A local of Chitwan beside her bio gas plant. Installation of such plants has made the villagers less dependent on firewood from the forest. (Republica)
KALABANJAR, Sept 22: Growing incidents of tiger menace had made the locals of eastern belt of Narayani river quite intolerant toward the beast. As tigers would kill and injure them, they would also trap the wild animal in retribution, which had taken toll on its population. The conflict lasted for almost 14 years. Now, the situation is quite different. Not only tigers, but even other animals in the jungle are safer at the hands of humans. Thanks to the steps taken to manage human-wildlife conflict, things are changing for good.
“Till two years ago, people had a kind of enmity toward the animals of the jungle. That the tigers and other animals would attack them, they would not ever let go of a chance to take revenge either,” said Rebijung Gurung, president of Kalabanjar Buffer Zone Consumers’ Group. “As people became gradually aware about the importance of wildlife, their behavior got changed,” he added.
Two factors have worked efficiently in reducing human-wildlife conflict. First, the locals are earning through the animals and the environment. And secondly, their dependency on jungle for timber has diminished. Thanks to the awareness programs run by several organizations, locals are now running homestay to attract tourists. Under homestay, torists stay with the locals during their tour. Similarly, growing use of bio gas plant has spared them of the need to collect firewood from the forest.
Lots of families in the buffer zone are making good earning through homestay. And for the tourists who visit them, sight of the wildlife is most important.
“Here, we have the domination of indigenous people. General people living in the river banks are fully dependent on the forests. Both for firewood and for vegetables and plants, they have to go to the jungle where they have conflict with wild animals,” said Gurung. “But, things are now changing gradually,” he added.
Gurung stated that the people also equally go to river to collect fish. Overall, the jungle life is simply indispensible to them.
“So, they come under attack from tigers. Tigers have killed 20 people here in the last few years. However, of late, such loss is less heard of. People are not that critical of wildlife,” Gurung noted.
Lots of families in the buffer zone are making good earning through homestay. And for the tourists who visit them, sight of the wildlife is most important. “When there is wildlife and there is arrangement for sight seeing, people come and stay. Tourists pay good money for homestay service,” explains Gurung.
According to Gurung, ‘Living with Tiger’ project is being run to mitigate human-wildlife conflict at several areas. Consumers of Diyalo, Hirakunja, Narayani, Swetibardaha and Jogikuti forest consumer groups, among others participate in the program regularly. The locals are equipped with tools and technical skills when they are confronted with wildlife. The programs stress on less harm and more cohabitation.
According to Gurung, around 254 households have directly been partners of the project, which is being supported and organized by Chitwan National Park, National Trust for Nature Conservation and Buffer Zone Management Committee. Several organizations are working with them.
“This project has indeed helped change the people’s mindset and approach toward wildlife. However, it will be more beneficial if people have lesser need to go to the jungle,” Gurung stated. “For this, we are promoting the use of bio gas even more. The less people have to go to the jungle, the safer the animals and people themselves are,” he added.
Gurung stated that locals have been very happy and supportive to the project. Operation of homestay, support for installing bio gas and the overall campaign has made them take things positively. However, there is still much to improve, he insisted.
“There are still many families who do not have bio gas plant installed at their homes. The project has offered it to few households. There is lack of resources,” he said. “Everyone is asking for it, but it seems it is not that easy,” he added.
Under the project, dozens of families have been technically and financially supported to have new farm for goats. Old farms have also been upgraded.
Khil Bahadur BK, a guard employed by Hirakunja Community Forest, stated that people are happy about the farm they have got. “Their cattle are safer now. People are happy,” he said. “Earlier they would have tough time saving their cattle from wild animals. Sometimes they would have to remain awake whole night,” he added.
According to Gurung, growing number of people in the buffer zone have been demanding new farms. “They have realized that the project has benefited them in several ways. Now, there is a lot of demand for new farm for their cattle. We are studying what can be done and hopefully we can do more much than now for harmony between wildlife and humans,” he added.
For cost for three years of the project has been Rs 18.9 million.
According to Tilak Chaudhari, national representative of the project, there is financial crunch. Or else, a lot could be done. “If we could help them expand their income through the resources, that would have been much better. Now, we are facing financial crunch to meet all their demands,” he noted.