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close this bookEcology and the Politics of Survival: Conflicts over Natural Resources in India (UNU, 1991, 353 pages)
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View the document1. Introduction: ecology movements and conflicts over natural resources
Open this folder and view contentsPart I Forest Conflicts
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I would like to gratefully acknowledge the support from the United Nations University which made this project on Conflicts Over Natural Resources possible. Special thanks go to Rajni Kothari and Giri Deshingkar, the Directors of the UNU programme on Peace and Global Transformation for their inspiration and guidance, and their commitment to participatory action research which created the space for intellectual search as an intimate part of social movements.

This work would not have been possible without the contributions of the many communities who are engaged in the struggle to protect their life-support systems. It is their ideas' knowledge and feelings which provide the insights on which the book is based.


Environmentalism has finally become part of the dominant discourse. 'development' has given way to 'sustainable development', and 'growth' has given way to 'green growth'.

Yet the ruling paradigm about environmental issues continues to be biased in favour of the North, and the elites of the South. This bias creates a number of misconceptions about environmental issues in the Third World. The first misconception is that Third World countries need 'development' and cannot afford the luxury of protecting nature's ecological processes. The second misconception, closely related to the first, is that poor people cannot be a source of ecological solutions, they are merely a source of environmental problems.

However, as the case studies and analysis of this book show development is not universally benign. Development for some means underdevelopment and dispossession of many. Development interventions aimed at commercialization of natural resources involve a major shift in the manner in which rights to resources are perceived and exercised. It transforms commons into commodities and deprives the politically weak communities of access to resources, and robs resources from nature, to generate growth on the market for more privileged groups in society. This transformation in the Third World is often state mediated, though the final outcome is privatization. For example, dams are constructed using state funds to provide energy and water for private industry and cash crop cultivation. Most critical ecology movements are based on the need to protect nature and the need to strengthen people's collective rights to common resources. The emergence of social movements around ecological issues related to forests and water systems, indicates that it is the marginal communities in the Third World for whom the protection of nature is essential for survival. From their perspective, it is destructive development which is a luxury that the Third World cannot afford. Also, ecology and economics are not opposed, but converge in the survival economies of the Third World poor.

Only market driven economies are in conflict with people's survival and nature's regeneration. Nature and people are, however, never taken into account in development plans which emerge from the North, in terms of their intellectual and political genesis. Through international aid, control over resources has shifted from local communities to national and international financial institutions. Forestry projects, dam projects, and fisheries projects tie the resources of the remotest village to international investment and aid. Multilateral development agencies such as the World Bank give loans to environmentally sensitive areas like agriculture, forestry and irrigation and through those loans give primacy to the market economy, and render nature's economy and the survival economy as dispensable. Through internationally financed development projects, conflicts over natural resources pit tribal and peasant communities against international institutions, with the state acting as an agent of dispossession of local communities, to clear the way for global plans and ideologies of development. The case studies in the volume show how conflicts that emerged with colonialism have deepened and expanded through the development era.

As the western world celebrates the victory of market democracy over state socialism in Eastern Europe, the Third World experience takes on a new relevance. As Marc Nerfin has so aptly put it, the Third World embodies both metaphorically and symbolically a Third system, based neither on the supremacy of the 'prince' (state) nor the merchant (market). but on the supremacy of the citizen. Third World ecology movements which resist the destruction caused by state managed market development are challenging the concepts of politics and economics as defined within the narrow confines of the market. They reveal that there is a notion of democracy which is wider and deeper than market democracy. This is the ecological concept of democracy of all life based on the recognition of the right to life of non-human nature and all segments of human society, including those large numbers which do not, and cannot, produce and consume within the market, and who are treated as dispensable in the logic of the market. They also show that there is a wider concept of economy which is based on the maintenance of life and livelihood, not merely on the accumulation of profits.

In an era of rising 'green capitalism' where justice has become obsolete and has been separated from issues of sustainability, people's ecology movements in the Third World highlight the way in which issues of ecology and equity, sustainability and justice are intimately linked to one another. They provide an alternative perception of ecology as the politics of survival, based on the production and maintenance of life, not of profits. It is this alternative from a Third World perspective that this book attempts to articulate.

1. Introduction: ecology movements and conflicts over natural resources

The recent period in human history contrasts with all the earlier ones in its strikingly high rate of resource utilization. Ever expanding and intensifying industrial and agricultural production has generated increasing demands on the world's total stock and flow of resources. These demands are mostly generated from the industrially advanced countries of the North and the industrial enclaves in the underdeveloped countries of the South. Paradoxically, the increasing dependence of the industrialised societies on natural resources, through the rapid spread of energy and resource-intensive production technologies, has been accompanied by the spread of the myth that increased dependence on modern technologies implies a decreased dependence on nature and natural resources This myth is supported by the introduction of a long and indirect chain of resource utilisation which leaves invisible the real material resource demands of the industrial processes. Through this combination of resource intensity at the material level and resource indifference at the conceptual and political levels, conflicts over natural resources generated by the new pattern of resource utilisation are generally shrouded and overlooked. These conflicts become visible when resource and energy-intensive industrial technologies are challenged by communities whose survival depends on the conservation of resources threatened by destruction and overexploitation, or when the devastatingly destructive potential of some industrial technologies is demonstrated as in the Bhopal disaster.

For centuries, vital natural resources like land, water and forests had been controlled and used collectively by village communities thus ensuring a sustainable use of these renewable resources. The first radical change in resource control and the emergence of major conflicts over natural resources induced by non-local factors was associated with colonial domination of this part of the world. Colonial domination systematically transformed the common vital resources into commodities for generating profits and growth of revenues. The first industrial revolution was to a large extent supported by this transformation of commons into commodities which permitted European industries access to the resources of South Asia.

With the collapse of the international colonial structure and the establishment of sovereign countries in the region, this international conflict over natural resources was expected to be reduced and replaced by resource policies guided by comprehensive national interests. However, resource use policies continued along the colonial pattern and, in the recent past, a second drastic change in resource use has been initiated to meet the international requirements and the demands of the elites in the Third World, leading to yet another acute conflict among the diverse interests. The most seriously threatened interest, in this conflict, appears to be that of the politically weak and socially disorganised group whose resource requirements are minimal and whose survival is primarily dependent directly on the products of nature outside the market system. Recent changes in resource utilisation have almost wholly by-passed the survival needs of these groups. These changes are primarily guided by the requirements of the countries of the North and of the elites of the South.

This book analyses environmental conflicts in contemporary human society. In general it relates to societies all over the world, but in particular it addresses the most intense and emerging social contradictions in India related to conflicts over natural resources. Science and technology are central to these conflicts because while scientific knowledge has been used by contemporary societies to considerably enlarge man's access to natural resources, it has also allowed the utilisation natural resources at extremely high rates. The contemporary period is characterised by the emergence of ecology movements in all parts of the world which are attempting to redesign the pattern and extent of natural resource utilisation to ensure social equality and ecological sustainability. Ecology movements emerging from conflicts over natural resources and the people's right to survival are spreading in regions like the Indian subcontinent where most natural resources are already being utilised to fulfil the basic survival needs of a large majority of people. The introduction of resource and energy-intensive production technologies under such conditions leads to economic growth for a small minority while, at the same time, undermines the material basis for the survival of the large majority. In this way, ecology movements have questioned the validity of the dominant concepts and indicators of economic development. The ideology of economic development, which remained almost monolithic in the post World War II period, is thus faced with a major foundational challenge. In this chapter an attempt has been made to provide a systematic conceptual framework for analysing the processes and structures of modern economic development from an ecological -perspective. It attempts to analyse the relationship between economic development and conflicts over natural resources to trace the roots of ecological movements. Further, in the light of the ecological perspective, it examines the fundamental assumptions and categories of modern development economics that are used to determine the objectives of economic development as well as the criteria for the choice of technologies that are used to achieve these objectives.

Economic Development and Environmental Conflicts in India

A characteristic of indian civilization has been its sensitivity to natural ecosystems. vital renewable natural resources like vegetation, soil and water were managed and utilised according to well defined social norms that respected the known ecological processes. The indigenous modes of natural resources utilisation were sensitive to the limits to which these resources could be used It is said that the codes of visiting important pilgrim centres Badrinath in the sensitive Himalayan ecosystem, included a maximum stay of one night so that the temple area would not put excess pressure on the local natural resources base. In the precolonial indigenous economic processes, the levels of utilisation of natural resources were not significant enough to result in drastic environmental problems. There were useful social norms for environmentally safe resource utilisation and people protested against the destructive use of resources even by kings. A major change in the utilisation of natural resources of India was introduced by the British who linked the resources of this country with the direct and large nonlocal demands of Western Europe. Natural resource utilisation by the East India Company, and later by the colonial rulers, replaced the indigenous organizations for the utilisation of natural resources, like water, forest and minerals, that were mainly managed as commons.

With the establishment of British colonial rule in India, the ever increasing resource demands of-the industrial revolution in England were largely met from colonies like India. Forced cultivation of indigo in Bengal and Bihar, cultivation of cotton in Gujarat and the Deccan led to large-scale commitment of land for the supply of raw materials for the British textile industry, the flagbearer of the industrial revolution. Forests in the sensitive mountain ecosystems like the Western Ghats or the Himalayas were felled to build battleships, or to meet the requirements of the expanding railway network. Forests of the Bengal-Bihar-Orissa region were used for running wood fuel locomotives in the early stages of railway expansion. The latter stages of colonial resource utilisation and control included the monopolization. of water rights as in the Sambhar Lake of Rajasthan or the Damoda' Canal in Bengal. Colonial intervention in natural resource management in India led to conflicts over vital renewable natural resources like water or forests and induced new forms of poverty and deprivation. Changes in resource endowments and entitlements introduced by the British came into conflict with the local people's age old rights and practices related to natural resource utilisation As a result local responses were generated through which people tried to regain and retain control over local natural resources. The indigo Movement in Eastern India, the Deccan Movement for land rights or the forest movement in all forest areas of the country, the Western

Ghats, the Central Indian Hills or the Himalayas, were obvious expressions of protest generated by these newly created conflict's. Conflicts generated by the colonial modes of natural resource exploitation could not, however, grow with a local identity. With the progress of the anti-colonial people's movement at the national level, these local protests merged with the national struggle for independence. With the collapse of colonial rule internationally, and the emergence of sovereign independent countries in the Third World like India, resolution of these conflicts at the local level became a possibility. While political independence vested the control over natural resources with the Indian state, the colonial institutional framework for natural resource management did not change in essence. Where colonialism collapsed, the slogan of economic development stepped in. There was unfortunately no alternative institutional mechanism other than that of the classical model of development left by the British, with which the newly formed Indian state could respond to the accentuated aspirations of the Indian people for a better life. The same institutions and concepts, nurtured and developed by the colonial rulers were applied to objectives which were exactly opposite to those of the colonial period. Concepts and categories relating to economic development and natural resource utilisation that had emerged in the specific context of capitalist growth and industrialization in the centres of colonial power were raised to the level of universal assumptions and applicability. The processes which led to deprivation were now entrusted with the responsibility of basic needs satisfaction. No serious thought was given to the fact that the historical specificity of early industrial development in Western Europe necessitated the permanent occupation of the colonies and the undermining of the local 'natural economy'.' This inexorable logic of resource exploitation, exhaustion and alienation integral to the classical model of economic development based on resource intensive technologies led Gandhi to seek an alternate path of development for India when he wrote:

God forbid that India should ever take to industrialism after the manner of the West. The economic imperialism of a single tiny island kingdom (England) is today keeping the world in chains. If an entire nation of 300 million took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts.

While Gandhi's critique was a forewarning against the problems likely to arise by following the classical path of resource-intensive development, at the time of India's independence, there was no clear and comprehensive work plan to realise the Gandhian dream of alternate development that would be resource prudent and would satisfy basic needs. The issues of resource constraints of economic development were, therefore, not highlighted at the theoretical level, partly due to the tremendous pressure of the enhanced developmental aspirations of a newly independent nation, and partly due to the lack of internalization of natural resource parameters within the framework of economics. As the scale of economic development activities escalated from one Five Year Plan to another, the disruption of ecological processes that maintain the productivity of the natural resource base started becoming increasingly apparent. The classical model of economic development in the case of the newly independent nations resulted in the growth of urban-industrial enclaves where commodity production was concentrated, as well as rapid exhaustion of the internal colonies whose resources supported the enhanced demands of these enclaves. In the absence of ecologically enlightened resource management methods, the pressure of poverty enhanced the pace of economic development activities in the hope of a quick improvement in the standard of living for all, as in the case of Western Europe. For example, commercial forestry earned more revenue by making increasing amount of timber and pulpwood available in the market but in the process reduced the multipurpose biomass productivity or damaged the hydrology of the forests. People dependent on non-timber biomass outputs of forests like leaves, twigs, fruits, nuts, medicines and oils were unable to sustain themselves, in the face of the commercial exploitation of forests. The changed hydrological character of the forests affected both the micro-climate and the stream flows, disturbing the hydrological stability and affecting agricultural production.

There are similar examples from all parts of the country, related to almost all massive developmental interventions in India's natural resource system. Ecological degradation and economic deprivation generated by the resource insensitivity and intensity of the classical model of development have resulted in environmental conflicts, an understanding of which is imperative for the reorientation of our current development priorities and concepts. It is becoming in creasingly clear that these classical concepts and priorities are being used as an alibi to direct 'development' at the national level, while the educated minority elite is the main beneficiary of these 'development' processes.

The ecology movements that have emerged as major social movements in many parts of India are making visible many invisible externalities and pressing for their internalisation in the economic evaluation of the elite-oriented development process. In the context of a limited resource base and unlimited development aspirations, ecology movements have initiated a new political struggle for safeguarding the interests and survival of the poor, the marginalised, including women, tribals and poor peasants.

Ecology Movements and Survival

The intensity and range of ecology movements in independent india have continuously widened as predatory exploitation of natural resources to feed the process of development has increased in extent and intensity. This process has been characterised by the massive expansion of energy and resource-intensive industrial activity and major development projects like large dams, forest exploitation, mining and energy-intensive agriculture. The resource demand of development has led to the narrowing of the natural resource base for the survival of the economically poor and powerless, either by direct transfer of resources away from basic needs or by destruction of the essential ecological process that ensure renewability of the life-supportirig natural resources.

In the light of this background, ecology movements emerged as the people's response to this new threat to their survival and as a demand for the ecological conservation of vital life-support systems. The most significant life-support systems in addition to clean air are the common property resources of water, forests and land on which the majority of the poor people of India depend for survival. It is the threat to these resources that has been the focus of ecology movements in the last few decades.

Among the various ecology movements in India, the Chipko movement (embrace the trees to oppose fellings) is the most well known. It began as a movement of the hill people in the state of Uttar Pradesh to save the forest resources from exploitation by contractors from outside.' It later evolved into an ecological movement that was aimed at the maintenance of the ecological stability of the major upland watersheds in India. Spontaneous people's response to save vital forest resources was seen in Jharkhand area in Bihar-Orissa border region as well as in Bastar area of Madbya Pradesh where there were attempts to convert the mixed natural forests into plantations of commercial tree species, to the complete detriment of the tribal people. In the southern part of India the Appiko movement, which was inspired by the success of the Chipko movement in the Himalayas, is actively involved in stopping illegal over-felling of forests and in replanting forest lands with multipurpose broad leaved tree species. In Himachal Pradesh the Chipko activists have intensified their opposition to the expansion of monoculture plantation of the commercial Chir Pine (Pinus roxburghii). In the Aravalli Hills of Rajasthan there has been a massive programme of tree planting to give employment to those hands which were hitherto engaged in felling of trees.

The exploitation of mineral resources, in particular the opencast mining in the sensitive watersheds of the Himalayas, the Western Ghats and Central India have also resulted in a great deal of environmental damage. As a consequence, environmental movements have come up in these regions to oppose the reckless mining operations. Most successful among them is the movement against limestone quarrying in the Doon Valley. Here, volunteers of the Chipko movement have led thousands of villagers, in peaceful resistance, to oppose the reckless functioning of limestone quarries that is seen by the people as a direct threat to their economic and physical survival.'

While the Doon Valley instance has a long history of popular opposition to the quarrying of limestone and a Supreme Court order has restricted the area of quarrying to a minimum, examples of such success' of ecology movements are rare People's ecology movements against mineral exploitation in the neighbouring areas of Almora and Pithoragarh still seem to be ignored, probably due to the relative isolation of these interior areas. Beyond the Himalayas, the ecology movement in the Gandhamardan Hills in Orissa against the ecological havoc of bauxite mining has gained momentum and it draws inspiration from the Chipko movement.

The mining project of the Bharat Aluminium Company (BALCO) in the Gandhamardan Hills is being opposed by local youth organisations and tribal people whose survival is directly under threat. The peaceful demonstrators have claimed that the project could be only continued 'over our dead bodies. The situation is more or less the same in large parts of Orissa-Madhya Pradesh region where rich mineral and coal deposits are being opened up for exploitation and thousands of people in these interior areas are being pushed to deprivation and destitution. This is also true of the coal mining areas around the energy capital of the country in Singrauli. In these interior areas of Central India, movements against both mining and forestry are becoming increasingly volatile and people's resistance is growing.

Large river valley projects, which are coming up in India at a very rapid pace, is another group of development projects against which people have organised ecology movements. The large-scale submersion of forest and agricultural lands, a prerequisite for the large river valley projects, always takes a heavy toll of dense forests and the best food growing lands. These have usually been the material basis for the survival of a large number of people in India, specially tribal people. The Silent Valley project in Kerala was opposed by the ecology movement on the ground of its being a threat, not to the survival of the people directly, but to the gene pool of the Tropical Rainforests threatened by submersion. The ecological movement against the Tehri high dam in the UP Himalaya exposes the possible threat to people living both above and below the dam site through large-scale destabilization of land by seepage and strong seismic movements that could be induced by impoundment. The Tehri Dam Opposition Committee has appealed to the Supreme Court against the proposed dam by identifying it as a threat to the survival of all people living near the river Ganga up to West Bengal. Most notable among the people's movements against dams on the issue of direct threat to survival from submersion are Bedthi lcchampalli, Bhopalpatnam, Narmada Sagar, Koel-Karo, Bodhghat, etc. In the context of the already overutilised land resources, the proper rehabilitation on a land-to-land basis of millions of people displaced through the construction of dams seems impossible. The cash compensation given instead is inadequate in all respects for providing an alternate livelihood for the majority of the displaced. Destitution is thus the first and foremost precondition for initiating large dam projects

While the process of construction of dams itself invites opposition from ecology movements, the functioning of water projects dependent on the constructed dams results in further ecological disasters and movements. People's movements against widespread water-logging, salinisation and the resulting desertification in the command areas of many dams have been registered. Among them are instances of protests against the Tawa, Kosi, Gandak, Tungabhadra, Malaprabha, Ghatprabha projects and the canal irrigated areas of Punjab and Haryana. While excess water led to ecological destruction in these cases, improper and unsustainable use of water in the arid and semi-arid regions generated ecology movements in a different way. The anti-drought and desertification movement is gaining momentum in the dry areas of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Orissa, etc. Ecological water use for survival is being advocated by water based movements like Pani Chetana, Pani Panchayat, and Mukti Sangharsh. Another major movement originating from the ecological destruction of resources by growth based development is spreading all along the 7,000 km long coastline of India. It is the movement of the small fishing communities against the ecological destruction caused by mechanised fishing whose instant profit motive is destroying the coastal ecology and its long-term biological productivity in a big way.

No amount of threat to survival in India from environmental hazards can be complete without a reference to the Bhopal tragedy on 2 December 1984, in which several thousand people died and several lakhs faced serious health hazards following the leakage of poisonous Methyl Iso Cyanate from a pesticide plant of Union Carbide (India) Limited. People's movements for clean air and water are growing in ail parts of the country just as ecologically irresponsible industrialization is moving deeper into the hinterland in search of new resources.

Development from the Viewpoint of the Dispossessed

Though these ecology movements relate to issues that are geographically localised, like forests or water pollution, their reverberations are national and even global in import. This macro micro dialectic is rooted in the cognitive gaps associated with development planning and this dichotomy has been analysed politically as the result of the existence of two Indias. Every development activity invariably has a need for natural resources. In the context of limited natural resources, either limited by nonrenewability or ecological limits to renewability, the resource needs of the two Indias are bound to compete with each other. In this unequal competition the survival of the less powerful but more populous micro-economy is directly threatened. This threat may be either due to resource transfer or to ecological factors leading to resource degradation. Yet the significance of ecology movements does not merely lie in the fact that they are voices of the dispossessed who are victims of the highly unequal sharing of the costs of the development process. The positive feature of these movements lies in the manner in which they make visible the hidden externalities of development based on a particular economic ideology and reveal its inherent injustice and non-sustainability. The recognition of these inadequacies and the imperatives arising from the right to survival creates another ground and another direction for development which ensures justice with sustainability, equity with ecological stability.

Ecology movements as a trend can no longer be viewed as merely specific and particular happenings. They are an expression of the universal socio-ecological impacts of a narrowly conceived development based only on short-term commercial criteria of exploitation. The impact of ecology movements cannot be assessed merely in terms of the impact of the particular development projects they originate from. The impact, in the final analysis, is on the very fundamental categories of politics, economics, science and technology which together have created the classical paradigm of development and resource use. The emerging irreversible threat to survival arising from the development process allows a reevaluation not only of some individual projects and programmes which have been shown to be ecologically destructive, but of the very conception and paradigm of development that generates such projects. These ecology movements reveal how the resource intensive demands of current development have ecological destruction and economic deprivation built into them. They also stress that the issue is not merely one of a trade-off of costs and benefits because the cost of destruction of the conditions of life and well-being is not only a matter of money, it is a matter of life itself. The most important and universal feature of ecology movements is that they are redefining the concepts of development and economic values, of technological efficiency, of scientific rationality-they are creating a new economics for a new civilisation.

The Economists' Slumber: Growth Against Survival

THE IDEOLOGY of the dominant pattern of development derives its driving force from a linear theory of progress, from a vision of historical evolution propounded in the eighteenth and nineteenth century Western Europe and universalised throughout the world especially in the post-war development decades. The linearity of history, presupposed in this theory of progress, created the ideology of development that equated development with economic growth, economic growth with expansion of the market economy, modernity with consumerism and non-market economies with backwardness. The diverse traditions of the world, with their distinctive technological, ecological, economic, political and cultural structures, were driven by this new ideology to converge into a homogeneous monolithic order modelled on the particular evolution of the west. The notion of development as an ideology was based on the universalisation of the western economic tradition and of equating development with economic growth alone and its unquestioned acceptance as progress.

The Rostownian model of the stages of economic growth is the clearest articulation of these assumptions. Rostow presents change as taking place in three stages. The first stage consists of traditional society: 'whose structure is developed within limited production functions, based on pre-Newtonian science and technology and on pre-Newtonian attitudes towards the physical world.... The central fact about the traditional society was that a ceiling existed on the level of attainable output per head The totality of development experiences, however, does not reflect this simple linearity and stage by stage evolution. The interrelationship between resources within the same ecosystem as well as interlinkages between economic activities, between segments of society makes the economic development process more complex and multidimensional. Viewing the world as an ecologically interrelated whole leads to a concept of development that puts a premium on maintaining the ecological balance and integrity while satisfying basic human needs. In this context, the 'backwardness' and 'low productivity' of non-western societies is based on the assumption of the ideology of classical development that recognises productivity only in the context of commodity production. The 'high productivity' of the latter similarly has been based on a narrow and specific interpretation of productivity. The resource intensity of modern production processes, geared towards profit maximization in the absence of the awareness of other forms of productivities, leads to ecological deterioration and loss of resource productivity, which remain hidden externalities in development economics. The internalization of such negative externalities over a large temporal and spatial horizon, in many instances, render the 'high productivity' processes extremely unproductive.

The second stage of Rostow, characteristic of the dual sector model, originates from a misleading representation of the material foundations of the visible and formal development process. In the context of a limited resource base, the resource demands of the development process are often satisfied by diverting resources away from survival needs and life-support functions. Modernisation and economic growth based on resource-intensive processes compete for the same resources and are also used for the satisfaction of basic survival needs, either directly, or through the destruction of ecological functions of these resources. The second stage is clearly not a temporary co-existence of two unrelated sectors, namely, the 'dynamic and progressive' modern and the 'stagnant and backward' traditional.

There is a distinct relationship between these two sectors in that the 'dynamism' of the modern is fuelled by a continuous and unequal resource flow from the traditional. The growth and productivity of the modern has to co-exist with the poverty and backwardness of the traditional. In the context of highly unequal sharing of the cost of economic growth, visible development accrues to the privileged while invisible underdevelopment accrues to the dispossessed. The Rostownian approach assumes that in the process of development 'the economy exploits hitherto unused resources,' which is true in the case of resource abundance. However, in the present context vital natural resources like forests, water and land are all scarce and have a number of competing requirements and demands on them. These could be associated with the maintenance of ecological processes of renewability of natural resources or of the life-support system of those externalized by the formal process of development. The diversion of resources otherwise needed for human survival or for safeguarding the ecological processes remain invisible. Thus, in the context of the conflicting demands on scarce resources, economic growth leads to economic polarization and not necessarily to universal prosperity. Since the introduction of new technologies often leads to diversion of resources needed for survival, we have called the resultant social and economic inequalities 'technological polarisation. The rapid growth of people's ecology movements is a symptom of this polarisation and a reminder that natural resources play a vital role in the survival of people. Their diversion or destruction through other uses, therefore, leads to impoverishment and an increasing threat to survival. Underdeveloped societies are not those that are yet to be affected by growth and development, as the dual sector model supposes. The real underdevelopment of the hinterland takes place simultaneously as an integral part of the whole process of contemporary growth and development in which gains accrue to one section of society or nation and the costs, economic or ecological, are borne by the rest. From within societies and nations enjoying the advantages of resource use, Rostow's take-off stage can be seen as a reality. When one views the process of development from the perspective of those who are underdeveloped as a result of its resource intensity, the 'take-off' often gets translated into 'roll-down' into underdevelopment or ecological disasters. Britain's 'take-off' at the end of the eighteenth century was made possible by the underdevelopment of its colonies in three continents. The destruction of the Indian textile industry and Indian agriculture, the slave trade from Africa and the genocide of the indigenous North American people were the preconditions for the economic growth of the centres of modern industry in Britain. The illusion of the contemporary take-off stage in countries like India and the vision of a flight to the twenty-first century are made possible through a similar process of the invisible destruction of the base for survival of millions of marginal people The opposition of ecology movements to resource destructive development and growth is rooted in the recognition that the creation of resources for growth is achieved through the destruction of resources for the survival of people. The Rostownian fiction of the take-off of a whole society with an improved quality of life for all its members ignores the economic polarisation and ecological destruction inherent in resource-intensive development. It appears real because under the historical conditions of colonialism or enclavised development, the invisible costs of growth are borne by the colonies or hinterlands. The geographical separation of the regions benefiting from and the regions losing in the process left the resource destruction of the colonies and hinterlands invisible and led to the superficial impression that economic growth takes place in an absolute sense. This impression was used to universalize the Rostownian model for all countries, all people and all historical periods and this became the ideology of development. The ideological universalisation and enclavisation of the process of growth and development is the reason for the simultaneous existence of underdevelopment alongside economic growth in newly independent countries like India, which accepted rapid and resource intensive industrialisation as the path towards development. Like the erstwhile colonies, interior and resource rich areas of the country, are bearing the costs of resource diversion and destruction to run the resource-intensive process of development. As a result, communities living in these interior regions and depending on the local resources are facing a serious threat to their survival.

