Monday 5
Thinking protected areas as social-ecological systems
Raphael Mathevet
› 11:00 - 18:00 (7h)
› Centre du Scamandre Vauvert
Capturing insights and complexities: Consilience as the approach for scientific inquiry and conservation planning
Jayshree Vencatesan  1@  , Avantika Bhaskar * @
1 : Care Earth Trust  (CET)  -  Website
# 5, Shri Nivas 21st street, Thillaiganga Nagar Chennai 600 061, India -  Inde
* : Corresponding author

The paper describes the results of an ongoing research and action programme in the landscape that is the eastward extension of the Western Ghats, India. Located in the state of Tamilnadu, the landscape is a composite of two tiger reserves and a reserved forest, harbouring the largest populations of the Asian Elephant, Tiger and four species of Vultures known to occur in India. 

The fact that the landscape was insulated until the last decade due to the presence of a band of poachers and smugglers furthers the interest. Four indigenous communities (notified as Scheduled Tribes) and a nominal population of agrarian communities who are recent migrants, constitute the resident population. 

While the local communities are faced with possibility of being evicted as encroachers, and the proposed ‘inviolate' mode of managing the landscape by the State, as well as rather acrimonious standoff between organizations espousing various causes and ideological positions, , the resilience of the system and its occupants is being tested. In an attempt to forge and facilitate real time involvement of local communities and their local self governments (designated as Panchayats) in the conservation of the landscape, a programme to build a grassroots constituency for conservation was initiated. Adopting the theoretical framework of Consilience, a series of assessments ranging from art forms to geo referenced quantitative assessments were undertaken by a team of researchers over a period of 16 months. The research team comprised of technical qualified researchers, local youth and representatives of the Panchayat as well as the field level officials of the state department.

Consolidation of data for issues of subjectivity, overlap and redundancy was undertaken using a participatory framework and the data was presented to stakeholders in multiple formats for review. For instance, vegetation profiles ranged from being depicted as GIS images to local art forms. While lacunae typical to participatory assessments such as scale and validity were addressed by incorporating the element of quantification into mental maps and focus group discussions, the inability of capturing local insights and ‘hidden perspectives' were addressed through the use of art forms to elicit, review and present data. The consolidated pool of data was eventually used to develop micro plans by the community and their Panchayats to foster a conservation programme that offers hope for constructive engagement and informed decision making.



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