ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Putting a Price on Tiger Reserves

Creating Conservation Value or Green Grabbing?

The attempts by economists in India to estimate the economic value of tiger reserves must be seen in a context in which inviolate tiger reserves have imposed enormous social costs on local people. There is relative silence around the question of why one should value tiger reserves when they are already protected and who might benefit from such valuations. We call on scholars and activists working in conservation and development to question valuation approaches, given their problematic outcomes.

India has marshalled the spectacular appeal of the tiger to further centralise control over a significant area of forests, notifying them as tiger reserves (Bijoy 2011). Project Tiger, as the conservation programme was initially called and supported internationally by a consortium of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) led by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), began in 1973 and has shown some degree of success recently with tiger numbers steadily increasing over the last few years. There are currently 50 tiger reserves spread across the country with a total of 2,226 tigers, according to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), double the number when Project Tiger began (Jhala et al 2015). There is now increasing publicinterest, state support, and financial backing for tiger conservation (Ganesan 2016).

The latest contributors to tiger conservation in India are economists who have attempted to put an economic value on tiger reserves. In 2015, Verma et al (2015), in a report entitled Economic Valuation of Tiger Reserves in India: A Value+Approach, argued that the annual flow benefits and stock benefits from six tiger reserves in India that they surveyed were of the order of ₹8.3 billion to ₹17.6 billion and ₹22 billion to ₹656 billionrespectively. According to the authors, this amounted to a value of between ₹50,000 and ₹1,90,000 per hectare per year. The report and a couple of subsequent academic articles (Ninan and Kontoleon 2016; Verma et al 2017) have claimed that estimating the economic value of tiger reserves will not only provide an instrumental justification fortiger reserves but also enhance investments for conservation that will have economic multiplier effects. The business of tiger conservation in India is, therefore, well and truly on its way.

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Updated On : 3rd Jan, 2018
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