from other causes, such as climate change, that changes and reduces the habitats of some species, such as polar bears in the melting Arctic.


Conservationists exist in the North and in the South, but large, influential and well-funded organizations caring for biodiversity (IUCN, WWF, Nature Conservancy) tend to forget about the livelihood of poor people when practising their “cult of wilderness” (Guha 1989). I was present at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) congress in Barcelona in 2008 with 7,500 participants from 183 different countries. The IUCN thinks of itself as “the environmental movement” but it is only the “cult of wilderness” branch. Two other branches (the eco-efficiency stream of engineers and mainstream economists, and the environmental justice movements) are under-represented at IUCN congresses. Before the IUCN congress of 2008 I looked forward naively to a change of strategy anticipated by the commissioned paper written by Professor Bill Adams, that would bring together “the cult of wilderness” and the environmentalism of the poor and the Indigenous. This new strategy was not adopted. In the IUCN congresses, the top extractive corporations such as Shell, Rio Tinto, etc. are present not as enemies but as sponsors.

This is why other networks such as the Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCA) have been born. The ICCA unites representatives of many local Indigenous communities, it is coordinated by personalities such as Ashish Kothari, who at one point authored the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan for India where many examples of convivial conservation were included. They argue for experiences of “conservation with the people” or “convivial conservation” (Büscher and Fletcher 2019) that would rely on the environmentalism of the poor and the Indigenous against common enemies such as open cast mining, oil exploration, sand and gravel mining, deforestation and tree plantations, new motorways and airports. Meanwhile, there are enough examples around the world of something totally different: top down “militarized conservation”, against the people. And perhaps there are examples in between, for instance eviction and relocation of people with “proper” compensation in terms of land and/or money. The asymmetries of political power between the top-down conservationists and the local peoples are usually enormous.

The ICCA is a consortium that gives support to community-based, convivial conservation, and brings together such groups around the world. Are Indigenous peoples and traditional peasants the main defenders of biodiversity against the inroads of the industrial, capitalist economy, or are they themselves among the main predators that need to be kept in check? This is the dividing line between convivial conservation and militarized conservation. Indigenous and peasant people defend the environment mostly because of their livelihood needs and also p. 217because such defence is in accord with their religions and world visions. They hold “biocultural values” (Toledo and Barrera Bassols 2008). However, when the poor complain about tigers or elephants that kill their livestock or destroy their fields, then conservationists tend to rely on “militarized conservation”. Conservationists claim that protected areas are used too intensively by growing numbers of poor local people, and therefore such local poor people must be evicted from those areas.


Silent Valley in Kerala: A Success in Convivial Conservation 1

In Chapter 9 I discussed the conservation of Olive Ridley turtles in Kolavipalam, Kerala by a fisherfolk group allied to conservationists opposing the sand mining mafia. Another example of “convivial conservation” again from Kerala is Silent Valley located at the core of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. In 1976, Kerala State Electricity Board planned a construction of a 240-MW hydroelectric project, the Silent Valley Hydro-Electric Project (SVHEP), over the Kunthipuzha River flowing through the Palakkad and Malappuram districts. The plan for construction of the dam, announced already in 1973, attracted the attention of environmentalists not only in Kerala state but also all over the globe. Romulus Whitaker, founder of the Madras Snake Park and the Madras Crocodile Bank, was one of the first persons to draw public attention to the small and remote area. Also, the poet activist Sugathakumari played a role and her poem “Marathinu Sthuthi” (“Ode to a Tree”) became a symbol for the protest and was the opening song/prayer of most of the “save the Silent Valley” campaign meetings. The construction of the dam would submerge 8.3 km2 of forest land and would destroy the rich ecological flora and fauna of that region. People expressed their concern and it triggered a wave of protests. Many environmentalists, scientists, and concerned people also joined the demonstrations. Soon it became India's major environmental movement with far-reaching consequences. In 1978 Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, approved the project, with the condition that the state government enact legislation ensuring safeguards.

That year, IUCN (Ashkhabad, USSR, 1978) passed a resolution recommending protection of lion-tailed macaques in Silent Valley and Kalakkad. The controversy heated up. In 1979, the Government of Kerala passed legislation regarding the Silent Valley (Protection of Ecological Balance Act of 1979) and issued a notification declaring void the exclusion of the hydroelectric project area from the proposed national park. In 1982, a multidisciplinary committee with Prof. M.G.K. Menon as chairman and Madhav Gadgil, Dilip K. Biswas and others as members was created to decide if the hydroelectric project was feasible without significant ecological damage. After studying the Menon report, the Prime Minister of India decided to abandon the Project. Silent Valley National Park is now considered a biodiversity ‘hotspot’. The “Save Silent Valley” movement was a grand success for the environmental movement in India.

Eviction in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and Muthanga Adivasi Agitation, Kerala 2

Not far from Silent Valley, the next case shows “militarized conservation” as opposed to “convivial conservation”. In Kerala, protests against an animal reserve (elephants, tigers) p. 218and for recognition of land rights became known in 2003 as the Muthanga agitation, when Wayanad tribals fought for the land. Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS) was constituted as a separate entity in 1985. There were about 107 settlements comprising 2,613 households within the boundary of the Wildlife Sanctuary. The total population was estimated at 10,604. These households comprise different tribal communities, other “backward” castes (OBCs) and others. The Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) of Kattunaikar and Mullu Kuruma are the majority in the area, and they have a closer relationship to the forest.

WWS was initially notified in 1973 by carving areas out of the Wayanad and Kozhikode Territorial Divisions. A separate Wildlife Division, the Wayanad Wildlife Division was constituted in 1985. There are 13 Reserved Forests in this sanctuary. The Sanctuary is a part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and Project Elephant Reserve No. 7. It is contiguous with Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary of Tamil Nadu and Bandipur and Nagarhole National Park of Karnataka. It has an extent of 344 km². Large wild animals such as Indian bison, elephant, deer and tiger are found there. The Core Zone comprises natural forests including areas contiguous to interstate boundaries. Tourism, forestry and managing intervention activities are only allowed in the buffer zone.

