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Cultural Perspectives of Land and Livelihoods: A Case Study of Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve in Far-western Nepal

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Lam, Lai Ming
Journal: Conservation and Society
Volume: 9
Page(s): 311-324
Date: 2011
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/8311
Sector: Wildlife
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): livelihoods
impact assessment
Abstract: "Recent debates on human displacement caused by conservation have increasingly questioned: firstly, its justification in the name of biodiversity conservation; and secondly, the effectiveness of compensation in preventing impoverishment. Land compensation is widely practiced and it is a crucial part of contemporary people-centred conservation resettlement strategies. In this article, using the case of the Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve in Nepal, I argue that policy-makers' belief that the social impacts of dislocation can be properly mitigated by economic-focused resettlement programmes alone is a myth. They have ignored the close relationships between place, social networks and livelihoods. A study of a displaced indigenous community known as Rana Tharus in far-western Nepal shows that a strong sense of nostalgia and homesickness is evident in this community. Displaced Ranas continue to idealise their old abode as 'paradise on Earth' while experiencing their new home as only promoting poverty, helplessness and danger. Their anger is due to the fact that they no longer have the mutual help or support from their neighbours as they once did in their old abode. From the Ranas' point of view, the old land had both high economic and social value. The study demonstrates that the act of displacement is a violent disruption of a community's daily social contacts. The destruction of the Ranas' social networks has not only led to their dispossession and threatened their livelihoods, but has also made them vulnerable, because these traditional social webs provided important alternative livelihoods in a rural economy. As a consequence, it has further reinforced their sense of nostalgia. The cultural and social meanings of land must be obtained prior to implementing any resettlement policies. The study indicates that if displacement is truly unavoidable for conserving biodiversity, more comprehensive rehabilitation resettlement policies than those that currently exist are needed."

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