Turf Wars: Conservation Claims in the Great Himalayan National Park (2001)
Client: Department of International Development (DFID, India) Duration: 39 mts.
In 1999, the Great Himalayan National Park, in the Kullu Valley of the state of Himachal Pradesh, in northern India, was finally notified and brought under the regulations of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act. As a result, local rights to graze animals and extract medicinal herbs within the national park were terminated. Simultaneously, however, a part of the park was deleted from the originally demarcated boundaries of the park, to enable the construction of a hydro-electric power project. Turf Wars explores the contradictions that seem to characterize the government’s policies towards conservation – wherein local livelihoods are expendable in the interests of biodiversity, but biodiversity must make way for national development.
In documenting the many twists and turns of the GHNP story over the past couple of years, Turf Wars engages with a number of debates in conservation: Eco-development as the latest recipe for humanizing exclusionary conservation; the nature of scientific evidence, routinely used to support the notion that humans must be separated from nature; the notion of the “oppressive” state further marginalizing “powerless” communities. It is an open-ended film, one that aims to provoke discussion rather than provide answers to problems that are, inevitably, complex, contested and heavily politicized.