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Struggle for community rights in the Protected Areas of Biligiri Ranganatha Swami Temple (BRT), India

The Soligas tribes successfully fought for the recognition of their community rights within the BRT wildlife sanctuary. They have developed a collective management plan for the conservation of the BRT biodiversity.


The Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary (BRT) is located in the southeast corner of Chamarajanagar district in the state of Karnataka. The Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) was established in 1974, and later was declared as a tiger reserve in 2011.The tiger reserve was notified without prior communication and consent of the indigenous Soliga tribals who have been living in the Bilgiri hills for generations [2,6].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Struggle for community rights in the Protected Areas of Biligiri Ranganatha Swami Temple (BRT), India
State or province:Karnataka
Location of conflict:Chamarajanagar
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Establishment of reserves/national parks
Specific commodities:Ecosystem Services
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The Biligirirangana Hills, commonly called BR Hills, is a hill range situated in south-eastern Karnataka, at its border with Tamil Nadu (Erode District) in South India. The area is called Biligiriranganatha Swamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary or simply BRT Wildlife Sanctuary. It is a protected reserve under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Being at the confluence of the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats, the sanctuary is home to ecosystems that are unique to both the mountain ranges. The site was declared a tiger reserve in January 2011 by the Karnataka government, a few months after approval from India's National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

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Project area:57,482
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:16,000
Start of the conflict:2006
Relevant government actors:National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)
Karnataka Forest Department
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra(VGKK)
Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE),
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Social movements
Soliga tribes
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Food insecurity (crop damage)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Violations of human rights, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession
Potential: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Proposal and development of alternatives:The Soligas indigenous community have reclaimed the community rights under the Forest Rights Act, to manage their forest area and conserve the biodiversity.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:For the first time in India, the Community Forest Rights have been recognized in protected areas and inside a Tiger Reserve. This has been possible thanks to the movement of the Soliga community and the support of the NGOs working for the recognition of their rights. Now the protected area is co-managed by the community with the Forest Department.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[8] REPORT. Community Forest Rights under FRA Citizens Report 2013. Case study: BRT WILDLIFE SANCTUARY. pg. 50

Uma Shankeer (2009). Ecological Consequences of Forest Use: From Genes to Ecosystem - A Case Study in the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary, South India. Conservation and Society, Vol. II, issue II, pag. 347-363
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[1] Down to Earth. 'Tiger population doubles after tribals allowed to coexist in tiger reserve'. Dec. 11, 2015.
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[2] Sierra. 'Can Tribes and Tigers Coexist in India's Nature Reserves?'. 2017
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[3] 'Village Square. 'Soligas in tiger reserve win battle over forest rights'. Author: Amoolya Rajappa. Oct. 1, 2018
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[5] Down To Earth. 'Defiant: The Bilirangan Temple Sanctuary in Karnataka bristles with angry Soligas. Their sustenance denied, the tribals deliberate their next move'. Author: Nitin Sethi. June 7, 2015.
[click to view]

[6] Down To Earth. 'Court upholds Soliga tribe’s community forest rights'. Author: Aparna Pallavi. July 4, 2015.
[click to view]

[7] Scroll. 'How a tribe in Karnataka fought and won a legal battle to stay in a tiger reserve'. Author: Amoolya Rajappa. Oct. 5, 2018
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[9] Earth Journalism Network. 'What happens when the needs of endangered tigers and endangered people collide?' Author: Moushumi Basu. Aug 2, 2016
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Other comments:We are thankful for the information shared by Madegowda from the Soliga community and ATREE member.
Meta information
Contributor:Eleonora Fanari, ICTA, UAB. [email protected]
Last update28/05/2019
Conflict ID:4266
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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