Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 23, Issue 10, pp 2515–2527 | Cite as

Collateral damage: impacts of ethno-civil strife on biodiversity and natural resource use near Indian nature reserves

  • Nandini Velho
  • Meghna Agarwala
  • Umesh Srinivasan
  • William F. Laurance
Original Paper


Civil conflicts often affect the control of natural resources, altering their access and use. Using a combination of questionnaires, remote sensing, and a review of articles in the popular print media, we investigated the impact of a protracted armed conflict on forest loss, livelihoods, and forest use near two globally important tiger reserves in northeastern India. Over a 23 year period, we found evidence of large-scale forest loss in the vicinity of Nameri and Pakke Tiger Reserves. Nearly all (99 %) interviewees opined that the ethno-civil strife was to blame for declining forest cover. Most interviewees identified 1990 as the year of onset of strife-mediated deforestation. This is partially supported by a review of print-media articles that reported conflict, violence, displacement, and the onset of large-scale migration in the previous year. According to respondents, ethno-civil strife has radically altered access to, and use of forests, by resident communities (causing economic hardship, increased costs, and reduced availability of essential timber products), and has also accelerated forest loss and increased poaching. We conclude that forests and wildlife in these protected areas are at immediate risk from ethno-civil strife. Urgent interventions are needed to reduce the environmental and societal impacts of civil strife in this biologically crucial region of India.


Forest cover India Insurgency Logging Militancy Park management 



We thank Binod Borah, Prachi Galange and other assistants for help with data collection, and Rajendra Garawad, Tana Tapi and Forest Department staff of Pakke Tiger Reserve for crucial insights. Support was provided by the Australian Research Council.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nandini Velho
    • 1
    • 2
  • Meghna Agarwala
    • 3
    • 4
  • Umesh Srinivasan
    • 2
  • William F. Laurance
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science and School of Marine and Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityCairnsAustralia
  2. 2.National Centre for Biological SciencesBangaloreIndia
  3. 3.Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental BiologyColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Wildlife Institute of IndiaDehradunIndia

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