In an article in News Minute on 20 February 2019, Korah Abraham wrote:

Nestled amidst the silence and the towering trees […] it wasn’t an easy task to reach the house of CK Janu, one of the leaders of the Muthanga agitation and leader of the Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha (AGMS)… Janu doesn’t waste any time with small talk as she starts recapping the Muthanga agitation in 2003, that can be said to be one of the landmark protests in the history of the tribal communities in the country in their fight to obtain cultivable land. ‘It all began in 2001 after 30 tribals died of starvation. Following their deaths, thousands of tribals, led by the AGMS (Adivasi Gothra Maha Sabha) started a kudil kettal samaram (protest tents) outside the state Chief Minister's office’.

On 19 February 2003, the state had sent the police force to evacuate the site, killing Jogi, one of the Adivasi protestors (Figure 11.1). According to Janu, “the whole concept of bhoomi samaram (protesting for land) was formed, where Adivasis would enter the land, set up tents and start cultivating as a sign of protest”. After the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) in 2007 the situation did not change much. In contrast, while some individual patta (land titles) were distributed, a collective eviction plan started in 2012, when the Kerala Forest Department proposed to convert the sanctuary into a Tiger Reserve. This led to waves of protests against the move. Although the WLS sanctuary has never been converted into a Tiger Reserve, displacement started to be carried out. The people were induced to move out under a compensation plan which was not properly respected. Indeed, the community rights under the Forest Rights Act were denied to the communities. Instead of cultivable land, only homestead land was distributed, leaving people in the same chain of poverty.

Jogí's memorial monument (killed in Muthanga agitation of 2003, Kerala) (DoolNews).
Figure 11.1

Jogí's memorial monument (killed in Muthanga agitation of 2003, Kerala)

Source:  DoolNews

In 2013, 16 families that got relocated had protested saying they did not receive the 10 lakh rupees which were promised, and hence decided to come back to their land. New families which were planned to be relocated after started to protest, asking for a fair compensation before relocation. By 2017, about four villages had already been relocated and there was a plan to relocate 14 other settlements. In September 2017, a report in The Hindu stated that Kerala Government was seeking 100 crore rupees for the relocation of families from protected areas. Individual Forest Rights have been distributed to almost every family; however, the families were being evicted in contradiction with the FRA law.p. 219

Evictions from Nagarhole, Karnataka 3

I add a second case of “militarized conservation” from a nearby protected area in South India, Nagarhole, which I visited years ago travelling as an eco-tourist. The visit was expensive, the local people were poor, and the big mammals were elusive. The origins of the Nagarhole National Park, also known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park, go back to the 1950s. It is situated between two districts, Mysore and Kodagu, in the state of Karnataka. Since 1983 it was extended over an area of 643 km2 and was declared as a National Park. In 1999 it was declared the 37th Project Tiger Reserve, and it is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The Western Ghats Nilgiri Sub-Cluster of 6,000 km2, including all of Nagarhole National Park, has been under consideration by the UNESCO for selection as a World Heritage Site.

In 2007, the entire Nagarhole National Park was declared as a Critical Tiger Habitat. A buffer and a fringe area of the park were also notified, extending the entire park to 1205 km2, with a core of 643 km2 and a buffer of 552 km2. A high number of tribal people, mostly from Jenu Kuruba and Yerawa tribes, were evicted from the Nagarhole National Park just after the implementation of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972). According to a Report compiled in 2014, 3,418 families were displaced between the 1970s and 1980s. Today, most of these displaced tribal communities continue to be landless labourers. From 1999/2000 until 2010 about 487 tribal families were ‘voluntarily’ moved out of the Park. Initially, 280 families were relocated in Nagapura and Sollepura between 2000 and 2007, for a compensation of 1 lakh rupees and 5 acres of land. However, the rehabilitation's site lacked drinking water p. 220and other basic facilities. In 2010, under the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) sponsored scheme of 10 lakh rupees’ compensation, 147 families agreed to relocate to the new site of Shettihali-Lakkapatna and Hebala, in Hunsur district.

In response to the forced relocation, the Adivasi got organized under the name of Budakattu Krishekara Sangha (BKS). The movement peaked in the 1990s when the locals successfully protested against the creation of a Taj tourist resort. Again, they fought at the end of the 1990s against the creation of an eco-development project funded by the World Bank. After the implementation of the Forest Rights Act in 2008, things got more conflictive. Because of their political action, between 2001 and 2011, 192 criminal court cases against tribal people have been registered. In 2015, many people settled in tents in fringe areas of Nagarhole. In 2016, the tribal forum asked for rehabilitation measures. In May 2017, after the NTCA order against the implementation of the FRA titles within the Tiger Core Areas, the Jenu Kuruba protested before the District Collector demanding the withdrawal of the unconstitutional order. The clampdown on this strong movement led to a loss of hope by the tribals, which have mostly decided to leave their land and get the compensation package offered.

Kaziranga National Park, Assam 4

Another well-known case of “militarized conservation” is in north-east India, that of the Kaziranga Park in Assam housing a large number of rhinos, a success in conservation but a failure in human relations. One meeting of the Indian Society for Ecological Economics (INSEE) was in 2013 on the shores of the formidable Brahmaputra River. A book came out of the meeting, in which I have a chapter. Kaziranga National Park is one of the oldest wildlife conservation reserves in India, first notified in 1905 and constituted as Reserve Forest in 1908. It was established for conservation of the Greater One Horned Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros Unicornis) whose number was estimated to be 20 pairs at that time. Kaziranga was declared a Game Sanctuary in 1916. It was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1950, and notified as Kaziranga National Park in 1974 under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, with an area of 429 km2, which has now extended to 899 km2. Home to two-thirds of the world's one-horned rhino population, in 2016 Kaziranga received 170,000 Indian and 7,843 foreign tourists. Here, there exists a dramatic quadrangle of tourists, forest department officers, assumed poachers and some real poachers.

Kaziranga is doing well chrematistically, as expressed by the willingness to pay of tourists. Incidentally, the use of the word “sanctuary” in English by the colonial administration and later by the state of India after 1947 attributes non-market values to territories valued by their biodiversity and beauty. “Sanctuary” is a Latin-derived word not specific to India; a “wildlife sanctuary” is translated into Hindi as अभयारण्य. Tourist revenues are welcomed by the administration, though not commensurate in other scales of value. Such top-down “sanctuaries” contrast with other types of sacredness of nature in India, such as village “sacred groves” (Chapter 22) meaning small forests which are communally protected and sheltered by deities.