The ecological relationship of the growth of affluence for a few regions and some people on the one hand, and the collapse of the resource base for survival of many on the other, clearly contradicts Rostow's notion of the third stage of take-off in which 'old blocks and resistances' are overcome and the prosperity of the enclave becomes pervasive throughout society. The impoverishment of the peripheries and the erosion of the resources and rights of marginal communities actually pay for the material basis of the prosperity of the enclaves. This prosperity can neither be reproduced for regions and peoples whose impoverishment and deprivation are rooted materially and ecologically in the same process of growth, nor can the enclavisation process be sustained. The new forms of poverty and dispossession create new 'blocks and resistances' to the diffusion of the development process, making enclave development and underdevelopment of the hinterland a permanent feature of development based on resource-intensive processes. Dichotomising tendencies and principles of exclusion seem to reflect the situation more realistically than the linear model of progress. The simplistic dichotomy between the modem and traditional sectors of the linear model is misleading because the traditional itself is transfommed and underdeveloped by the resource demands of the modern sector. This misleading dichotomy needs to be replaced by the more complex contradiction between sectors of society making conflicting and unequal demands on limited resources; between demands for profits and requirements of survival; between sustainable and non-sustainable patterns of resource use; and between the socially just and unjust use of natural resources. The reality of the ecological non-sustainability of the accepted development model and the threat to survival arising from it need to be internalised into a new framework for the understanding of economics and technology in a more realistic and less illusionary manner. Ecology movements are providing these insights for this new realism based on resource sensitivity and recognition of the people's right to survival.

While the above analysis emanates from the situation in the market economy-oriented countries of the Third World, the issues raised by it are universal in character. No doubt the anarchy of growth is most reckless in the market economy-oriented Third World countries but serious rethinking about the delicate relationship between economy and ecology is going on in both the advanced market economies and the socialist countries. As the entire world prepares to enter the third millennium humankind as a whole is feeling a special responsibility towards the global future. Human being is looking for a new philosophy to live in harmony with nature and ecology that is needed to give a new meaning and relevance to economics..

The Three Economies of Natural Resources

A new and holistic relationship between economics and ecology has to depend on a holistic understanding of the natural resource process and utilizations associated with human societies and the natural ecosystems. The dominant ideology of development. which guides development activities almost exclusively, has been classically concerned only with the use of natural resources for commodity production and capital accumulation. It ignores the resource processes that have been regenerating natural resources outside the realm of human existence. It also ignores the vast resource requirements of the large number of people whose needs are not being satisfied through the market mechanisms. The ignorance or neglect of these two vital economies of natural resources, the economy of natural processes and the survival economy, explains why ecological destruction and threat to human survival have remained hidden negative externalities of the development process. To make good for this shortcoming it is necessary to comprehend the place of natural resources in all the three economies.

Natural resources in the market economy

The incompetence of modern economics in dealing with natural resources in their ecological totality has been voiced by many. The most penetrating description, however, comes from Georgescu Roogen who wrote:

The no deposit no return analogy benefits the businessman's view of economic life. For, if one looks only at money, all one can see is that money just passes from one hand to another: except by regrettable accident it never gets out of the economic process. Perhaps the absence of any difficulty in securing raw materials by those countries where modern economics grew and flourished was yet another reason for economists to remain blind to this crucial economic factor. Not even the wars the same nations fought for the control of the world's natural resources awoke the economists from their slumberer

While trade and exchange of goods and services have always characterized human societies, the elevation of the market to the position of the highest organising principle of society led to the neglect of the other two vital economies in development thought. The hidden negative externalities of the development processes governed by the principles of the market have, thus, created new forms of poverty and underdevelopment. Various case studies described in this volume will substantiate such a claim. The major problem is that when exclusive attention is being given to monetary flows, requirements of natural resources not backed up by suitable purchasing power cannot be registered on the economic scene. As a result, specially in the context of Third World countries, the place of natural resources in the economy of natural resource production (or nature's economy) or in the survival economy of non-market consumption for the biological sustenance of the marginalised poor gets completely ignored. The political economy of ecology movements cannot be understood without a clear comprehension of the place of natural resources in the three distinct economies. Ecology movements are the first indicators of compatibility and conflict among the three competing demands on natural resources. In this way the articulation of these three economies provides the foundation of a framework for an ecologically sustainable and equitable process of economic development that ensures survival and does not threaten it. The benefits and costs associated with development projects thus need to be evaluated not only in terms of the framework of the market economy but also in terms of the other two economies associated with natural resources.

The economy of natural ecological processes

The terms ecology and economy are rooted in the same Greek word 'oikos' or household. Yet in the context of market-oriented development they have been rendered contradictory: 'Ecological destruction is an obvious cost for economic development'-a statement which is often repeated to ecology movements. Natural resources are produced and reproduced through a complex network of ecological processes. Production is an integral part of this economy of natural ecological processes but the concepts of production and productivity in the context of development economics have been exclusively identified with the industrial production system for the market economy. Organic productivity in forestry or agriculture has also been viewed narrowly through the production of marketable products of the total productive process. This has resulted in vast areas of resource productivity, like the production of humus by forests, or regeneration of water resources, natural evolution of genetic products, erosional production of soil fertility from parent rocks, remaining beyond the scope of economics. Many of these productive processes are dependent on a number of ecological processes. These processes are not known fully even within the natural science disciplines and economists have to make tremendous efforts to internalize them. Paradoxically, through the resource ignorant intervention of economic development at its present scale, the whole natural resource system of our planet is under threat of a serious loss of productivity in the economy of natural processes. At present ecology movements are the sole voice to stress the economic value of these natural processes. The market-oriented development process can destroy the economy of natural processes by over exploitation of resources or by the destruction of ecological processes that are not comprehended by economic development. And these impacts are not necessarily manifested within the period of the development projects. The positive contribution of economic growth from such development may prove totally inadequate to balance the invisible or delayed negative externalities stemming from damage to the economy of natural ecological processes. In the larger context, economic growth can thus, itself become the source of underdevelopment. The ecological destruction associated with uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources for commercial gains is a symptom of the conflict between the ways of generating material wealth in the economies of-market and the natural processes. In the words of Commoner: 'Human beings have broken out of the circle of life driven not by biological needs, but the social organisation which they have devised to 'conquer' nature: means of gaining wealth which conflict with those which govern nature."

The survival economy

Modern economics and the concept of development cover a miniscule portion in the history of economic production by human beings. The survival economy has given human societies the material basis of survival by deriving livelihoods directly from nature through self-provisioning mechanisms. In most Third World countries large numbers of people are deriving their sustenance in the survival economy in ways that remain invisible to market oriented development. Within the context of a limited resource base the destruction of the survival economy takes place through the diversion of natural resources from directly sustaining human existence to generating growth in the market economy. Sustenance and basic needs satisfaction is the organising principle for natural resource use in the survival economy whereas profits and capital accumulation are the organising principles for the exploitation of resources for the market. Human survival in India even today is largely dependent on the direct utilisation of common natural resources."

Ecology movements are voicing their opposition to the destruction of these vital commons so essential for human survival. Without clean water, fertile soils, and crop and plant genetic diversity economic development will become impossible. Sometimes by omission and sometimes by commission formal economic development activities have impaired the productivity of common natural resources which has enhanced the contradiction between the economy of natural processes and the survival economy.

The organising principles of economic development based on economic growth renders valueless all resources and resource processes that are not priced in the market and are not inputs to commodity production. This premise very often generates economic development programmes that divert or destroy the resource base for survival. While the diversion of resources, like diversion of land from multipurpose community forests to monoculture plantations of industrial tree species, or the destruction of common resources, or the diversion of water from staple food crops and drinking water needs to cash crops are frequently proposed as programmes for economic development in the context of the market economy, they create economic underdevelopment in the economies of nature and survival. Ecology movements are aimed at opposing these threats to survival from market based economic development. Thus in the Third World, ecology movements are not the luxury of the rich; they are a survival imperative for the majority of people whose survival is not taken care of by the market economy but is threatened by its expansion.

The political foundation of ecology movements lies in their capacity to enlarge the spatial, temporal and social bases for the evaluation of economic development projects-in their capacity to bring into the picture all the three economies described earlier. A new economics of development will emerge only when these three economies can be conceptualized within a single framework.


2 Forest ecology and forest conflicts

The crisis in tropical forest resources is today recognised as the world's most severe ecological and economic crisis. This is primarily because of the linkages between the genetic resources and diversity of tropical forests and food security of the entire world, and the linkages between the ecological stability of tropical forests and the economic well-being of the majority of the world's people who live in the tropics, in what is called the Third World. These Third World countries, the erstwhile colonies of the industrialized coun tries, provided natural resources on which the industrialization of the latter was based. Both industrialisation and economic growth in the colonial and post-colonial periods have been based on the reckless exploitation of tropical forests. Today, the cumulative impact of this over-exploitation has led to critical and almost irreversible ecological degradation. The famine in Africa and other arid regions has shifted the world's attention to the high ecological and social costs of tropical deforestation. It has become the central concern of governments, development agencies and ecology movements. Yet the focus on tropical deforestation and its reversal is not automatically translated into the protection of tropical forests and those who depend on them for survival. As long as misconceptions about the nature of tropical forest ecosystems prevail, as long as conflicting demands are ignored and as long as the causes of tropical deforestation are inaccurately located, this degradation cannot be arrested. As a result, tropical ecosystems will continue to be degraded, the survival of people of the Third World will continue to be threatened, and forest conflicts will continue to grow.

Normally, forests are identified only with the economy associated with the commercial-industrial use of forests. lowever, the crisis of tropical forestry needs to be understood in the light of the conflicting demands for forest biomass, by the three fundamental economies associated with forests:

  1. Nature's economy of essential ecological processes.
  2. The survival economy of basic needs satisfaction of the people.
  3. The market economy of industrial-commercial demands.

Nature's economy of essential ecological processes generates a demand on the products of the forest in terms of the maintenance of the stability of soil systems and the hydrological balance of the forest ecosystems. In ecologically sensitive ecosystems like upland watersheds, this economy becomes the most crucial one and should be given the necessary attention in forest management. Neglecting this economy in upland watersheds will imply tremendous negative externalities to the national exchequer as relief for regular floods and drought, which are easily described as loss due to nature's fury.

The survival economy of basic needs satisfaction reflects the requirement of forest biomass of the people living in and in the vicinity of forests in terms of fuelwood, fodder, fruits, nuts, green manure, small timber, etc. In forest areas where human settlements have either existed or are in the vicinity, the requirements of the survival economy have been satisfied all along without any major ecological damage. However, under certain situations, the pressure of the survival economy can be substantial and its neglect can lead to the unexpected and rapid degradation of forest resources.'

The market economy of industrial-commercial demands coastitutes the forest biomass demand of the total market system in the formal market economy. It includes the demand for pulpwood. plywood. furniture, house construction, etc., as well as fuelwood for the urban market. The demand for biomass from the urban industrial sector as well as the survival requirements of people have increased dramatically in the last century in India. There are many examples which illustrate that the growth of forest based industries is disproportionately beyond the ecological limit of the renewable productivity of nature. under the present system of management. The growth in population adds another significant demand for biomass for domestic purposes. It has, however, not been recognised, quantified and internalized in formal forest management. In the perspective of the increasing demand from survival and market economies, the biomass requirement for nature's economy are systematically sacrificed and nature's needs remain totally unfulfilled. In due course, this leads to the ecological destabilisation of the forest ecosystems. Again, the conflict between survival and market economies assumes large proportions when most of the biomass produced is cornered by the economically powerful groups through the formal official mechanisms while the basic needs of fuel, fodder and small timber of the economically weak remain unsatisfied due to their weak political and economic status. Obviously, these three diverse economies push for the satisfaction of their demands either silently or loudly, resulting in both overt and covert conflicts over forest resources. The tacit and invisible nature of these conflicts combined with a mistaken or incomplete understanding of these diverse economies can result in the lack of perception of conflicts between them. The failure to perceive conflicts in forest use can only aggravate the forestry crisis. It is thus absolutely essential to understand and perceive the covert as well as explicit demands on forest resources to evolve a forest policy that is ecologically sensitive and socially just, so that our forest and land resources can be used for the overall satisfaction of the needs of the nation and the people in an equitable and sustainable manner. The conceptual framework based on the three economies adopted here differs from the conventional categories related to forest resources. We do not use the dichotomy between quantity/quality as categories of forest use that Hallsworth, for example, has used. According to him,

Human demands on the forest fall into two categories. First a demand for forest quantities; for the actual things a forest can produce: for timber, for food and for space for cultivation or for grazing; secondly, a demand for forest qualities; for the effects that forests have on the environment of man-to protect supplies of water, provide havens for wild-life and maintain the pool of genetic resources, to protect the soil against erosion, and to provide space for recreations

The dichotomy between quantity and quality, as between tangible and intangible, fails to capture the reality of those village women in Garhwal who launched the Chipko movement because for them water from the forest is a more significant product than wood and timber. For them water is not an 'intangible' produce or a mere quality. It is more tangible and basic in their sustenance economy than the commercial wood extracted and exported from their forests.

For similar reasons we have not adopted the local-national dichotomy between local and national interests to understand conflicts over natural resources, because the local subsumes the national interest. The national interest is or should be the integration of all local interests, not just another interest acting over and against local interests. The demands of nature's economy and survival economy are national demands, seen throughout the country, and are not peculiar to a particular region. What has usually passed as the 'national interest' are the large scale demands of the commercial industrial sector, operating through the government. The emergence of ecology movements at the.national level are indicative of the fact that these are demands of a socially narrow sector which come into conflict with socially broader sets of demands that are more appropriately termed the national interest.

We have also avoided the categories of private versus public demands because they fail to show adequately that what are called individual or private needs at the local level are located in the public context of a village community, and what usually passes as public policy in forestry is a government policy which is totally subservient to commercial/industrial interests. The 'privatisation' inherent in a commercially-oriented forest policy is What has been challenged by movements like Chipko which demand a more effective social and public control over forest resources. The official management of forest resources in the name of 'national' or 'public' interest has, in reality, privatised people's 'common resources. This privatization trend which was rooted in the colonial period has survived to the present day. As Chhattarpati Singh observes, 'The class or "public" which more often than not benefits from such acquisitions is the rich. This is patently true in the acquisition of common land, especially forests. The public of the "public purpose" for which forests have been acquired constitutes all but the forest dwellers.

We have therefore preferred to distinguish human demands on the basis of use for survival and use for commerce and industry, and have included nature's demands to avoid an anthropocentric bias as well as to have a context to locate forest movements like Chipko which struggle for forest conservation to respect nature's rights, and not just to assert their own rights to forest resources.

Nature's Economy and Forest Conflicts

An ecosystem is characterised by a set of essential ecological processes on the functioning of which depends the stability of the ecosystem. Forest ecosystems are characterised by essential eco logical processes related to the hydrological and nutrient cycles, on which depends the nature of water output of forest catchments and the sustainability of biomass production of the forest ecosystem.

The Hydrological Cycle or the Water Economy

Forest ecosystems require water which is the most important input for their survival. in particular, under tropical monsoon climatic conditions, forest ecosystems play a vital role in moderating the impact of rainfall and controlling the instant run-off of water.

The impact of forest ecosystems on rainfall has been a topic of popular debate. Meher-Homji (1986) has pointed out that forest ecosystems play an important role in pre- and post-monsoon rain fall. This may not alter the amount of total rainfall significantly, but by providing protective soil moisturisation during a period significant for plant and growth, it plays a very crucial economic role.

The hydrological cycle describes the ecological processes involved after a drop of water has entered the forest ecosystem as rainfall or dew or even snow. In the meteorological conditions prevailing in the forests of India, except parts of Western Himalayas, the most significant form of water input to forest ecosystems is through rainfall. The hydrological cycle represents mainly the physical aspect s of essential ecological processes of a forest ecosystem.

The hydrological cycle (Figure 2.1) is an instrument for a fundamental understanding of forest ecology. On its stability depends the stability of the forest ecosystem. The source of all water required for the survival of plants, birds, animals and human population is precipitation (P) from the atmosphere. Once precipitation takes place, as rain, dew, snow, etc., water enters the forest ecosystem and is first intercepted by the forest canopy. Some amount of the incoming water evaporates back to the atmosphere in the process and does not touch the soil. This is known as interception loss. Some amount of water falling on the canopy flows down to the top soil as stemflow and some falls directly as throughfall. Some amount of water drips down after a delay period and is known as drip.

Of the total amount of water reaching the top soil, some flows out of the forest ecosystem as run-off (R) and is lost to the plant. The rest infiltrates to the soil and percolates to the underground aquifers to recharge the springs (1). Infiltration is encouraged in forest soils with a good cover of litter and a low density spongy humus. Compaction of the top soil by cattle or human intervention greatly enhances run-off and reduces infiltration.

The infiltrating water is first absorbed by the soil which holds moisture (M) in small pores through capillary action, and this capacity of the soil to hohl water against gravity is known as field capacity. When water availability exceeds field capacity it flows down under gravity and reaches the rock system to recharge the underground aquifers. The aquifers recharge the outflows through springs, and on forest slopes saturated soils give rise to seepage streams, which together with the surface run-offs join to form rivers. The moisture retained in the soil goes back to the atmosphere either as direct evaporation or as transpiration through green plants (ETR). Thus, the hydrological cycle leads to the water balance equation:

Figure 2.1 Hydrological Cycle Associated with Trees

P = R + I + M + ETR

Where, P = Precipitation, R = Run-off, I = Infiltration Percolation, M-Soil Moisture Change, ETR = Evapotranspiration.

The relative amounts of.water flowing through the various routes in the cycle are influenced by the state of the canopy, the state of the ground cover and humus, type of soil, etc. The management of forest ecosystems will thus depend on the main economic objectives that the water output of forests are to satisfy. In the temperate regions of the world where precipitation is well distributed and in many parts the ground is covered by snow for a few months in a year and slopes are gentle, complete denudation of the catchment forests is recommended as a method of maximising water yield. On the contrary, in tropical and monsoon climate, forest ecosystems play a vital role in reducing run-off and encouraging infiltration through leaf litter and humus formation, thus ensuring a stable water yield. The management objective of a forest ecosystem will thus depend on the meteorological conditions and the manner in which the water economy is to be developed because under certain conditions water and not biomass is the most important economic output of forests.

The Nutrient Cycle and the Soil Economy

The flow of water in the forest ecosystem plays the vital role of carrying the nutrients required for plant growth from the soil and controls the rate of uptake of nutrients. The nutrient cycle thus represents the chemical aspects of ecological processes of a forest ecosystem (Figure 2.2). In economic terms, the nutrient cycle describes the economy of the soil, describing and quantifying the nutrient uptake from and the soil on which the forest grows.

The botanical process of plant growth requires a large number of elements like hydrogen, carbon and oxygen, macro-nutrients like Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Nitrogen, Sulphur and

Figure 2.2 Nutrient Cycle Associated with Soil-Vegetation System

Phosphorus, and micro-nutrients like Boron, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Zinc and Molybdenum. Elements like CH and O are available from water and Carbondioxide from the atmosphere. These nutrients with the exception of N are available from the weathering of rock mineral and Nitrogen is available from the atmosphere. Apart from the biomass exported out of the forest ecosystem, these nutrients eventually return to the soil surface through deadwood and litter fall as well as washing of foliage by rain water. On the soil surface a variety of forest floor fauna including micro-organisms and bacteria transform the biomass through decomposition and release nutrients for further plant nutrition.

The uptake and return of nutrients in the forest ecosystem is well studied in the temperate regions of Europe or the USA. Unfortunately, the soil economy associated with indigenous tree species in tropical countries like India is least understood. This obviously leads to wide gaps in knowledge for the proper choice of species and their management in afforestation programmes.

In every forest ecosystem the nutrients that are used by the trees are normally returned to the soil completely. When forest biomass is extracted and transported for the satisfaction of sustenance needs or industrial/commercial demands, substantial amounts of nutrients go out of the forest ecosystem, and for intensive forest exploitation artificial fertilisation of the forest soil becomes essential.

Nutrients are supplied to the forest trees both from the atmosphere and the soil. Nitrogen is available from the atmosphere directly, as dissolved nutrients in the rain water and as particulate deposition which gets washed down to the forest floor through rainfall. Rain and wind erosion transport the nutrients from the parent rocks to the soil and the moisture in the soil dissolves them and transfers them to the body of the trees.

The nutrients are returned to the soil through the litter which contains organic remains of plants, like leaves, barks and twigs in exploited forests and organic remains of animals on the soil surface or in the top soil layer. In tropical rain forests leaf litter is about 10 tons per ha while in the open conifer forests it may be only I ton per ha. One part of green plants combine with the litter as animal waste through the consumption of green matter by the herbivores.

The accumulated leaf fall and other forms of litter then begin to decompose on the forest floor through the action of micro-organisms present in the soil. In tropical conditions where soil biotic activity is encouraged by relatively higher temperatures, the rate of decomposition is quite rapid. Due to the content of the leaves and the soil chemistry, the rate of decomposition of litter in rapidly growing tropical forests is several times greater than in the conifer forests in the temperate regions.

The soil organisms that decompose the litter are mainly bacteria and they multiply in soil with earthworms. The soft parts of the plant are normally decomposed by micro-organisms alone but woody biomass are broken. down by a complex interaction, thus the return of the nutrients back to the soil is an intricate process involving many actors. As decomposition proceeds, the nutrients are released in the form of soluble ions that can be directly absorbed by the root system and the cycle starts once again.

The nutrient cycle is disturbed by the destabilisationof the hydrological cycle. With the opening up of the forest canopy and instant surface run-off increasing, the leaching of the nutrients increases and the nutrients available for new plant growth become less, thus setting in motion a process of decay in the forest ecosystem. In extreme cases of nutrient loss and continued exploitation of the forest biomass, the vegetational evolution is reversed and a full canopy forest gets degraded to scrub forest or grasslands.

Both the water economy and nutrient economy constitute nature's economy in forest ecosystems. They need to be stable in order to sustain the productivity of forest ecosystems. The two other economies, i.e., the survival economy of the basic needs satisfaction of the people and the market economy of forest product demand of the industrial/commercial sector compete for the same resource base, forest biomass and generate conflicts over forest resources between the needs of nature and the people on the one hand; and between the needs of nature as well as people and market demand, on the other.

In the context of the forests of India, nature's economy and survival economy have always been overlapping and were simultaneously functioning without major conflicts as the small survival needs of the people were satisfied through a conservation-oriented utilisation managed by an informal but strict code of conduct towards forests. It is thus reasonable to assume in the context of forest resource utilisation in the precolonial periods, that the satisfaction of survival needs was an intrinsic part of the functioning of forest ecosystems. This was particularly so because human settlements in India grew as an integral part of the forest ecosystem and not at the cost of it as was the case in industrialized countries in the last few centuries.

With the introduction of large-scale commercial exploitation of forests by the British this situation underwent a drastic change. A schematic picture of the three competing biomass requirements of the three economies is presented in Figure 2.3. The horizontal axis represents the distance (D) from the core of the forest ecosystem while the vertical axis represents the quantity (Q) of biomass required by the three competing economies. Nature's requirement (ON) is spread throughout the forest ecosystem while the survival requirement (QS) is divided between inside and outside the forest ecosystem. It should be noted that the spread is not too far away

'from the forest ecosystem's boundary since only the local population can collect the' forest biomass. The requirement of the market economy (QM) is high as well as spread over long distances far away from the forest ecosystem, since it can be transported over long distances. This indicates a continuous long distance transfer of large quantities of forest biomass outside the forest ecosystem. All forest related conflicts are thus based on conflicts between the above mentioned requirements-ON, QS, and QM. The objectives of forest management decide as to what should be the actual biomass quantities allocated to these diverse requirements.

Figure 2.3 Schematic Description of the Economies Associated with Forests

When forests are viewed as a complete ecosystem and not as a mechanical collection of wood producing trees, the management strategy of forests has to evolve along the ecosystems concept. The ecosystems approach has the objective of ensuring sustainable production of an optimum biomass mix so as to satisfy the demands of nature's economy and survival needs and produce biomass for commercial/industrial purposes to the extent possible. Accordingly, such an approach should

  1. Lead to a harmonious utilisation of resources not resulting in external diseconomies (exploitation of forests for timber should not lead to floods and silting).
  2. Provide for the equitable returns to various sections of society depending on the same resource system (exploitation of forests for timber should not conflict with the domestic requirements of fodder or wood as long as alternatives are not made available at a low cost).
  3. Wherever externalities cannot be eliminated, the logic of costs and returns needs to be worked out for proper methods of compensation to those who bear the costs generated by activities that benefit others.

3 The survival economy and forest conflicts

Indigenous Management for satisfaction of Basic Needs

Indian civilisation is distinctive in the sense that it evolved in the forests, not in the city. According to Tagore, 'Forests have nurtured India's mind and India's civilization. 'Intellectual growth in India did not take place in enclosures made of brick, wood and mortar, but was inspired by the life of the forests in which nature's living forces express themselves in daily variation, creating a diversity of life and sounds, providing the context for the understanding of nature and man. Human understanding in such a context, could not be restricted to perceiving nature as inert, as an accumulation of dead resources waiting for exploitation. Nature provides light, air, food and water through living processes of creative renewal. This awareness of life in nature as a precondition for man's survival led to the worship of light. air. food and water and they were considered sacred. Indian culture has been cradled by the culture of the forest first in the Vedic period and later during the times of Buddha and Mahavir.

Thus, forests in India had remained central to its civilisational evolution. The forest teased 'ashramas' (settlements) produced the best scientific research and cultural writings and India thus came to be known as an 'Aranya Samskriti' or a forest culture Human understanding of the fundamental ecological utility of forest ecosystems and their economic importance led to veneration of trees. This basic dependence on the existence of forests for human survival was the material basis underlying the worship of trees in almost all human societies. In the Rig Veda, forests are described as Aranyani or mother goddess who takes care of wildlife and ensures the availability of food to man. These ashramas and forests, not urban settlements, were recognised as the highest form of cultural evolution providing society with both intellectual guidance and material sustenance.

This civilisational principle became the foundation of forest conservation as a social ethic through millenia. Its erosion began with the spread of colonial methods of management of forests in India. Teak from the forests of the Western Ghats, sal from Central and Northern India and conifers from the Himalayas were felled to meet the timber needs of the British empire. The result was not merely the destruction of forests but the destruction of a culture that conserved forests.

India's forest wealth is characterised by richness of diversity which is related to the diversity of soil types and climate. Moist tropical evergreen and semi-evergreen forests are characteristic of the Western Ghats and the northeastern region. Tropical dry deciduous forests are seen in the north and the south with sal and teak being the dominant species, respectively. The Hirnalayan region has a diversity of moist and dry temperate forests changing into alpine vegetation at the highest altitudes. Each region of India had paid special attention to the growth of village forests with multipurpose tree species providing, fuel, fodder, fruits, fibre, green manure, etc. The ecological role of forests in soil and water conservation was widely recognised and social control over the felling of trees in ecologically sensitive areas like river banks was strictly exercised.

The protection and propagation of forests as a deeply ingrained civilisational characteristic in the South Asian region is evident from the existence of sacred groves in river catchments and fore shores of tanks, and from village woodlots. These practices were of critical value both ecologically and economically. Ecologically, indigenous and naturalised vegetation has provided essential life support by stabilising the soil and water systems. Economically, trees have been a source of small timber, fodder, fuel, fibre, medicines, oils, dyes, etc. Indigenous medicines use more than 2,000 species of plants, both wild and cultivated. The centrality of trees to survival and economic well-being created the need for their conservation which was achieved through the concept of sacredness. In the archaeological remains of the Harappan culture, it is clear that even in the third or fourth mitenia BC trees were held in high esteem and were worshipped.

The planting of trees, either for their fruit or for the purpose of obtaining shade, was an act which was held in high esteem in oriental countries, and especially in India, since ancient times. The oriental appreciation of the luxury of shade led to the plantation of trees along canals and highways. In the Sunnud (Royal Order) of Emperor Akbar, it is directed that on both sides of the carnal down to Hissar, trees of every description, both for shade and blossom, be planted, so as to make it like the canal under the tree in paradise; and that the sweet flavour of the rare fruits may reach the mouth of everyone. During the reign of Emperor Sher Shah a 2,000 km long Grand Trunk Road, connecting Punjab and Bengal, was planted with shade-giving trees on both sides.

In Mysore state, roadside plantations of trees- constituted another vital source of tree wealth, not only providing ample shade to the traveller but also ensuring a steady flow of supplies of timber, fuel, fruits, green manure and animal feed. The access roads to the villages from the main highways were known for their leafy cover, generally of honge, neem and tamarind, and maintained by the village organisations themselves; and the avenues along the highways were covered by species such as ala, bage, neem, tamarind and jamun, and were managed by the services of the state administration.

The importance attached to village forests and roadside plantations by the state administration a century ago is reflected in an explicit statement in the report on forest area of the princely State of Mysore: In 188-81 village forests numbered 16,293 standing on a total area of 14,376 acres and containing 8,11,308 trees while 3,750 miles of public roads had been planted with trees on both sides, at distances varying from twelve to sixty feet.'

