ENVIRONMENT MANAGEMENT IN INDIA
The notion that the environment could be, or should be, managed, is relatively recent inIndia. Like any other old civilization, Indians traditionally revered nature even while theygradually learnt to manipulate it to an extent that met its own basic needs of food andshelter. However, the degree of manipulation seldom achieved extraction of resourcesbeyond subsistence levels, either from the farm-lands or from the forests, thanks totheir ecological characters, whose variability remain largely unpredictable even today.Tropical location, Himalayan Mountains to the north and open seas to the south createunique conditions of air circulation over the sub-continent that lead to a seasonaldistribution of rainfall, referred to as the “monsoons”. The variability of the rainfallpattern was not only the major external determinant during the early development of human habitations in the sub-continent, but continues to influence the economic growthof modern India significantly.The long-term variation of rainfall over space and time led to the development of distinct vegetation patterns over the sub-continent, dominated by various forest types.The original inhabitants of these forests – often referred to as
–were predominantly hunter-gatherers, who extracted a wide variety of plant and animalresources offered by the forests themselves. Fire, along with other crude implements,was used as a key management technique to extract resources that were relativelyabundant, protect resources from other wild competitors and fulfil the consumptionneeds of a human population which had a very limited life-span and even limiteddemands.Gradual increase in life-span, improved knowledge and consequent diversification of demands for natural resources brought with it a variety of fundamental changes. Basicsocial groups and rudimentary institutional forms emerged in order to share theextraction and use of these resources. Elementary norms were evolved for the
The author is a Ph.D in Environmental Sciences from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi,where he specialised in wetland ecology. He has, thereafter, worked for over eight years with the GujaratEcology Commission, Govt. of Gujarat, as a Senior Ecologist and Nodal Officer. He has managed severalpolicy research programmes, including the development of a State Environmental Action Programme,supported by the World Bank. He has an advanced training in Environmental Economics and PolicyAnalysis from the Harvard Institute of International Development, Harvard University. Presently, he isSenior Programme Officer at the Aga Khan Foundation in India where he manages outreach andinnovation in rural development programmes. The views expressed in this article are entirely personal andshould not be attributed to any institution that the author may be associated with.