Poaching of wildlife, mostly rhinos, is a serious problem in Kaziranga. Between 2006 and 2016, reportedly 141 rhinos were poached. Coming under pressure from conservation organizations, the then Congress-party-led Assam government amended the provisions of Section 197 of the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) granting forest officials immunity from prosecution if they attack poachers. Following the amendment, Forest department officers shot 22 and 23 suspected poachers in 2014 and 2015 respectively.p. 221

Meanwhile, in 2012, the Guwahati High Court had suo motu registered a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) (66 /2012), following wide media coverage on poaching of rhinos in Kaziranga. Along with this, another PIL (67/2012) was filed with an additional petition for removal of human habitation and encroachment in the animal corridors in Kaziranga. It was also admitted. In October 2015, the court issued directions to district administrations to evict the human inhabitants from Kaziranga and from adjoining villages within one month. The bench in its judgment also observed that the individual claims for a handful of persons were in conflict with the public and national interest. Also, that the inhabitants in the park fell in the suspected group because they were aware of the animal movements, and therefore would alone be in a position to do poaching successfully or abet poaching by others. Following this, an eviction drive was carried out on 19 September 2016; two people were killed and 17 were injured.

In the evening of 19 September 2016, the Assam government announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh (200,000) for each of the families of the dead victims, and Rs 50,000 for those who were grievously injured. Next day, the Guwahati High Court refused to interfere after hearing a writ petition filed by one Mohammad Jalal Uddin against the eviction drive. In response, student-led organizations and Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (a farmers’ body) protested on behalf of the evicted people and demanded better rehabilitation, and an investigation into the killing of presumed poachers. The conflict goes on. The number of rhinos increased at the cost of repression against neighbouring populations. It was reported that only three rhinos were poached in 2019 in Kaziranga National Park. The reason behind the poaching of rhinos has always been the high demand for the unique horn in Asian countries, particularly in China (Barbora 2017).

Buddhist Monks Oppose Dams in Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh) 5

From Kaziranga we go to Tawang, still inside India, at a height of over 3,000 m (Figure 11.2). This case belongs with other cases of Buddhist defence of Nature in Chapter 22. Tawang is an example of “convivial conservation” which could still be brutally sacrificed to hydropower since in the whole state there are grandiose plans for 50,000 MW. Tawang is the last Indian district bordering China, a 2085 km2 patch where in 1962 the Chinese army came trooping in. The 1914 Simla Accord defined the McMahon line as the new boundary between British India and Tibet, relinquishing several hundred square miles of Tibet's territory, including Tawang, to the British, but this was not recognized by China.

From Tezpur and Kaziranga up to Tawang (Arielle Landau).
Figure 11.2

From Tezpur and Kaziranga up to Tawang

Source:  Arielle Landau

Tawang is home to the Monpa people, it is a tourist destination thanks to the well-preserved Tawang Monastery and a seat of Tibetan Buddhism. Since 2011, it has witnessed public protests against the state government's decision to build up to 13 hydroelectric projects across the district. To stall this spree of dam construction, people from the Monpa community joined hands with local Buddhist monks in 2011 to form the SMRF. On 2 May 2016, as fully reported in The Wire and The Telegraph (3 May 2016), things took a deadly turn. In a demonstration calling for the release of arrested anti-hydropower movement leader Lama Lobsang Gyatso, the secretary of the SMRF (Save Mon Region Federation), at least two people were killed by unannounced police firing.

On 7 April 2016, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) suspended the environmental clearance of the 780-MW, Rs 6400 crore Nyamjang Chhu project in response to an appeal filed by the SMRF. The Tribunal asked for fresh EIA, a public hearing for local people and appraisal by the Expert Appraisal Committee on River Valley & Hydroelectric projects and p. 222the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC). A major issue was the impact on the wintering habitat of the black-necked crane, a vulnerable endemic bird sacred to the Monpa people, considered an embodiment of the 6th Dalai Lama who wrote about the bird in his poetry (Figure 11.3). The NGT noted that the project – promoted by the Noida-based steel conglomerate LNJ Bhilwara Group – was not taking into account that the bird is rated “vulnerable” in the IUCN's list of endangered species and is listed in schedule 1 of the Wildlife (Prohibition) Act 1972. Corruption was also alleged.

Black necked crane (Ghai, 2018).
Figure 11.3

Black necked crane

Source:  Ghai, R. (2018). As black-necked cranes return to Tawang, expert says awareness key for survival, Down to Earth, 4 December

The week before 2 May 2016, Gyatso was arrested twice for reasons “linked (as he said) not only to the NGT decision but also our plan to take legal recourse against other hydel projects”. He was taken to the court of the district magistrate for hearing on his bail application. In the morning of 2 May, many villagers and lamas assembled in front of the police station seeking his release. He was denied bail. Afterwards, the small crowd (perhaps 200 people) began moving towards the police station. They were then fired upon with live bullets. Among the dead, there was allegedly a woman and a student of the Tawang monastery. By mid-afternoon, orders under Section 144 were clamped on Tawang town and the army was called in to stage a flag march. It was reported that Chief Minister Kalikho Pul, who was in New Delhi, announced Rs 5 lakh ex-gratia to the families of those killed. Local MP and then Union p. 223Minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijiju, was said to have called up the Tawang deputy commissioner and SP, downplaying the situation and relying on the army. The NAPM (National Alliance of People's Movements) demanded an official commission of enquiry. By 2021, the SMRF still refused the government's renewed plan to construct dams in the district.

