Ecology, Economics, and Equity of the Pastoral Systems in the Khangchendzonga National Park, Sikkim Himalaya, India
- by Dr. Sandeep Tambe, IFS, Sikkim Cadre
Baseline status in the year 2000-2002:-
(A) Field study conducted by the G. B. Pant Institute of HimalayanEnvironment and Development in 1999, in the Khangchendzonga National Park:-
Grazing was widely prevalent and there was an increasing trend of rearing more animals for meeting economic needs, which could certainly augment the grazing pressure in near future.
(B) Remote sensing study conducted by the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing:-
The Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary, based on the remote sensing image of the year 2002, indicated that there were pockets of high forest fragmentation and disturbance which was due to the impact of cattle-sheds.
(C) Study conducted by The Mountain Institute and WWF-India:-
* In the year 2000, there were a total of 288 households practising pastoralism within the Barsey Sanctuary. The area around the cattle shed was totally barren due to trampling and over grazing.
* On an average each herder had 2 cattle sheds within the sanctuary. So a total of 576 ha of land was made barren.
* The herders needed pole size timber of trees like Viburnum erubescens (Asarey), Symplocos theifolia (Kharane), Tsuga dumosa (Thengrey Salla) and Symplocos spicata (Kholmey).
* The herder used about 62 kgs of firewood daily (2 head loads) for cooking, heating and lighting purposes.
* The fodder requirement during summer / monsoon was from Dwarf bamboo, ground fodder, and tree loppings of mostly Acer sp. (Kapase), Quercus lamellosa (Buk), Machilus sp. (Kawla), Litsaea sp. (Pahenle). During the lean season (winter) when there is a scarcity of ground fodder, Dwarf bamboo, Quercus pachyphylla (Bante), Quercus lamellosa (Buk) and Schefflera impressa (Bhalu Chinde) form the main fodder base. The average daily requirement of fodder was 76 kgs (3 head loads), with the average annual requirement being 26 metric tonnes.
(D) Study conducted by The Wildlife Institute of India (WII):-
* In the Khangchendzonga National Park in 2003, it was found that in the greater Himalayan part, over the past 6 decades sheep have been increasingly replaced by yaks (and their crossbreeds), who descend only up to the multilayered temperate and subalpine forests during winter.
* These forests have been extensively manipulated by the yak herders to increase the fodder availability.
* The total livestock population in the Khangchendzonga National Park (KNP) reduced significantly from about 11,010 in 1950 to 3,710 in 2004, while the total livestock biomass increased from about 6,08,000 to 7,64,000 kg during this period, because sheep have been mostly replaced by larger sized livestock.
* In terms of economics and equity in benefit sharing, it was found that a few yak herders earn high incomes by maintaining large herds while the sheep and pack animal herders earn subsistence level incomes from small herds.
* With the opening of the forest canopy and clearing of the bamboo and Rhododendron middle storey, thickets of secondary, such unpalatable shrubs as Viburnum erubescens, Berberis sp. and Rosa sericea have increased substantially.
* In the Sikkim State Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan prepared in the year 2000 in which 8 public hearings were organized in the villages adjacent to the Barsey Sanctuary, removal of these herders was accorded “high” priority in all these meetings by the villagers especially by women.
* As per the legal standpoint all the reserve forests, sanctuaries and national park of Sikkim are free from any rights and concessions. Pastoralism and the associated firewood, fodder and poles collection was in violation of Section 20 of the Sikkim Forests, Water Courses and Road Reserve (Preservation and Protection) Act 1988 and Section 29 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
* Also it is in contempt of the judgment of the Hon’ble High court of Sikkim delivered on 14/05/1999 and the Hon’ble Supreme Court in its WP No 202/95 dated 14/02/2000 has “restrained states from ordering even the removal of dead, diseased, dying or wind fallen trees and grasses from national parks and sanctuaries. As per the orders of the state government and the wishes of the people the Forest Department has been issuing notices and trying to phase out these cattle sheds since 2000.
* Awareness programmes, audio visual shows, street plays and nature games were also organized regularly in coordination with Local NGO’s like Khangchendzonga Conservation Committee (KCC).
* In 2001 in order to empower the villagers and institutionalize their role in planning and decision-making, Ecodevelopment Committees (EDCs) were formed. The village elders, local NGO’s, panchayats and school teachers were all involved in the EDC. Micro Plans were also prepared in a participatory manner.