Plants (oshadhis) and trees (vanaspatis) are personified as goddesses and deities and collectively invoked as the jungle goddess, 'Aranyani', in the Vedas.

All religions and cultures of the South Asian region are rooted in forests, not out of fear and ignorance but due to ecological insights. This is true of all forest cultures in the tropics. As Myers observes,

In contrast to the folklore of temperate zones, which often regard forests as dark places of danger, traditional perceptions of forests in the humid tropics convey a sense of intimate harmony, with people and forests equal occupants of a communal habitat. A primary source of congruity between man and natures

Conflicts over forest resources in India can be demarcated into four phases. The first phase began when the British 'reserved' large tracts of forests for commercial exploitation to meet the military and other needs of the British empire. These conflicts led to forest struggles and forest satyagrahas during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The second phase was the post-colonial phase when the 1952 forest policy led to the rapid expansion of forest based industry, large-scale clear felling of natural forests, and their conversion to monocultures of commercial species. Conflicts generated by this intensification of forest use led to movements like Chipko. In the third phase, spurred partly as a response to growing public criticism of the commercial exploitation of forests, and partly as a response to the crisis in the supply of raw materials for wood based industry, industrial plantations expanded on farm lands and village commons under 'Social Forestry' and 'Wasteland Development Programmes'. These afforestation programmes have become a new source of conflicts during the eighties. The fourth phase is expected to emerge in the future as international finance, changes in biotechnologies and biomass conversion into chemical and energy substitutes for petroleum based products, supported by major investments in forestry, are expected to lead to a new level of transnationalisation of forest use and forest conflicts.

Colonial Forestry: Commercialisation Against Survival

Colonial rule introduced dramatic breaks in the way in which forests in india were perceived and used. The perception of forest ecosystems as having multiple functions for satisfying diverse and vital human needs for air, water and food was superseded by the growth of one-dimensional scientific forestry during the colonial period which had as its only objective the maximization of the production of commercially valuable timber and wood while ignoring the other ecological and economic objectives for the utilisation of forest resources.

In India, forests play three major economic roles. In order of their significance for economic development in a democratic society like ours they may be classified as contributions to:

  1. Nature's economy through regulating the supply of water to the nation's water resources and conserving soil to support the viability of this vital economic function.
  2. Survival economy by providing the supply of basic domestic biomass needs of fodder, fuel, fertiliser, etc., to three fourths of the population.
  3. Market economy by providing the supply of wood for satisfying industrial and commercial demands.

Obviously, the first contribution of forests to the national economy through maintenance of nature's economy is the defense against the threat to our survival from floods, droughts and soil erosion. Commonly this is characterised as conservation. Lack of recognition of this vital contribution led to the downfall of the Roman, Mayan, Harappan and Mesopotamian civilisations. The second contribution is the sustenance of nearly three-fourths of the people who depend on the free productivity of nature for the satisfaction of basic biomass needs. The third and last contribution is mainly for the process of growth of wood based industries which obviously comes after survival and sustenance is ensured, and not before it.

Conflicts over forests emerged when colonial rule ignored nature's economy and the survival economy through indifference to the conservation and basic needs role of forestry, and developed forestry only along the one dimensional criterion of commercial/ industrial requirements.

Forest resources, like other resources needed for survival, have traditionally been common resources, collectively managed and utilised by village communities. They could not consistently with the principle of Hindu law and the customs of the country belong to any individual. To transform these common forest resources into commodities from which revenues and profits could be derived. it was therefore necessary to change property relationships. Through the Indian Forest Acts of 1865 and 1878, the British acquired a monopoly right over all valuable tracts of forests by converting them into reserved forests'. The traditional free access to forests of the forest communities was therefore curtailed. British forest legislation aroused resistance from village communities which were thus deprived. Local revolts broke out in all forest regions of the country.

Forest struggles have been a sustained response to commercial forestry introduced by the British. The earliest records of commercial exploitation are of a syndicate formed in 1796 by Mr. Mackonchie of the Medical Service for the extraction of teak in Malabar to meet the demand for shipbuilding and military purposes. In 1806, a police officer, Captain Watson was appointed the first Conservator of Forests in India incharge of Malabar and Travancore. to extract teak for the King's navy, indicating that policing not science, was needed in the colonial forestry of that period. Indigenous trade was sealed and peasants were denied rights.

By 1823 the growing discontent of the forest proprietors and timber merchants, chafing under the restrictions of the timber monopoly, and the outcry of the peasants. indignant at the fuel cutting restrictions, came to a head. On the recommendation of the Governor of Madras, Sir Thomas Munro, and with the consent of the Supreme Government, the conservator ship, on which Captain Watson had been followed by several successors during the seventeen years of its existence, was abolished.

The Forest Act of 1927 aroused a new response against the denial of traditional rights of local people. During 1933-31 forest satyagrahas were organised throughout India as a protest against the reservation of forests for exclusive exploitation by British commercial interests and the transformation of a common resource into a commodity. Villagers ceremonially collected forest produce from the reserved forests to assert their right to satisfy their basic needs of forest products. The forest satyagrahas were particularly successful in regions where survival of the local population was intimately linked with the access to forests as in the Himalayas, the Western Ghats and Central India. These non-violent protests were suppressed by the armed intervention of the British rulers. In Central India, Gond tribals were shot down for participating in the satyagraha. On 30 May 1930 several unarmed villagers were killed and hundreds injured in Tilari village of Tehri Garhwal when they gathered to protest against the reservation of forests. Following the loss of many lives, the satyagrahas were finally successful in reviving some of the traditional rights of the village communities to forest produce as recognized privileges.

The forest satyagrahas, like the Salt Satyagraha, were generally protests against legislation introduced by the British administration which transformed vital common resources into resources reserved for revenue and profit generation through the establishment of monopoly rights and control. These satyagrahas were a response to conflicts which were based on the exclusion of the competing demand on the resources for survival needs.

The imperative for increasing revenue and profits in a growth economy, however, drives resource utilisation patterns in directions which maximise production of the commercially valuable components of the ecosystem at the cost of destruction of those components which are commercially valueless but essential to survival.

Thus, in the case of forest resources it was not enough to manipulate policy and legislation to exclude the local communities from free access to forests. It also became imperative to manipulate nature to increase the production of biomass for commerce at the cost of decreasing and destroying biomass for survival. Systems of science and technology thus combined with systems of policy and legislation in becoming essential tools for the appropriation of vital common resources for commerce, revenue and profits. Scientific and technical aspects of forestry determine prescriptions for the functioning of forests which maximise immediate production of wood of commercial value through the destruction of other biomass forms that have lower commercial value but may have very high use value. Silvicultural systems of modern forestry are prescriptions for destruction of non-commercial biomass for the increased production of commercial biomass. Ultimately this increase in commercial production is achieved by mining the ecological capital of the forest ecosystem and disrupting the essential hydrological and nutrient cycles of nature which make plant, animal and human life possible.

The growth of commercial economic activity through the manipulation of nature generates second order conflicts over natural resources which arise not merely from issues of how a particular resource is distributed, but also how it is utilised and how it affects related resources. Thus, in the case of forest resources, contemporary conflicts are being generated by silvicultural systems aimed at maximising the production of commercially and industrially valuable species like eucalyptus, pine and teak, through the destruction of natural indigenous mixed forests which have a high use value for basic needs and for ecological stability. In Bihar, the conversion of sat forests into teak plantations has been resisted by the tribals. In 1980, a violent confrontation between tribals and the forest officials and police in Gua resulted in the death of thirteen tribals and three policemen. This clash was the outcome of the conflict between two types of silviculture, one based on trees for.the people and the other based on trees for commerce. Movements arising from conflicts over natural resources at this level are ecologically rooted since they do not merely emerge from an unfair distribution of a single resource, but from the unjust and unsustainable use of an ecosystem as a complex of interrelated resources. In ecologically sensitive regions, the destruction of forest ecosystems has in turn threatened the survival of the forest dwelling communities. The people's response to this deepening ecological and economic crisis induced by the commercial exploitation of resources has been the emergence of movements for the conservation of forest resources throughout the country. The most well known and successful among these is non-violent Gandhian movement called the Chipko (hug the tree) movement. Beginning in the early seventies in the Garkwal region of Uttar Pradesh, the methodology and philosophy of Chipko has now spread to Himachal in the north, Karnataka in the south, Rajasthan in the west and Bihar in the east. Chipko as a national campaign for forest conservation is a response to the multidimensional conflicts over forest resources at the scientific, technical, ecological and economic levels.

The arrival of the British and their exploitation of India's forest resources marked a new phase in the use of forest produce in ludia. The British were hardpressed for hardwood since their own oak forests were destroyed and rendered unproductive in the second half of the eighteenth century through unscientific management. Stebbing has recorded the situation in India after the arrival of the British:

The new Administration possessed no knowledge of tropical forestry, nor, indeed, of European forestry, since British forestry had almost ceased to be understood as a commercial enterprise in Great Britain. With the realization of the value of teak the British Admiralty were soon engaged in enquiries with the object of replacing (local) oak timber by teak from India for use in the construction of the Fleet. For the supplies of first class oak timber were falling short in England owing to the cessation of the planting, which had fallen off to a great extent early in the later part of the eighteenth century

In 1805 a despatch was received from the court of Directors enquiring to what extent the King's navy might, in view of the growing shortage of oak in England, depend on a permanent supply of teak timber from Malabar. This despatch led to the immediate formation of a forest committee charged with a comprehensive programme of enquiry both into the capacity of the forests themselves,` and the status of proprietary rights on them. Thus the first real interest expressed in the forests of India and the subsequent study of those accessible at the time originated from England, and the reason was the same which had kept forestry in the forefront in England for a period of three centuries-the safety of the empire, which depended upon its 'wooden walls'. The planting of oak owing to the supineness of successive governments had fallen into abeyance for nearly a century, and the country was faced with a shortage in timber supplies which, in view of the bid of the French for sea supremacy, might well spell the doom of England. When the British started exploiting Indian timber for military purposes, they did it rapaciously, because the great continent appeared to hold inexhaustible tracts covered with dense jungles, but there was no apparent necessity for their detailed exploration even had this been a possibility. In the early years of our occupation the botany of the forests, the species of trees they contained and their respective values was an unopened book.

As far as the government and its officials were concerned, the important role played by forests in nature and the tremendous influence they had on the physical well-being of a country went unnoticed, neither were they able to appreciate their importance to the people nor their revenue producing potential. In view of the tremendous forest wealth that existed, for some years the government obtained its full requirements without any difficulty and the people also managed to get all they wanted. The early administrators appear to have been convinced that this state of affairs could continue for an unlimited period of time; and that in many localities forests were an obstruction to agriculture and, therefore, a limiting factor to the prosperity of the country. The overall policy was to expand agriculture and the watchword of the time was to destroy forests with this end in view.

The requirement of the military for Indian teak led to an immediate proclamation declaring that the royalty right in teak trees claimed by the former government in the south of the continent was vested in the East India Company. Under increased pressure from the Home government to ensure the maintenance of the future strength of the King's navy, the decision was taken to appoint a special officer to superintend the forest work; someone who was conversant with the language and habits of the people in addition to having a knowledge of forests. His duties were to preserve and improve the production of teak and other timber suitable for shipbuilding. A police officer, Captain Watson was appointed the first Conservator of Forests in India on 10 November 1806 Under the proclamation of April 1807, he wielded great powers, which unfortunately were somewhat vague in both scope and in the extent of interference he was permitted in the established order.

Forest Conflicts in the Himalaya

In the Garhwal Himalayas. an Englishman, Mr. Wilson' obtained a lease in 1850 to exploit all the forests of the Bhagirathi Valley for a low annual rental of Rs. 400. Under his axe several valuable Deodar and Chir forests were clear felled and completely destroyed." In 1864 inspired by Mr. Wilson's flourishing timber bussiness the British rulers of the Northwestern provinces obtained a lease for twenty years and engaged Wilson to exploit these forests for them. European settlements, such as Mussoorie, created new pressures for the cultivation of food crops, leading to largescale felling of oak forests. The conservation of forests was not considered. In his report on the forests of the state, E.A. Courthope; IFS, remarked: 'It seems possible that it was not mainly with the idea of preserving the forests that government entered into this contract'.'' Inspired by the economic success of Mr. Wilson and the government, in 1895 the Tehri state took over the management of forests. Between 1897 and 1899 forest areas were reserved and restrictions were imposed on village use. These restrictions were resented and completely disregarded by the villagers, and led to incidents of organised resistance against the authorities.'' On 31 March 1905 a Durbar Circular (No. 11) from the Tehri King announced modifications to these restrictions in response to the resistance.

These modifications, however, failed to diffuse the tension. Struggles took place throughout the kingdom, but the most significant one occurred in 1907 when a forest officer, Sadanand Gairola, was manhandled in Khandogi. When King Kirti Shah heard about the revolt he rushed to the spot to pacify the citizen

The Doon Valley in the Garhwal Himalayas is an example of how colonial forest policy eroded the traditional management systems for forest use for basic needs and made commercial forestry the dominant pattern of use.

Earlier settlements of Dehradun were located in the slopes of the Himalayan belt and the triangular plateau in the valley defined by the rivers Tons and Rispana. These settlements were of the agro-pastoral type and their requirements of forest resources were non-commercial in nature-fodder, fuel, structural timber for housing and agricultural implements. The exploitation of forests for the satisfaction of these needs was controlled by the social organization of these villages. Clusters of several villages were called taluks. Each village was the property of a community of cultivating owners, managed by a headman or sayana who, as representative of the community, held his village in subordination to the sayana of the whole taluk. The bond that held together the villages in a taluk was the community ownership and management of grazing and forest lands. The forests used by villages were traditionally under the ownership and management of an entire community and not of a private individual. It had also been re ported in a letter to the Secretary of the Board of Revenue, which states that forests and wastelands: could not consistently with the principles of the Hindu law and the customs of the country belong to any individual and must ascertain to the state as public property.... By Hindu law a piece of land, sufficient for the pasturage of cattle was directed to be left uncultivated around each town or village, between it and the fields under cultivation.'

Besides the social control built into the management of forests as commons, people also had their indigenous conservation strategies. As Pant reports, in the hill regions

A natural system of conservancy was in vogue, almost every hill top is dedicated to some local deity and the trees on or about the spot are regarded with great respect so that nobody dare touch them. There is also a general impression among the people that every one cutting a tree should plant another in its place

That this system of management of resource: ensured the sustainable utilization of forests is reflected by the fact that while this tenure system continued. village forests around taluks like Dwara and Malkot were in a very good condition as reported in accounts of the last century. The sustainable utilization of forests near the villages ensured their health and limited the exploitation of forests in the rest of the valley, which remained virgin till the British entry in 1914.

The British rule introduced drastic changes in the pattern of forest produce utilization. First, a new pressure was put on the virgin sal forests by linking them with far-reaching commercial demands outside the valley. Second, the British administration changed the ancient tenure pattern, overtly and covertly, by introducing the zamindari system which destroyed the community organization. Third, the large-scale colonization of the valley through liberal land grants to Europeans converted large forest tracts into agricultural or plantation areas. The use of virgin forests as mines for sal (Shorea Robusta), sissoo (Dalbergia Sissoo) and tun (Tuna Siliata) timber under the free felling system led to rapid and severe degradation. The free felling system allowed uncontrolled extraction of timber in exchange for revenues on the produce. As William writes in his memoirs:

Reckless waste was inevitable and the fine sal forests began to disappear rapidly. The absence of conservancy was absolute. The district still abounded in fine trees 100 to 200 years old and upwards. All these fell before the axe. And probably the rest would have gone with them had the roads been a little better. The consequences of this bad system are most perceptible in Western Dun.

Initially, the forests were leased against fixed revenues to individuals who farmed the dues from the actual extractors. For the period 1819-21 the average revenue for Dehradun was Rs. 4,000. In 1839 the forests were leased for Rs. 6,500 a year. However, when Mr. Vansitartt, the Superintendent of Dehradun, discovered that the actual amount collected was Rs. 80,000 a year, he discontinued the lease and took charge of the collection. Subsequently, the Forest Department was established in 1855. As the 1911 Gazetteer reports:

The forest department instituted in 1855 concentrated its energies on the collection of revenue without making any attempt at systematic conservancy. It was in fact nothing but a forest revenue collecting agency. The effect of this neglect became apparent in 1867 when the revenue reached the low figure of Rs 23.333.

The new inequalities imposed on the region by the British administration through the introduction of the zamindari system became a source of degradation of village forests, which under community control had been maintained on a sustainable basis. In this process village forests were declared to be the property of zamindars of the villages to which they appertained. These zamindars, as new centres of economic and political power, completely destroyed the community organization its control over village forests. Thus, 'in Malkot iliqua (region) containing 31 villages the cultivating proprietors had lost their power.... a disability due to the aggression of the superior sayana, Surjan Negi, a man of capital and influence'. Surjan Negi's capital and influence was, in turn, derived from the fact that in 1822 forests in the valley were farmed to him. This economic power of a contractor coupled with the power of a zamindar completely destroyed the role and responsibility of the sayanas in the management of common resources for common use. As the control of the community was substituted by the control of the zamindars, the zamindars were only 'too anxious to make money as fast as possible out of their new acquisitions. In pursuance of this policy they prohibited the tenants from grazing and cutting wood in the village forests and sold the latter-to charcoal burners who completely denuded the hillsides'.

To encourage colonization of the valley, in 1838 the British government offered grants on very liberal terms to Europeans. The Gazetteer of 1911 records that: the grantees were bound to clear the whole of their grants within 20 years with the exception of the irremediably barren land. The land was to be subject to a progressive rental until the tenth year when it reached its maximum of 12 annas with which may be compared the universal rate of 14 annas proposed by Maj Young in his settlements

These grants covered large areas with the original nine grants amounting to nearly 200 sq km. The best sites among these had been appropriated by the officers of the district or persons associated with them. The extent of clear felling of forests through a single administrative decision was the most significant factor contributing to the depletion of forest cover in the Doon Valley. This deforestation altered the face of the valley and reduced the stability of the river banks. Indicating this impact the Gazetteer of 1911 reported that 'near Debra Dun the scenery has been somewhat spoilt by the rapid spread of cultivation and the cutting down of the sal trees that used to lie in the high banks of the numerous ravines in the neighborhood'.

Large-scale clear felling of forests for agricultural land use was a typical colonial phenomenon which was the outcome of the colonial view of agricultural surplus as an important source of revenue. As the eighth settlement report admitted:

Perhaps no mistake was more common in the early days of British rule than to suppose that the extension of the cultivation wherever culturable land could be found and the clearing of forest and jungle to extend cultivation, must necessarily benefit the country and the government, and should be encouraged and pushed as much as possible. It is now fully recognised that every country requires to have a certain proportion of its area under forests, and that in a tropical country like India, where the heat is so intense, and the very existence and well being of the people depend on a regular and sufficient rainfall, this proportion should be even larger than in European countries.

These ecological considerations were not, however, the central objectives of the reservation of forests through the notification of the Forest Act of 1878. The reservation of forests was guided largely by the fact that: 'Forests in themselves constituted a property of great value and might be made to yield an annual revenue equally with cultivation'.

The reserved forests managed by the forest department continued to be guided by the objective of revenue maximization through commercial exploitation of forests. The only difference between the earlier free felling system and the present system of scientific management through the working plans was that the same objective was achieved in a more systematic and regular manner. This conservancy was thus made an equivalent to maintaining revenues. Neither ecological considerations nor considerations of the basic needs of villagers were an intrinsic part of this scientific management. Forest reservation denied the local people access to the free use of forests. Village forests which were not reserved were declared to be the property of zamindars to which they pertained. While villagers thus lost their traditional resource bases, their requirements were not systematically included in the management of reserved forests. According to the 1911 Gazetteer:

During the earlier years of conservancy the forest department denied that the villagers possessed any rights of any description. The government, however, called for a report from the superintendent Mr. H.G. Ross who took a very different view of the matter. He described the most extensive prescriptive 'right' in grazing as having existed from time immemorial and he produced much evidence in support of his contention. The forest department, however, preferred to call the grazing facilities enjoyed by the people 'privileges'.,.

When Mr. Ross's report became the basis of notification No. 702 of 1880, specifying the list of villages entitled to special grazing facilities, the forest department was successful in the battle of words, so that 'rights' were not admitted, but villages included in Mr. Ross's list were permitted to exercise certain privileges. A systematic management for satisfying the basic needs of the local population thus never became an intrinsic part of the management of reserved forests. The direction in which the systematic approach did evolve was largely in the area of quantifying growing stock to guide felling to ensure steady revenue returns.

Subsequent to notification No. 702 of 1880 based on Ross's report of the villagers' rights to forest produce, notification No. 889F of 1893 very clearly spelt out the management framework for meeting local needs of grazing, fodder, fuelwood. poles and thatching grass for housing. According to this notification, the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) was to prepare an annual list of forest areas which would be open to grazing. The list would specify which areas, in which block of the forest, would be open for grazing in that year. The grazing of cattle in the said reserve blocks was to he regulated in either of the following ways:

  1. By arrangement to a fixed settlement every three years based on an enumeration of cattle they desired to graze.
  2. By a yearly pass obtainable from tint. DFO.

On the basis of a list prepared in this manner the.DFO was to issue herdsmen badges specifying the number of permitted cattle, the names of villagers owning the cattle and the names of the herdsmen. Only those cattle under the charge of a herdsman and certified by the number on his badge were permitted to graze.

Village communities enjoying these grazing facilities: were also to be permitted to collect and remove headloads of fodder grass as well as fallen and dry fuel free of charge. Although operationalising this management scheme was the most important precondition for satisfying basic needs as well as protecting the reserved forests from degradation, they do not appear to have been enforced in the working plans.

Conflicts over forests emerged because colonial rule ignored the demands of nature's economy and the survival economy through indifference to the conservation and basic needs role of forestry, and developed forestry only along the one dimensional criterion of commercial/industrial requirements.

In the Kumaon region there is evidence that the needs of the empire and not of the local people led to rapid forest denudation. According to Atkinson's Gazetteer, the forests were denuded of good trees in all places. The destruction of trees of all species appears to have continued steadily and reached its climax between 1855 and 1861 when the demands of the Railway authorities induced numerous speculators to enter into contracts for sleepers, and these men were allowed, unchecked, to cut down old trees far in excess of what they could possibly export, so that for some years after the regular forest operations commenced, the department was chiefly busy cutting up and bringing to the depot the timber left behind by the contractors.

While the local people were denied their traditional rights to forest resources, and while the colonial forest policy became a 'policy for deforestation', the local people were often blamed for the devastation of forests. As Pant observes:

The.tale about the denudation of forests by the hillman was repeated ad nauseum in season and out of season by those in power so much so that it came to be regarded as an article of faith.... By way of vindication of the forest policy it is claimed by its advocates that in the pre-British days the people had neither any rights in the soil nor in the forests.

The violation of people's ancient rights to forest resources through the colonial forest policy led to popular opposition to the forest policy. Their resentment was first manifested in 1906 in the state of Tehri Garhwal. On 27 December 1906, the forest surrounding the Chandrabadin temple about 14 miles from Tehri town was earmarked for reservation. The next day 200 villagers gathered to protest against state interference in their forests over which they claimed full and extensive rights.

In 1907, a mass meeting was held in Almora to protest against the forest policy which authorised the government to declare all forests and 'wastelands' ('benap'or unmeasured land) as reserved forests. As people's agitation increased because they were unable to get a response, they set fire to government forests and resin depots in 1916. The Kumaon Association was also established in that year to look into the forest problems of Kumaon, with G.B. Pant as its general secretary. Increasing people's protests forced the government to set up a 'Forest Grievances Corranittee' to enquire into forest protests in Kumaon and Garhwal. Though the committee reclassified forests to pacify the villagers, yet people's rights were not protected. As Pant concluded in The Forest Problem in Kumaon,

The policy of the Forest Department can be summed up in two words, namely, encroachment and exploitation. The Government has gone on pushing forward, extending its own sphere and scope and simultaneously narrowing down the orbit of the rights of the people.... The memory of the 'San assi' boundaries (1880 predemarcation) is green and fresh in the mind of every villager and he cherishes it with a feeling bordering on reverence; he is simply unable to see his way to accepting the claim of the Government to the benap lands comprised within his village boundaries and regards every advance in that line as nothing short of encroachment and intrusion. Let the san assi boundaries be vested with their real character instead of being looked upon as merely nominal, and, to remove misgivings, let the areas enclosed within these boundaries be declared as the property of the villagers and all the benap lands included within these areas be restored to the village community, subject to such conditions to impartibility, etc., as may be desirable in the public interest. It is a matter of common knowledge that a large number of memorials were sent by the villagers at their own instance, about the year 1906, asking the Government to restore the areas within the san assi boundaries to them: the unsophisticated villager spontaneously reiterates the same demand today. This is the minimum demand of the people and there seems to be no other rational and final solution. The simple fact should not be forgotten that man is more precious in this earth than everything else, the forests not excepted, and, also, that coercion is no substitute for reason, and, however stringent and rigid the laws may be, the forests cannot be preserved in the midst of seething discontent against the unanimous wishes and sentiments of the people.... The collective intelligence of a people cannot be treated with contempt, and even if it be erratic, it can come round only by being allowed an opportunity of realising its mistake. If the village areas are restored to the villagers, the causes of conflict and antagonism between the forest policy and the villagers will take the place of the present distrust, and the villager will begin to protect the forests even if such protection involves some sacrifice or physical discomfort.

The contradictions between people's basic needs and the state's revenue requirements, however, remained unresolved, and in due course these contradictions intensified. In 1930 the people of Garhwal launched the non cooperation movement to draw attention to the issue of forest resources. Forest satyagrahas to resist the new oppressive forest laws were most intense in the Rawain region The King of Tehri was in Europe at that time. In his absence, Dewan Chakradhar Jayal resorted to armed intervention to crush a peaceful satyagraha at Tilari. A large number of unarmed satyagrahis were killed and wounded, while others lost their lives in a desperate attempt to cross the rapids of the Yamuna river. Years later, the martyrs of the Tilari massacre provided inspiration for the Chipko movement when people pledged themselves to protect their forests.


4 The chipko movement

The chipko movement is historically, philosophically and organi sationally an extension of the traditional Gandhian satyagraha. Its special significance lies in the fact that it took place in post independent India. The continuity between the pre-independence and post-independence forms of this satyagraha has beer provided by Gandhians, including Sri Dev Suman, Mira Behn and Sarala Behn. Sri Dev Suman was initiated into Gandhian satyagraha at the time of the Salt Satyagraha. He died as a martyr for the cause of the Garhwali people's right to survive with dignity and freedom. Both Mira Behn and Sarala Behn were close associates of Gandhiji. They settled in the interior of the Himalayas and established ashrams. Sarala Behn settled in Kumaon, and Mira Behn lived in Garhwal till the time she left for Vienna due to ill health. Equipped with the Gandhian world view of development based on justice and ecological stability, they contributed silently to the growth of women power and ecological conscciousness in the hill areas o Uttar Pradesh. The influence of these two European disciples of Gandhiji on the heritage of struggle for social justice and ecological stability in the hills of Uttar Pradesh has been immense and they generated a new brand of Gandhian activists who provided the foundation for the Chipko movement. Sundarlal Bahuguna is prominent among the new generation of workers deeply inspired by these Gandhians. Influenced by Sri Dev Suman, he joined the independence movement at the age of 13. Later, he worked with Mira Behn in Bhilangana Valley and was trained in her ecological vision. In an article written in 1952, Mira Behn had stated that there was 'Something Wrong in the Himalaya.

Year after year the floods in the North of India seem to be getting worse, and this year they have been absolutely devastating. This means that there is something radically wrong in the Himalayas, and that 'something' is, without doubt, connected with the forests. It is not, I believe, just a matter of deforestation as some people think, but largely a matter of change of species.

Living in the Himalayas as I have been continuously now for several years, I have become painfully aware of a vital change in species of trees which is creeping up and up the southern slopes-those very slopes which let down the flood waters on to the plains below. This deadly changeover is from Banj (Himalayan Oak) to Chir pine. It is going on at an alarming speed, and because it is not a matter of deforestation, but of change from one kind of forest to another, it is not taken sufficiently seriously. In fact the quasi-commercial Forest Department is inclined to shut its eyes to the phenomenon, because the Banj brings them in no cash for the coffers, whereas the Chir pine is very profitable, yielding as it does both timber and resins

Mira Behn had thus identified not merely deforestation but change in species suitable to commercial forestry as the reason for ecological degradation in the Himalayas. She recognised that the leaf litter of oak forests was the primary mechanism for water conservation in the Himalayan mountain watersheds.