Bhitarkanika Protected Mangrove Forest in Odisha, India 6

Still in India, let us go to a coastal area with mangrove forests threatened by the growth of shrimp or prawn aquaculture. Mangroves are cut down and, in their place, ponds are built where shrimp are fed, also given antibiotics, and then harvested and frozen for export. This is an itinerant industry because the ponds become too polluted after a few years. As is common around the tropical world, mangrove forests are a very valuable ecosystem in terms of biodiversity, carbon uptake, and defence of the coastline. The opposition between mangrove conservation and development of shrimp farming is a classic of political ecology and also of ecological economics, since H.T. Odum and one of his students calculated that the energy to be gained by exporting shrimp and buying fossil fuels with that money revenue was less than the energy embodied in the original mangroves. I saw this first-hand when I was teaching at FLACSO, Ecuador, in 1994‒95, and visiting the province of Esmeraldas with Acción Ecológica, where courageous Afro-American women from clam collecting families were fighting for mangrove conservation. Their complaints were indeed a case of environmentalism of the poor.p. 224

The Bhitarkanika National Park, in the Kendrapara district of Odisha, north from Chilika Lake (Chapter 8) contains India's second largest mangrove forest after the Sundarbans. According to the 2011 census, there were 310 villages with 145,301 people living inside the park. It was designated as a national park on 16 September 1998 and as a Ramsar site on 19 August 2002, due to its large variety of endemic flora and fauna, including the leopard cat, sambar, saltwater crocodile, python, water monitor lizards, marine turtle and brahminy duck, to name some.

This high-density population of tribal groups dependent on the biodiversity-rich forest is the background to a triangular dispute between conservationists, small paddy farmers and inland fisherfolks, and the illegal prawn industry. The first major conflict is between the traditional fisherfolk and the forest officials. Each year there is a ban on fishing for a period of seven months coinciding with the breeding period of the Olive Ridley turtles. As a result, nearly 20,000 traditional fisherfolk in Kendrapara district are affected every year (Banerjee 2017). In 2014, 221 fishermen were arrested and 32 boats and trawlers were confiscated in the region.

There have also been conflicts on land rights. The forest department claims rights on the land and has partially accomplished evacuating the whole village, which has led to various protests and to the villagers being forced to migrate to nearby villages (Banerjee 2017).

Another such protest took place in 2001. The villagers protested for two days in favour of the construction of a river embankment but were beaten by the forest department, which was not in favour of the embankment. The embankment was needed as it would prevent the salt water from the creeks from entering the fields, and was finally constructed (Banerjee 2017).

The second major conflict is between the fisherfolk and the illegal shrimp farms, controlled by the shrimp mafia. Hundreds of farmers of the seaside villages blame the mushrooming of illegal shrimp farms and its effluent for destroying their fertile agricultural lands. Noted environmentalist and president of Marine Turtle and Mangrove Conservation Society (MTMCS) Hemant Rout said the effluent of the prawn gherries is released into the nearby rivers and ponds, also polluting the groundwater in villages. Besides, they are a threat to the nearby mangrove forests. In 2017, the district administration and Forest department demolished large tracts of illegal prawn farms near Bhitarkanika. However, the prawn mafia repaired their gherries.

In May 2015 it had been already reported that the “shrimp mafia” felled mangroves to make way for shrimp farms. By building embankments around 5,000 acres of riverside shrimp ponds, the river's water can’t flow to the sea and was flooding local crops. Girija Mandal (62), a farmer of Talachua Village, said, “I used to grow paddy [rice, vegetables] on my two acres of land. In 2012, some people converted ten acres of land near my field into shrimp farms and started releasing all the effluents onto my land. As a result, my land turned barren and is now unfit for raising paddy crops”. Almost all shrimp farms in Bhitarkanika are illegal as they violate Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms and the directives of the Supreme Court and High Court.


The Nujiang-Salween River 7

In Yunnan, in a different political context, the beautiful Nujiang River houses in its valley a very rich biodiversity that was saved from the threat of hydropower through the struggle of p. 225Chinese environmental organizations. The Nujiang (Nu River) is one of the last free-flowing international rivers in Asia, shared by China, Thailand, and Burma (Myanmar). The Nujiang in the so-called Three Parallel Rivers area is seen as one epicentre of Chinese biodiversity. A government and private industry plan for building two reservoirs and 13 dams along the middle and lower reaches of the Nujiang River was stopped by persistent civil society movements at the end of 2016. Disputes over dams continue in China, the country with the most megawatts of hydropower. Here we look also at the Tiger Leaping Gorge dam controversy, also in Yunnan, on the Jinsha River. In this confluence between nature conservation and the local livelihoods, local and national organizations were involved with international ones: environmental justice at its best.

Between March and June of 2003, the Huadian Group and Yunnan provincial government had established the Yunnan Huadian Nujiang Hydropower Development Corporation. As a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the world's biodiversity hotspots, the Nu River “flows through the Gaoligong Mountain Nature Conservation Zone… [which possesses] 6000 types of advanced plants and 25 percent of the wild animal [species] in China”. As such, the dam project ignited bitter public controversy. The central government policy shifted its rhetoric from achieving rapid economic growth at all costs towards the pursuit of “scientific development”. This, alongside the momentous passage of the EIA Law in September 2003, allowed State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) to legally express its “serious reservations” towards the Nujiang plan. Opposition between different factions of the Chinese environmental governance system gave a political opportunity for environmentalists to voice their discontent towards the government's plan to develop Nujiang.

Wang Yongchen, founder of the environmental NGO Green Earth Volunteers (GEV), seized the occasion to mobilize the media, environmental NGOs and other environmentalists through hosting workshops and conference meetings, writing petition letters, and attending international meetings. Wang's efforts enabled local opposition towards the Nujiang dams to coalesce around “a disparate group of scientists, academics, NGO activists and journalists, both inside and outside state employment”. While the network began by conducting its affairs informally, “core activists formalized their cooperation as the China Rivers Network (Zhongguo Hewang) in 2004”. Seven organizations constituted the network's founding members: “Friends of Nature, Global Village Beijing, Green Earth Volunteers, Green Watershed, the Institute for Environment and Development, Brooks Education Institute, and Wild China Films” based out of Friends of Nature's office in Beijing.

Members of the China Rivers Network (CRN) faced almost immediate retaliation from government authorities, with Green Watershed's founder Yu Xiaogang losing his affiliation with the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences while having his passport confiscated for a year. Other network members faced similar reprisals, with Global Village Beijing (GVB) being accused of assisting in the promotion of “foreign agendas…[since] it receives funding from the Heinrich Boll Foundation, which is affiliated with the German Green Party…”. Members of CRN agreed in January 2006 to end formal operations and return to an informal structure like the one that had emerged organically in 2003. The efficacy of this informal anti-dam network remained to be seen, despite its initial success in pressuring then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to halt the Nu dam projects. In 2004, China's 12th Five-Year Plan had foreseen restarting hydroelectric dam plans on the Nu River.

