Conservation Of Natural Resources

Conservation Of Natural Resources

 

India is a very vast country both in terms of geographical area and diversity of all sorts—religious, cultural, social and, on top of everything, natural resources. The term “natural resources”
is applied to all naturally occurring substances which are considered valuable in their relatively unmodified, i.e. natural form. The value of the natural resource is determined by the amount determined by its usefulness to production. A commodity is a natural resource as long as the primary activities associated with it are extraction and purification, not creation. Owing to this, mining, petroleum extraction, fishing, hunting, and forestry are categorised as natural resource industries. As agriculture is an industry related to creation, it is not called a natural-resource industry. The term “natural resources” was coined and popularised by E.F. Schumacher in his famous book “Small Is Beautiful” in the 1970s.

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Natural resources are, however, of two types—renewable and non-renewable living resources (fish, cattle, livestock, forests, etc.) are generally considered renewable resources. But all the renewable resources have to be used sustainably and they should not be over­harvested. In other words, they should be consumed at a rate that should not exceed their natural rate of replacement. If not used in this manner, their standing stock will diminish and a time will come when they will not be available any longer. Thus, the rate of sustainable use of a renewable resource is determined by the replacement rate and standing stock of that particular resource. Non­living renewable natural resources include soil and water. There is a different kind of renewable resource—flow renewable resource. Flow renewable resources do not need regeneration. They include the wind, tides and solar energy. Some resources are often categorised on the basis of their origin into two classes— biotic and abiotic. As the term itself suggests, biotic resources are those resources that are derived from living organisms. On the contrary, abiotic resources are the resources derived from the non-living world, i.e. land, water and air.

It is common knowledge that a nation’s natural resources are one of the major determinants of its wealth and status in the global economic system. A nation’s economic status is one of the greatest factors responsible for its global political influence. In recent years, the depletion of natural capital and attempts to move to sustainable development have been a major focus of development agencies. This is of particular concern in rainforest regions, which hold most of the Earth’s natural biodiversity—-irreplaceable genetic natural capital. Conservation of natural resources is the major focus of natural capitalism, environmentalism, the ecology movement, and Green Parties. There are some people who view this depletion of natural resources as a major cause of social unrest and conflicts in the developing nations.

As far as conservation of natural resources is concerned, the Government of India has enunciated several policies. Such policies take into consideration several cross-sectoral issues which directly influence conservation and sustainable uses of natural resources which include forestry and wildlife as well. In this regard, the biosphere reserves deserve to be discussed first of all. Biosphere reserves are the areas related to terrestrial and coastal ecosystems. These are globally recognised and come within the United Nations Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme. The world’s major ecosystem types and landscapes are represented in this network. This network is devoted to conserving biological diversity, promoting research and monitoring as well as seeking to provide models of sustainable development in the service of humanity at large. The thirteen Biosphere Reserves set up in India till date aim not only to protect the representative ecosystem but also to serve as laboratories for evolving alternative models of development. The Ministry of Environment and Forests provides financial assistance to the respective State Governments for conservation and management of these Biosphere Reserves. Based on the proposal submitted by the Ministry to the International Coordinating Council (ICC) of Man and Biosphere Reserve (MAB) Programme of UNESCO, three Biosphere Reserves—Sunderbans (West Bengal), Mannar (Tamil Nadu) and Nilgiri, (Tamil Nadu)—have been included in the International Network of Biosphere Reserves. Efforts are being made for getting other Biosphere Reserves included in the Network.


Operational Biosphere Reserves in India are as follows :
1. Nilgiri                              — Karnataka,
        Tamil Nadu and Kerala
2.
Nanda Devi
Uttarakhand
3.
Nokrek
– Meghalaya
4.
Great Nicobar
– Andaman
and
Nicobar
Islands
5.
Gulf of
Mannar
Tamil Nadu
6.
Manas
– Assam
7.
Sunderbans
— West
Bengal
8.
Similipal
— Odisha
9.
Dibru-
Saikhowa
– Assam
10.
Dehang
Debang
— Arunachal
Pradesh
11.
Pachmarhi
– Madhya
Pradesh
12.
Kanchenjunga
– Sikkim
13.
Agasthyamalai
— Tamil
Nadu and
Kerala