The Banj leaves, falling as they do, year by year, create a rich black mould in which develops a thick tangled mass of undergrowth (bushes, creepers, and grasses), which in their turn add to the leaf-mould deposit and the final result is a forest in which almost all the rain water becomes absorbed. Some of it evaporates back into the air and the rest percolates slowly down, to the lower altitudes, giving out here and there beautiful sweet and cool springs. It would be difficult to imagine a more ideal shock absorber for the monsoon rains than a Banj forest.

The Chir pine produces just the opposite effect. It creates with its pine needles a smooth, dry carpet, which absorbs nothing and which at the same time prevents the development of any undergrowth worth the name. In fact, often the ground in a Chir pine forest is as bare as a desert. When the torrential rains of the monsoon beat down on these southern slopes of the Himalayas, much of the pine-needle carpet gets washed away with the water and erosion invariably takes place, because these needles, being non-absorbent, create no leaf-mould, but only a little very inferior soil, which is easily washed out from the rocks and stones.

Inheriting these early lessons in ecology, Bahuguna was later able to transfer this ecological perspective to Chipko. The rapid spread of resistance in the hills of Uttar Pradesh and its success in enforcing changes in forest management was also largely due to the awareness created by folk poets like Ghanshyam Raturi, and grassroots organisational efforts of a number of people including Man Singh Rawat, Chandi Prasad Bhatt and Dhoom Singh Negi. Bhatt, who later became well known for his work, became an activist at the behest of Bahuguna in 1959 when they met at a bus station in Gopeshwar where Bhatt was working as a booking clerk and Bahuguna, along with Rawat and Raturi, was waiting for a bus during an organisational trip through Gopeshwar. Having found Bhatt a promising activist, Bahuguna invited him to join them.

The Chipko movement is the contemporary expression of a continuing heritage of peaceful resistance by the people of Uttarakhand. In the post-independence period, under the coordination of Sarala Behn, the Gandhians organised themselves into the Uttarakhand Sarvodaya Mandal in 1961. The Sarvodaya movement in the sixties was organised around four major issues:

  1. The organisation of women.
  2. Fight against alcohol consumption.
  3. Fight for forest rights.
  4. The establishment of local, forest based small industries.

While the fight against alcohol consumption provided the platform for the organisation of women, the increasing conflict over forest produce between the local and non-local industries provided the rallying point for popular protest during the sixties. In 1968 the people of Garhwal renewed their resolve to fight for their forests in a memorial meeting held at Tilari on 30 May.

The platform for the organisation of women was thus ready by the seventies and this decade saw the beginning of more frequent and more vocal popular protests on the rights of the people to protect and utilise local forests. In 1971 Swami Chidanandji of Rishikesh undertook a month-long march to bless the people in their struggle. The year 1972 witnessed the most widespread organised protests against commercial exploitation of Himalayan forests by outside contractors in Uttarkashi on 12 December, and in Gopeshwar on 15 December. It was during these two protest meetings that Raturi composed his famous poem describing the method of embracing the trees to save them from felling:

Embrace the trees and
Save them from being felled;
The property of our hills,
Save them from being looted.

While the concept of saving trees from felling by embracing them is old in Indian culture, as was the case of Bishnois, in the context of the current phase of the movement for forest rights in Uttarakhand this popular poem written in 1972 is the earliest source of the now famous name 'Chipko'. In 1973 the tempo of the movement in the two centres-Uttarkashi and Gopeshwar-reached new heights. Raturi and Bhatt were the main organisers in these two places. While a meeting of the Sarvodaya Mandal was in progress in Gopeshwar in April 1973, the first popular action to chase contractors away erupted spontaneously in the region, when the villagers demonstrated against the felling of ash trees in Mandal forest. Bahuguna immediately asked his colleagues to proceed on a foot march in Chamoli district following the axemen and encouraging people to oppose them wherever they went. Later in December 1973, there was a militant non-violent demonstration in Uttarkashi in which thousands of people participated. In March 1974, twenty-seven women under the leadership of Goura Devi saved a large number of trees from a contractor's axe in Reni. Following this, the government was forced to abolish the private contract system of felling and in 1975 the Uttar Pradesh Forest Corporation was set up to perform this function. This was the first major achievement of the movement and marks the end of a phase in itself.

Bureaucratisation, however, cannot replace a civilisational response to the forest crisis. The ecological limits of forest extraction was hardly recognised and estimated. Ecological problems were accentuated leading to increased suffering of women who were responsible for bringing water, collecting fodder, etc. During the next five years Chipko resistance for forest protection spread to various parts of the Garhwal Himalayas. It is important to note that it was no longer the old demand for a supply of forest products for local small industries but the new demand for ecological control on forest resource extraction to ensure a supply of water and fodder that was being aired. In May 1977 Chipko activists in Henwal Valley organised themselves for future action. In June of the same year, Sarala Behn organised a meeting of all the activists in the hill areas of Uttar Pradesh which further strengthened the movement and consolidated the resistance to commercial fellings as well as excessive tapping of resin from the Chir pine trees. In Gotars forests in the Tehri range the forest ranger was transferred because of his inability to curb illegal over-tapping of resin. Consciousness was so high that in the Jogidanda area of the Saklana range, the public sector corporation, Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam, was asked to regulate its resin-tapping activity.

Among the numerous instances of Chipko's successes throughout the Garhwal Himalayas in the years to follow, are those in Adwani, Amarsar and Badiyargarh. The auction of Adwani forests took place in October 1977 in Narendernagar, the district headquarters. Bahuguna undertook a fast against the auction and appealed to the forest contractors as well as the district authorities to refrain from auctioning the forests. The auction was undertaken despite the expression of popular discontent. In the first week of December 1977, the Adwani forests were scheduled to be felled. Large groups of women led by Bachhni Devi came forward to save the forests. Interestingly, Bachhni Devi was the wife of the local village head, who was himself a contractor. Chicks activist Dhoom Singh Negi supported the women s struggle by undertaking a fast in the forest itself. Women tied sacred threads to the trees as a symbol of a vow of protection. Between 13 and 20 December a large number of women from fifteen villages guarded the forests while discourses on the role of forests in Indian life from ancient texts continued non-stop. It was here in Adwani that the ecological slogan: 'What do the forests bear? Soil, water and pure air' was born.

The axemen withdrew only to return on 1 February 1978 with two truckloads of armed police. The plan was to encircle the forests with the help of the police in order to keep the people away during the felling operation. Even before the police could reach the area volunteers of the movement entered the forests and explained their case to the forest labourers who had been brought in from distant places. By the time the contractors arrived with the police each tree was being guarded by three volunteers who embraced the trees. The police, having been defeated in their own plan and seeing the level of awareness among the people, hastily withdrew before nightfall.

In March 1978 a new auction was planned in Narendranagar. A large popular demonstration was organised against it and the police arrested twenty-three Chipko volunteers, including women. In December 1978 a massive felling programme was planned by the public sector Uttar Pradesh Forest Development Corporation in the Badiyargarh region. 'the local people instantly informed Bahuguna who started a fast unto death at the felling site, on 9 January 1979. On the eleventh day of his fast Bahuguna was arrested in the middle of the night. This act only served to further strengthen the commitment of the people. Folk poet Ghanashyam Raturi and priest Khima Shastri led the movement as thousands of men and women from the neighbouring villages joined them in the Badiyargarh forests. The people remained in the forests and guarded the trees for eleven days, when the contractors finally withdrew. Bahuguna was released from jail on 31 January 1979.

The cumulative impact of the sustained grassroots struggles to protect forests was a re-thinking of the forest management strategy in the hill areas. The Chipko demand for the declaration of the Himalayan forests as protection forests instead of production forests for commercial exploitation was recognised at the highest policy-making level.The late Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, after a meeting with Bahuguna, recommended a fifteen year ban on commercial green felling in the Himalayan forests of Uttar Pradesh.

The moratorium on green felling gave the Chipko movement breathing time to expand the base of the movement and Bahuguna undertook a 4,780 km long arduous Chipko foot march from Kashmir to Kohima to contact villagers in the long Himalayan range and to spread the message of Chipko. At the same time, activists found it opportune to spread the movement to other mountain regions of the country.

Ecological Foundation of the Chipho Movement

Both the earlier forest satyagrahas and their contemporary form, the chipko movement, are rooted in conflicts over forest resources and are similar cultural responses to forest destruction. What differentiates Chipko from the earlier struggles is its ecological basis. The new concern to save and protect forests through Chipko satyagraha did not arise from a resentment against further encroachment on people's access to forest resources. It was a response to the alarming signals of rapid ecological destabilization in the hills. Villages that were once self-sufficient in food were forced to import food as a result of declining food productivity. This, in turn, was related to the decrease in soil fertility in the forests. Water sources began to dry up as forests disappeared. The so-called Natural disasters', such as floods and landslides, began to occur in river systems which had hitherto been stable. The Alaknanda disaster of July 1970 inundated 1,000 km of land in the hills and washed away many bridges and roads. In 1977 the Tawaghat tragedy took an even heavier toll. In 1978 the Bhagirathi blockade resulting from a big landslide above Uttarkashi led to massive floods across the entire Gangetic plains.

The over-exploitation of forest resources and the resulting threat to communities living in the forests have thus evolved from concerns for distribution of material benefits to concerns for distribution of ecologically generated material costs. During the first stage, the growth of commercial interests resulted in efforts to exclude competing demands. The beginning of large-scale commercial exploitation of India's forest resources led to the need for a forest legislation which denied village communities' access to forest resources. The forest satyagrahas of the thirties were an outcome of the Forest Act of 1927 which denied people access to biomass for survival while increasing biomass production for industrial and commercial growth. The growth imperative, however, drove production for commercial purposes into the second stage of conflict which is at the ecological level. Scientific and technical knowledge of forestry included in the existing model of forest management, is limited to viewing forests only as sources of commercial timber. This gives rise to prescriptions for forest management which are basically manipulations to maximise immediate growth of commercial wood. This is achieved initially by the destruction of other biomass forms that have lower commercial value but may be very important to the people, or have tremendous ecological significance. The silvicultural system of modern forestry includes prescriptions for the destruction of noncommercial biomass forms to ensure the increased production of commercial biomass forms. The encouragement to substitute ecologically valuable oak forests by commercially valuable conifers is an example of this shift. Ultimately, this increase in production may be described as mining of the ecological capital of forest ecosystems which have evolved over thousands of years.

The contemporary Chipko movement, which has become a national campaign, is the result of these multidimensional conflicts over forest resources at the scientific, technical, economic and ecological levels. It is not merely a conflict confined to local or non-local distribution of forest resources, such as timber and resin. The Chipko demand, at one stage was for a larger share for the local people in the immediate commercial benefits of an ecologically destructive pattern of forest resource exploitation. It has now evolved to the demand for ecological rehabilitation. Since the Chipko movement is based upon the perception of forests in their ecological context, it exposes the social and ecological costs of short-term growth-oriented forest management. This is clearly seen in the slogan of the Chipko movement which claims that the main products of the forests are not timber or resin, but soil, water and oxygen. With proper social control the basic biomass needs of food, fuel, fodder, small timber, and fertiliser can, in the Chipko vision and the Garhwal practice, be satisfied as positive externalities of biomass production primarily aimed at soil and water conservation to stabilise the local agro-pastoral economy.

The Chipko movement has been successful in forcing a fifteen year ban on commercial green felling in the hills of Uttar Pradesh, in stopping clear felling in the Western Ghats and the Vindhyas, and in generating pressure for a national forest policy which is more sensitive to people's needs and to the ecological development of the country. Unfortunately, the Chipko movement has often been presented by vested interests as a reflection of a conflict between 'development' and 'ecological concern', implying that 'development' relates to material and objective bases of life whereas 'ecology' is concerned with non-material and subjective factors, such as scenic beauty. The deliberate introduction of this false and dangerous dichotomy between 'development' and 'ecology' disguises the real dichotomy between ecologically sound development and unsustainable and ecologically destructive economic growth. The latter is always achieved through the destruction of life-support systems and material deprivation of marginal communities. Genuine development can only be based on ecological stability which ensures sustainable supplies of vital resources. Gandhi and later his disciples, Mira Behn and Sarala Behn, clearly described how and why development is not necessarily contradictory to ecological stability. The conflict between exploitative economic growth and ecological development implies that, by questioning the destructive process of growth, ecological movements like Chipko are not an obstacle to the process of providing material welfare. On the contrary, by constantly keeping ecological stability in focus, they provide the best guarantee for ensuring a stable material basis for life.

Paradigm Conflicts

In the final analysis, the dichotomy between 'development' and environment can be reduced to what is 'development' and how scientific knowledge is generated and used to achieve it. This dichotomy is clearly enunciated in the two slogans on the utility of the Himalayan forests-one emanating from the ecological concepts of Garhwali women, the other from the sectoral concepts of those associated with trade in forest products. When the Chipko movement evolved into an ecological movement in Adwani in 1977, the spirit of public interest ecological science was captured in the slogan: 'What do the forests bear? Soil water and pure air'. This was a response to the commonly accepted, partisan science based slogan: 'What do the forests bear? Profit on resin and timber'.

Figure 4.1 : The Evolution of the Chipko Mouvement -Part I

Figure 4.2 : The Evolution of the Chipko Mouvement -Part II

The insight in these slogans symbolised a cognitive shift in the evolution of Chipko. The movement underwent a qualitative transformation from being based merely on conflicts over resources to conflicts over scientific perceptions and philosophical approaches to nature. This transformation also led to that element of scientific knowledge which has allowed Chipko to reproduce itself in different ecological and cultural contexts. The slogan has become the scientific and philosophical message of the movement, and has laid the foundations of an alternative forestry science which is ecological in nature and oriented towards public interest. The commercial interest has the primary objective of maximising exchange value through the extraction of commercially valuable species. Forest ecosystems are therefore reduced to timber mines of commercially valuable species. 'Scientific forestry' in its present form is a reductionist system of knowledge which ignores the complex relationships within the forest community and between plant life and other resources like soil and water. Its pattern of resource utilisation is based on increasing 'productivity' on these reductionist lines. By ignoring the systems linkages within the forest ecosystem, this pattern of resource use generates instabilities in the ecosystem and leads to a counter-productive use of natural resources at the ecosystem level. The destruction of the forest ecosystem and the multiple functions of forest resources adversely affects the economic interests of those groups of society which depend on the diverse resource functions of forests for their survival. These include soil and water stabilization and the provision of food, fodder, fuel, fertiliser, etc. Forest movements like Chipko are simultaneously a critique of reductionist 'scientific' forestry and an articulation of a framework for an alternative forestry science which is ecological and can safeguard public interest. In this alternative forestry science, forest resources are not viewed as isolated from other resources of the ecosystem. Nor is the economic value of forests reduced to the commercial value of timber. 'Productivity', 'yield' and 'economic value' are defined for the integrated ecosystem and for multipurpose utilization. Their meaning and measure is therefore entirely different from the meaning and measure adopted in reductionist forestry. Just as in the shift from Newtonian to Einsteinian physics, the meaning of 'mass' changed from a velocity independent to a velocity dependent term, in the shift from reductionist forestry to ecological forestry, all scientific terms change from ecosystem independent to ecosystem dependent ones. Thus, for tribals and other forest communities a complex ecosystem is productive in terms of herbs, tubers, fibre, the gene pool, etc., whereas for the forester these components of the forest ecosystem are useless, unproductive and dispensable. Two economic perspectives lead to two notions of 'productivity' and 'value'. As far as overall productivity is concerned, the natural tropical forest is a highly productive ecosystem. Examining the forests of the humid tropics from the ecological perspective, Golley has noted: 'A large biomass is generally characteristic of tropical forests. The quantities of wood especially are large in tropical forests and average about 300 tons per ha compared with about 150 tons per ha for temperate forests. However, in partisan forestry, overall productivity is not important. It looks only for the industrially useful species and measures productivity in terms of industrial biomass. As Bethel states, referring to the large biomass typical of forests of the humid tropics,

It must be said that from a standpoint of industrial material supply, this is relatively unimportant. The important question is how much of this biomass represents trees and parts of trees of l preferred species that can be manufactured into products that can be profitably marketed.... By today's utilisation standards, most of the trees, in these humid tropical forests are, from an industrial materials standpoint, clearly weeds.

With these assumptions of partisan forestry science wedded to forest industry, large tracts of natural tropical forests are being destroyed across the Third World. Though the justification given is increased 'productivity' yet productivity increase is only in one dimension. There is an overall decrease in productivity. The substitution of natural forests in India by Eucalyptus plantations has been justified on the grounds of improving the productivity of the site. However. it has been a partisan view of productivity in the context of pulpwood alone that has been projected as a universally applicable measure of productivity. What has been termed the 'Eucalyptus controversy' is in reality a paradigmatic conflict between an ecological public interest forestry and a reductionist partisan forestry which only responds to industrial requirements. While natural forests and many indigenous tree species are more productive than Eucalyptus in the public interest paradigm, the opposite is true in the partisan paradigm of forestry. The scientific conflict is actually an economic conflict over which needs and whose needs are more important. In such paradigmatic conflicts, dominant scientific assumptions change not by consensus but by replacement. Which paradigm will win and become dominant is determined by the political strength backing the paradigms. The utilisation of natural resources, is part of planned development, has been classically guided in India by the concept of maximization of growth in the short run. This maximisation is based on increasing the productivity of labour alone. Gandhi critically articulated the fallacy of increasing labour productivity independent of the social and material context. Gandhi's followers in the Chipko movement continue to critically evaluate restricted notions of productivity. It is this concern with resources and human needs which is symbolised in Bahuguna's well-known slogan-'ecology is permanent economy'.

These conceptual issues assume tremendous importance in view of the fact that we are entering into an era in which large amounts of financial resources are being handed over to Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) who are rapidly becoming the new managers of old development projects. The self-reliance, decentralisation and sacrifice intrinsic to voluntary action is being threatened by treating NGOs as the new delivery system. It is in this context that the debate on these two philosophies of nature and political action becomes central to the debate on development. The urgency of establishing a new economy of permanence, based on ecological principles, is felt with each new environmental disaster in the Himalayan region which spells destruction for the Gangetic basin. Chipko's search for a strategy for survival has global implications. Chipko's demand is conservation of not merely local forest resources but the entire life-support system, and with it the option for human survival. Gandhi's mobilisation for a new society in which neither man nor nature is exploited and destroyed, marked the beginning of this civilisational response to the threat to human survival. Chipko's agenda includes carrying that vision against the heavier odds of contemporary crises. Its contemporary relevance as well as its significance for the future world, is clearly indicated in the rapid spread of the ecological world view throughout the vast stretch of the Himalayan region, following the historical 5,000 km trans-Himalaya Chipko foot march led by Bahuguna, and subsequently through other vulnerable mountain systems such as the Western Ghats, Central India and the Aravallis.

The history of Uttara Kannada has been the history of people's struggle against commercial forest policy. The destruction of tropical natural forests and the raising of monoculture plantations of teak and Eucalyptus caused irreversible changes in the forest ecosystem. The destruction of mixed species denied people access to biomass for fodder, fertiliser, etc. The clear felling of natural forests has led to severe soil erosion and drying up of perennial water resources. Moved by the destruction of essential ecological processes, the youth of Salkani village in Sirsi launched a Chipko movement which was locally known as 'Appiko Chaluvali'. They embraced the trees to be felled by contractors of the forest department. The protest within the forest continued for thirty eight days and finally the felling orders were withdrawn. The success of this agitation spread to other places and the movement has now been launched in eight areas covering the entire Sirsi forest division in Uttara Kannada and Shimoga districts. These areas included Mathghatta, Salkani, Balegadde, Husei, Nedgod, Kelgin Jaddi, Vanalli and Andagi, The rapid spread of the movement was based on evidence provided by villagers that the forest department was over-exploiting the forests. Villagers' complaints were later confirmed by official visits by scientists and politicians. In the forest of Kalase, with an area of 151.75 hectares earmarked for selection-cum-improvement felling for the year 198 3 84, a total of 590 trees above the girth limit of 2 metres was earmarked for felling. The Indian Plywood Mills had extracted a total of 125 trees belonging to eight species in the 1982-83 season. Thus a total of 715 trees spread over 151.75 hectares, or 4.05 trees per hectare were to be extracted. With an additional 5 per cent added for damage, the total number expected to be felled was 4.25 trees per hectare.

Representatives of the Lalkhminarasimba Yuvak Mandali who launched the Appiko movement in September 1983 maintained that (a) there was an excessive concentration of trees earmarked for felling in easily accessible areas, and (b) there was excessive damage to trees during the course of felling. In 1 hectare plot sampled it was found that eleven trees had been marked for cutting, out of which eight had been felled. In the process of felling these eight trees, as many as five trees had been damaged. This rapacious destruction of forest resources was undermining the ecological survival of local communities, who finally stopped felling through non-violent direct action- as seen in the case of Chipko.

The objective of the Appiko movement is three-fold. To protect the existing forest cover, to regenerate trees in denuded lands and, last but not least, to utilise forest wealth with due consideration to conservation. All these objectives are implemented through locally established Parisara Samrakshna Kendras (environmental conservation centres).

The Appiko movement has created awareness among villagers throughout the Western Ghats about the ecological destruction of their forest wealth. People now closely monitor the exploitation of forests by the forest department, and have been able to show the discrepancy between professed and actual practice of forest management. In December 1984, villagers of Gerasoppo range of Honavar forest division were able to record the felling practices and damage to forests due to timber exploitation. Their observations were as follows:

Forest Rule

  1. No tree will be felled on slopes and catchment areas of rivers (protection forests).
  2. In evergreen forest areas only two trees per acre will be felled.
  3. Minimum girth of trees felled should be 2.5 metres.
  4. The distance to be maintained from one tree to another tree to be felled should be 50 metros.
  5. Trees to be felled shall be lopped of their branches to reduce damage.
  6. No tree either dead, diseased or green should be felled near streams or the water line.
  7. Dragging of logs is not allowed.

Actual Practice

Trees are felled in catchment areas of Sharavati river (Honavar forest division on steep slopes).

In evergreen forest areas seven trees were felled in one acre (Marked). Two marked trees (Nos. 542 and 111) felled had a girth of 1.80 metres and 1.50 metres, respectively. Thirty seven trees, with a girth of over 50 ems, and thirty-two trees, with a girth of over 10 cms were damaged.

The distance from tree No. 75 to tree No. 90 which had to he felled was only 4.60 metros.

No lopping was done while felling trees.

Eight trees felled on an 80 degree slope, seven trees felled on a 75 degree slope, and ten trees were felled on the water line.

Dragging of logs was done extensively all over the place.

The top soil up to six inches was ripped off totally by dragging logs. This soil will be carried to the Sharavati river, raise its bed and the water level, and cause floods in an area which receives 250 inches of rainfall every year. Besides destabilising the catchment area, commercial exploitation has also deprived people of their use of forest biomass for basic needs. An 80-year old man, Rama Naik of Mattingadde village, narrated his experience. 'We had enough of medicinal trees. There was enough bamboo and cane for us. But after independence the felling of trees began and now everything is gone. There is no cane left. People's greed to make fast money has ruined us.'

In the context of this conflict between commercial demands and the demands for ecological stability and survival, the Appiko activists believe in the Chipko philosophy that The basic products of the forests in the Western Ghats are soil, water and pure air' which form the basis of life in the Deccan Plateau. They are not fuelwood and timber which are regarded as ultimate products from these forests in the market economy.

Table 4.1 History of Chipko (Appiko Chaluvali) Movement in South India

Date Details Purpose of
Local Problerns Type of Forest Distance from
Salkani (km)
8 September 1983 150 women and 30 women from
Salkani, Balegadde, Monondoor.
etc. walked five miles to Kalase-
Kudergod forest.They hugged trees and stopped the axemen. who were felling trees under the orders of the forest department.
For commercial
purposes, to ob-
tain timber.
The only patch
of forest left nearthese villages to obtain fuelwood
and fodder,
honey, etc.,—
forest invaded byepitorium weed.
Mixed tropical
Forest growth in
midst of big
8 Chipko spreads to South India.
Demand of people:otal ban on fellingof green trees.People ready tosacrifice their lives
22 September Forest officials and experts visit the area and spot.   People's senti-
meets ignored
Forest growth in
midst of big
Promise of people 's involvement in felling decisions          
29 September FeIling starts again in this forest.
The people launch the movement
and hug trees.
  People's support total. Laterite soil.    
14 Octomber
The tabourers of' forest contractors
leave the felling sites.
For timber. People are tri-
teals dependent
on the forest for
survival: dis-
appearance of
bamboo.Wild pigs destroy the crop. Drying up of water resources.
Mixed tropical
Hilly slopes.
Canopy opened.
40 Movement in
second place
began on its own!
16 Octomber
Movement started by people in
Bengaon forest It was launched by
the people spontaneously! Sixty
people most of them tribals hugged
the trees to save them.
18 Octomber 'The movement in Bengaon gains
momentum. 150 people gather to
support the movement.
        Very sparse
habitat and gathering of 150 people is a great achievement.
23 Octomber The movement begins in Husri
forest. 100 men and women join
hands and stop felling through
For timber. Deciduous forest.village. Deciduous forest. 36 Appiko initiates people to launch the movement.
III Chipko. For fuelwood
needs of Sirsi town.Clear felling to plant commercial species.
Monoculture of teak and eucalyptus has affect ted agricultural yield.Wild pigs haveincreased innumber.Fuelwoodshortage.Wood for agricultural implements no available.People arc
mostly labourers.
Mixed varieties.
Useful to farmers.
From Sirsi
6 km.
24 October DFO Range Officer visit the forest.
He asks people to abandon the
movement and allow felling.
People protect trees in front of him
by hugging them. They are least
affected by the DFO.
        People carry on Chipko in front of the DFO.
11 November The movement starts in Nidgod
(Siddapur taluk). 300 people parti-
cipate and stop felling.
Fuelwood for
Siddapur town.
The only patch of mixed forest left near the vilrage. Deciduous.
Laterite soil.
Slope more than 45°.
Movement spreads to adjacent taluk.
Initiative by Appiko organisers.
IV   Clear felling of
10 acres to plant monoculture.
Surrounded by eucalyptus plan-

Forest growth in stone.
12 November Kelagin Jaddi forest movement
launched (Siddapur taluk).
Plywood raw
Obtaining fuel-wood, green manure, fodder,etc., from this forest. Most deciduous.
Near slopes.
60 Movement
launched sponta
neously by thelocal people.
V The plywood company damaged 542
trees in the process of felling 51
marked trees.
    40 km from
25 November Movement started in Parsi forest.
300 people stop felling.
Industrial timber.
cover left.
Meagre forest Deciduous forest. 52 Spontaneous
Vl 30 km from Sirsi.  
11 December Movement launched in Bilgal forest.
201) people (100 women) stop
Clear felling to plans commercial
Fuelwood for Sirsi.
The only mixed forest left in the area. Deciduous 12
18 km from Sirsi.
The original seed of Chipko was
from this place.

5. Afforestation programmes and land use conflicts

Social forestry in Karnataka

Conventionae forest management strategies have proved inadequate in the task of protecting, regenerating the forest cover of the country and satisfying the people's basic needs for forest products. As a result, the situation is extremely disturbing in almost all parts of the country. The situation has now become desperate with the increasing diversion of available biomass to commercial channels, which takes this biomass immediately beyond the limited purchasing power of the rural poor.

Under this combined crises of unsatisfied basic needs and ecological destabilization of rural agro-ecosystems, the regeneration of forest cover outside the demarcated reserved forests has evolved as a new national programme called 'social forestry'. This programme has, as its primary aim, the development of local biomass resources for the satisfaction of the local people's biomass needs. Consequently, the programme envisaged large-scale tree planting on common lands and open government lands by village communities for the satisfaction of their own requirements.