However, Beijing later seemed to have abandoned plans to dam the river which snakes down from the Tibetan plateau through some of China's most breathtaking scenery before p. 226entering Myanmar, Thailand and eventually flowing into the Andaman Sea. By December 2016 the environmental alliance could celebrate after ten years of fighting that the large dams on the Nujiang River, which would displace over 50,000 people (mainly ethnic minorities), destroy the biodiversity of a large area and damage spectacular landscapes over 2,500 km, were set aside.

The Tiger Leaping Gorge Dam on the Jinsha River 8

A case in a parallel river in Yunnan on the Tiger Leaping Gorge dam was seemingly successful in 2007, although there was news in 2019 that the project could revive. This is the story of how the Hutia xia dam was stopped, drawn from an excerpt from Liu Jianqiang's chapter in the book China and the Environment: The Green Revolution (Hilton 2013). Tiger Leaping Gorge is a canyon on the Jinsha River, a primary tributary of the upper Yangtze River, located 60 km north of Lijiang City. It is part of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas World Heritage Site. The Jinsha is the upper stretch of the Yangtze River in Yunnan Province.

Although the hydropower companies had long wanted to dam Tiger Leaping Gorge, work never started. The successful campaign to protect it, which ran from 2004 to 2006, not only safeguarded one of China's most magnificent landscapes, but it also saved the homes of ethnic minority peoples. On 27 July 2004, the state news agency Xinhua reported that the National Development and Reform Commission had passed the Planning Report on the Damming of the Middle Reaches of the Jinsha River. It had recommended that work started soon on the Tiger Leaping Gorge dam.

In the plan, hydropower stations, forming an eight-dam cascade starting at Tiger Leaping Gorge, were to be built on the middle reaches of the Jinsha River. It would forcibly displace 100,000 people and about 13,000 ha of agricultural land would be submerged. The main public opponent of the dams was a man named Xiao Liangzhong, an anthropologist and editor at a Beijing-based publishing house, who hailed from the Tiger Leaping Gorge area. His grandmother, parents and brothers all still lived there. He was 31 years old and full of energy.

The plan to turn the Jinsha River into an eight-dam cascade had Tiger Leaping Gorge at the top, and the Jinanqiao hydropower station as the fifth dam. Jinanqiao was owned by the Beijing Huarui Investment Group, and preparatory work on the dam started in 2002. It was to be 156 m high, with a capacity of 2,500 MW. According to the plan, the river would be dammed by 2005. Local villagers said they suspected that construction work on the Jinanqiao dam had begun illegally. A journalist, with help from the Lisu ethnic group, bypassed the guards and found out that the dam was already under construction. The journalists also found out that the town of Lijiang would earn about 4 million yuan in tax revenues from the dam – the reason why the local government had warmly welcomed the project. Back in Beijing, the project had definitely not yet been approved. The journalist phoned an official from the SEPA who sounded shocked.

The journalist's article was published on the front page of Southern Weekend on 29 September 2004, with the headline “Emergency at Tiger Leaping Gorge”. Chinese and international media began to cover the story. The article quoted environmentalists who said that the Tiger Leaping Gorge dam could wipe out whole species. The resettlement of the Naxi ethnic group, who live along the banks of the Jinsha River, would mean the irreversible loss of the traditional sites and accumulated wisdom of their Dongba ritual culture. But supporters of the dam stressed its economic benefits. Their view that you must flood people to get them p. 227out of poverty was challenged by anthropologist Xiao Liangzhong. Land in the Jinsha River Valley above Tiger Leaping Gorge was both fertile and flat, he said. It was a traditional farming community with excellent quality soil. The compensation fund for relocation was far less than what the local people would really lose. Clearly, the farmers of this river valley would be impoverished if they were evicted from their land. Moreover, the Southern Weekend report confirmed two important points. First, construction work on the Jinanqiao hydropower station was unlawful. Second, the 100,000 local people hadn’t been informed and they were opposed to being resettled.

Li Xiaoxi was an associate professor at the Air Force Command Institute and knew an official in the office of the premier, Wen Jiabao. She called that official and said that Wen should read the article. Shortly afterwards, Wen Jiabao ordered the project suspended.

However, the building plans continued. In early 2006, helicopters flew in the sky, and surveyors appeared in the fields but their markers would be pulled out by farmers at night. The conflict kept escalating until 21 March 2006, when farmers seized a group of seven surveyors and held them hostage in the fields. The villagers did not think that they had the central government's approval. The next morning, a government official said he was taking a surveyor to breakfast, and then helped him escape. The villagers were enraged. The angry villagers began gathering in front of the local government building. Soon, 10,000 people from the surrounding area showed up with metal bars and rocks. However, local leaders received a tip from a local official: the provincial government wanted to resolve the conflict as quickly as possible. In the morning, the provincial government posted a statement all over town: the Tiger Leaping Gorge dam was to be stopped, and any further dams would not be built without the consent of the locals. The jubilant villagers took the flyers home to keep as evidence. This was a case of convivial conservation based on an alliance between country people in a remote corner of China and journalists, eco-tourists and conservationist organisations (Green Watersheds and others) with support from international organizations. A feeble alliance in comparison to the powerful Chinese state, able however to stop the project in 2007 but not perhaps forever.

Saving the Green Peafowl 9

In Yunnan again, there is a struggle to save the green peafowl, a bird which is part of the aesthetic culture of China and Myanmar. After the retreat of the tiger and the elephant from China, this harmless and beautiful bird is now losing its remaining habitat. In this case, hydropower is again the main threat, and poaching too.

