The University of Arizona

How can traditional livelihoods find a place in contemporary conservation politics debates in India? Understanding community perspectives in Sundarban, West Bengal

Amrita Sen, Sarmistha Pattanaik


Abstract We document the economic and socio-cultural vulnerability of a forest-dependent community inhabiting the forest fringe island of Satjelia in the Indian Sundarban. Using simple artisanal methods, they have practiced traditional livelihoods like fishing and collecting wild honey from the forests for more than a century. Despite having established cultural integrity and traditional occupations, this group is not indigenous, and are therefore treated as 'others' and 'settlers.' An ethnographic study describes these various forms of livelihoods and the ways that threatens local subsistence. We also document the bureaucratic and hierarchical structure of protected area (PA) management, showing it has little or no accommodation of this community's local traditional knowledge. Finally, we ask whether there is any scope for integrating 'non-indigenous' environmental knowledge, for a more egalitarian transformation of socio ecological relations within these communities. Keywords: Conservation, conflict, indigenous, political ecology, Sundarban, traditional livelihoods

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