Management of Natural Resources

• We should think about how we ought to be using our resources so as to sustain them and conserve the environment. There are various issues at stake in decideing how natural resources like forests, wildlife, water, coal and petroleum are to be manged for sustainable development.

• Ganga Action Plan :

The multi-crore Ganga Action Plan came about in 1985 because the quality of water in the Ganga was very poor. Coliform is a group of bacteria, found in human intestines whose presence in water indicates contamination by disease-causing microorganism.

• Pollution in Ganga : 

 The Ganga flows from Gangotri in the Himalayas to Ganga Sagar in the Bay of Bengal through a distance of over 2500 km. More than a hundred towns and cities in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal pour their garbage and excreta into it. Untreated sewage is pushed into Ganges every day. Additionally, bathing, washing of clothes and immersion of ashes or unburnt corpses further adds pollution and toxicity which kills fish in a large portion of the river.

• To check quality of water :

There are measurable factors which are used to quantify pollution or the quality of water that we use for various activities. pH of water is something that can be easily checked using universal indicator.

• Reduce, recycle and reuse : 

 These are the three mantras we can use to save our environment. By ‘reduce’ , we mean that we use less. Electricity can be saved by switching off unnecessary; lights and fans. Water can be saved by repairing leaky taps. Similarly, we should not waste food.

‘Recycle’ means that we collect plastic, paper, glass and metal items and recycle them to make articles of our need instead making them from fresh materials. To achieve this, we have to segregate the waste so that the materials that can be recycled does not mix with the other waste.

‘Reuse’ means, we use the articles again and again. Plastic bottles in which pickles and jams are supplied, can be used again for storing kitchen articles. Used envelopes can be reversed and used again.

• Preservation of resources :

We should make environment-friendly decisions encouraging forms of growth that meet present basic needs while preserving the resources for future generations.

Sustainable development :

 It implies a change in all aspects of life. People should be willing to change their perceptions of socio-economic and environmental conditions around them and be ready to change their strategy to use natural resources.

• Management of resources :

Everything that we use and consume is obtained from resources on this earth. We need to use the resources carefully because these are not unlimited. With the increase of population, the demand for theses resources is increasing. We have to ensure that these resources last for the generations to come and are not exploited for short term gains. We should also ensure that there should be equitable distribution of resources to all – rich and poor.

• Exploitation of natural resources :

We cause damage to environment while exploiting natural resources. For example, mining causes pollution because of the large amount of slag which is discarded for every tonne of metal extracted.

• Preservation of biodiversity : 

We need to preserve diversity. Forests are hot spots of diversity. We measure diversity in terms of the number of species and the range of different life forms. We must preserve the biodiversity that we have inherited from previous generations. Loss of diversity that we have inherited from previous generations. Loss of diversity leads to loss of ecological stability.

• Stakeholders to the forests are :

(i) People who are dependent on the forest product for various needs.

(ii) Forest department of the government which owns the land and controls the resources form the forests.

(iii) Industrialists who get the raw materials for the products from the forests.

(iv) The wild life and nature enthusiasts who want to conserve nature in its pristine form.

• Sustainable practices :

People living in forest areas need large quantities of firewood, small timber and bamboo. Implements for agriculture, fishing and hunting are largely made of wood. People also gather fruits, nuts and medicines from the forests. Their cattle also graze in forest areas. Before the Britishers came, people had been living in those areas for centuries and had developed practices that ensured that the resources were available in a sustainable manner.

• Mindless exploitation of resources :

Britishers exploited the forests ruthlessly. Forest people were forced to live in smaller areas making life difficult for them. Even after the Forest Department in independent India took over from the British, local knowledge and local needs were ignored. Vast tracts of forests were planted with pine, teak or eucalyptus trees. Huge areas were cleared of vegetation. This destroyed a great amount of biodiversity in the area. This was done to earn revenue for the forest department and to provide inputs to the timber, paper, lac and sports industries at the cost of people living there.

• Industrialist’s attitude :

Industrialists have their own interests for raw materials. Huge interest groups lobby the government for access to these raw materials at artificially low rates. They have no interest in the sustainability of forest.

• Amrita Devi Bishnoi’s sacrifice : 

People should form part of the forest system. There have been instances of local people working traditionally for conservation of forests. Bishnoi community in Rajasthan religiously believes in the conservation of forests. Bishnoi community in Rajasthan religiously believes in the conservation of forests. Amrita Devi Bishnoi sacrificed her life in 1731 alongwith 363 others for protection of trees in Khejrali village near Jodhpur in Rajasthan.