As reported in the China Daily (Liu 2018), Gu Bojian played an important role since 2013 when he tried to find a well-hidden secluded haven in which the green peacock must be making its last stand. In 2013, Gu was a researcher at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, a research institute that is part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan province. Carrying out field research for his master's degree, he reached the Luzhi River valley, 200 km from the provincial capital, Kunming. “The farmers told me that there were still ‘old peacocks’ living in the area … I wasn’t convinced until they brought me a feather of the species”. Gu was aware of the green peacock, but he had never seen one before. He ventured into river valleys and was surprised to find a large area of well-preserved monsoon forest. He revisited the region over the next three years, sometimes with other scientists and conservationists. They were eventually able to photograph green peacocks feeding and mating on the river beaches. “Most Chinese don’t even know what a green p. 228peacock is”. Those seen in China are usually blue peacocks (Pavo cristatus) that originate in India. But the green peacock (Pavo muticus) is much less common, and the IUCN asserts there are fewer than 20,000 worldwide.

Archaeological findings 4,000 years old suggest that green peafowl were widely distributed south of the Qinling–Huaihe Line (秦岭淮河线) as used by geographers. The line runs from Qin Mountains in the west to Huai River in the east, dividing eastern China into northern and southern regions that differ in climate, culture and cuisine. One 1995 survey on China's wild green peafowl by the Kunming Institute of Zoology estimated that between 800 and 1,100 lived in Yunnan. However, in 2016, a survey estimated that the population had fallen to 500, and they lived in small groups, reducing the chances of propagation.

The green peacock (Pavo muticus) (Wikimedia Commons, William Stephens, 2014).
Figure 11.4

The green peacock (Pavo muticus)

Source:  Wikimedia Commons, William Stephens, 2014

River valleys and monsoon forests offer the bird proper humidity, sufficient food, drinking water and open space, making them ideal habitats for it. However, in southern and southwestern Yunnan, large areas of such an environment have been reclaimed as farmland. The loss of former habitats forced the species to retreat to remote river valleys. The survivors were now threatened by hydropower operated by a local water resources company. If the water level would rise as planned, an area of more than 40 km of low-lying valley along the Xiaojiang and Luzhi Rivers was likely to be damaged. Many valuable and rare plants in the forests would also be affected. Gu decided to make a public plea for the green peafowl and its habitat to be protected, and he put information online, drawing a wide response. Several wildlife organizations and experts joined the effort. In March 2017, three wildlife groups sent an urgent letter to the Ministry of Environmental Protection proposing suspension of the hydropower project. In July 2017, Friends of Nature initiated a Public Interest Lawsuit against the hydro project operator, formally filed in Chuxiong Yi autonomous prefecture in Yunnan. Construction of the hydro project was put on hold, and the provincial government listed the green peacock as a critically endangered species. The species also faces threats from poaching.p. 229


The Virunga National Park, the home of gorillas, is often the scene of violence against park wardens: in Global Witness report's R.D. Congo scores rather high in the number of environmental defenders killed every year. They are “professional” environmental defenders, natural park wardens, somewhat an exception to the most frequent type of environmental defenders killed around the world (common people or sometimes Indigenous). As in Kaziranga, in Virunga the park guards sometimes kill poor invaders, assumed to be poachers. And sometimes the park guards are themselves killed. Moreover, there are guerrilla movements from Uganda and R.D. Congo operating inside the park. The Virunga Mountains are one of only two places in the world where the gorilla is found, together with many other unique species, along with Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

The R.D. Congo is a post-colonial state, it was part of a Belgafrique in parallel to the former French colonies constituting Françafrique. Katanga in R.D. Congo is part of the Copper (and Cobalt) mining Belt (next to Zambia), where the population are used to extractivism and become its victims. The Congo was seen from European eyes as an immense buffer state in 1885, when in Berlin the European powers divided Africa among themselves. This is the geopolitical background to understand the continuous pillage of the R.D. Congo, from the time of rubber and ivory extraction, to the role of the Union Minière du Haut Katanga, to the assassination of Lumumba in 1961, to today. Virunga, however, is something of an exception to a pattern of extraction of minerals and hydroelectricity because it is a sanctuary of conservation. The Virunga National Park has 7,800 km2, established by King Albert I of Belgium in 1925. It is deemed to be the continent's most biologically diverse protected area and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The park is particularly known for being the habitat of the critically endangered mountain gorilla, made famous by the film “Gorillas in the Mist” (1988).

The UK-based company SOCO International signed a production-sharing agreement with the DRC government in 2006 to explore for oil in Virunga National Park. The company received its permit to explore in Block V in October 2011. More than 50 per cent of the area of Block V lies within the park, next to the endangered mountain gorilla habitat. The documentary “Virunga” (2014) by Leonardo DiCaprio and Netflix highlights the activities of SOCO International within Virunga National Park. The film revealed a Congolese Army officer trying to bribe one of Virunga's wardens. One of the wardens, Rodrigue Mugaruka Katembo, later declared that he had tried to stop workers from setting up an antenna, which supposedly led to him being kidnapped by Congolese soldiers in 2013. In 2017 he would be awarded a Goldman prize.

In January 2014, a local farmers’ cooperative in Rutshuru organized a 300-people march to oppose SOCO's activities. Although local authorities were informed about the demonstration, policemen entered the cooperative's office and confiscated computers and other materials. Later, some of the protesters were also detained and beaten by the police. Many of those incidents of repression were documented by Human Rights Watch (HRW). One of the most violent attacks was carried out against park director Emmanuel de Mérode in April 2014; at least three men in military uniform fired at him in an area that is controlled by the DRC army. He luckily survived the attack.

In September 2014, local and international newspapers reported about DRC soldiers guarding the British company's activities. Two fishermen were reportedly beaten to death p. 230after supposedly criticizing SOCO's activities. A formal investigation was launched by park authorities, after claims were later corroborated by a HRW investigator. On its website, the company declared that all of SOCO's operations in Virunga National Park had ceased on July 2014, and that no exploration drilling had taken place in Block V.

The British company's decision to pull out of the exploration of Virunga National Park followed legal mediation in London in June 2014 together with WWF, although reportedly SOCO finally gave in to pressure from the British government, UNESCO and high-profile defenders of the park such as Richard Branson and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Conservation groups also collected signatures of more than 700,000 people against the exploration.

Despite SOCO's declarations, the oil drilling within Virunga National Park may not be over. The DRC government discussed a “slight” modification to the park's boundaries, which makes the future of oil activities within Virunga National Park seem unclear.


Conservationists sometimes focus on whole ecosystems like a tropical rainforest, or on landscapes like a unique river canyon, or on specific animals ‒ not necessarily big terrestrial mammals like gorillas or rhinos. It could be the green peafowl in Yunnan or the Monarch Butterfly in Michoacan, for example.