The supply of fuelwood and fodder is an essential, not isolated, input to agriculture in India. The fuelwood crisis is not an isolated problem since it diverts agricultural waste and dung from its use as organic manure for fuel for cooking, thus sabotaging sustainable agricultural activity. It also undermines agricultural activity by diverting some 20 per cent of available manpower from productive farm work to fuelwood gathering. It is estimated that 18 per cent of the human labour devoted to domestic work is accounted by the collection of firewood. In several parts of India, two man-days of labour are spent per family, simply collecting enough firewood for the week.

In many parts of the country, tree fodder plays a very important role in keeping animals alive to provide draught power for agriculture and transport. In other parts of the country where indigenous varieties of high fodder producing crops are being replaced by 'high yielding' varieties, the fodder situation is becoming desperate. The nature of the fodder deficit in Karnataka is clearly highlighted in Table 5.1.

Table 5.1 Fodder Situation in Karnataka (1979)

Feed; Requirements Supply(million tows) Deficit or Surplus
Straw 190 130 - 60 mt
Green fodder 289 111 - 178 mt
Concentrates 40 11 -29 ml
Grazing 453 527 +74 mt

Source: Government of Karnataka, 1980 p. 9.

The third task to which social forestry is committed is the rebuilding of exhausted resources for rural housing needs. No viable alternative to timber (in material and economic teens) is available to the lowest income groups. Some attempts to introduce cheap and appropriate rural housing with new materials have been made. But the diffusion and transfer of these new technologies does not seem possible in the near future. The before. if the basic need of shelter is to be satisfied, dependence on forest resources for housing cannot be avoided.

Where social forestry differs most radically from past forestry programmes is in the recognition that the rebuilding of India's forest wealth cannot be undertaken without the participation of the local community. As Eckholm points out:

Community forestry cannot be imposed from above and carried out in the face of a hostile population. New forms of land use impinge upon, and are influenced by, the daily activities of everyone. When the local people are not active participants and supporters of a project, saplings have a way of disappearing overnight. With fodder usually as scarce as firewood, uncontrolled goats or cattle can quickly ruin a new plantation even when disgruntled peasants facing the alternative of a lengthy hike to collect fuel do not covertly cut the saplings themselves.... Community involvement, then, is not just an ideologically appealing goal; it is a practical necessity if rural forest needs are to be met.

Enthusiastic Support

According to the national commission of agriculture (government of india, 1976), the scope of social forestry should include 'farm forestry, extension forestry, reforestation in degraded forests and recreation forestry.' Farm forestry in particular was defined by the Commission as '(the) practice of forestry in all its aspects on farms or village lands, generally integrated with other farm operation.' The same policy was reiterated in the Recommendations of the Second Forestry Conference held in 1980. The Conference stated that:

Social forestry programmes should be given prime importance all over the country with the objective of growing trees on farmlands, community wastelands, road, canal and railway sides and any other land set aside for similar purposes, either singly or in groups, in strips or in blocks.

Thus, in theory, social forestry offers a programme for building forest stocks in two ways. First, it is expected to provide resources to satisfy the basic needs of the population through the creation and regeneration of tree wealth within human settlements. Second, by satisfying these needs locally, social forestry is seen as a mechanism for reducing pressures which are at present destroying the reserved forests. Above all, social forestry provides a means of reversing the earlier trend of converting forests into agricultural land and human settlements. In view of the availability of denuded civil forests and degraded village commons, the reverse phenomenon of generating new forests within human settlements through community participation is a promising one.

Attracted by this promise both the central and the state governments, as well as a host of voluntary groups, international aid agencies have focused attention on this programme. many of the voluntary activist groups this was a new support for a programme they were already engaged in, both formally and informally as an integral part of their routine activity. However, though these voluntary efforts, led by highly dedicated individuals imbued with the spirit of sacrifice and social uplift, were successful in the greening of small areas in almost all parts of the country, they were not quantitatively significant to become a national programme. Furthermore, the type of leadership that is needed was not easily available everywhere.

With the government taking up afforestation outside the demarcated areas, and with liberal international aid pouring in for the purpose, planting of trees became an official activity from a voluntary one. Social forestry projects with foreign assistance in various states of India are listed in Table 5.2. The formal and written objectives of such official programmes with international aid are laudable and promise a permanent solution to the fodder and fuel crisis of the average Indian villager.

(The purpose of social forestry) is the creation of forests for the benefit of the community through active involvement and the participation of the community. In the process, the rural environment will improve, rural migration will reduce, rural unemployment substantially cease... The overall concept of social forestry aims at making the villages self-sufficient and self-reliant in regard to their forest material needs."

Table 5.2 Social Forestry Projects with Foreign Assistance in 1981 (Rs. crores)

State Cost Estimate,
of Project
Uttar Pradesh 36.0 23.00 World Bank
Gujarat 60.8 29.6 World Bank
West Bengal 34.0 23.0 World Bank
Madhya Pradesh 40.0 20.0 USAID
Tamil Nadu 45.0 31.0 SIDA
Maharashtra 40.0 20.0 USAID
Orissa 22.5 To be worked out SIDA
Karnataka 60.0 To be worked out World Bank
Andhra Pradesh 56.0 To be worked out CIDA
Haryana 32.0 To be worked out World Bank
Jammu & Kashmir 24.0 To be worked out World Bank
Bihar 40.0 To be worked out SIDA
India 2000.0    
India 100.0    

Source: Himalaya Man and Nature, Special Issues on Forestry, 1981.

Disheartening Results for the Poor?

In the perspective of the hopes raised and enormous international finance available, how has social forestry fared so far? To what extent has it been able to involve society in raising trees on village commons? What contribution has it made to enhance the much needed biomass supply for the rural poor? Has it improved the ecology of agro-ecosystems? These are some of the many questions being raised about social forestry programmes.

While aid giving bodies differ from state to state and, accordingly, some finer adjustments are made in the programmes, the general characteristics of social forestry programmes are almost similar throughout the country. Social forestry programme in the State of Karnataka is possibly the most suitable case for such an analysis since the amount of systematic information on the programme is significant and is available for periods prior to the introduction of the World Bank aided official programme of social forestry. In particular, the district of Kolar in Karnataka, identified as a success district for the official social forestry programme, can be selected for an indepth impact assessment of social forestry.

Impact of Social Forestry in Kolar

The first systematic study of the impact of the official social forestry programme was undertaken by Shiva e' al. in 1981. Social forestry had been undertaken by the Karnataka Forest Department since 1975-76 much before the World Bank aided programme was launched. The official social forestry programme had gained considerable momentum by 1979-80, when the evaluation was undertaken. This is apparent from the growth of the project during that year:

Distribution of free seedlings 300 million
Plantations along roads 185 km
Plantations on land owned by public institutions 100 ha
Plantations along canal banks 20 km
Plantation on revenue lands 100 ha

In the entire range of various types of plantations in the social forestry programme, the programme of plantations on village commons is the one in which direct involvement of the village community is possible and the community can expect to receive benefits directly. In the case of plantations on private farm lands, though the benefits to the landowner are ensured, the community as a whole becomes redundant. In other types of plantations, due to various reasons like unclear modes of benefit sharing and geographical isolation from the village, the possibility of community participation is extremely low. As is seen from the above distribution, the most successful and predominant element of social forestry has been based on individual farmers planting seedlings which were distributed free of cost. Salient features of the study by Shiva and associates are presented here.

The response to the social forestry programme in Karnataka has been most significant in the districts of Kolar and Bangalore. This led to the selection of one of these districts, i.e., Kolar, for the study. Kolar was selected in preference to Bangalore to reduce the impact of the pressure of the metropolitan city of Bangalore. Within Kolar, one taluk, Bagepalli, was chosen to provide information on the land use pattern when the impact of urban centres like Bangalore could be expected to be marginal. The other three taluks chosen-Kolar, Bangarpet and Malur-were bordering the district of Bangalore and were expected to be partly affected by their proximity to Bangalore City. The location of these taluks in the district of Kolar is presented in Figure 5.1. Within these four taluks, villages wete randomly chosen-both remote and near the taluk headquarters, as well as those which were near metalled highways and those at a distance from them. The relative distance of the villages from the nearest town, usually the taluk headquarters, along with other relevant information is given in Tables 5.3 to 5.6 and locations are shown in Figures 5.2 to S.5. The households surveyed were randomly selected from all economic classes with the help of village accountants. The distribution of households in terms of family size and land holdings is presented in Tables 5.7 and 5.8.

Information from individual households was collected with the help of a questionnaire. The important information sought through the questionnaire was related to the socio-economic background of the household, landownership status, land use pattern, domestic energy consumption, future land use programrnes, etc. Besides the data collected through the questionnaire, oral historical information on the type of land use in the past few decades, types of species of trees people need, the relationship of the village organisation with the forest department, etc., was also collected. The fieldwork for the study was carried out between December 1980-February 1981. This information was used to analyse the impact of social forestry in more efficient land utilisation from the point of view of satisfying the basic requirements of the village communities for forest products and the increased stabilisation of the village ecology and life-support systems. The study made certain observations that led to a national debate on the social desirability of the official social forestry programmes as practiced in Kolar. It was observed that official funds were being used by the social forestry programme to transform the excess land belonging to big and absentee landlords into Eucalyptus plantations for pulp industries. Landless labour was most severely affected by this shift in land use from traditional rotation and intercropping to longterm ratoon cropping of Eucalyptus (mainly tereticornis). While the study was used by rural people and many voluntary organisations to revise the social forestry programme, the donor World Bank and the recipient State Forest Department found in the social forestry programme to transform the excess land belonging to big and absentee landlords into Eucalyptus plantations for pulp industries. Landless labour was most severely affected by this shift in land use from traditional rotation and intercropping to longterm ratoon cropping of Eucalyptus (mainly tereticornis). While the study was used by rural people and many voluntary organisations to revise the social forestry programme, the donor World Bank and the recipient State Forest Department found in the social forestry programme to transform the excess land belonging to big and absentee landlords into Eucalyptus plantations for pulp industries. Landless labour was most severely affected by this shift in land use from traditional rotation and intercropping to longterm ratoon cropping of Eucalyptus (mainly tereticornis). While the study was used by rural people and many voluntary organisations to revise the social forestry programme, the donor World Bank and the recipient State Forest Department found in the market forces. Thus, the World Bank aided social forestry programme had clearly nothing to do with society right from the start.

Figure 5.1 Karnataka and Kolar District

Figure 5.2 Malur Taluk

Figure 5.3 Baghepalh Taluk

Figure 5.4 Kolar Taluk

5.5 Baghepalh Taluk

Table - 5.5 Basic Information about the Sampled Villages Bagepalli Taluk

Total Population
Area for
to the
Tanda 1422 141 744 478 36
Natlacheruve 1006 98 526 273 22
Somanathpur 2678 235 1312 808 27
Sugnarampalli 3461 228 118 852 27
Pichalvarapalli 1 272 80 436 341 27
Yellampalli 3091 384 2082 1396 8

Table 5.4 Bask Information about the Samlped - Villages - Bangarpet

Total Population
Area for
to the
Balamande 3277 208 1263 916 19
Buchepalli 648 58 319 232 8
Gorvanahalli 217 11 79 206 4
Kadrenahalli 447 45 216 174 21
Nallur 445 82 522 248 14
Palmadgu 1526 187 746 438 22
Sunderpalya 683 242 1393 293 22

Table 5.5 Basic Information about the Sample Villages - Kolar Taluk

Total Population
Area for
to the
Abbani 964 128 348 205 13
Bennagur 1196 60 511 471 18
Chikkanahalli 547 65 237 103 10
Doddahasala 802 97 609 427 3
Doddahollibi 768 97 552 203 18
Modderi 1037 110 724 404 22
Mangasandra 1075 88 567 207 6
Muduvadi 1385 142 716 434 13
Seepur 791 149 763 418 5
Yelawara 1523 107 632 585 5

Table 5.6 Basic Information about the Sampled Villages Taluk

Total Total
Population Rainfed
Area for
to the
Arnigatta 472 48 339 453 10
Appiana Agrahara 254 52 270 165 16
Harimakinhalli 998 79 425 557 22
Jayamangala 690 157 784 350 11
Kadedanhalli 434 94 564 228 2
Kuraridahalli 411 43 244 289 3
Seethahalli 423 100 620 87 16
Thimmanakanahalli 253 18 81 156 14
Thippasandra 350 35 189 190 13
Yeshavantpura 803 191 1112 341 5
Pannamakanahalli 418 44 263 264 13

Table 5.7 Distribution of Family Size in the Four Taluks Studied

Number of Households in
Family Size Bagepalli Bangarpet Kolar Malur Total
0-3 13 7 15 14 49
4-5 23 33 35 36 127
6-8 23 63 59 75 220
9-10 8 19 19 26 72
11-12 9 9 14 20 52
13-14 2 2 5 8 17
15-20 6 11 24 13 54
>21 1 3 6 7 17
Total 85 147 177 199 608

The socio-economic critique of Shiva et al. was subsequently confirmed by official evaluations of the social forestry project by the Government of Karnataka (1984). This study observed that in the two 'success' districts, Kolar and Bangalore, agricultural households who have taken up farm forestry, have converted 44 per cent and 51 per cent of land respectively to plantations of either Eucalyptus or Casurina. In many cases the farmers have used almost all their landholdings for farm forestry. The results of the Government of Karnataka study are presented in Table 5.9.


6 Wasteland development and conflict over commons

The Colonial Concept of Wastelands

When the british established their rule in india, it was estimated that between one-third to one-half of the total area of Bengal Province alone was 'waste'. The colonial concept of wastelands was not an assessment of the biological productivity of land but of its revenue generating capacity. 'Wasteland' was land which did not yield any revenue because it was uncultivated. Such wastelands included the forest districts of Chittagong, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri,

Chota Nagpur and Assam, the vast trail of forest lands near the mouth and delta of the Hooghly and other rivers, known as Sunderban. These lands were taken over by the British government and leased to cultivators to turn them into revenue generating lands. In the Gangetic plains, 'wastelands' were allotted to an adjacent village, but in the dense forest regions of Dehradun,
Mirzapur, etc., the forest tracts were retained as 'Government Waste'. In Punjab, 200 per cent of the cultivated area of a village was categorised as village waste. These lands were maintained partly as forest and grazing lands and partly for the extension of cultivation. In the Raiyatwari areas of Bombay there were local forms of landholding, and local methods of cultivation which always involved a patch of wood and grass bearing land being attached to each cultivated landholding. In 1861, under the vice royalty of Lord Canning, wasteland rules were formulated. As Baden Powell records 'The value of state forests-to be made out of the best and most usefully situated wooded and grass lands-was not even recognised, and the occupation of the waste by capitalists and settlers was alone discussed. It was only after the late nineteenth century when forests also became a source of revenue that state forests were no longer called waste. Village forests and grazing lands however continued to be categorized as wastelands because they were not sources of revenue for the state, even though they were vital fuel and fodder resources for the agricultural economy.

The colonial category of 'wastelands' was thus a revenue category, not an ecological category. Colonial policy did, however, also create the ecological category on 'wasted lands' which had lost their biological productivity because of social and government action and inaction. These wasted lands lay in areas demarcated as reserved forests, those owned privately by individuals and used for agriculture, and common land's shared by communities for fuel and fodder supplies. The estimates of wasted lands in India are shown in Table 6.1.

As Baxi notes, 'development of wastelands or policies addressed to it do no more than reverse social and public policy and action which hail the result of wasting lands in earlier times.' However, this is not what the government wasteland development policy has turned out to be. This policy was given a boost in 1985 when the National Wasteland Development Board was set up. Wasteland development generated conflicts because it concentrated on the afforestation of the revenue category of wastelands (i.e., commons) and threatened the customary rights of villagers to use forest produce.

In a nation-wide study covering districts in dry tropical regions spread over seven states, Jodha observed that the most basic needs of fuel, fodder, etc. of the poor throughout India continue to be satisfied from common property resources or CPM's (Table 6.2).

A number of factors have led to the degradation of commons, in particular to the decay of community norms in maintaining these commons. The erosion of systems of social control in the process of modernization and development has led to Hardin's model of degradation of commons in most regions.

Table 6.1 Estimates of Wastelands in India (hectares in lakhs,)

States/UTs Saline and
Andhra Pradesh 2.40   74.42 76.82
Assam     9 35 9 35
Bihar 0.04   38.92 38.96
Gujarat 12.14 7.04 52.35 71.53
Haryana 5.26 15.99 2.76 24.01
Himachal Pradesh     14.24 14.24
Jammu & Kashmir     5.31 5.31
Karnataka 4.04   67.18 71.22
Kerala 0.16   10.37 10.53
Madhya Pradesh 2.42   127.05 129.47
Maharashtra 5.34   110.26 115.60
Manipur     0 14 0.14
Meghalaya     8.15 8.15
Nagaland     5.08 5.08
Orissa 4.04   27.53 31.57
Punjab 6.88   4.63 11.51
Rajasthan 7.28 106.23 66.59 180.10
Sikkim     1.31 1.31
Tamil Nadu 0.04   33.88 33.92
Tripura     1.08 1.08 utter
Pradesh 12.95   53.40 66.35
West Bengal 8.50   13.27 21.77
UTs 0.16   8.73 8.89
Total 71.65 129.26 736.00 936.91

Source: society for Promotion of Wasteland Development 1984.

Village commons have been a historical reality in India. Relics of village woodlots or roadside plantations can still be easily found. In the traditional village, private and unequal landholdings existed side by side with common and equally shared resources. Thus, while self-interest might guide a landlord's use of his own land, the use of common resources would even for the private landlord be guided by community norms.

This was possible for two reasons. The first is rooted in the nature of community organisation. A community is a social organisation based on commonly accepted norms and values which provide the organising principles and control mechanisms for its members. A shared resource can be managed conununally through the implicit acceptance on the part of all the members of the community of a commonly shared norm for the use of resources. Even while subscribing to one set of norms in the context of commonly owned resources, it is possible for members of a village to subscribe to individualistic, class dominated norms when it comes to privately owned resources.

Table 6.2 Indicators a, of rural households Dependence on CPRs


States (Study Districts Villages)

Andhra Pradesh Cujardat Karnataka Madhya Pradesh Maharashtra Rajasthan Tamil Nadu
Category of households poor Others2 Poor Others Poor Others Poor Others Poor Others Poor Others Poor Others
Number of households 65 41 . 84 62 64 33 98 72 102 64 72 64 48 23
Per cent households collecting CPR products
Food items 95 10 96 16 84 14 100 18 98 13 100 23 93 12
Fuel. fodder, fibre 99 15 100 19 100 18 100 11 100 16 100 28 100 17
Timber, silt. etc. 37 59 29 83 41 78 21 84 19 90 31 89 92 42
Per household average number of
CPR based activities' 4 2 5 2 5 3 6 3 3 2 5 2 4 3
CPR items collected 7 4 8 3 7 4 12 5 7 3 10 5 6 3

The second reason why commons could be maintained despite socio-economic inequalities was the self-sufficient nature of the traditional village economy. That self-sufficiency prevented individuals from undermining community action. Thus, for example, in a traditional coastal fishing village with its own socio-economic hierarchies, the exploitation of common resources (like fish in the ocean) was guided by rigid controls to which everyone was subjected. The exploitation of the poorer sections of the village took place on the shore when the catch was distributed on the basis of private ownership. However, the most powerful groups were prevented from over-exploiting the resources of the sea. Therein lies the primary reason why India's marine ecosystem was maintained over the centuries..

The conservation of village woodlots was guaranteed through similar mechanisms, until the simultaneous operation of individual and community obligations was rendered impossible through the opening up of the village economy to large urban and industrial markets. By and large, access to the bigger markets was, and still is, possible only for the most privileged members of the community, through easy access to educational bureaucratic and financial institutions. This initiated a process whereby the rich were no longer subject to traditional social norms and this in turn led to the breakdown of the community. In the case of marine resources, the introduction of mechanised trawlers (through international and local funding used mainly by the local rich), led to the violation of traditional community norms and influenced the manner in which marine resources were exploited. Similarly, the introduction of new agricultural techniques that were adopted only by the rich farmers, made the village elite less dependent on local resources (for example, chemical fertiliser in place of green manure). Under such circumstances, the participation of wealthy villagers in community efforts to maintain local resources was reduced, leading ultimately to the slow decay of those community norms which had previously governed the use of local resources.

A Tragedy of the Commons?

It is important to recognisethat competition has not always been a driving force in human societies. In large sections of rural societies of the Third World, the principle of cooperation rather than competition among individuals still dominates. Similarly, production for one's own consumption rather than for exchange has long been the predominant motive for production in subsistence economies. In a social organization based on cooperation among members and production based on need, the logic of gain is entirely different from that of societies based on competition and profits through exchange. The general logic underlying Garret Hardin's 'Tragedy of the Commons does not operate under such conditions. However, under certain circumstances where common lands cannot even support the basic needs of the population, a tragedy is to be expected even in the absence of competition.

There may, of course, be situations where undermining a community's resources does not ruin those responsible for the exploitation of those resources. Under these conditions, as Daniel Fife points out: 'The tragedy of the commons may appear to be occurring but in fact something quite different is really happening. The commons is being killed but someone is getting rich. The goose that lays golden eggs is being killed for profit.

That situation is all too possible in the business world. Responsible business ensures that it can continue to run indefinitely. But when a business adopts 'higher temporary profits' as its principal goal, its irresponsibility may lead to the destruction of its own resources. In such a situation, it 'pays for the businessman to kill his business'.

The survival of such community property as pastures and village woodlots, or 'common goods' like a stable ecosystem, is therefore only possible under a social organisation where checks and controls on the use of resources are built into the organising principles of the community. On the other hand, the breakdown of a community, with the associated erosion of concepts of joint ownership and responsibility, can trigger off the degradation of common resources. This was seen in forest ownership and land use.

Wasteland development programmes have, however, failed to address themselves to this tragedy of the erosion of social control and to the creation of institutional frameworks that enable communities to protect commons. Instead, the early projects proposed to the Wasteland Board focused on large-scale privatization of commons by industries for commercial plantations. These proposals included using wastelands to meet their cellulosic raw material requirement for pulp and paper and plywood, and production of vegetable oil and charcoal for industrial use.

Although most of the proposals from the private sector are still under consideration by various state governments, at least two states, Orissa and Karnataka, have leased wastelands to private companies for use. The Orissa government has granted a 'licence' to Straw Products Ltd. of the J.K. group to develop a plantation on state government owned non-forest lands and utilise the usufruct from the area.

In Karnataka, two projects involving Gwalior Rayon (Harihar Polyfibres) have been approved to produce pulpwood to meet the captive industrial requirements of the company. The first is a farm forestry project on 13,000 hectares and the other is a joint venture with the Karnataka government on 30,000 hectares. While the first project has run into problems because of the current regulations of banks and the government about granting financial assistance, the second project is facing the onslaught of agitations by public interest groups opposing the leasing of wastelands to private industry.

There are at least a dozen other such proposals for the captive use of wasteland under consideration of various state governments and awaiting their approval. If the recommendations of the Wastelands Board were to be accepted, the state governments would be swamped with requests for wastelands from the private sector.

The single largest proposal for leasing in wastelands has come from Pallas Associates Pvt. Ltd. of Maharashtra. The company, with its plans to set up a 1,200 tonnes per day capacity paper mill, is interested in leasing between 1.5 to 5 lakh hectares of wastelands for paper/pulpwood plantations in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.

In Maharashtra, three requests for using wastelands are pending with the state government-Shree Vindhya Paper Mills has submitted a request for 232 hectares of land for growing Mesta and Eucalyptus; Ion Exchange (India) is interested in about 180 hectares of wastelands in the Mahabaleshwar-Panchgani area; and

Pudumjee Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd. of Pune wants to lease between 500-1,000 acres of wastelands.

The state governments of Karnataka and Maharashtra are examining a proposal from the West Coast Paper Mills to cultivate two captive plantations of bamboo and Eucalyptus in the wastelands in Karnataka as well as in the adjacent areas of Maharashtra. While the first project would cover 16,000 hectares of wastelands belonging to the government with bamboo, Eucalyptus and subabul, the second aims at planting 4,000 hectares of Eucalyptus in private wastelands through farmers who own these lands. In Andhra Pradesh, a request from Bhadrachalam Paper Boards Ltd. for wastelands use is pending with the government.

In Tamil Nadu, New Ambadi Estates Pvt. Ltd. have submitted a proposal for setting up a 5,000 hectares joint sector wastelands project in the Pasumpon Muthuramalingam district. A proposal from Industrial Chemicals and Monomers Ltd. for leasing 1,000 hectares of wastelands under the ownership of temples in the districts of Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari and Ramanad is also under consideration of the Tamil Nadu government. The company wants to raise a plantation of prosopis juliflora for producing charcoal which can then be used to produce calcium carbide.

Tata Industries Ltd. are interested in jojoba plantations for oil extraction on the semi-arid lands of Kutch and Rajasthan using 'suitable biotechnology'. However, they have not as yet submitted a detailed project report to the state governments involved.

In Gujarat, a proposal has been submitted by Lauric Oilseeds Seedlings (India) Pvt. Ltd. of Bombay to set up salvadorea persica (Pilu) oilseeds plantations in areas facing acute problems of water availability and soil salinity. The project expects to cover 275 villages in eight taluks in the districts of Bhavnagar, Surendranagar, Ahmedabad and Kheda. It consists of 6,OOO hectares of captive plantation and 19,000 hectares of farm forestry.

The Madhya Pradesh government has set up a joint sector paper mill project covering 20,000 hectares of wastelands for meeting their captive requirements of raw material. So far they have applied for 13,000 hectares of degraded forest land but have yet to be allotted land. They plan a production of 40 tonnes per hectare on the basis of an eight-year cycle, with species like Eucalyptus, subabul and acacia nilotica.

In Haryana, Nuchem Plastics Ltd. have submitted a proposal for raising a 5,000 hectares plantation of Eucalyptus, poplar, subpart and kilrar in the waterlogged wastelands of Ambala district

In the face of a serious controversy over the conversion of food growing land to industrial wood fibre plantation in the state, the Government of Karnataka has launched a number of schemes of 'Wasteland Development' under its social forestry project which are in effect the conversion of 120,000 acres of village common lands to Eucalyptus plantations to feed a local rayon factory. 'Wastelands' are category 'C' and 'D' lands which were not a source of revenue for the state but were a source of fuel and fodder for the villages. The conversion of these village commons to feed stocks for the wood fibre industry is in direct conflict with the basic biomass needs of the local villages. The diversion of these village commons to industrial plantations through the project for 'Wasteland Development' has led to a major popular resistance movement for the protection of the commons called 'Mannu Rakshna Koota' or 'Movement for saving the soil'. Lands of 'C' and 'D' class which are categorized as wastelands are meant for fulfilling the basic needs of villagers in agriculture, animal husbandry etc. In Shimop and Chiklcamagalur areas, 'C' and 'D' class of lands are being transferred to the forest department with a view to planting Eucalyptus for a joint venture-the Kamatalta Pulpwood Ltd.- floated in November 1984 by the Kamatalra Forest Plantations Development Corporation and Harihar Polyfibres Ltd.

Were is a second proposal for transferring 'C' and 'D' class of lands to the forest department in an area within a radius of 10 km of Harihar Polyfibres, covering nearly 45,000 acres in Chitradurga, Bellary, Shirnoga, and Dharwad districts for growing Eucalyptus and selling it to Harihar Polyfibres Ltd. Here the land will be leased out to agricultural labourers on the condition that their yield be sold to Harihar Polyfibres at 'reasonable' rates.

These proposals of transferring 'C' and 'D' class of lands to the forest department, and growing Eucalyptus as well as supplying the pulpwood to Harihar Polyfibres are indications of dangerous trends in public policy, working against the interests of the people. The nexus of state and special interest power groups is working aginst ordinary citizens. As pasture lands, as minor forests, etc. 'C' and 'D' class of lands were categorized and provided for. The utitisation of these for monocultures of Eucalyptus for a single company has generated a severe conflict between the people and the state.

The experience of the forest department in growing Eucalyptus in the high rainfall area of Malnad districts like Uttar Kannada, Shimoga and Chickmagalur has been a disappointing as well as a controversial one. Therefore, the government took a decision not to grow Eucalyptus in areas with rainfall of 40 inches or more. But an exception has been made in the case of Mysore Paper Mills as well as Harihar Polylibres and the public and ecologists argue that the raising of this monocrop in the high rainfall area is totally unjustified.

