Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Morgan Robertson

Second Advisor

Dr. Pradyumna P. Karan


My dissertation research investigates the impacts of biodiversity conservation on the local population living in the Sundarban Biosphere Reserve (SBR). More specifically, the research examines the impacts of conservation on local fishing communities living on the edge of the Sundarban Reserve Forest. In addition, it examines the causes and characteristics of conflicts between the biosphere reserve managers and the local fishing communities over the resource use of the biosphere reserve. The research project also explores the impacts of ecotourism on the local population that lives on the edge of the Sundarban Tiger Reserve (STR). STR is one of the important components of the larger biosphere reserve and the core area of the STR overlaps with the core area of the SBR.

Findings from research indicate that the current management of the SBR in many ways replicates a fortress conservation model in which local fishermen are denied access to the fishing grounds in the core and sanctuary areas of the STR. Furthermore, the regulation of number of boats through the Boat Licensing Certificate (BLC) creates an avenue for illegal fishing in the STR. Illegal fishing makes fishermen more vulnerable to tiger attacks as the fishermen try to avoid the patrolling forest guards and hide themselves deep in the forest. Fishermen also pay frequent fine for illegal fishing and face harassments from the biosphere resource managers. The confiscation of BLCs and fishing implements also leads to significant loss of fishing time. Additionally, the research shows how the characteristics of a fortress conservation model continue to live on despite there was no instances of eviction during the formation of the SundarbanTiger Reserve in 1973. In sum, this dissertation transforms our overall understanding of a fortress conservation model and suggests that we need to consider broader environmental and political history of a region to understand conservation in a given territory.