Here, it is pertinent to mention the conservation and management of Wetlands, Mangroves and Coral Reefs. Wetlands are lands transitional between the terrestrial and aquatic system where the water table is usually near the water surface and the land is covered by shallow water. They are life support systems for people living in the area and are effective in flood control, waste-water treatment, in reducing sediment, in recharging of aquifers and also act as the winter resort for a variety of birds providing them shelter and conditions for breeding. They also provide a suitable habitat for fish and other flora and fauna. Besides, they act as the buffer against the devastation caused by hurricanes and cyclones as well as to stabilise the shoreline and act as the bulwark against the encroachment by the sea. Moreover, they check soil erosion and provide durable timber, fuelwood, protein-rich fodder for cattle, edible fruits, vegetables and traditional medicines. The following are the three factors which determine whether an area is a wetland or not :
1.   If the area is permanently or periodically inundated.
2.   If an area supports hydrophytic vegetation.
3.   If an area has hydric soils that are saturated or flooded for a considerably long period to become anaerobic in the upper layers.

It is on the basis of these factors that the Ramsar Convention defines wetlands as areas of marsh or fen, peat-land or water, whether artificial or natural, permanent or temporary, with the water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt including areas of marine water, the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres. Mangroves, corals, estuaries, bays, creeks, flood plains, sea grasses, lakes, etc., are covered under this definition. A programme on conservation of wetlands was initiated in 1987. At present, there are 27 wetlands which cover 15 States. Of late, the main focus of the conservation of wetlands has been on biological methods of conservation rather than of adopting engineering options under the catchment area treatment component. Four new wetlands have been added to the national list—East Kolkata and Sunderbans wetland from West Bengal, Pt. Calimer from Tamil Nadu and Kottuli Wetland from Kerala. The Government has recently released assistance for the conservation of wetlands to the following States: Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, Manipur, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Kerala. Nineteen sites have been designated as Ramsar sites in India. Information on six more sites—Renuka and Chandertal (H.P.), Hokera and Surinsar-Mansar (J&K), Pulicat (A.P.) and Rudrasagar (Tripura) has been sent to Ramsar Bureau and data on six others in different States have been sent to Survey of India.

Mangroves are thought to be of very much importance when one talks for the conservation of natural resources. Mangroves (plants) are those which survive high salinity, tidal extremes, strong wind velocity, high temperature and muddy anaerobic soil. These are conditions hostile to other plants. Mangroves not only protect the coastal communities from the ravages of cyclones and coastal storms but also promote sustainable fisheries and prevent land erosion by seas. Besides, they are a source of medicine and fuelwood, apart from being home to a wide range of flora and fauna. Despite such gifts, many mangroves have been unsustainably exploited that has led to their degradation.
the mangroves in India comprise 69 species under 42 genera and 28 families. There were two separate schemes, one each on wetlands and mangroves earlier, which have now been merged. All the concerned States/Union Territories have constituted Steering Committees to monitor implementation of Management Action Plans for mangroves and coral reefs.
Among the policies made for the conservation for natural resources, biodiversity has got a very important place. Biodiversity is the variability amidst living organisms and the ecological complexes of which they are a part. Biodiversity has direct consumptive value in food, agriculture, medicine and industry. India is one of the 17 mega-diverse countries which together possess 60-70% of the world’s biodiversity. The International Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) is an international legal instrument for promoting conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. It takes into account the need to share cost and benefit between the developed and the developing countries and the ways and means to support innovation by local people. India has been a party to CBD since May 1994. A National Biodiversity Authority has also been set up and has been working since 2003. It provides for the establishment of State-level Boards and Local-level Biodiversity Management Committees to deal with any matter relating to conservation of biodiversity, its sustainable use and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of biological resources and associated knowledge. A protocol “The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety” was adopted in January 2000. It has been signed by 103 countries. The protocol came into force in September 2003 and hitherto, 84 countries have ratified the protocol.