Further utilization of 'C' and 'D' crass of lands in the dry zone and other areas will deprive the basic common facility enjoyed by the villages so far. Public interest is being sacrificed for promoting the interests of a private enterprise like Harihar Polyfibres whose record of industrial development has unfolded the trail of continuous pollution and its after-effects.

All this is a clear indication of the state as representative of special interest power groups and the consequent outcome of the mortgaging of people's resources now and in the future. The private interests of the Birlas are being served at the enormous cost of lives of people and cattle in the Tungabhadra region.

The people in affected villages have registered their protest by uprooting newly planted Eucalyptus seedlings from these 'wasteland' in large numbers. They have also undertaken a survey of the existing land use in 'C' and 'D' class lands. This shows that large parts of these lands are under natural evergreen or semi-green forests. Average tree population has been noted to be 50-200 per acre of diverse species. The cultivation of Eucalyptus in the village commons comprising these 'C' and 'D' class lands is perceived by the people as a programme for the creation of wastelands not a programme for their development.

The conflicting meanings of 'productivity' for conflicting interests in land use is well exemplified in the 'wasteland' category. For the state, with a primary interest in revenue, biologically productive land was iwaste'if it did not generate revenue. The state pursued a land use policy which converted productive lands into biological wastelands, a trend which continues even today as land use conflicts over wastelands in Karnataka show. For the local people 'productivity' is a material, an ecological category. 'Wastelands' are their wealth, supporting their agricultural economy. Attempts to change the vegetation and land use characteristics of these village commons are, in their perception an attempt to rob their land and its biological wealth. Conflicts are thus generated by wasteland development, emerging from conflicting views of waste and conflicting interests in land.

7 Conflicts over river waters

The relatedness of water availability in different parts of a basin, and the linkage between land use and water use entails that activities of one kind in one part of the river basin can negatively or positively influence other activities in different parts of the basin. The failure to perceive this interconnectedness in the planning of water utilisation has become a major source of conflict over water use in river basins.

Water allocation between conflicting demands for water have rarely taken full cognizance of the underlying conflicts and have therefore aggravated the problems of inequalities and maldistribution. The four major categories of use on which water planning is based are:

  1. Domestic.
  2. Agricultural.
  3. Industrial.
  4. Power generation.

Rarely have conflicts internal to each sector or between sectors been explicitly articulated in water development projects. On the contrary it has been assumed, for instance, that multi-purpose river valley projects that provide irrigation as well as generate hydro-power do not have conflicting uses. I However, the very location of these projects is primarily determined on the basis of either of these objectives and water releases are also determined by priorities for power or for irrigation. Other inter-sectoral conflicts include diversion of water for irrigation from drinking water, or for industry from agricultural and domestic use. Not only do diverse uses conflict with each other inter-sectorally, they can also conflict intra-sectorally on the basis of conflicting interests between the rich and powerful and the poor and marginal. The category 'domestic' as an undifferentiated one conceals the conflict between the poor rural peasants requiring a pot full of drinking water and the rich urban elite using large quantities of water for meeting the requirements of water-intensive sewage systems, space cooling, gardening, etc. Domestic requirements vary for different people and the high demands from urban areas are often met by diverting water from rural areas. Similarly, an undifferentiated category of agriculture conceals conflicts between water-intensive cultivation of commercial crops for high cash returns and prudent water use for protective irrigation of staple food crops essential for survival.

Social conflicts over water can also be analysed at different societal levels. Thus, inter-state conflicts are generated when water projects of upstream states influence the quality and quantity of water flow in the basin and reduce the possibilities of water use by downstream states. Major inter-basin water transfers in rivers flowing through many states also generate conflicts by disturbing the riparian rights of states. Conflicts also arise between the state and the people when official planning and policies lead to changes in water use and utilisation pattern and therefore undermine people's access to water. Thus, state planned quarrying of minerals or timber extraction in the river catchments affect the river flow and generate conflicts downstream. Similarly, state planned agricultural production based on large irrigation projects to generate marketable surpluses of cash crops conflicts with people's needs for local food production. Such projects also lead to conflicts between the state and the people by eroding traditional water rights which are often communal in nature and ensure the survival of all members of the community. Local common management of water resources and the ethics and values on which it is based are frequently modified by government planned and managed water projects aimed at the expansion of commercial agriculture. Finally, state plans tend to serve the interests of the economically and politically powerful groups of society and hence generate new gaps between the rich and poor in terms of access to water resources.

As far as surface and groundwater use is concerned, state intervention has led to the concentration of water access in the hands of the rich thus generating new conflicts between the rich and poor.

Paradigm Conflicts: Ecological and Engineering Approaches to Water Use

Rivers and water resources have been central to the prosperity and survival of the indian civilisation. While our cultural heritage perceived water as the basis of all life having a complex relationship with soils, plants and human needs, the contemporary approach perceives water largely as another raw material input for commodity production in agriculture and industry.

This resource insensitive utilisation has led to rapid disruption of the essential ecological processes that recharge and renew water resources and make them available perennially for the generation of plant, animal and human life. While water is continually flowing across land, from land into the sea, from the sea to the atmosphere and from the atmosphere to the land, its management has focused on water as a stock to be tapped and distributed irrespective of how its utilisation affects the hydrological cycle and the replenishment of water.

Such an approach to water resource management that views water as a stock and not as a flow in the water cycle generates a misconception that through large man-made structures water resources can be augmented. However, water cannot be created. It can be stored, diverted, used, polluted, also over-exploited but its overall availability cannot be enhanced. As Worster states:

There is only so much of it circulating in nature and then there is no more.... Throughout history the water cycle has served humans as the model of the natural world. Early civilizations saw in it a figure of the basic pattern of life, the cycle of birth, death and return to the source of being. More recently science has added to the ancient religious metaphor a new perception: the movement of water in an unending undiminished loop can stand as a model for understanding the entire economy of nature. Looking for a way to make the principles of ecology clear and vivid Aldo Leopold suggested that nature is a 'round river' like a stream flowing into itself, going round and round in an unceasing circuit.... The first commandment for living successfully in nature-living for the long-term at the highest possible level of development-is to understand how the round river and its watershed work together and to adapt our behaviour accordingly. Taking a purely economic attitude towards water, on the other hand is the surest way to fail in that understanding.'

The ecological understanding of water thus involves:

  1. An understanding of the relationship between water and other elements of the ecosystem.
  2. An understanding of the limits on water use enforced by the water cycle

The engineering bias that dominates water development fails to perceive the natural river flows as critical to drainage, to recharge of groundwater, to the maintenance of the balance between fresh water and sea water. The engineering bias in water use results in large projects which produce serious social and ecological instabilities and generate conflicts.

The impounding of water in large dams leads to deforestation in the catchment areas, changes in the micro-climate as well as soil erosion, thus decreasing the availability of water. In the command area, the transport of large volumes of water over long distances leads to wastage of water through seepage. The introduction of large volumes of water beyond the natural drainage capacity of the ecosystem disrupts the hydrological cycle and results in waterlogging and salinity.

During the past three decades India has spent over Rs. 181 billion on developing irrigation facilities and the total area covered by irrigation would be nearly 40 million hectares.

The Kabini project is a good case study of a water development project which led to the disruption of the hydrological cycle in the basin. The Kabini project has a submersion area of 6,000 acres, but it led to the clear felling of 30,000 acres of primeval forests in the catchments to rehabilitate displaced villages. As a consequence, local annual rainfall fell from 60 inches to 45 inches, and high siltation rates have drastically reduced the life of the project. In the command area, large areas of well developed coconut gardens and paddy fields have been laid waste through water-logging and salinity within two years of irrigation from the project. The Kabini project is a classic case of how the water crisis is created by the very projects aimed at increasing water availability or stabilising water flows in the engineering paradigm.

River valley projects are considered the usual solution to meeting the irrigation needs of agriculture, or for controlling floods or mitigating droughts. Over 1,554 large dams have been constructed in India during the past three decades. It is estimated that about 79 million hectare-metres of water can be used annually from the surface flow to view the central role of humus forming trees as the most powerful means for water conservation in vulnerable catchments and in fragile tropical agricultural ecosystems. The integrity of the soil-vegetation-water system is crucial to water conservation both in forests and on farm lands. Water conservation strategies are, therefore, ultimately related to strategies for soil conservation and the conservation of genetic diversity in forests and crop lands. The engineering paradigm.cornes into conflict with an ecological paradigm over the use of river waters, either traditional or modern. Ecological interventions in the tropics take into account the uniqueness and variability in the structure, function and dynamics of tropical ecosytems. Ecological approaches aim at increasing productivity while minimising resource use and wastage.

Ecological paradigms relating to water use recognise that water flowing into the sea is not wasted. It has a vital function in sustaining life in the delta and in the sea. Its flow is critical to maintain the balance between the sea and land. Ecological paradigms also recognise that there is nothing like 'augmenting' wafer. It can be diverted, polluted, misused, ruined, but it can never be deepened or enhanced. The water cycle fixes limits to the quantity of water circulating in nature, and water development cannot transcend those limits. The water cycle is the basic metaphor for ecological balance and maintaining the water cycle is a precondition for a just economic order in which neither the marginal communities today nor future generations tomorrow are denied their right to this resource which is vital for life. Water conflicts provide an opportunity to reassess water use strategies so that our actions are in harmony with rivers, not opposed to them and the life they support. According to Leopold, the elementary need in learning how to farm water effectively is to stop thinking about the problem exclusively as economists and engineers and begin learning the logic of the river. Respecting the integrity of the river amounts to respecting all life that the river supports. Violence to the river is violence to the communities inhabiting a river basin. Such violence must give rise to conflicts which cannot be resolved with further violence. The resolution of conflicts over river waters requires an ecological reorientation in water use which combines justice with sustainability.

Indigenous Systems of Water Management

Large-scale water projects which work against nature's water economy and people's sustenance requirements have been designed by destroying water technologies which were ecologically more sustainable and socially more just.

The tank system of South India is among the indigenous alternatives which has survived over centuries. This system consists of a single series of several hundred and in some cases over a thousand reservoirs linked together and forming such continuous chains of works that not a single drop of water falling in the catchment is lost in times of drought, and very little is lost during normal periods. Major Sankey, one of the first engineers of Mysore State, who concentrated on the systematic repairs of tanks, stated that 'to such an extent has the principle of storage been followed that it would require some ingenuity to discover a site within this great area for a new tank'. These tanks play a central role in irrigation even today. In the Ravalseema region. in the southern part of the Krishna basin, tanks irrigate 620,000 acres while major and minor irrigation projects cover 427,000 acres. In the Anantapur region, river water was diverted with the help of sand dams. These sand dams were constructed in areas like Koppalakonda, Penakacharala, Kalluru, Tarimala and Rachepalli of Anantapur taluk, Panidi, Appeyipeta, Naganapuram and Chitrachedu of Gooty taluk. In places like Ramapuram, Kallavapalle-and Budigamma, the surface flows in the Pennar were diverted through masonry dams called 'Panthams'. In Hospet, Hagari, Rayadurge and Kudligi taluks, channels were constructed to draw water from rivers for irrigation. Similar types of irrigation schemes have also been reported in Dharwar, Bijapur, Sholapur, Satara, Sangli and Ahmednagar districts. Two such major schemes were irrigating nearly 580 acres in Bijapur district. In Madras Presidency, irrigation through small tanks and canals, which the villagers managed themselves, collectively irrigated an area equal to that irrigated by all the larger works which have been constructed by the British government in that Presidency.

An example of indigenous water use was the widespread system of 'Ahars' and 'Pyres' used for irrigation of paddy fields in South Bihar as reported by Sengupta.4 An 'Ahar' is constructed by erecting an embankment 1 or 2 metres in height on the lower ground. From the two extremes of this embankment two other embankments are constructed so as to project towards the higher ground, gradually diminishing in height as the ground level rises and ultimately ending at the ground level. 'Ahars' were built on drainage rivulets to collect water. Constructions with sides more than a kilometre in length and irrigating over a thousand acres of land were frequently found. 'Pyres' on the other hand were systems devised for utilising the water which flows through hilly rivers running from south to north and intersecting the whole country. 'Pyres' were laid off from the rivers to carry water to-agricultural fields. Some of the largest 'Pyres' were 20 to 30 km in length, fielding a number of distributaries and irrigating may be 100 villages.

The system protected agriculture to such an extent that when there was a famine in other parts of the country, Gaya district, where 'Ahars' and 'Pyres' were most evolved, was not affected. However, this immunity was eroded following the deterioration of these irrigation works, which was primarily a consequence of breakdown of economic and social systems which ensured maintenance of the water systems.

The irrigation works in pre-British India were managed by a variety of social organizations within the village community. Usually, the structure of such organisations included a collective of all the beneficiaries of irrigation works, and was headed by a leader. Based on the leadership, the system was known by different names in various regions.

In Maharashtra districts of the basin, the bandharas were managed by such water committees. The task of these committees was to maintain the earthern dam or diversion from the river and to desilt the canals. Similar work was performed by committees in Bijapur, Dharwar, Raichur and Bellary districts of Karnataka. Similar committees were also found in the districts of Andhra Pradesh where there were known as 'pinnapeddandarule' or 'peddandarule' system. The difference between the two was in terms of the members who constituted them. In the 'pinnapeddandarule' system, youth were preferred as the desilting of canals involved hard physical labour. In Krishna district, less labour intensive work was involved hence the membership rules were flexible. Work involved in desilting or erecting canal banks or rebuilding canals was equally shared by all the beneficiaries. Each member or beneficiary was supposed to do his share of work in proportion to the land held. The committee levied a fine on any one who failed to do his share of work, irrespective of the size of his landholding.

Similarly in South Bihar, both the construction and maintenance of water systems was collectively managed. Each cultivator had to contribute labour to a collective system called 'goam' to repair embankments and desilt channels. In South India this practice was known as 'kudimarammath'.

Allocation of water within the villages was also managed by the cultivators themselves. A system known as 'parabandi' was in operation which regulated the distribution of water among the villages from a common source to ensure fair distribution to all the villages. In case of some large works, the rights of each village were formally recorded. In others, the regulations were largely customary. If conflicts arose, they were resolved according to local rights and regulations.

When the British arrived in India, they had no expertise in water management, since agriculture in Europe has never been dependent on irrigation. Arthus Cotton, the founder of modern irrigation programmes wrote:

There are multitudes of old native works in various parts of India. These are noble works, and show both boldness and engineering layout. They have stood for hundreds of years....

When I first arrived in India, the contempt with which the natives firstly spoke of us on account of this neglect of material improvements was very striking, they used to say we were a kind of civilized savages, wonderfully expert about fighting, but so inferior to their great men that we would not even keep in repair the works they have constructed much less even imitate them in extending the system

Greenway, while writing on farming in India, commented on the lack of advanced engineering knowledge of the British which had led to the catastrophe in Sheffield because of the Bradfield dam.

A comparison naturally presents itself between the dam of the Bradfield reservoir, which failed, and the Indian model which has been so long and in so many instances successful, and which if rightly constructed and faithfully attended to, may be regarded as ensuring the maximum of efficiency and safety.

Empirical as the process may appear, practice has made it perfect. Engaged in a continual struggle with the powers of nature, contending with volumes of water far larger, floods far heavier, tempests more violent, than any known in England, the Indian engineers have been forced into devising means, not only to enable a bank to stand a given presence of water, but also to provide resources against contingent risks and accidents, which latter provision, strange to say, appears from the evidence on the inquest of Sheffield not invariably to be considered a part of the engineer's duty.'

The British, however, had to control river water in India keeping in view their economic interest in increasing revenue. In Rajasthan they controlled water to maximise the revenues derived from their monopoly in salt trade, in Bengal to protect their transport network and increase revenues from agriculture. Water politics was thus as transient as the resource itself, to create obey areas and command areas, i.e., areas and people inhabiting them which are callously devastated to cater to the needs of areas and people which are industrialised, urbanised, and politically and economically powerful.

Langdon Winner has suggested that politics is embedded in artifacts. Large water projects definitely have politics built into them. In an attempt to control rivers, they also control the lives of those who depend on the river and its basin for livelihood. Worster has proposed the thesis that making more demands on the earth and devising the means to fulfil them leads to an unequal power division in society. 'Intensification of use eventually must give rise to potent anti-democratic forces whatever their guise may. Karl Wittfogel's idea of a hydraulic society captures the reality of the social organisation created by large dams. Wittfogel's theory is one of power, he holds that control over water leads to control over people.

Wittfogel, however, like Marx before him, perceived the hydraulic society as a reality in Asian civilizations over thousands of years. They assumed that the pervasiveness of and decentralized network irrigation systems was linked to centralized power and that specific individuals conquering river waters turned into a power elite. What Marx and Wittfogel failed to perceive from a distance was that irrigation systems in India were managed by cooperating communities, not dominating bureaucracies, and that decentralized maintenance and use rather than centralised control was the characteristic of India's ancient irrigation systems.

Sengupta has challenged Wittfogel's thesis that domination was characteristic of Asia's water systems. Vast networks of irrigation systems are not necessarily large projects. They can be a closely knit network of micro-projects, each managed locally in terms of construction, maintenance, allocation and conflict resolution among users. Further, stagnation has not been a characteristic of these traditional irrigation systems. Instead, flexibility was often displayed. The cropping patterns were changed annually according to the availability of irrigation water in a particular year. With water resources under local control, local decisions on land use involved less risks and higher certainty. On the other hand modern canal irrigation from large dams centralises water control and distribution. The time of water supply rarely corresponds to the time of requirement and certainty is far less than it would have been had the cultivators themselves distributed the same amount of water through local resources. Correspondingly, they have much less scope to alter their cropping and irrigation practices to suit the availability of water.

Centralised societal domination is, therefore, linked to centralised water control not to vast networks of decentralised waterworks. The power of the modern state over people as exemplified through large dams is qualitatively different from the social organisation of indigenous irrigation systems. Such political control does not merely violate human rights in the present, it threatens to deny future generations the right to life-support systems. Large water projects interfere in a major way with the natural flow of water and the hydrological cycle. Ecological hazards are intrinsically associated with them, which in turn generate another level of conflicts over natural resources. Social control over water use in indigenous systems had prevented both over-use and abuse of water, and avoided a conflict between the use of water for human consumption and its functions in the maintenance of essential ecological processes, central to which is the water cycle.

Colonial Conflicts Over River Waters

Under colonial influence, water was diverted from its role in the survival economy and nature's economy and was transformed into a source of revenue and taxes, or as an input to commodity production for the generation of profits. The introduction of market forces in the water economy of the country created new conflicts over water resources between the market and survival economies.

The salt economy and water conflicts

On 5 April 1930 Mahatma Gandhi launched the national noncooperation movement with the campaign for the production and distribution of salt at Dandi beach in Gujarat, violating the Salt Law of the British that had guaranteed their monopoly in the production and distribution of salt. Salt is a vital resource for the survival of both human and animal life specially in tropical countries like India. It remained a common resource till the British monopolised its production and distribution to transform it into a source of revenue. The growth imperative compelled the expansion of the salt industry, as monopolised by the British, at the cost of diversion of resources from essential economic activities like food production. Further, in order to increase revenue the British government raised the salt tax in 1923 through the Indian Finance Bill of the Viceroy. This triggered off strong protests all over the country since a basic resource like salt was being denied to the people in order to increase revenue. The anguish of Gandhi on this appropriation of a common resource was clear when he said,

They even tax our salt-a necessity of life, only less necessary than air and water. It ought to be free as they are.... Nature bestows it on us and we may not use it. There is salt beside the sea and they forbid us to gather it's

The production of salt in certain pockets like Rajasthan and in the coastal areas as well as its distribution in all parts of the country had been a part of the living history of the Indian civilisation. Salt is one of those commodities which cannot be produced everywhere notwithstanding the self-sufficiency of the village economies. The demand for salt from all parts of the country led to the establishment of salt industries wherever it was possible to extract salt from saline water. All along the coastline except in Bengal, salt was manufactured by digging hollows in the ground and allowing the saline water to evaporate.

The Sambhar Lake in Rajasthan was a major inland source of salt for the whole of Central India. The manufacture and trade of this essential commodity and the possibility of a high margin of profits in case of monopoly in production, led to the East India Company securing the entire lake. In 1870 the British government forced a treaty on the States of Jodhpur and Jaipur through which it acquired the right of not only manufacturing and selling salt but also levying a duty on it. The peculiarity of the Sambhar Lake is that there is no rock salt bed in the geological formation of the area. The salt granules in the great salt marsh of Kutch are carried north-east by the trade winds in the summer and deposited in the catchment of the Sambhar Lake. In the monsoons the salt granules are dissolved and the solution is carried into the lake by a large number of streams. the largest of which is Rupnagar. Through the quick evaporation of water from the lake. millions of tons of salt get deposited in the Sambhar Lake. According to the British estimates of that period. 46 million people in India depended on supplied from this lake. This made the control of this 9( sq miles lake economically valuable for the growth of the salt industry

Though the British salt industry in India grew by more than 33 per cent in the first twenty years of its existence, it was not content with only monopoly in production and distribution. To enhance the profits and growth of the industry, the British had maximised the inflow of water into the Sambhar Lake by denying the more basic uses of water for irrigation and drinking. Rupnagar, the largest stream feeding the lake, was the main source of water for the State of Kishengarh whose most important economic activity was agriculture which depended solely on the water of Rupnagar for irrigation. Thus the British attempt to increase the inflow of water into the lake came into direct conflict with the survival needs of the people in Kishengarh.

In 1900, a famine year, Kishengarh wanted to store some water by constructing an embankment tank on Rupnagar. The salt authorities strongly opposed this use of water for drinking and irrigation by the people. The Finance and Commerce Department of the then Government of India promptly accorded higher priority to the interest of the salt industry as opposed to the water needs for the survival of the people of Kishengarh. In a note dated 13 July 1901 the Department issued the following statement:

In view of the way in which the manufacture of salt depends on a sufficient supply of water in the lake and the precariousness of the supply, the Govt. of India consider that it is most inadvisable that anything should be done in the shape of constructing new reservoirs, irrigation works, or of extending any existing works on any of the feeder streams of the lake, either in the British territory or in native states which will be likely to diminish supply....

The Government of India desires that in future the Salt Commissioner may be consulted before any of the existing works' in British territory or the native states are enlarged, strengthened or improved.

In 1906 the villages of Kishengarh faced a severe drought. In sheer desperation to ensure a minimum supply of water for the biological survival of human and animal life, the people built an earthen dam which the British promptly destroyed. In the same year the rulers of Kishengarh pleaded for permission to construct low masonry weirs across Rupnagar and to sink some wells. The Salt Commissioner made sure that these projects could not be undertaken.

It is this undisclosed destruction of agricultural ecosystems in the catchment of the Sambhar Lake that made possible and visible the growth of the salt industry there. By 1922 the prosperous and populated Kishengarh was desolate. Large areas of cultivable land became waste and wells could no longer be used. Another desperate attempt by the kingdom of Kishengarh to construct four irrigation tanks was postponed for twenty-four years, thus ensuring the total destruction of the local agricultural economy.

This was the general pattern of destruction of the survival base of the people in all regions of the country where the salt monopoly led to economic growth for British interests. This monopoly forced the people to give up the production of a basic resource like salt, which was being produced by them with simple technologies that required no capital input. The control made people totally dependent on the British supply, to be bought at a price determined by British interests. It was this exploitation by the British through the denial of a basic need as well as the associated destruction of other related resources that led to non-violent violation of the Salt Law as an assertion of the people's right to vital natural resources for survival. As a mode of protest it spread throughout the country with people breaking the Salt Law in large numbers. Its impact, both immediate and long-term was immense. By 5 March 1931 the British government was compelled to retrace its steps and issued a notification that people could produce salt for their own use.

The damodar canal and water conflicts

Burdwan district of Bengal lies in the Damodar river basin. Irrigation in this district, as in other parts of Bengal, was based on the overflow irrigation system. This ancient system of water use had met the needs of rural Pengal for more than 2,000 years. It provided a single solution to Bengal's inter-locking problems of flood and malaria control, cheap inland transport for the better part of the year, and renewal of soil fertility. This ecological management of common resources led to the establishment of a community organization based on irrigation rights which required every individual to regard his neighbour's interest as his own.

Being a tropical monsoon region, Bengal receives heavy rainfall in the wet season. But due to high percolation rates, the groundwater level declines rapidly after the rains and a serious shortage of water occurs at a time when it is most needed. As a result tanks and wells dry up. The only solution is to maintain saturation of the subsoil by impounding as much rainfall as possible on the surface and keeping it there for as long as possible. Earlier this was done by flooding the tanks and rice fields with the muddy spill of the rivers in spate and by storing rain water in tanks which at one time numbered over 50,000 in Burdwan district alone. Percolation from rice fields and storage tanks maintained the underground reserve of water at a level 10 to 15 feet higher than that at present and prevented the drying up of wet crops in summer and of wells and tanks in the dry season. A system of inundation canals was in operation in Bengal from ancient times. The silt bearing top film of water from flooded rivers was allowed to flow into the rice fields, where the silt was deposited. River silt is very high in manure. It enriched the crops as well as killed noxious weeds in tanks and in the rice fields. Every tank had its distributary to flush it, and every rice field had its distributary to irrigate it. The silt also carried carp eggs. Carp, being larvicidal fish, devour the larvae of the anapholis, thus controlling malaria and at the same time providing the much needed nourishment to the rice-eating peasantry. Removal of silt from the river water prevented the silting up of the rivers at the mouth so that there were no floods.

The political destabilisation of Bengal led to the ecological disruption of this highly efficient system. The water channels were silted up and were declared to be 'dead' or 'blind' by ignorant British engineers. A series of devastating floods followed and by treating the symptoms instead of the cause, the problem was further aggravated. The erection of embankments to protect the Eastern Bengal Railway cut across the natural contours of land, disrupting the natural drainage, causing severe ecological problems and hardships to the once prosperous peasantry.

At the end of the eighteenth century the British took over the responsibilities and liabilities of maintaining the irrigation system with its water resources, spill channels, streams dykes, pools, tanks and embankments. However, the government failed to keep its promise and worked in the opposite direction by making the left embankment watertight. As a result, its innumerable spill channels were closed, and subsequently, the zamindars and tenants made a number of secret breaches through the embankment. In the period between 185-59 the government cut off 20 miles of embankment on the right side of the Damodar with a view to protecting the Railways and the Grand Trunk Road. This led to silting up of the river bed, death of the live channels and stagnation of water due to disruption of natural drainage. This was followed by severe epidemic of malaria which wiped out one-third of the total population in a district in a decade. Areas that were once famous as 'health resorts' became 'decadent areas'.

Sir William Willcocks, one of the greatest irrigation engineers the world has ever known, pleaded in vain for some funds to resuscitate these 'dead rivers' with the cooperation of the peasantry. Once the vicious circle of destruction was broken, the project would run itself and pay its way. But the irrigation and survival needs of the peasantry came into conflict with the interests of railway transport and stream navigation river flotilla companies. The use of water that could have restored to the peasantry'the old prosperous days when irrigation with the muddy water of the Ganges flood was the heritage of all"' was not attempted because spillways and railways were mutually exclusive in the Burdwan tract. Millions were spent on the externalities of the watertight embankments, malaria and flood control projects. For seventy years, embankments were allowed 'to impoverish lands, and impoverish people and affect them with malaria, when a trifling expenditure of the money could bring relief'. In the words of Sir William Willcocks,

The irrigation Department has tried its hand at every kind of irrigation except the ancient irrigation. The resulting poverty of soil, destruction of fish, introduction of malaria and congestion of the rivers have stalled the canals and banks, and the country is strewn today with the wrecks of useless and harmful works.

To compensate the people of Burdwan the government constructed the Eden Canal in 1881 and the Damodar Canal in 1933. The latter was intended to irrigate 20,000 acres of rice lands of 379 villages at the cost of Rs. 1.25 crores. After the inauguration of the canal, the government planned to realise a part of the capital expenditure by imposing a canal tax on the ryots. As the tax was heavy, the peasants refused to execute any lease in order to use the canal water. As a result the government introduced a legislation to impose a compulsory levy. The Bengal Development Bill 1935 was introduced by Khwaja Nazamuddin on 18 February 1935 which provided for the improvement of land in Bengal and the imposition of a levy in respect of increased profit resulting from the improvement works constructed by the government. The aim was to induce people to use canal water and to convert this consumption into a source of revenue. The Bill, it was argued, would not only compel the ryots to pay up to half of their increased profits, but would also enable them to make increased profits by taking advantage of the improvements. The Minister stated that peasants did not use canal water in a normal rainfall year but viewed irrigation as an insurance against the failure of monsoon. The Bill was aimed at 'not allowing any man to indulge in the luxury of not consuming canal water during normal rainfall years by making every man pay an improvement levy of Rs. 5.80 per acre per annum irrespective of the benefits derived or likely to be derived from the irrigation facilities of the canal.

