In May 2014, UNU-IAS students in the Master of Science in Environmental Governance programme conducted a fieldwork assignment in Rajaji National Park, India. The assignment was organized by UNU-IAS in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in Uttarakhand. After one semester of preparation, the students spent 10 days in the field collecting and analyzing empirical information to address a series of research questions prepared by UNU-IAS and WII faculty, as part of the students’ research methods course.
Rajaji National Park covers over 820 sq km across the Dehradun, Haridwar and Pauri Garhwal districts of Uttarakhand. It is representative of the ecosystem at the junction of the Himalayan foothills and the beginning of the vast Indo-Gangetic Plain, which supports the livelihoods of around one billion people. The park is also at the northwestern species distribution limit of the Asian Elephant and Royal Bengal Tiger.
During their fieldwork, the students analyzed a variety of critical environmental governance challenges that the park faces:
The students had the opportunity to interact with a wide range of people during their stay. After returning to Japan, they will produce a report to inform WII and the park’s management on ways of improving governance to mitigate human–nature conflicts within and around the park.
The objective of the fieldwork was to engage students in selected critical issues related to biodiversity governance in a rapidly changing, emerging economy. Students were required to conceive and execute a research plan and make linkages with biodiversity governance and policy processes for their assigned topic.