What is GTI?
Who is supporting the tiger initiative?
- The World Bank’s commitment to a global Tiger Initiative has received widespread interest and support from the conservation and scientific communities. The launch of the Tiger Initiative is being co-hosted by the Smithsonian Institution and the International Tiger Coalition (ITC), a body of 39 NGOs representing millions of members and working around the world and in most tiger range countries.
- There is strong support from the scientific community, members of which have been working with the Bank on a new study, A Future For Wild Tigers.
- Furthermore, the Bank’s engagement in the Tiger Initiative has received a warm and often enthusiastic reception from other multi-national, international and regional organizations with a long-standing and professional stake in conservation.
Are there any new projects that this initiative will push?
- At the heart of the new Tiger Initiative is the recognition of the need for consultation and consensus between all stakeholders. The threat to tigers is a transboundary problem and affects areas where many poor people live. It cannot be addressed through piecemeal interventions.
- Any specific intervention will only emerge after consultation with all stakeholders, including NGOs and civil society representatives in any of the tiger range countries. The power of the new initiative is that its wide representativeness offers a great forum for consultation.
The World Bank did an earlier project in tiger ranges that was criticized. Why?
- An eco development project in India was implemented between 1996 and 2004 in six tiger reserves (Buxa, Nagarahole, Palamau, Pench, Ranthambore and Periyar) and Gir – the last home of Asiatic lions.
- The design was innovative for its time: it was an attempt to reduce the dependency of poor communities on forests by creating alternative economic opportunities for them which would in turn reduce pressure on forest resources and thereby conserve biodiversity.
- The results were varied: in many project areas there were well-publicized benefits including reduced dependence on fuelwood and other forest resources, new jobs, women’s conservation groups and most significantly poachers who became tour guides at Periyar National Park.
- There were also difficulties: controversy over how to deal with settlements inside the parks and the environmental impacts of some of the development initiatives. As the project was an innovative attempt to address development and conservation in tandem, many of the challenges demanded difficult trade-offs.
- At Nagarahole there was a preexisting conflict between local tribal communities and the forest department which wanted to relocate the community. When the Bank became involved this was elevated into a complaint and enquiry by the Bank’s Inspection Panel as the Bank has a strong indigenous peoples safeguard policy. In the end, families who wished to remain in the park were allowed to do so. This was a compromise between people and conservation and caused disquiet among some, a fundamental disagreement, the legacy of which remains to this day.
- The mixed outcomes of the project reflect the fundamental challenges of balancing conservation and livelihood needs of people. It piloted a new approach in India. Experience from around the world now suggests that this approach has had greater success in landscapes with low population densities and where there are more cohesive communities. But dense population is a fact of life in India and the Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group is investigating the relationship between safeguards and conservation projects that will help inform any future operation. The Bank’s participation in the Tiger Initiative will bring this learning to the table in India.
Surely infrastructure is a threat to biodiversity?
- In developing economies infrastructure will continue to overlap with natural habitats. The Bank recognizes the conflict and the difficulties of balancing legitimate infrastructure needs with conservation objectives and environmental sustainability. In this regard the Bank has probably the most stringent and comprehensive set of safeguard policies of any development bank (OP 4.04).
- The Bank is also at the forefront of pioneering approaches that go beyond “ring fencing” and safeguards with attempts to mainstream good practice into country policies and systems. This recognizes that most infrastructure is built by national governments. To be effective, improvements in design and approach need to be adopted across the board in national policies and not just in World Bank-supported projects.
- New analytical work and selective piloting is looking at ways to leverage funds from infrastructure projects for conservation activities with a view to biodiversity offsets.