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The Government of India has also initiated measures for streamlining the regulatory procedures for Genetically Modified Organisms in India. As a sound taxonomic base is a pre-requisite for environmental assessment, ecological research, effective conservation, management and sustainable use of biological resources, the All India Coordinated Project on Taxonomy (AICOPTAX) were set up during the Ninth Five-Year Plan. Besides, the scheme on assistance to botanical gardens for improvement of their infrastructural facilities has been taken care of. The Government is also taking a lot of interest in monitoring and evaluating the ongoing forestry projects and schemes with specific emphasis on conservation of forests and following the action on the implementation of conditions and safeguards. The Forest Policy Division provides policy support in respect of forestry matters and reviews the forest policy and its relation to policies of other relevant sectors. The Government has also constituted a National Forest Commission. It also provides assistance for various activities to help protect and improve the existing forests.
When the issue of the conservation of forests is discussed, wildlife conservation cannot go unnoticed. The Government of India has done a lot in this direction tinder the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. This Act provides guidelines for the enforcement of Export and Import Policy of India and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species through the offices of the Regional Deputy Directors of Wildlife Preservation located at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai with the help of State Wildlife Departments, the State Police Departments, the Customs Departments, Border Security Force, and Coast Guards.
The National Board for Wild Life was also constituted in 2003 to give an impetus to the efforts being made for the conservation of wildlife. There are about 600 National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries across the country. Since July 2002, the Animal Welfare Division has been working under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, which earlier worked under Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. It is a regulatory body with the main task of implementing effectively the various provisions of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Besides, National Institute of Animal Welfare, Annual Welfare Board of India, Committee for Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals, Project Tiger, Project Elephant, Central Zoo Authority, etc., have been constituted to look after the conservation of wildlife in India.
The conservation of natural resources, however, cannot be complete without the participation of people. In this regard, it has been found that traditional knowledge also serves a great purpose. Traditional knowledge has a sound base, as it has been tested and practised over the years. It is, in fact, appropriate technology in particular climate conditions and in the living conditions of the people. Projects to develop ecology should start with traditional knowledge as they are proven the technology for natural resource management. In the real sense, every culture of a social system, traditionally, is the result of people’s action to survive and their attempts to optimise the use of available resources, i.e., soil, water and vegetation. The science of natural resource management is based on the ecologically sound traditional wisdom of farmers and its contribution to augmenting productivity. Traditional values which are sustainable in nature need to be compared with values of modern systems.
In a nutshell, we can say that natural resources are very valuable, so every effort should be made to conserve them whatever be the cost. In view of the exigency of our times, the Twelfth Five-Year Plan document clearly mentions the necessity of a forest, wildlife and biodiversity regime. Reforms would be undertaken, in the light of legislative developments in related areas initiated by other Ministries (like Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, Forest Rights Act, Seeds Amendment Bill, Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill and so on) towards evolving effective and robust legal safeguards for addressing the issue of ‘bio-safety’ and ensuring that India receives international recognition as the President of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) starting from 2012 in compliance with its international commitments over biodiversity issues, primarily over bio-safety, conservation.

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Besides, developing harmony in the working of laws in the sector with the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act, 1996 has been stressed. The Twelfth Plan document says that a number of initiatives need to be undertaken to promote conservation. It is proposed to set up a National Environmental Monitoring Programme (NEMP) for monitoring forests, air and water quality, river and ocean pollution, noise and so on with sharing of real-time data from local to national levels which will also help in monitoring change. A multi-disciplinary autonomous body namely National Environment Assessment and Monitoring Authority (NEAMA) is proposed to be set up for strengthening the processes for grant of environmental clearances and monitoring thereof. NEAMA is also envisaged to grant clearances under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 including the coastal zone regulations and marine fisheries regulations.

In the Twelfth Five-Year Plan period (2012-17), the Central and State Governments also need to invest in strengthening the mechanisms for implementing rules notified under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 including the CR2 Notification and the Marine Fishing Regulation Act. A number of initiatives can be undertaken including the creation of a National Environment Restoration Fund (NERF) from voluntary contributions and the net proceeds of proposed economic instruments such as user fees for access to specified natural resources. The NERF may be used for restoration of environmental resources and clean-up of sites contaminated with toxic and hazardous waste. In addition, the mandate of different institutes engaged in forestry, biodiversity and wildlife research requires to be broadened to accommodate emerging needs for collaborative multidisciplinary research. Ecological processes that generate ecosystem goods and sendes are central for ecological sustainability. It is proposed to establish an Ecosystem Research Institute (ERI) under the Ministry of

Environment and Forests (MoEF) for undertaking research in ecosystems, biodiversity and sustainable development. There is a need for die creation of a ‘Green Fund’ for forestry activities by imposing Forest Development Tax on sale of forest produce and Forest

Conservation Tax/Cess on the sale of petroleum products and coal mining. Further, other similar taxes such as Ecotax in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and other States may also be pooled in for this purpose as per the Twelfth Plan document.

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