Western Ghats

Collaborating to protect wild spaces: NCF and the Karnataka Forest Department

A project centred around providing support through infrastructure, and capacity building to the Karnataka Forest Department

The Forest Department is the foremost agency in charge of managing and protecting the forests and wildlife throughout India. Given our extensive work within and along the periphery of the Cauvery and MM Hills Wildlife Sanctuaries, we have developed a close association with the Karnataka Forest Department (KFD), with support being extended both ways.

As part of our initiatives to support the KFD, we extend infrastructural and capacity-building support to them.

Infrastructural and Equipment Support

Anti-poaching camps (APCs) are constructed in remote parts of forests. With no power source or water connections, it is difficult for the forest staff to trek down to the closest river/stream and get water for drinking and washing purposes. With the KFD’s inputs, we provided solar-powered water pumps to 13 APCs. By pumping water directly to their camps, these water pumps reduce time and effort, allowing the staff to concentrate effectively on forest patrolling activities. With the need to collect water eliminated, the frontline staff can avoid conflict situations, especially at night.

The KFD staff are often required to visit remote villages to handle conflict situations and take surveys to give ex-gratia compensation. Limited availability of conveyance, and walking to the locations cost them valuable time and energy. Terrain-appropriate motorcycles and SUVs make conveyance easier, and help manage conflict, douse forest fires, as well as deliver rations to APCs while cutting down transit time. To help maximise the efficiency of these operations, we have donated three four-wheel drive vehicles and 29 motorcycles for staff use for human-wildlife conflict management.

Most of the frontline staff are from local villages, and they often have to patrol large areas assigned to them on a daily basis. To help them work better, more comfortably and efficiently, we put together and provided field kits containing basic and necessary items like caps, stainless steel water bottles, backpacks, shoes and socks. We continue to provide the kits periodically, with the bags now being produced under the Alternative Livelihoods project.

The fire season in this dry deciduous landscape can be brutal, with the fires continuing for days at a stretch. To help the KFD, we provided 21 backpack blowers to put out smaller fires, and periodically extend other support.

Capacity Building

We periodically organise workshops for the KFD staff on legal aspects of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972), and awareness and training sessions on conservation issues and the wildlife of the landscape. We use a mixture of theory, practical exercises, and interactive game sessions to train the staff in observation and monitoring skills, functional wildlife law, data collection and reporting, and field investigation.

We have also organised fire safety and training workshops to acquaint them with important aspects of firefighting, types of fires, different types of extinguishing equipment and methods used, different types of fire extinguishers and how to use them.