The Bengal Development ' Bill was obviously resented by the Burdwan peasantry for whom it became yet another source of colonial exploitation. In the later thirties the popular discontent gathered momentum in the command of the Damodar Canal over the Bengal Development Act and the improvement levy. A movement crystallized as the Damodar Canal Tax movement. An association called the Burdwan District Raiyats Association was formed with D.P. Choudhury and Balai Chand Mukhopadhyay as President and Secretary, respectively to oppose the Act and the canal tax. On 20 December 1935, peasants from 500 villages of the Damodar Canal area held a mass meeting under the auspicious of the Raiyats Association. The meeting adopted a number of resolutions challenging the estimates of produce of land in the precanal and post-canal days and the Development Act. By the beginning of February the agriculturists of the canal areas were seriously affected, due to the enforcement of the Development Act. The government began harrassing poor cultivators for the realisation of the canal tax and made an effort to recover the arrears of taxes. On 10 February the cultivators' grievances were brought to the notice of the Burdwan Maharaja who suggested a public protest meeting be held to air the grievances of the ryots. On 14 February 1937, about 1,000 representatives of the cultivators of the Damodar Canal area attended a conference and resolved,

That in the opinion of the conference the principles underlying the Bengal Development Act and sections thereunder were arbitrarily opposed to the interests of the prajas and krishaks in general in the sense that they had been placed outside the jurisdiction of the civil court so that the appreciation of the Act might make the executive officers all powerful and give them absolute, arbitrary and unfettered authority which was sure to be used to oppress the ryots, that an estimate of the surplus produce of lands in the Damodar Canal area made by the officials of the irrigation Department was devoid of logic and was not based on facts, that the amount of paddy produced in the canal area did not admit of a taxable surplus after the deductions for payment of rent to the zamindar and expenditure on cultivations

The Canal tax agitation emphasised that since there had been no development and no increased amount of land situated in the Damodar Canal area, no improvement levy could be imposed under the Bengal Development Act 1935. The levy was linked to the government's extravagant capital expenditure, not to the paying capacity of the agriculturists or benefits, if any, derived by them. The improvement levy was thus totally illegal, unjust. unreasonable and contrary to the facts and opposed to justice. The peasants insisted that the cost of the works be recovered from the East Indian Railways, the Grand Trunk Road, Burdwan-Kawa Railway, Bengal-Nagpur Railway, the city of Calcutta and other vested interests who had really benefited from the canal. Further, they also clarified that since they derived benefits from the canal only once in seven or eight years when drought occurred, they should bear only that cost.

The Congress, which had also joined the agitation, set up its own inquiry committee. The report of the committee established that the Damodar Canal had not to any appreciable extent increased the productivity of the area served by it. The yield per acre prior to the construction of the canal was about 24 maunds and it remained at the same level after the canal had started functioning. The report also highlighted the fact that the 'Damodar Carnal project was never meant for irrigation purposes alone. It was intended "inter alia" that the canal should protect the railways, the G T Road, the Burdwan town, the port of Calcutta, etc. by modulating the strength of the Damodar flood. It recommended reduction of the tax on cultivators to reflect better the benefits against drought provided by the canal. As a result, the government reduced the levy to Rs. 2-9-0) per acre. But even this amount was too high. In 1939, the government started attaching movable properties of the defaulters in the canal area. The local cultivators were determined to launch a satyagraha movement till the tax was further reduced to Rs. 1-8 O. per acre. The government on the other hand, sent a large contingent of Gorkha soldiers to bring the situation under control. Section 144 was promulgated, prohibiting public meetings. The 'policy of terrorisation' forced the peasantry to give up their agitation for a reduction in the canal tax. The people subsequently accepted the government rate of Rs. 2-9) per acre and paid the arrears.

8 Large dams and conflicts in the Krishna Basin

The capacity to divert rivers from their natural course increased dramatically in the post-colonial period with the transfer of technology of large dams from the US. The Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers were in competition with each other and created a new culture of gigantism, financed by public money. In Reisner's words, 'what had begun as an emergency program to put the country back to work, to restore its sense of self-worth, to settle the refugees of the Dust Bowl, grew into a nature wrecking, money-eating monster that our leaders lacked the courage or ability to stop. Interest groups have mushroomed around the building of large dams, and their interests are in conflict with those of indigenous populations and ecologists. As Barnett has observed,

Public water projects-dams, reservoirs, irrigation pipelines, schemes for rerouting streams and a host of other feats of engineering-are viewed by proponents-usually the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who build them, politicians looking for federal money, and large agribusiness interests and power companies, which directly benefit from them-as modern wonders of the world. Opponents-environmentalists, Indian tribes whose land is taken or ruined, and cost-conscious politicians and bureaucrats denounce the implantation of huge concrete waterworks in the midst of America's wilderness and the accompanying hydraulic technologies as the worst examples of pork barrel politics and extravagant wasted

When the technological euphoria of dam building was transferred to India, the concomitants of ecological disruption and social conflicts were also transferred. These conflicts and destruction are more aggravated in India than the havoc caused in the American West because India is a riparian civilization which has evolved in a monsoon climate. Most of India's river valleys are highly populated and rivers have provided the primary life-support systems for our riparian settlements. Large dams, intensive irrigation and large diversions have, therefore, been associated with three types of conflicts. The first type is related to large-scale displacement and uprooting of people from their ancestral homelands leading to ecological refugees. This conflict, which originally expressed itself through human rights struggles based on the violation of rights of displaced people, has now taken an e cological turn, with human rights issues being perceived as intimately linked with ecological issues. The second type of conflict related to water projects arises from the ecological impact of impounding large quantities of water, transporting it across drainage boundaries and using it for intensive irrigation. Displaced people are, of course, in direct conflict with those who benefit from large dams and massive irrigation systems. However, when dams and canals cause waterlogging, even the 'beneficiaries' fight against state planned water projects.

Changes in water flows create changes upstream as well as downstream. Such changes generate conflicts not merely between the people and the state, but also between different communities and different states. The third type of conflict which is an outcome of large river diversions is regional conflict over water rights. Interests of people of different regions are articulated through regional governments, and regional conflicts take the form of inter-state conflicts over the sharing of river waters.

The Krishna river, one of the most important rivers of South India, was chosen for the ecological analysis of conflicts over river waters since it traverses through the most arid and drought prone regions in South India and there are intense and diverse demands for its water from different regions for diverse uses.

Water Conflicts in the Krishna Basin

The east flowing krishna river originates in the mahadev range of the western ghats, north of the hill station of Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra, and after flowing over a distance of about 1,40(1 km it meets the Bay of Bengal, south of Vijayawada. In between its origin at 1,337 metres above the MSL and its delta, the river fows across the entire width of the Indian peninsula through the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

The Krishna river is joined in its course by a large number of tributaries, big and small, draining a total basin area of about 256,000 sq km of which the share of the three riparian states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh is 26.8 per cent, 43.8 per cent and 29.4 per cent, respectively. The basin drains a length of approximately 700 km of the Western Ghats which is the predominant source of water of the river. As the river flows about 135 km from its origin near Mahabaleshwar Hills, it is joined by the Koyna river flowing from the western side of the same hill. Further along its course. it is joined by tributaries like Varna, Panchaganga and Dodhganga draining about 150 km of the Western Ghats. As the river emerges from the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats, it is joined by Ghataprabha and Malaprabha from the south at a distance of approximately 500 km from the origin. After traversing the Deccan proper the east flowing Krishna then enters the alluvial lands and at a distance of about 800 km from the source, just before it enters Andhra Pradesh, a major tributary Bhima, draining the Western Ghats, north of Mahabaleshwar joins it from the north. Near Kurnool the river is joined by another major tributary, Tungabhadra from the south, draining a major section of the Western Ghats in Karnataka. Within a short distance from this confluence, the river enters the Naliamali Ranges characterised by peep gorges. At this place the Srisailam Dam and further downstream the Nagarjunasagar Dam have been constructed. At this point the major water sources of the Western Ghats have all been united. Tributaries like Dindi, Musi, Palleru and Muneru draining the dry north-eastern parts of the basin join the river between Srisailam ad Vijayawada but do not add much water. Below Vijayawada, where the Krishna is blocked by the barrage constructed during the British period, the river spreads out into the delta and below the last major village Nagailanka it joins the Bay of Bengal in three branches, thus ending the long eastward journey of the waters of the Western Ghats.

Since water flow creates an interconnectedness within the basin, each intervention in land and water use, depending on its scale, can become the source of conflicts. The mining of iron ore at Kudremukh and Manganese ore in Sandur in the upper catchments of Tungabhadra has seriously affected the stability of the catchment and has led to severe soil erosion and silting of the Tungabhadra reservoir, thus conflicting with irrigation needs. The Krishna river system has a large number of small, medium and major dams starting from Dhom which is located within 5 km of its origin. This storage and diversion of water from the original river course has destroyed the fishing economy which was dominant on both banks of the river as well as the indigenous irrigation system that existed throughout the course of the river. Further, large dams have also generated conflicts by creating waterlogging in the command areas. The hydroelectric power generation from the river water has come into conflict with irrigation needs both in terms of the spatial and temporal characteristics of water storage and distribution. The maximisation of power generation from Koyna demands that the water of the Krishna basin, draining into Bay of Bengal, be diverted to the Arabian Sea.

Industrial uses of the river system are a major source of conflict. For example, the pulp based industries on Tungabhadra have polluted the river and destroyed the fishing economy 20 km downstream. Moreover, the large-scale cultivation of pulpwood species like Eucalyptus in this part of the basin has impaired the groundwater recharge potential.

In the Krishna basin comprising mostly of arid and semi-arid regions water management had reached a high level of sophistication, both for surface as well as groundwater utilisation. An aerial view of the basin reveals a network of a large number of tanks, some pre-historic, others constructed by the local people or the rulers at different times in history. In general the technology used for all these tanks involved the construction of an earthen embankment at the exit of a natural water collection point that is a result of topography. These tanks were used for surface irrigation of approximately 500 acres of land as well as for enhancing ground water recharge to support the wells. These tanks formed a network so that water did not drain out easily and was conserved at the site. To some extent indigenous water management techniques also included the diversion of streams to irrigate land by canals. The total number of tanks in the basin may be around 30,000. By arresting the scanty rainfall, these tanks actually provided a cushioning effect against variations in rainfall which is common in the basin. This decentralised water conservation system met both drinking water and agricultural needs. There was no major long distance transfer of water and the local cropping pattern evolved in accordance with the local water endowment.

The needs of the Vijayanagar Empire led to the first major intervention in the natural water flow. In the sixteenth century, specially during the reign of King Krishnadevaraya, there were many attempts to divert the water of Tungabhadra through seven canals in the Bellary district, these are now known as the Vijayanagar Canals. The canals provided water for irrigation as well as satisfied the needs of the large army stationed in the capital city of Hampi. The interests of the Vijayanagar rulers were not limited to canals. Understanding the crucial role of tanks in food production as well as in providing drinking water supply, the kingdom undertook a systematic programme of tank construction. The Daroji tank and the Vyasayaraya Samudram in Cuddapah district are the result of this programme.

The first large-scale intervention in the natural flow of water in the Krishna river basin was seen in the late nineteenth century. It was motivated both by the irrigation needs of export crops like cotton and groundnut, as well as for transporting these products easily to major ports like Madras. The Krishna delta canal system based on the Vijayawada barrage was constructed in 1855 The Nira Canal in Maharashtra was constructed in 1835 to irrigate about 150,000 acres and the Kurnool Cuddapah Canal was constructed in 1886 to irrigate 100,000 acres. With the passage of time. an increasing number of government aided large and medium projects came up and today the Krishna river has numerous dams including the Dhom Dam which is at a distance of 5 km from its source. Midstream, we find the Alamatti and Narayanpur Dams of the Upper Krishna Project while further downstream Srisailam and Nagarjunsugar Dams generate electricity and divert water for irrigation.The tributaries have also been used extensively in this respect.

The Koyna Dam is situated 58 km below the origin of the river. The Tunga river is impounded at Gajanur and Bhadra at Lakavalli. The Tunga and Bhadra meet and the Tungabhadra Dam is located 265 km from the origin. In Ghataprabha the reservoir at Hidkal in Karnataka is the major irrigation project while Malaprabha is impounded at the peacock gorge near Manoli. The spread of water-intensive cultivation throughout the basin has dramatically altered the water balance, leading to major conflicts between water for cash crop cultivation and staple food production on the one hand, and between irrigation and drinking water needs on the other. The case of sugarcane cultivation in Maharashtra and grapes in Hyderabad are two instances of over-exploitation of water resources in the basin for cash crop production and a consequent destabilisation of the water cycle, leading to water scarcity in large parts of the basin.

Dams for irrigation and/or power are also a source of conflict between the traditional rights of people to land and water and the rights of the state to displace and uproot them for building river valley projects as in the case of Srisailam Dam. Large dams require massive submergence areas, and hence necessitate the displacement of large numbers of people. Big dams also allow large diversions of water. Major diversions from the river basin as in the case of the Telugu-Ganga Canal taking off from Srisailam Dam, affect the riparian rights of the states and have generated unresolvable inter-state conflicts.

Dams and Displacement: Conflicts Generated by Srisailam Dam

The krishna, like other rivers of india has been reversed by the people srisailam is the most sacred pilgrim spot on the Krishna. It is named alter the Srisailam temple situated amidst rich forests on the banks of the river. The Krishna flows 3 km below the Srisailam temple which is dedicated to LOrd Shiva. In 1960. this ancient temple gave way to a temple of modern India Srisailam Dam.

The project

'the Srisailam project began in 1960, initially as a power project, across the Krishna, near Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh. After several delays, the main dam was finally completed twenty years later in 1981. In the meantime the project was converted into a multipurpose one with a generating capacity of 770 MWs by its second stage which was expected to be completed in 1987. The dam is to provide water for an estimated 4,95,000 acres with its catchment area of 79,553 sq miles and water spread of 238 sq miles. Under the right branch canal 1,95,000 acres in Kurnool and Cuddapah districts will have assured irrigation. From the initial modest estimate of Rs. 38.47 crores for a power project the total cost of the multipurpose project was estimated to cross Rs. 1,000 crores in its enlarged form. The 470 feet high and 1,680 feet wide dam has alone cost Rs. 404 crores together with the installation of four generating sets of 110 MWs each. The right branch canal is estimated to cost Rs. 449 crores and the initial investment of Rs. 140 crores has been provided by the World Bank. The projected cost-benefit ratio of the project has been worked out at 1:1.91 at 10 per cent interest on capital outlay.

The construction of the project has meant the submergence of 106,925 acres of land belonging to 117 villages (100 main and 17 hamlets). Of these villages, spread over six taluks of Kurnool and Mahaboobnagar districts. seventy-two were completely submerged and ten were partially submerged (see Annexure l). A total of 27,871 families in these villages living in 21,080 dwellings had to be evacuated: resettlement had to be provided for nearly 158,00 people.

In the summer of 1981, shocked by the brutal and inhuman manner in which people were thrown out of their homes by the government with the assistance of police, bulldozers and workers from the town, a Lokayan team in Andhra Pradesh carried out a survey of the problem of the evictees in July-August 1981. The survey aimed at:

  1. Understanding the socio-economic background of the affected households.
  2. Appraising government policies and programmes with regard to compensation and the rates paid, adequacy of the mode of payment and the reactions of the recipients.
  3. Studying government actions in evacuation of the people facing displacement.
  4. Examining the problems associated with the rehabilitation schemes.
  5. The survey covered fifteen of the 100 villages which were affected, using a stratified random sample of 344 households.

A second survey was carried out in 1984-85 covering nine of the villages included in the earlier sample survey as part of the UN University project on Conflicts over Natural Resources. The questions that prompted the second survey were:

  1. How are the people evicted from the submerged areas of the Srisailam Dam in May-June 1981 living now, i.e., what changes have taken place in the last three years?
  2. How have they utilised the compensation paid to them by the government?
  3. Who can do what to improve the conditions of this displaced people?
  4. Given the experience of evictions under the Srisailam project, what measures should be undertaken for future projects to avoid such calamities?

A summary of the two reports highlighting the tragedy of the situation is presented here. It raises several important questions not only related to economics and development but to ethics as well.

Socio-economic conditions of the people before the evictions

The soils of the river bank are very fertile and mostly black or red in colour. Farmers have been cultivating them for generations, if not centuries, growing a multiple variety of crops ranging from food crops like rice, jowar and other millets to cash crops like tobacco, chill), groundnut, vegetables, onions, mustard and wheat. The river bed was also cultivated in the dry season, especially by the weaker sections, harvesting a rich crop of water melons.

Overwhelmingly (81 per cent of the sample), the population in the region belongs to the weaker sections of society, i.e., the Scheduled Castes (14 per cent) and Backward Castes (67 per cent). As in other regions of the country, the Scheduled Castes are concentrated among the small and marginal farmers (66 per cent) and landless labourers (20 per cent). Backward Castes are predominant in all classes but are most numerous among those involved in non-agricultural occupations (84 per cent). Among the other castes Reddys are predominant. People of other castes are more concentrated in the upper classes. They account for 42 per cent of the big farmers but only 5 per cent of the agricultural labourers. Of the total number of households, 17 per cent were those of big farmers, 16 per cent of middle farmers, 36 per cent of small and marginal farmers, and 17 per cent of agricultural labourers. We have classified those people as big farmers who owned more than 10 acres of wet lands' middle farmers as those owning between 5 to 9.99 acres, small as those owning between 2.5 to 4.99 acres, marginal as those owning between 0.1 to 2.49 acres. Two acres of dry land has been assumed to be equivalent to 1 acre of wet land based on the income generated.

In addition to agriculture, small and marginal farmers are also involved in several subsidiary occupations such as sheep and goat rearing, toddy tapping, weaving, fishing and plying dinghies across the river. Those belonging to service caste groups like barbers and washermen tried to supplement their income from their caste occupation by working on land either as small or tenant farmers or agricultural labourers. The proportion of agricultural labourers is comparatively low in these villages, because the poorer sections of the population are engaged in the cultivation of poromboke and manyam (waste) lands.

The average size of the displaced family was found to be around seven in both sample surveys (census figure: 5.33). One interesting feature was that big farmer households had an average size of ten members per family, perhaps there were more joint families among them.

Draught power provided by bullocks appeared to be adequate in these villages. In addition to cows and buffaloes, a majority of households also reared sheep, goats and fowls. In view of the prosperous agriculture in these areas, employment prospects were particularly good, in the sense that people could secure employ ment for approximately 250 days in a year. In addition, there was immigrant labour from neighbouring areas during the peak seasons. The average annual income per household was approximately Rs. 8,000 with a minimum of Rs. 2,000 and a maximum of Rs. 150,000.

Since stone is available in plenty and owing to the relative prosperity of the region, most of the houses, including those of the poor and landless (81 per cent in the second sample), were made of stone and were quite spacious, although they were old.

From the data it is evident that though the region is relatively prosperous, it is not very different from other parts of rural India in terms of complacency regarding caste and class. Economic power is largely concentrated in the hands of the 'other castes' (Reddys in this region). The leaders in these villages are drawn from the 'other castes' (Reddys and Velamas), and they exercise tremendous influence on the people in the village. They also maintain close links with government officials in towns and with other important individuals. Often villages are divided into various factional groups following One leader or the other. All these factors had their respective impact on the entire process of displacement and rehabilitation.

One important factor that needs to be noted here is that for one generation, i.e., twenty years (1960 to 1980, i.e., till their eviction) no significant developmental activities were undertaken in the submergible areas since logically the whole area would be under water 'very soon'. The people of this region therefore had to do without electricity, proper roads, school buildings and other government asset building activities.


Keeping in view some of the problems encountered in trying to rehabilitate people displaced by developmental projects, the g,overnment of Andhra. Pradesh decided to pay compensation in cash, a policy initiated with the Pochampad project in the late sixties. Compensation was assessed for lands, wells and houses. Acquisition began in July 1969 and 1,829 acres of land was acquired. But this process was stopped almost immediately due to non-availability of funds and the areas notified for acquisition were once again denotified. Acquisition was resumed in 1974 and completed by 1980, in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (and several resolutions adopted and recommendations made at meetings of the Srisailam Control Board and the government). Compensation was paid for 84,772.55 acres out of a total of 107,348 acres submerged. The rest of the land was either government wasteland, or government land assigned to the poor or forest land constituting 20 per cent of the total submerged area which was not compensated for.

Drawing upon the registered value of sale/purchase of land which is normally much lower than the actual price (to avoid higher stamp duty) and the fact that the acquisition and payment of money were long drawn out affairs, they had the net effect of offering very low prices for the properties acquired. The average price paid for dry lands was Rs. 1,820 per acre, whereas the prevailing market rate for reasonably good dry land was Rs. 10,000 per acre in 1981. Similarly, compensation paid for wet land was on an average Rs. 3,547.05 per acre while the market value was around Rs. 20,000 per acre, i.e., the compensation paid between 1974 and 1980 was only one-fifth of the market value of land at the time of eviction.

Similarly, in the case of dwellings, the government acquired 21,080 houses which sheltered 28,234 families of eighty-two villages out of a total of 117 villages affected by submersion. This amount was paid after making allowance for factors like depreciation since most of the houses were very old. The average amount paid per house was around Rs. 5,500 whereas constructing similar houses would have cost the inhabitants over four times (Rs. 20.000) as borne out by the actual expenditure on new housing after eviction, which will be discussed later.

Despite such gross injustice few people approached the courts since majority of them were illiterate and without any means. Further, the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 deals with people on an individual basis, fixing a time limit of 6 weeks from the date of receipt of notice or 6 months from the date of award, whichever expires earlier, for filing objections, and only if the amount of compensation has been accepted under protest in writing.

As the surveys revealed, very few people bought any land with the compensation money paid to them. For every 100 acres of wet land submerged only 1 acre of new land was purchased. Similarly in the case of dry land, barely 8 acres was purchased for every 100 acres lost.

Why did the people not buy lands? What did they do with the money received as compensation?.

  1. No one believed that the lands facing submergence under the project would be permanently submerged. Once the flood waters of the rainy season recede, lands would re-emerge, i.e., within one or two months, and made more fertile by the rich alluvial deposits. They could thus continue to cultivate these lands. While the people held on to this belief, the government could not allow this as such cultivation would increase the siltation rate and cause harm to the dam. The land is in the process of being handed over to the forest department to bring it under its social forestry programme. There are also widespread rumours that farmers displaced by the Nagarjunasagar Dam were cultivating their erstwhile lands in a similar manner. Moreover, in the past, whenever the Krishna river was in floods, the water would recede after a few days and the fact that the actual dam was at a distance from most of the affected villages strengthened the peoples' tendency to ignore the several notices of the government and the oral warnings of the project authorities. Due to these beliefs the people constantly demanded only higher compensation but never contemplated buying new lands. This also explains why none of them really pressed the government to provide them with alternate lands.
  2. The little compensation that was paid was given in instalments for different types of lands and houses. Of the amount received, 25 to 50 per cent was used to pay off old debts and bribes to officials to fix better rates of compensation and at the time of receiving cheques for the compensation amount (normally 2 per cent). After meeting other domestic needs the amount of money left was not enough to buy new land.
  3. Normally there is great pressure on fertile lands. With most of the fertile black soils on the river banks submerged, the pressure on the remaining fertile lands in the area must have grown tremendously.
  4. Moreover, the fact that money was paid to the displaced people as compensation could have also increased the land prices.

The result was that barely 4 per cent of the evictees actually bought land with their compensation money (using either a part of it or the whole amount). Another 20 per cent used the money to build new houses after eviction, 26 per cent utilised the money to clear old debts, and 50 per cent used the money for various domestic needs such as marriages, clothing, food. death ceremonies and education. Therefore, the claim that the compensation money paid to the displaced people was squandered by them in drinking and gambling is very much disputable (though the number of people indulging in such activities may have gone up after receiving the compensation money).

Similarly, in the case of compensation paid for dwellings which were submerged, only 19 per cent of the evictees utilised the money to build new houses, 32 per cent used it to repay old debts, and 40 per cent used the money for various domestic needs such as food, clothing and marriages. Barely 3 per cent invested money in agriculture. Those who invested in agriculture are largely big farmers (12 per cent of the category) and middle farmers (3 per cent of the category).

It may be mentioned here, that the moneylender-landlords collected their dues (of old debts at exorbitant interests) as soon as the compensation money was sanctioned for the dwellings of the poor even before they could lay their hands on it. Second, as most of the poor people (predominantly belonging to Harijan caste) were cultivating government lands or government assigned lands they were not paid any compensation for the loss of these lands.

In this manner, having exhausted the little compensation money that they finally received, with no apparent understanding of what submersions meant, unwilling to desert their sacred temples and places where for generations, if not centuries, they had been residing, and with absolutely no plans for resettling elsewhere they continued to reside in their old villages in mutual reassurance ignoring all warnings of the government officials. To add to their confidence, the government also did not initiate any action to demolish government property such as schools and panchayat buildings and other offices and structures.

The eviction trauma

The people were rudely shaken out of their complacence soon after the completion of the dam in the summer of 1981. When repeated warnings failed to dislodge the villagers the government realised that until and unless the houses and huts were demolished, the people would not vacate the villages. The officers and staff of the Departments of Revenue and Irrigation and Power along with hired labourers from the towns and a large contingent of police undertook the demolition work. They completely demolished the houses by knocking down ceilings and walls, and removing door and window frames. Demolition of huts was carried on with much more vigour and zeal. Utensils and other belongings were thrown out, cattle were let loose and people were driven out-hounded out of their own homes like stray cattle in one big swoop. People had never seen anything like this. The authorities used simple tools like crow bars and pick axes and bulldozers in the operation. The ruthless actions of the authorities shocked the people who were already distressed at the thought of having to leave their homes. The officials did not show any regard and respect for people. People complained to the research team that the officials were very repressive in their actions. An old woman in Relampadu village bitterly weeping, reported to the committee that her ankle and her right hand were fractured when she was dragged out from her hut by the police. The government brutality created panic among the people. Strong resentment against the behaviour of the officials was vocalised by people in every village that the research team visited. Very few families were provided with the promised free transport to the new sites chosen by the villagers. People complained that they had to pay money even for this facility. As a result, majority of the evictees had to carry their belongings on their heads. Without transport, almost all the evicted families had to leave a part of their belongings in the villages. This traumatic experience was repeated in most of the eighty-two villages facing full or partial submersion.

Life after evictions

Leaving their lands. houses and sometimes even utensils in the evacuated areas, the villagers were orphaned overnight. Unemployment stared them in the face. The idea of settling down in a new place made them feel like 'aliens'. Insecurity and uncertainty about the future further aggravated the problem. Added to this were the appalling living conditions in the new areas. With no basic civic amenities, life became very difficult. The primary responsibility of any civilised government in such a situation is to provide at least basic amenities to the displaced people, especially when they are in distress and emotionally disturbed. Cash compensation, far too inadequate, was the only one-point rehabilitation programme the government had envisaged.

As compensation was paid in 'full', it was the responsibility of the evacuees to fend for themselves. The callousness of the government became apparent when the evacuees who had savings had to take their own initiative to buy land for houses from private land-owners. They had to pay exhorbitant rates for the new land as land was scarce and the demand was high.

By and large, the evacuees succeeded in 'settling' down in areas near the old villages. The research team also observed that an entire village did not settle down in the new place as one unit. Each village resettled in more than one cluster. Each village leader and landlord had his own following. Some people went along with a group as they could get house sites at reasonable prices. Labourers went along with big farmers to whom they were attached earlier. Old village rivalries continued and rival groups moved into different settlements. The grouping in the new settlements was also based on caste lines. The Scheduled Castes were segregated and settled in separate quarters. Backward Castes congregated on the sume lines as before eviction.

