Natural resources can be broadly categorized into two types, exhaustible and non-exhaustible. Management of natural resources is all about their judicious in a way that the exhaustible resources can last for many generations to come and non-exhaustible resources can be maintained in as pristine form as possible.
Consequences of Exploitation of Natural Resources:
There are many consequences of exploitation of natural resources. Some examples are given below:
1.Burning of fossil fuels creates air pollution. Excess amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads to global warming. Some polluting gases; like oxides of nitrogen and sulphur lead to acid rain, which is harmful for living beings. Acid rain is also harmful for monuments and buildings.
2.Excess exploitation of groundwater leads to a drastic fall in water table. This is the reason many places are experiencing acute shortage of drinking water.
3.Overuse of fertilisers and insecticides leads to soil pollution and soil erosion.
4.Many pollutants are directly flown into water bodies. This has resulted in water pollution in many rivers, lakes and even in oceans.
Development is necessary for making all around economic development. But development often comes with a price in the form of environmental damage. Sustainable development means following certain practices which help in saving our environment from damage. This is necessary for maintaining the earth in a good shape so that future generations can also enjoy the bounty of nature.
Three Rs (Reduce, Recycle and Reuse):
We should reduce the consumption of various resources wherever possible. For example; we can reduce the consumption of electricity by switching off lights and other appliances when they are not required. While leaving the home, one should always check for fans and lights and switch them off. This can not only help in saving electricity but also in saving the fuels which are utilised in electricity production. We should immediately repair a leaking tap so that precious water can be saved.
There are many items which can be recycled again and again. Recycling is another way of reducing the demand for natural resources. For example; by recycling paper, we reduce the demand for wood and thus help in saving the forest.
Many items can be reused many times. For example; old newspaper can be used for packing many items. Old envelopes can be used for doing rough work while doing your homework. Old plastic bottles can be used for many other purposes.
Forest and Wildlife:
Conservation of forests and wildlife is necessary to protect the biodiversity. This is important because loss of biodiversity leads to ecological imbalance. But any conservation effort for forest and wildlife must keep the interests of all stakeholders in mind.
1.The stakeholders who are directly or indirectly affected by forest are as follows:
2.People living in or around forests; as they depend on various forest produce for their livelihood.
3.The forest department which is the owner of the forest land.
4.Various industrialists who depend on forest for many raw materials. For example; the beedi industry needs kendu leaves as raw material. Wood is used as raw material in many industries.
The wildlife and nature enthusiasts.
Before the beginning of the colonial rule in India, forest dwellers were free to utilize the resources from forests as they wished. But things changed when the British rulers took over the control of the forests in India. They restricted the access of forest dwellers to forest resources. This created huge problems for many people who had traditionally been dependent on forests for their survival.
After the independence of India, the forest department took over but the interests of forest dwellers continued to be ignored for a long time. The forest was cut to obtain timber for making railways and for various construction activities. The cleared forest was replaced by planting eucalyptus trees which led to the problem of monoculture. Growing a single species is called monoculture. It disturbs the biodiversity of an area.
Local People and Forest Conservation
There are many examples which suggest that involvement of local communities is necessary for any conservation effort. The Bishnoi community of Rajasthan is one such example. Amrita Devi Bishnoi is still remembered with reverence for the way she fought for protecting the khejri trees in Khejrali village. She; along with 363 other people; sacrificed her life for the protection of khejri trees in 1731. The ‘Amrita Devi Bishnoi National Award for Wildlife Conservation’ has been named in her honour.
Another example is of the nomadic herders of the Himalayas. The nomadic herders used to graze their animals near the great Himalayan National Park. Every summer, the nomadic people brought their herds down the valley so that the sheep could get plenty of grass to eat. When the National Park was made in that area, the nomadic herders were stopped from grazing their sheep in the protected area. Now, in the absence of grazing by the sheep, the grasses grow very tall in the region. Tall grasses fall over and prevent fresh growth of grass. This shows that by excluding and alienating the local people from forests, proper conservation efforts cannot be carried out.
The Chipko Movement began in the early 1980s from a small village; Reni in Garhwal district. The women of the village began hugging a tree to prevent the cutting of trees by the contractors. The Chipko Movement later spread to other parts of India. It had been instrumental in stopping deforestation to a large extent.
Arabari’s Example of People’s Participation in Forest Management
In 1972, the forest department realized its mistake while reviving the degraded sal forests of Arabari forest range. Arabari forest lies in Midnapore district of West Bengal. The earlier methods of policing and surveillance were a total failure as they often led to frequent clashes with local people. It also led to alienation of people from the conservation programme. Then came a forest officer; named A K Banerjee; who was a real visionary. He involved the local people in the revival of 1,272 hectares of forest. In lieu of that the villagers were given employment in silviculture and harvest and were given 25% of the harvest. They were also allowed to gather firewood and fodder against a nominal payment. Due to active participation of the local community there was remarkable revival of the Arabari sal forest. By 1983, the value of the forest rose to Rs. 12.5 crores.
Water for All
Water is essential for the survival of all living beings. India is a country which receives most of the rainfall during monsoon; which means that for the rest of the year water may not be available in adequate quantity. Moreover, the rainfall is not even throughout the country. While there are some areas which get excess rainfall, there are some other areas which get scanty rainfall. Mismanagement of water resources often leads to shortage of drinking water at many places.
Traditionally, small dams and other reservoirs were built so that rainwater could be stored for later use. But the arrival of the British changed these systems. The concept of large dams and large irrigation projects came with the British. The same policies were followed by the new government which took over the reign of the independent India. Along with making the mega projects, the government also took controls of the traditional irrigation systems.
Problems Associated With Large Dams
1.Large dams lead to inequitable distribution of water. While some places get plenty of water, many other places are left without water.
2.Building a large dam leads to displacement of a large population. It leads to social unrest.
3.Building a large dam consumes huge amount of public money and thus leads to economic problems.
4.It also leads to deforestation because of submersion of a vast area of land. Moreover, decomposition of the submerged vegetation results in evolution of methane gas which ultimately leads to global warming.
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, kulhs in Himachal Pradesh, ponds in the Kandi belt of Jammu region, and eris (tanks) in Tamil Nadu, surangams in Kerala, and kattas in Karnataka are some of the ancient water harvesting, including water conveyance, structures. These are still in use at many places.
The traditional water harvesting structures are location specific and have been perfected by people over a long period of time. They take into account the local geography and the need of the local people and hence are highly efficient.
The traditional water harvesting structures usually focus on recharging the groundwater rather making an open reservoir. It has several advantages. Unlike surface water; the groundwater does not evaporate and thus loss because of evaporation is prevented. The groundwater does not provide a breeding ground for the mosquitoes and hence is good for public health as well. The groundwater is relatively protected from contamination by human activities.
Coal and Petroleum
1.Coal and petroleum are the main energy resources for us. But since these are exhaustible in nature so we need to find out alternate sources of energy. Scientists are working on developing some alternate energy sources so that dependency on coal and petroleum can be reduced. Some examples are given below:
2.Solar energy is being used to produce electricity at many places. Although the technologies for solar energy are still costly but future prospects look bright.
3.Fuel cell is another development which may help in replacing the internal combustion engines from automobiles.