Forum > Tribal Bill-How it will affect our forests > TRIBAL COMMUNITIES AND TRADITONAL KNOWLEDGE

Posted by Susan on December 23, 2006


"It is absolutely true that in biodiversity rich areas, the poorest people are living. But can we say that since these people are poor (in the connotation of the modern societies), they have developed the knowledge of harnessing their sustenance from their surroundings and thereby made these areas biodiversity rich? The so called modern civilization is continuously trying to change nature and is in turn destroying the biodiversity (including agricultural biodiversity) for a so called globalized modern living. Now in India most of these biodiversity rich areas are exploited by modern man for other resources like minerals in Central India and timber in North East.


From our experience with tribal communities in Jharkhand, West Bengal and Tripura, we found that many villages are changing their livelihoods at a fast rate to catch up with the rest of modern India and in the process are forgetting their traditional knowledge of sustainable use of natural resources. The best example of this is that the social life of the tribal residing near mining areas is now entirely different from that of their relatives residing in the forest areas in far away places. Now within the tribal society, they think that persons working as a labourer for all 365 days is better off since he has more money than a person with food security (of a different kind in a biodiversity rich zone). Slowly these changes are percolating and people are forgetting their traditional knowledge with the advent of more and more infrastructure, mining and other projects.


On the other hand, in the mining areas of Birbhum, West Bengal, we found (ironically) that now after 30 years of the start of mining, they are regretting having adopted and accepted changes which made them dependent on the whims of mine owners. Most of these mines are illegal and these tribals are still poverty stricken and are also having diseases. But the damage has already been done.


I feel that without addressing livelihood issues, it is a difficult proposition to expect the community to protect traditional knowledge, as other external economic forces are forcing them to do otherwise. A continuous campaign is required to propagate the intrinsic value of these biodiversity rich areas and addressing their needs through a consultative mechanism. Detailed scientific mapping of traditional knowledge is necessary to protect biodiversity in areas where such distortions are taking place."


-Sujit Choudhury, PAN Network, Kolkata


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