• Himalayan National Park :

Prejudice against traditional use of forest areas is not justified. The great Himalayan National Park contains alpine meadows which were earlier grazed by sheep in summer. Nomadic shepherds drove their flock from the valley every summer. After the formation of National Park, this practice was stopped. Now it is seen that the grass first grows very tall and then falls over preventing fresh growth.

• Proper use of forest resources :

Forest resources ought to be used in a manner that is both environmentally and developmentally sound. While the environment is preserved, the benefits of controlled exploitation should go to local people. The environment must not be regarded as a pristime collection of plants and animals. It is a vast and complex entity that offers a range of natural resources which should be used with caution for economic growth and to meet our aspirations.

• Chipko Andolan

This movement started to end the alienation of people from their forests. An important event took place in a remote village called Reni in Garhwal during 1970s. There was a dispute between the local villagers and a logging contractor who had been permitted to fell trees in the forest close to the village. On a particular day, the menfolk of the village were absent. The contractor’s men reached the forest and started felling trees. The women of the village reached the spot. They clasped the tree trunks and thus stopped the felling of the tress. Chipko movement quickly spread across communities. It forced the government to change the laws in favour ofpeople. Destruction of forests affects not just the availability of products, it affects the quality of soil and availability of water also.

• People participation in management of forests :

In 1972, the West Bengal Forest Department recognised that its efforts to revive Sal forests in the southwestern districts did not succeed. There were frequent clashes between the villages and forest officials. Forest and land related conflicts were also a major factor in fuelling Naxalism.

At the instance of a forest offecer A.K. Banerjee, the Forest Department of West Bengal involved the villagers in the protection of 1272 hectares of Sal forests. Villagers were involved the villagers in harvesting operation. They were given 25 percent of the harvest and fuelwood and fodder on a payment of nominal fee. The Sal forests of Arabari revcorded a lot by 1983 due to these measures.

• Irrigation methods

Irrigation methods like dams, tanks and canals have been used in various parts of India since ancient times. These were managed by local people and the requirement for agriculture and daily needs was met to a great extent. Now the big dams and canals built by the government have led to the neglect of local irrigation methods. Also there has been loss of control over the local water sources by the local people.

• Kulh irrigation method

Over four hundred years ago, parts of Himachal Pradesh had evolved a local system of canal irrigation called kulhs. The water flowing in the streams was diverted to man-made channels and this water was taken to numerous villages down the hillside for irrigation. These kulhs were managed by the two or three people who were paid by the villagers. After the kulhs were taken over by irrigation department, these have become defunct.

• Shift towards bigger dams

After independence, a number of large dams and canals have been built. These dams store water for irrigation and for generating electricity. But there has been opposition to the construction of big dams such as Tehri Dam on the river Ganga. Also there have been protests by Narmada Bachao Andolan to raising height of Sardar Sarovar Dam on river Narmada. The following issues are involved in the construction of large dams :

(i) It displaces a large number of peasants and tribals without adequate rehabilitation .

(ii) These projects swallow a large sum of money without delivering proportionate benefits.

(iii) They involve deforestation and loss of biological diversity lending to environmental problems.

• Water-harvesting

Watershed management puts emphasis on scientific soil and and water conservation in order to increase the biomass production. Various organisations have been working on rejuvenating ancient system of water harvesting as an alternative to the mega-projects like dams. Water harvesting is an age old concept in India. Khadins, tanks and nadis in Rajasthan, bandharas and tals in Maharashtra, bundhis in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, ahars and pynes in Bihar, khulh in Himachal Pradesh, ponds in Karnataka are some of the examples of the water harvesting techniques.

• Check dams

 In level terrain, water harvesting system are crescent shaped earthen beyond the structures. The main purpose of check dams is not to hold surface water, but ground. It does not dry up but spreads to recharge wells and provides moisture for vegetation over a wide area. Also, it does not provide breeding ground for mosquitoes like stagnant last for another two hundred years.

 • Fossil fuels

Fossil fuels, coal and petroleum are important sources of energy. We have been using increasing amounts of fossil fuels for our basic needs and to manufacture a large number of goods. Coal and petroleum were formed from the degradation of biomass millions of years ago and these resources will be exhausted in the future. One estimate is that at the present usage rate, petroleum will last for 40 years and coal will last for another two hundred years.

• Pollution due to fossil fuels

Fossil fuels contain hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and sulphur. On burning they produce oxides of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur. If burnt in insufficient oxygen, they produce carbon monoxide which is poisonous. Carbon dioxide is not poisonous. Therefore, by using fossil fuels, we are creating air pollution due to the formation of oxides of carbon, nitrogen and sulphur.

• Control on consumption of energy

We can control consumption of energy by 

(a) taking a bus in place of personal vehicle,

(b) using CFL in place of bulbs, and 

(c)  wearing and extra sweater in place of using a heater or sigri on cold days.