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

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Management of Marine Protected Areas in India

The contributions of Marine Protected Areas vary greatly depending on their size, age, types and intensity of resource extraction in their area and level of financial support for management. Taking India as a typical example, how modern legal rationality, especially with respect to conservation, is entrenched in the idea of territorial control, undermines the efforts of the forest department in seascapes, and triggers conflicts, is described. Marine conservation should be motivated by a non-territorial rationality and engage seriously with alternative approaches such as dynamic co-management and legal pluralism.


The authors thank their respondents for sharing their perspectives freely. Madhuri Ramesh’s work in Odisha formed a part of her doctoral dissertation at the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment/Manipal Academy of Higher Education; it was supported by the Rufford Foundation. The Andamans project was supported by WWF-India and the authors thank everyone at the Andaman Nicobar Environment Team, Dilip Mondal and Chetana Purushottam for logistic help. Comments from Harini Nagendra, Meera Oommen and Ghazala Shahabuddin as well as the two anonymous reviewers greatly improved the article.

In the wake of global threats such as climate change, ocean acidification and intensified resource extraction, the world’s seas are at risk. As a result, many nations have adopted Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as a tool for conserving biodiversity and ecosystem functions. This has intensified in recent times, and developing countries, in particular, have been facing considerable international pressure to increase the number of MPAs in order to meet the Aichi Biodiversity Targets for 2020, that is, to extend the protected area network to cover 10% of the oceans (Marinesque et al 2012; Bax et al 2016). However, the subject of how MPAs should be designed and managed continues to be seriously debated on two fronts. First, there is considerable difference of opinion amongst conservationists because a multitude of factors, such as size of the area, its habitat heterogeneity, life history traits of the focal species, the decision-making process followed, and the type of monitoring adopted, all constrain ecological effectiveness (Fox et al 2012). A more mundane constraint is that the financial resources required to establish such conservation territories are usually hard to estimate in the first place, and developing countries have for long found it difficult to muster the necessary resources to maintain and manage such areas over the long term (McCrea-Strub et al 2011; Bruner et al 2004).

The second contested aspect is that MPAs are usually managed as though they are “wild spaces,” since they are prima­rily set up to preserve biodiversity at various scales, whereas the reality is that many marine areas are “peopled spaces.” This has triggered much discu­ssion on how best to manage MPAs so that they can also contribute to good ­social outcomes such as improved food security, resilient livelihoods, strong cultural links with natural resources, etc. In the absence of integrated approaches, communities that use marine resources begin to face severe restrictions and eventually, strongly oppose MPAs (Kearney et al 2012; Bennett and Dearden 2014). These fundamental flaws in planning, design and maintenance have tur­ned many MPAs either into mere “paper parks” or serious “social failures” (Rife et al 2013; Christie 2004). Overall, these studies indicate that some of the key factors that determine the conservation success of MPAs are choice of location and size as well as support from local communities, coupled with the availability of funding and trained personnel.

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Updated On : 25th Jun, 2021
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