The local effects of global conservation policy
Bosak, Keith William
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This research uses the case of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve (NDBR) to examine how environmental policy, articulated by international agencies and translated into action by national governments, is transforming the lives and livelihoods of local communities dependent on the protected resources. It also explores the discursive strategies through which local communities resist these policies and strive to retain their control over resources. The integration of conservation and development on a global level began in the 1970’s with programs such as the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) and World Heritage Convention (WHC) that were initiated through UNESCO in cooperation with and sometimes funded by the World Bank. One site under the MAB and WHC charters is the NDBR. Programs such as MAB and WHC that sought to reconcile ideas of conservation with development, developed policies at the global level that were articulated downward affecting local populations in the NDBR. The policies were influenced in part by the conceptions of nature embedded within them. In this case, humans are seen as necessarily harmful to ‘nature’ and thus where nature is to be a conserved, human activity, particularly livelihood activities must be abolished. The Bhotiya tribals who inhabit the NDBR have a different view of nature that is complex and places humans somewhere between the natural landscape and the gods whose domain also consists of the natural landscape. Therefore, the Bhotiya situate themselves within nature, recognizing that nature has no meaning without humans. Within the Bhotiya conception of nature, livelihood activities cannot be separated out as they provide the conduit by which the Bhotiya interact with the landscape around them. These livelihood activities have changed over time and today are an outcome of a global-local continuum in which global events like the designation of the NDBR as a World Heritage site have local effects. Through time, the Bhotiya became keenly aware of the politics of scale and deployed scale as a tool in their struggle against the policies of the NDBR.