As in other cases, sometimes common people engage in cruelty to animals, or they compete with animals for the same territory. But sometimes common people develop an ethics of “animal rights”, a multispecies ethics of convivial conservation when confronted by industrial extractive industries. Then humans are not only concerned with species threatened by extinction, but also are worried about the welfare and health of large concentrations of domestic animals, as in the CAFOs. Human health might also be a concern in such cases because of the resistance to antibiotics developed in industrial farming and the contamination of waste and soils by excrements.

Beyond such overlapping concerns and values, in this case the defence of animals sacrificed economic gain. In the last 50 years shark populations in Costa Rica decreased by 60 per cent mainly because of “finning” or aleteo. The increase in the purchasing power of the citizens of Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China encouraged the growth of the Shark Finning industry, a practice (not unique to Costa Rica) that consists in cutting off the fins of a shark and returning the rest of the body to the sea. On many occasions, the shark is still alive and slowly dies falling to the bottom of the sea. The fins are used for soups of high commercial value. In Costa Rica, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the International Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species as well as national NGOs such as the Restoration Program for Sea Turtles (PRETOMA), the Conservation Federation of Costa Rica, among others, have promoted the protection and conservation of different shark species. In 2010, Rándall Arauz, founder and president of PRETOMA, won the Goldman Prize for his fight for their protection.

Since 1996, the Costa Rican government has moved forward and backward in certain key policies for the protection of sharks. Unfortunately, some new regulations promote the practice of finning. In addition, it is unknown how many tons of fins are extracted from Costa Rican waters. In 2010, President Laura Chinchilla began developing regulations to strengthen p. 231the prohibition of finning. However, Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís later stopped promoting conservation, allowing the export of hammerhead sharks to Hong Kong, and the consequent violation of international agreements. Additionally, the poor application of shark fishing and trade regulations during the chain of custody in Costa Rica endangers the survival of certain populations protected by international treaties such as dog shark, Carcharhinus longimanus (whitetip shark) and hammerhead shark species (Sphyrna spp.).


The following conflict is a convivial struggle for nature conservation against a government which is motivated by economic gain. It is a fight on the conservation of old growth forests in the periphery of Europe. In most of central and northern Europe, tree plantations substituted old growth forests, but there are some very valuable remains in Lithuania, a small country of only 2.7 million people. The goal here is the preservation of unique primary forests, some of the few left in Europe, comparable in biological richness and beauty to Bialowieza in Poland, which is also threatened. In mid-2018 a so-called Peasant and Green government in Lithuania approved high logging rates responding to the wood processing (mainly furniture makers) industry's concern on rising timber prices, by increasing logging rates favouring local industries, some of which serve as IKEA suppliers. Also, due to high dependence on Russian gas for heating purposes, the last few years saw a switch towards central heating with more biofuel, which implies a higher demand for wood (increasing the HANPP). One of the first tasks this so-called Peasant and Green government did when it came into power in 2016 was to reform the state forestry sector; it centralized the many regional state forestry companies into one. Economic sectors dealing with raw wood no longer had to negotiate price with 40 different small state companies, but instead deal with one.

The news of increased logging rates broke in September 2018 and a civil society movement arose because the government was elected on a promise of a green agenda, including a promise to decrease logging rates. There were a few marches in the Forest of Labanoras, an orchestrated visit to this forest by journalists, the Minister of Environment and activists, and protests in front of the parliament. An activist, Andrejus Gaidamavičius, had raised these issues for years as a professional forester, ecologist, environmental activist and educator. The State logging maps often overlapped with protected areas. There is a noticeable change in lifestyle towards more outdoor activities, rural tourism, getting acquainted with protected areas of Lithuania and cultural heritage. This is not meant to decry the theory of an “environmentalism of the poor and the indigenous”. But in the Lithuanian forest conservation movement, more prosperity has reinforced environmentalism as a “defence of the commons”. Another more immediate reason for the mass movement for forest conservation was a documentary film which is also a success beyond Lithuania.

The problem that the protesters raise is that state forests belong to all citizens, therefore, citizens should be consulted about their use. In October 2018, the Ministry of Environment arranged a round table responding to the protests, and Andrejus Gaidamavičius was part of it. The round table failed and the European Commission noticed the protests. Large-scale activities in protected areas such as intensive logging should have gone through impact assessment procedures, which was never the case.p. 232

In August 2019, the European Wilderness Society and the Baltic Environmental Forum stated that the ancient Punios Šilas forest was now under threat from commercial logging and increasingly intensive hunting. The forest is part of the Natura 2000, a European ecological network. It is one of Europe's most ancient forests, home to endangered species. The Punios Šilas forest is located within a bend of the River Nemunas – which is currently split between a small highly protected 457-ha nature reserve and a larger 2,313-ha botanical zoological reserve where hunting and logging is permitted. Some of its oak trees are around 600 years old. Such ancient forests are now nearly extinct in Europe.


The preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems is critical for human prosperity. The issue is not their economic value in money terms but rather the contributions in biological and physical terms nature provides to humans as shown in the IPBES framework, and the contribution of humans to nature (Muradian and Gomez-Baggethun 2021). Traditional conservation models, with their focus on conserving ‘wild’ ecological landscapes and species, have typically focused on approaches of “fortress conservation” or “militarized” conservation, models from which local communities are excluded. This approach continues to exist. However, there have been attempts to move towards “convivial conservation”. Conservation can be motivated by “animal ethics”, by the “cult of wilderness” and also by the “environmentalism of the poor”, resting on livelihood interests as we see in instances of defence of mangroves, for example. In other cases, compromises between the interests and values of local peoples and conservation could be reached. If conservationists are motivated by values of respect or even sacredness of nature, they may come to agreements with the local populations who fight against economic extractivist interests. At other times, however, there are clashes between conservation and the local populations. As argued by Bontempi et al. (2023), based on over 450 entries in the EJAtlas, growth-oriented extractivism is a major driver of conflicts in protected areas. Protection is also a driver of evictions. However, protected areas can also sometimes become tools that support peoples’ struggles against extractive projects.