* The main reason why the EDC was so active and influential in garnering popular support for this initiative was the Ecodevelopment policy of the state, which envisaged a paradigm shift in institutionalizing the stake of the local communities for the conservation and development of the sanctuaries and national parks. Even legal powers for apprehending forest offenders were given to this committee. The EDC was also given legislative powers wherein they were empowered to prepare a “Code of Conduct” for their area in consultation with the Gram Panchayat, wherein guidelines for conservation are made in consultation with the Gram Sabha and penalties also laid down incase of non compliance to this code of conduct.
* For those who phased off their cattle voluntarily and in a timely manner, the government assisted in purchasing their surplus cattle, also a one time financial assistance of Rs 10,000/household was also provided. This helped in reducing the short term hardships faced by the herders due to this livelihood change. For those herders who did not phase out their cattle sheds, strict enforcement of Wildlife Protection Act 1972 was carried out, forcing them also to shift out.
* There was strong political will from the Chief Minister to convince the herders to shift from herding large numbers of less productive cattle in forest lands to limited numbers of productive cattle in stall fed condition.
* The barren land adjoining to the cattle sheds has been taken up under a massive afforestation drive by the Forest Department through the EDCs under the FDA program 2003 onwards.
* The Forest Department facilitated by the strong political will and support from the local people worked hard to reduce the yak and urang numbers in the KNP while providing alternative livelihood support to the herders. The Yambong Singalila ecotourism package was launched jointly with The Mountain Institute, a nongovernmental organization.
* Other than herders, there were six Taungyadar forest villages as well within the protected area network. All these six forest villages have been relocated in a participatory and peaceful manner from within the protected area network to revenue villages. The last village – Tshoka was relocated from the Khangchendzonga National Park in 2010.
(A) Increase in forest cover based on FSI report:-
The State Forest and Tree Cover has increased by 3.5% from the year 1997 (44.09%) to 2009 (47.59%) as per forest cover assessment by Forest Survey of India (State of Forest Report 1997 and 2009).
(B) Increased wildlife populations:-
Wildlife Institute of India study on mammals and galliformes (2008-2011):
* Removing yak herders from the Khangchendzonga National Park has resulted in positive changes in the wildlife habitats and also in high encounters of blue sheep in the alpine areas of Dzongri that were earlier highly used by yak herders.
* The population of blood pheasant (state bird) is also showing a significant increase. These species are the indicator species of the health of the alpine zone.
* This increase can be attributed to the reduced competition for fodder from livestock and less disturbance from the herders and the guard dogs.
(C) High quality, extensive protected area network:
Nearly one third of the total geographical area of the State has been directly conserved by establishing an extensive protected area network of sanctuaries and national parks. This is highest in the country in percentage terms, and over the last decade the threats and pressures in this PA network have been minimized and reduced. Thus the State can now boast of a PA network which is
unique in both quantitative and qualitative terms.
(D) The Sikkim state ranked first among all states in the conservation of natural resources for the year 2008 in an independent assessment carried out by the Centre for Development Finance, Institute of Financial Management and Research, Chennai.
Other Details and References:-
(A) Independent Baseline Studies:-
1. GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development 1999 Livestock grazing in the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve of Sikkim Himalaya, India: Implications for management. S Birkumar, Sundriyal R.C. and Sharma E. Indian forester, 2003, Vol. 129, No5, pp. 611-623
http://www.cabdirect.org/abstracts/20033173562.html;jsessionid=BF19562BB0F`1B0 0A 5ABC10C20DE90215?gitCommit=4.13.11-15-g9672536
2. Study by Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS) 2002-03 Geospatial Modeling of Plant Richness in Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary in Sikkim Himalayas S.P.S. Kushwaha, P. Padmanaban, Dinkar Kumar, P.S. Roy Geocarto International, Vol. 20, No. 2, June 2005.
(B) Independent Baseline as well as Impact Assessment Studies:-
1. Study by Wildlife Institute of India (WII) from 2004-2007 Ecology, Economics and Equity of the Pastoral Systems in the Khangchendzonga National Park, Sikkim Himalaya, India. Tambe, S. and Rawat, G. S., 2009. AMBIO 38(2) pp 95-100.
2. Study by The Mountain Institute and WWF-India 2005 People’s opinion on the Impacts of “Ban on Grazing” in Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary, Sikkim, India Tambe, S., Bhutia, N.T. and Arrawatia, M. L. 2005.
(C) Independent Impact Assessment Studies:-
1. Study by Wildlife Institute of India 2008-11 Study on the Mammals and Galliformes of the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve S. Sathyakumar, T. Bashir, T. Bhattacharya and K. Poudyal
2. The Sikkim state ranks first among all states in the conservation of natural resources for the year 2008 in an independent assessment carried out by the Centre for Development Finance, Institute of Financial Management and Research, Chennai.