As I wrote at the beginning of this chapter, from 5 to 14 October 2008, the IUCN World Conservation Congress was held in Barcelona. I was involved (trying to help Bill Adams) in the attempt to introduce the environmentalism of the poor and the Indigenous as a social movement and a force that was not necessarily in opposition to the “cult of wilderness” represented by the IUCN, WWF, Nature Conservancy and the like. Both currents of environmentalism could work together. This was the aspiration. But the attempt failed. It was painful to enter the main venue of this conference and see the two stands of Shell and Rio Tinto, while there was no stand for the movements for environmental justice and the environmentalism of the poor. The Via Campesina (promoting traditional agro-ecology) was not represented, nor were the myriad movements against open cast mining, logging, uniform tree plantations and fossil fuel extraction.

Why would companies at the top of the champions’ league of extractive industries support the conservationists? Perhaps because they hope to stop criticism coming from the more radical environmentalists. At that conference I shared a well-attended session with my friend Pavan Sukhdev (who became an expert on the economic valuation of environmental services) and with Tom Albanese (CEO of Rio Tinto at the time, and later top executive of Vedanta). But the IUCN was and is not ready to support an alliance between conservation and the environmentalism of the poor.p. 233

This chapter is a quick commemorative journey around the world, searching for cases of biodiversity conservation that would illustrate the dilemma between “convivial conservation” and “militarized conservation”. Conservationists are used, after years of calling attention to the loss of landscapes and biodiversity, to combine modest propositions (for instance, let us keep only 30 per cent of the terrestrial part of the planet for conservation) with authoritarian attitudes that come often from their upper-class background and financial power. Instead, there are possibilities of “convivial conservation” relying on local social values, and also building on the fact that human population growth is about to stop soon.

As Büscher and Fletcher (2019) wrote, the conservation community is divided over where to go. Some want to place ‘half earth’ into protected areas. Many believe conservation requires full integration into capitalist production processes in which “ecosystem services” would be valued and compensated in monetary terms. Others propose convivial conservation as the way forward. This approach incorporates the needs of humans (Indigenous and not Indigenous) and the needs of nonhumans. It is perhaps the ICCA way.

In India, two cases of “convivial conservation” have been considered in this chapter: the current conflict in Bhitarkanika in coastal Odisha, and the success of Silent Valley in Kerala in the 1970s. But we have also seen cases in Kerala where the conservation of wildlife, including tigers, is deemed to require the displacement of Adivasi populations. Kaziranga in Assam is another proverbial case of “militarized” conservation (successfully preserving rhinos), with local populations as the main protagonists and victims of the conflict. On the other hand, in Arunachal Pradesh the citizens and the Tawang Buddhist monastery opposed the state in order to preserve a sacred lake and migrant birds. In all cases, there are value system contests. In Tawang there was a contest between hydropower and money on the one side, and wilderness (or biodiversity) on the other. A third valuation language was relevant, the religious beliefs of local people in terms of a high degree of sacredness, cultural and historic values. And possibly a regional feeling.

In China, two cases in Yunnan province show the defence against hydropower of the Nujiang River and of the Tiger Leaping Gorge in the Jinsha River ‒ the tiger being here a mythical animal and not a really existing tiger. Another beautiful landscape in Yunnan houses the Green Peafowl; threatened by hydropower again. Protagonists in the Chinese cases are often journalists and professionals, plus the Chinese conservationist organizations, international allies, and sometimes the local populations. The enemies of conservation are the state and private enterprise, and sometimes also poachers that cater to outside demand, as is clear in the cruel practice in Costa Rica of cutting off and exporting shark fins. On the relations between environmentalism and “animalist” movements, as in this Costa Rican case, there are other conflicts recorded elsewhere in this book.

Then, in Africa, we looked at the R.D. Congo where the Virunga National Park is threatened by oil exploration, mining and not least by poachers, and where park wardens are sometimes killed. Finally, in Lithuania, there is a conflict at present on the preservation of remaining primary forests against its own government. There are many other “biodiversity conservation conflicts” found in other chapters in this book. In the chapters on Africa with the EJAtlas as a guidebook, I look at Kenya and Tanzania which sometimes are seen from Europe as wildlife tourism destinations. Equally, in Chapter 13 on Mozambique and Madagascar, we shall look at the defence of the environment by local peoples, the conservationist BINGOs and their alliances with multinational companies.p. 234



Silent Valley Hydro-Electric Project, Kerala, India (Swapan Kumar Patra and Daniela Del Bene), EJAtlas.


Eviction in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and Muthanga Adivasi agitation, Kerala, India (Eleonora Fanari), EJAtlas.

Korah, A. (2019). Muthanga agitation; 16 yrs on, Wayanad tribals continue to fight for promised land, The News Minute, 20 February.


Forced eviction from Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka, India (Eleonora Fanari), EJAtlas.


Kaziranga conflict: rhinos and poachers, Assam, India (Eleonora Fanari and Land Conflict Watch), EJAtlas.


Nyamjang Chhu dam and hydropower expansion in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, India, EJAtlas.


Land and livelihood conflicts in Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary and mangrove forest, Odisha, India (Brototi Roy), EJAtlas.


Controversy over the development of the Nujiang Dams, China (EJOLT team at School of Geography and China Centre, University of Oxford), EJAtlas.

Erling, J. (2016). The woman who is rescuing a river, Welt, 9 August.


Tiger Leaping Gorge dam, Yunnan, China (Joan Martinez-Alier), EJAtlas.

Liu, J. (2013). How Tiger Leaping Gorge was saved, China Dialogue, 19 April.


Jiasa River Hydropower Station dam threatens green peafowls, Yunnan, China, EJAtlas.

Liu, X. (2018). Last stand of the great green peacock, China Daily, 8 September.

Zhou, T., Zhou, C. and Li, R. (2017). Protect green peacocks from dam, environmentalists urge court, Caixin, 15 August.


Oil drilling in Virunga National Park by SOCO International plc, DR of Congo (EJAtlas Team, updated by Camila Rolando), EJAtlas.


Shark Finning Industry or “Aleteo” in Costa Rica (Sebastian Hernández and Helen Temple; Grettel Navas), EJAtlas.


Excessive forest logging, Lithuania (Nora Mzavanadze), EJAtlas.

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