The research team which visited the villages soon after the evictions in July-August found the life of the villagers in the new settlements pathetic. Those who possessed stone houses earlier were forced to live in huts. Of course, there were a few stone houses. People were either building houses or were idle. Drinking water continued to be a problem. No bore wells had been dug in several settlements and in many cases there was no water source near by. The team observed that groups of people would discuss their future work prospects and livelihood, looking morose and depressed. Their clothing was inadequate and invariably unwashed. People cursed the government for driving them to destitution. An angry young man told the team that he would like to see the Srisailam Dam bombed.

Several representations were made to the government at various levels by the people, their representatives, the Lokayan team and civil rights organisations arid demonstrations were held, but all to no avail. Apart from some marginal benefits like providing house sites and electricity and Rs. 1,000 to each member of the weaker sections, the government did precious little by way of creating new avenues of livelihood for these people.

A second survey by the Lokayan team in November 1984, three years after the evictions, found the people to be worse off.


The immediate need of the people after eviction was housing. When the money given as compensation for their dwellings had already been spent where did the evictees get money to construct their new houses? Almost 70 per cent of the people reported that they had borrowed money. Another 7 per cent had either used their savings or sold some assets. With the inadequate materials and money provided by the government (supposed to be Rs. 1,000 worth) and some materials from their old homes, about 5 per cent of the weaker sections built their huts.

What is surprising is that people spent substantive amounts in building their new houses though the number of stone houses was reduced from 81 per cent to only 53 per cent and were smaller in size, the number of thatched houses went up by 218 per cent. The average cost of construction was around Rs. 16,000 varying from Rs. 5,000 in the case of agricultural labourers to Rs. 40,000 in the case of big farmers. When asked why they did not try to buy land with the compensation money some of the evictees replied: 'First we need a place of shelter'. The idea that they would be permanently losing their lands did not dawn on them till much later. They attempted building houses similar to their old houses and had to spend a lot of money and resources. Ironically, after taking all the trouble and incurring huge debts, most of them had to travel to distant places in search of work as the remaining lands of the village, if any. could not support the same large population. Further, not being used to living in thatched huts led to several fire accidents in the new settlements forcing people to build their houses all over again. Another point that needs to be mentioned here is that the cost of construction increased enormously due to the pressure of so many trying to build their houses at the same time.

Land, Income and Work

As stated earlier, 64 per cent of the lands in the sampled villages were submerged. Category-wise, 84 per cent of wet lands, 59 per cent of dry lands and 90 per cent of wastelands were submerged. Class-wise, big farmers lost 56 per cent of their lands, middle farmers 69 per cent, and small and marginal farmers, 80 per cent of their lands. Of the lands now remaining after submergence, 70 per cent were owned by big farmers (as against 60 per cent in the old villages). The share of middle farmers decreased from 16 per cent to 11 per cent and of small and marginal farmers from 15 per cent to 11 per cent. In other words, dependence on big farmers in terms of loans, etc. had increased after submersions. Further, there was drought for two successive years following the eviction. With most of the lands submerged, the income and employment prospects of people decreased drastically. The average income in the villages surveyed declined from Rs. 9,116 to Rs. 2,347 per annum per family, i.e., a reduction of 74 per cent. As an average this of course hides the extremities such as the situation in villages like Beeravolu and Sanharenipalli where all the land was lost. The submergence of fertile lands forced the fanners to shift from commercial crops to subsistence crops on the remaining lands. They now cultivate mostly rice and millets instead of tobacco and chilliest The latter also require heavy investment. Lands acquired by the government were still being cultivated wherever possible but due to the construction of crest gates and untimely rains, the standing crop in some of the submergible areas was lost.

While initially some people were employed in the construction of houses at the new sites as well as in building roads, the average employment decreased from 256 days per year to 59 days per year, forcing people to migrate or trek long distances in search of work.


The drastic change in circumstances had forced most of the displaced people into debt. The number of people without debts dropped sharply from 38 per cent in the old villages to only 9 per cent in the new villages. Interestingly, while 67 per cent of the agricultural labourers reported that they had no debts in the old villages, the number dropped sharply to 9 per cent in the new settlements. This only confirms our earlier explanation that most people paid off their past debts with the compensation money they received. On an average, the debt per family increased from Rs. 4,810 to Rs. 12.462, i.e., an increase of 259 per cent in three years. In the case of agricultural labourers the increase was fivefold rising from Rs. 949 to Rs. 4,771. Debts of small and marginal farmers doubled. while those of middle farmers rose one and a half times from Rs. 6,903 in the old villages to Rs. 10,000 in the new villages. Debts of large farmers also rose sharply from Rs. 10,500 per family on an average to Rs. 32,279. As mentioned earlier, the sharp increase in debts was largely due to the expenses incurred in building new houses. The question remains: who could have given credit to the displaced people despite their worsening conditions?

As mentioned earlier, most people had repaid their past debts with the compensation money they received. A substantial proportion of this money may have been in the villages with some of the large farmers-moneylenders and therefore people may not have been compelled to seek credit from external sources. A more important reason, apart from the availability of money within the villages, was the fact that almost all the displaced families had filed cases in the court claiming higher compensation. The courts had invariably enhanced the amount of compensation to be paid to the evictees. Having realised this, the big farmers and moneylenders had given loans liberally to the displaced people. The rate of interest on 90 per cent of the loans given was 24 per cent. The main reason that the rate of interest remained constant at 24 per cent and was not increased despite the urgency and demand and dire circumstances may be due to the fact that the creditors in the villages were Rushed with compensation money in the form of recovered loans.

Cattle Wealth

The survey revealed that cattle wealth of the people was reduced to less than half of what it was in the old villages. The number of cows were reduced by 64 per cent, female buffaloes by 50 per cent, male buffaloes by 78 per cent, sheep by 74 per cent and goats by 86 per cent. Poultry was reduced by 61 per cent. Even bullocks which are so essential for cultivation had gone down by 38 per cent. Looking at this class-wise, the landless appeared to have suffered the most, having lost 91 per cent of their cows, 79 per cent of their bulls, all the sheep they possessed, 91 per cent of goats and 61 per cent of their poultry. The relative decrease in different species of animals clearly revealed that depending on the necessity, the displaced people had been selling their cattle one by one. People are less directly dependent on goats and male buffaloes, than on bullocks and to an extent on cows and female buffaloes. While the situation varied from village to village, the desperation of the people is well exemplified by the case of Gudem village which consists predominantly of a sheep rearing community (Gollas). There has been a decline from 2,580 sheep in the old village to just 706, i.e., a decrease of 73 per cent. The variations between villages with regard to decrease in cattle wealth is also dependent on the extent to which lands have been submerged and the specific occupations of the villagers. Broadly, there appear to be three distinct reasons for the decline in cattle wealth of the evictees:

  1. Due to the submergence of cultivable lands and failure of good harvests the evictees sold a large proportion of their cattle for sheer survival.
  2. Acute shortage of fodder due to the submergence of river banks and wastelands on the one hand and failure of good harvests on the other have made it extremely difficult to maintain cattle in the new settlements.
  3. To generate resources to construct new houses.

Agricultural Implements

The same trend was discernible in the case of agricultural implements. Farmers of this area do not appear to have been using modern agricultural equipment such as tractors and pumpsets. Bullock carts' one of the key elements of Indian agriculture, declined by 37 per cent. Of the nine oil engines in the old villages only three were left. While one tractor was sold, two new tractors were purchased by big farmers-cum-contractors. Several farmers mentioned that they had sold many of their agricultural implements to make both ends meet.

Non-agricultural Occupations

A quick look at the non-agricultural occupations completes the dismal picture.

POTTERS: Due to the submersion of land the old sources of mud and clay have been eroded. Following the loss of their lands and unable to sustain themselves on pottery alone, some of the potters were forced to trek long distances in search of work as labourers. Moreover, due to the submersion of their lands and displacement, the income of the villagers has been drastically reduced and hence their demand for pots may have also been reduced considerably.

WASHEIMEN: No distinctive change was observable in their condition.

BARBERS: With the loss of their lands, cutting hair was their only means of survival. According to one barber from Sankarenipally (Nandikothur taluk, Kurnool district), due to the displacement of several villages nearby and dispersal of the population over a wide area, the barbers from these villages were 'coming to our village so that we now have more barbers and less work'.

STONE WORKERS: Wadders were very busy due to the sudden spurt in construction activity in the new settlements.

TODDY TAPPERS: Following the submersion of land most of the toddy trees over which they had traditional claims were lost and they were therefore reduced to complete dependence on agricultural labour for survival.

FISHERMEN: Most of them used to make a living by plying dinghies, carrying people and cattle across the Krishna. During summer they would cultivate water melons in the river bed and also fish in the river using small nets. With the increase in the volume of water in the Krishna and with no prospect of it drying up in any season they were unable to ply their dinghies most of the time. Nor did they possess the boats, nets and skills necessary for deep water fishing while water melon cultivation in summer was out of the question. Of late, however, several people, not necessarily fishermen, had turned to fishing in a big way using massive nets and boats. But the market was monopoIised by some businessmen from the neighbouring State of Tamil Nadu with little profit accruing to the fishermen.

CARPENTERS: were also in great demand due to the spurt in construction activity despite the fact that people used the beams and door and window frames of their erstwhile dwellings in the construction of their new houses.

LEATHER WORKERS: They had to supplement their meagre earnings by engaging in daily wage labour even in the old villages, which they continued even in the new settlements. Although one cobbler of Vellatoor (Mollapur taluk, Mahboobnagar district) said that he had practically given up his profession after shifting to the new village (perhaps the earnings were too meagre).

WEAVERS: Several villages in the vicinity had a long handloom tradition. Villages like Pragatur (Alampur taluk, Mahboobnagar district) were mostly inhabited by handloom weavers, who combined weaving with agriculture. The loss of agricultural lands has forced them to increasingly depend on handloom weaving. Many of the weavers interviewed by the team complained of lack of capital to begin their weaving activities again.

OTHERS: Shopkeepers, teachers, post office personnel, priests, etc. complained that loss of their lands had forced them to depend almost exclusively on their present occupations.

In short, only those connected with construction activity like masons, stone cutters and carpenters prospered at the new settlements, as also small time contractors who had taken contracts for various public works, like laying roads, constructing drains and panchayat bhavans. While the government had thought of compensation for houses and lands only, it does not seem to have taken into account a whole range of activities which are not directly dependent on agriculture as described above resulting in enormous distress to families involved in these occupations.

Government measures at the new sites

After forcibly driving people out of their homes and making them destitutes in May-June 1981, pressure exerted by the evictees, and witnessing the enormous difficulties of the people themselves prompted the government to ameliorate their condition to some extent:

  1. Under the on-going 'sites and services' programme, the weaker sections among the evacuees were allotted free house sites and given a hutment grant of Rs. 1,000 per family (part of which was in the form of bamboos).
  2. To provide school and panchayat buildings, electricity, roads and drainage facilities.
  3. To sink bore wells for drinking water.

Under this programme a sum of Rs. 2.80 crores was spent between April 1981 and March 1985, i.e., ever since the forcible evictions took place. This works out to an average of Rs. 70 lakhs per annum for four years. For the eighty-two displaced villages this works out to a pittance. In addition a sum of Rs. 3 crores was allotted for shifting sixty-two of the several temples and other religious monuments likely to be submerged.

Based on the first Lokayan report, the World Bank, which has emerged as the prime financier of the remaining part of the project, insisted on the proper rehabilitation of the displaced, but was easily satisfied with these meagre measures of physical rehabilitation undertaken by the state government. This is understandable since ultimately the Bank is more interested in lending money than in looking after the welfare of the victims of development sponsored by it.

What is surprising is the totally callous attitude of the authonties, the so-called 'experts' and even the people's 'representatives' to the need of these displaced people, viz., employment or a permanent source of livelihood.

Sucked deeper and deeper into the whirlpool of destitution, as is quite evident from the surveys, with nobody to help them there was a ray of hope in the form of lawyers from the nearby towns.


9 Water scarcity and people's alternatives

Drought and water scarcity are usually problems for which gigantic water projects are offered as a solution. Thus, the recurrent drought in Rayalseema is cited as the mam reason for the construetion of the Telugu Ganga Canal. As an expert committee of Andhra Pradesh states, 'For irrigation use, water is a priceless -treasure, since without water there can be no irrigation and without irrigation successful crop production is not possible in the arid and semi-arid regions of Rayalseema'.

Rayalseema. like other arid regions of India, has been supported by a large network of tanks. The construction of tanks for irrigation is an ancient practice, going hack to over 1,000 years. The tanks constructed before the Vijayanagar period, are shallow with long hunds. During the Vijayanagar period, an attempt was made to select gorges and construct high embankments to form larger reservoirs. Examples of such tanks are Cumbam tank, Bukkapatnam tank, and Porumilla tank. Even today. tank irrigation in Rayalseema covers 6.201 lakh acres, compared to 4.272 lakh acres under major irrigation. The fact that Rayalseema is a drought prone area is partly a result of the breakdown of the tank maintenance systems and partly due to the over-exploitation of the limited water resources of the region.

An example of how the breakdown of the ancient tank system was facilitated is the cessation of maintenance of percolation tanks during the colonial period. Percolation tanks are tanks that recharge the groundwater level for wells and downstream tanks. Since they contribute to nature's economy and the survival economy, and not directly to the commercial economy, they were not sources of revenue for the British. During the British rule when the maintenance grant was linked with the area irrigated, ponds and percolation tanks ceased to receive any maintenance grant unlike other minor irrigation tanks as there was no direct ayacut (command area). This marked the beginning of the end of this system. In more recent times, uncontrolled exploitation of scarce groundwater with energized has led to the drying up of wells and tanks, thus creating a permanent water scarcity. Financial support given to energised pumps has contributed immensely to the rapid utilisation of groundwater. According to Dakshinamurti et al.,

It is seen that from 1950 to 1960 the development of groundwater was about 2.5 p. c. on linear basis, based on the area irrigated from groundwater resources during the year 1950-51. The growth rates from 1960 61 to 1964 65 was 3.7 p. c. It suddenly rose up to 19 p. c. from 1964-65 to 1968 69. This sudden and high increase in growth rate has been due to the advent of high yielding crop varieties, mobilization of institutional resources for financing the programmes and stepping up of rural electrification.

Most groundwater utilisation in India is from the shallow aquifer zone with a depth of less than 400 500 feet. While pumps have been distributed liberally to encourage irrigation in arid and semiarid areas, the close hydrological link between the local surface water sources, dug wells and shallow aquifer borewells have not been given due importance. As a result, while drought is mitigated for farmers growing cash crops, energised pumpsets are creating drought for marginal and poor peasants by lowering the water table to a level that is below their reach. This phenomenon has become so pervasive in the hard rock areas of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, etc. that large areas have been blacklisted to stop groundwater over-exploitation. However, in the absence of a proper legislative instrument, groundwater drought is being increasingly created.

In arid regions, where rainfall is low, there is even less percolation into the ground and the recharge of groundwater correspondingly lower. Local rainfall, in the final analysis, is the only source of groundwater recharge, particularly in the non-alluvial regions. Raghava Rao et al." have given the percentage of rainfall available for recharge in different regions (Table 9.1).

Table 9.1 Percentage Rainfall Infiltration to Groundwater Body in Different Rock Types and Formations

ock Type/Formation Percentage Rainfall Infiltrating to
Groundwater Body
1. Hard rock formations and Deccan traps 10
2. Consolidated rocks (Sandstone) 5-10
3. River alluvia 15-21
4. Indo Gangetic alluvium 20
5. Coast alluvia 10-15
6. Western Rajasthan dune sand 2
7. Intermontane valleys 15-20

Sustainable limits for groundwater exploitation are therefore very low. When the rate of withdrawal of groundwater exceeds the rate of recharge through percolation, groundwater starts getting depleted. Continuous over-exploitation of groundwater then drains the surface water resources in the tanks or dug-wells, making them dry for longer periods in the year. In this process the weaker and poorer households are adversely affected because the rich can tap water at deeper levels.

Groundwater depletion has created permanent drought conditions in most parts of peninsular India. With shallow aquifers totally exhausted, dug-wells and tanks will not store water for very long. This further encourages groundwater based irrigation, sometimes with the declared objective of drought relief. The case of Rayalseema in Andhra Pradesh and other areas in Maharashtra, which include some of India's most drought prone areas, are proof of this. A study by Olsen on Rayalseema concluded that:

Irrigation has left us with the popular perception that this drought is more severe and more permanent than any past drought. Climate change is a myth brought on by the novelty of exponential growth in water usage... the falling water-table is evidence of overuse of water, not of climatic change."

Olsen shows that in fact there is hardly any meteorological change in terms total annual rainfall in Rayalseema over the forty year period from 1946 to 1985 (Table 9.2).

The rise in the number of electric pumpsets in the same region during 1968 84 is shown in Table 9.3.

Table 9.2 Avenge Annual Rainfall in Rayalseema 1946-85

Year Rainfall Year Rainfall
1946 1048 1966 977
1947 476 1967 nd
1948 631 1968 601
1949 nd 1969 768
1950 603 1970 649
1951 482 1971 nd
1952 641 1972 946
1953 915 1973 680
1954 774 1974 734
1955 766 1975 nd
1956 774 1976 698
1957 304 1977 885
1958 763 1978 954
1959 557 1979 882
1960 608 1980 402
1961 587 1981 762
1962 806 1982 548
1963 nd 1983 765
1964 737 1984 728
1965 405 1985 678

Table 9.3 Number of Electric Pumpsets

Year Chittoor
Rayalseerna Andhra Pradesh
1968 22553 10491 41769 122321
1974 41273 20614 81992 261968
1979 48676 76425 98402 345396
1984 68585 39433 144639 582197
Increase of 1984 over 1968 (per cent) 207 276 246 376

Source: AP State Electricity Board figures.

In Maharashtra, depletion of groundwater can be directly linked to the increase in energised pumpsets, particularly to irrigate sugarcane. While sugarcane is cultivated on only 2 to 3 per cent of the land, it consumes several times more water than other irrigated crops. This has necessitated intensive use of groundwater leading to the drying up of wells, both shallow and deep. The sugar factories have been actively supporting their shareholders in deepening their borewells. As a result, public wells and shallow wells belonging to small farmers have become dry. During the Sixth Plan, 15,302 out of 17,112 villages with water problems were provided with water, and the remaining 1,810 villages still faced problems. The rapid depletion of groundwater resources has, however, increased the number of problem villages, with no source of drinking water, to a staggering 23,000. This tremendous scarcity is clearly linked with the over-exploitation of groundwater for sugarcane and the repeated failure of food crops. The government, refusing to recognise the role of sugarcane, cites drinking water scarcity as the reason for increased grants for water development and the failure of food crops as the reason for drought relief. In spite of this, sugarcane cultivation and production is rapidly increasing. In the area around one sugar factory alone, sugarcane cultivation with groundwater irrigation has increased dramatically over two decades, as can be seen from Table 9.4.

Table 9.4 Growth of Irrigated Sugarcane in a Region of Maharashira

Period Area under Sugarcane
(Well Irrigated)
  (in hectares)
1961-62 3248
1971-72 6990
1981-82 17612

The shift from rainfed coarse grain crops to irrigated cash crops, in this case sugarcane, has meant higher incomes. But the costs have been heavy. Manerajree village of Tasgaon taluk is among those that have benefited financially but have lost materially because of sugarcane production and the related increase in groundwater exploitation. A new water scheme with a potential supply of 50,000 litres was commissioned in November 1981 at the cost of Rs.6.93 lakhs. The source well yield lasted only a year, it was dry by November 1982. For increasing yields, three bores each 60 metros deep were made near the well. Together they yielded (with power pumps) 50,000 litres a day in 1982, however all the wells had gone dry by November 1983. In 1984 one borewell of 60 metres depth was dug in the village but this too was found to be dry. Another bore of 200 metres depth provided water for a short time before running dry. More than 2,000 privately owned wells in this sugarcane region have also dried up. At present, water is being brought by tankers from a distance of 15 km.

The expansion of intensive irrigation for increasing sugarcane cultivation was a planned development activity. In 1972, the World Bank gave a credit of US $30 million to finance farmers' investments to expand the irrigation potential. During the three year period of the Maharashtra Agricultural Credit project, it was planned that 300 new tube-wells would be dug at the cost of US $2.5 million to irrigate 6,000 hectares, 11,000 new dug-wells would be energised costing US $27.5 million to irrigate 60,000 hectares, and 175 lift irrigation schemes would be installed costing US $11.5 million to irrigate 40,000 hectares. It was the policy of the World Bank project to finance the expansion of sugarcane. Estimations of changes in the cropped area due to the Agricultural Credit project of the World Bank indicated that the project would lead to a decline in staple foodgrain production, and an expansion of commercial crops like sugarcane. The area under jowar was expected to decrease from 101,450 hectares to 98,900 hectares, i.e., a decrease of 2,550 hectares. Pulses cultivation was expected to come down from 31,550 to 22,200 hectares. a decline of 9,350 hectares. On the other hand, the area under sugarcane was expected to more than double, from 3,600 hectares to 8,200 hectares. Given that a hectare of sugarcane uses 300 hectare cm of water, while a hectare of jowar uses 21, and a hectare of pulses uses only 15 in terms of water use, the planned increase in sugarcane cultivation in a drought prone area was a prescription for desertification. Ironically, the World Bank project to expand intensive irrigation was launched in one of the worst drought years in Maharashtra. Its guiding principle was that there was adequate water for irrigation.

While experience in many districts indicates the relation between over-exploitation of groundwater and a serious decline in the water table, the current thinking in international agencies and government seems to be based on an intentionally created picture of groundwaterabundance in all parts of the country. In fact according to a recent document of the Water Resources Ministry, even the districts marked as negative balance districts in the 1982 report of the Central Groundwater Board have been shown as positive balance districts (Table 9.5).

Table 9.5 Dangerous Inconsistency in Groundwater Availability between 1982 Data of CGWB and 1987 Data of a Recent Document of the Ministry of Water Resources (all units in million cubic metres)

District Utilisable Resources Net Draft
Ground Balance
1982 1987 1982 1987 1982 1987
Ahmednagar 583 1610 1326 754 - 743 +856
Jalgaon 623 1090 676 504 -053 +586
Nasik 916 1500 1051 540 - 135 +960
Sangli 490 760 549 364 -059 + 396
Sholapur 785 1330 797 495 - 012 +835
Chinoor 825 1909 828 746 - 003 + 1163
Cuddapah 425 1273 433 316 -008 +957
Kolar 346 499 548 301 -202 + 198

The document (Annexure with the draft water policy) gives the figure of 41.9 million hectare metres as the utilisable groundwater resources and shows a net positive balance groundwater potential of 31.4 million hectare metres after deducting 10.5 million hectare metres as net draft. This would have been a very comfortable situation if these figures did not totally contradict scientific evaluations of the groundwater situation. Dakshinamurti e' al. points out in clear terms that the working group of the Planning Commission on the Task Force on Ground Water Resources estimated that the total usable ground water potential would be only 75 to 80 per cent of the net ground water recharge available and recommended a figure of 20.36 million hectare metres per year as the long term potential for ground water development in India.... The total utilization of ground water, inclusive of irrigation, industry. domestic, and livestock has been estimated at 11.61 million hectare metres in 1988 89 as against 20.36 million hectare metres of the estimated total usable ground water available in the country. It is thus visualised that the entire potential is likely to be tapped even before the end of the Seventh Five-Year Plan (19~89) unless the recharge rate is increased by suitable ground water recharging techniques.

Other man-made factors have also contributed to groundwater drought. In the Kolar district of Karnataka, earlier well known for water conservation through a large number of tanks, field studies by the authors have established that the uncontrolled expansion of Eucalyptus plantations and the unscientific use of groundwater for irrigating cash crops like grapes, vegetables and flowers, have resulted in groundwater drought leading in turn to the rapid drying up of surface water sources. The traditional tank system was a mechanism for increasing the recharge of groundwater by increasing percolation from surface storage of rain water. The signs of erosion of these indigenous percolation tanks were observed during the colonial period, and since then' their decay has continued. The British had linked maintenance grants of waterworks with revenue, and since percolation tanks had no irrigation command, they ceased to get these grants. The destruction of village panchayats, and the establishment of zamindars and imamdars also led to the decay of these tanks. The current groundwater drought has created a readiness among villagers to re-establish collective control of water use and carry out restoration of traditional tanks and ponds. However, the present official policy seems to be oriented more towards privitisation of groundwater and its uncontrolled exploitation. It rewards those individuals and groups who have acted irresponsibly in matters concerning water. As access to water narrows down to those who can afford to regularly deepen their energised wells for irrigation of cash crops, the disparity between the rich and the poor farmers is getting more pronounced. Water 'development' as conventionally conceived, has a severe polarising effect in rural society.

Ecologically destructive development programmes have transformed temporary meteorological drought into a long-term ecological process of desertification arising from groundwater and surface water drought. This has serious political and economic ramifications? since the costs are borne by the poor and marginal groups, while short-term benefits accrue to the rich sections rural communities. As Gupta has pointed out, 'planners must recognize that drought and its debilitating effects are triggered off by the same set of macro-economic policies which generate surplus.

Operationalising changes in policy and management of land and water will remain a difficult task, since the macro to micro shift has important cognitive, organizational, political and financial implications. Also, it is difficult to impress upon politicians that they should agree to a programme where they will not have opportunity to enjoy political gains by 'bringing' water to a region by 'sanctioning' a canal; it is equally difficult to impress upon the extremely powerful construction industry that collecting water in large dams may not be in the best economic interests of the country. This is apparent from the manner in which the large dam lobby has been able to obtain clearance for the Rs. 25,000 crores, twenty-five year Narmada project in the face of opposition by environmentalists throughout the country! It is equally difficult to make the technocrats accept a system where their grip on the distribution of irrigated water to water starved farms will be less critical. It is no less difficult to convince the grapeiproducing farmers that wine is not as essential as water, in order to stop overuse of groundwater. And finally, it is difficult to make any government agree to a programme that reduces the importance of 'relief' by controlling floods and drought ecologically. Over the years, 'relief' has ensured the survival of individual politicians more effectively than the survival of the suffering population. Ecological water resource use will face the real challenge in the political arena. As the water crisis intensifies, control over water will become an issue of major political conflict. Large-scale collection and distribution of water, while it may not have the sanction of science, will have the support of vested groups and the new caste system that has evolved around the new temple of India-large dams. The challenge would entail the capturing of the proverbial water god (Indradev) in millions of smaller reservoirs and tanks through a people's programme. When water resources are considered from the ecological perspective, when the entire river basin from the catchment to the delta areas is viewed as a whole, when the water budget is planned on the basis of overall development of the people, many of the acute inter-state conflicts will subside. For example, the confrontation and confusion over the Telugu Ganga project will subside once the basic assumption, that dry areas are incapable of improving without irrigation water brought Mom long distances, is questioned.

Experiments like the Pani Panchayat movement and the Mukti Sangarsh movement are showing the direction for the ecological and equitable use of water. Ecological principles ensure equity, since limiting water use to protective irrigation makes it possible to distribute water equally to all families.

The Pani Panchayat movement launched by the Gram Gourav Pratisthan (GOP) in Pune district in Maharashtra is an example of a people centred effort to create an ecological and equitable system of water use in a drought prone area.- It was launched in 1972 when Maharashtra was facing a severe drought. The government focused on relief schemes and rapid exploitation of water resources. Salunke, who established the GGP, realised that the focus had to be soil and water conservation as well as strict water control.

The experience with government initiated irrigation schemes has demonstrated the conflict between the survival needs of the community and the drive for profits of those individuals who can monopolise irrigation water for cash crop cultivation. Sugarcane has become the most important cash crop in the drought affected regions of Maharashtra. Since sugarcane requires a large amount of water, it diverts water both from the survival economy as well as nature's economy. The water demands for different crops are shown in Table 9.6.

The employment generated through equivalent water use for different crops is shown in Table 9.7.

Thus while from the point of view of the farmer with access to inputs for sugarcane, this crop is the most profitable, from the point of view of public interest it is extremely wasteful and resource destructive.

To prevent the waste of scarce water resources through unjust and ecologically destructive cropping patterns, the Pani Panchayats were formed. The central idea underlying the formation of the Pani Panchayats is that in a drought prone area, no individual should be deprived of a rightful share of the limited water resources on which life and livelihood depend. To ensure equity, the Pani Panchayats treat water as a community resource, not as private property. Further, water rights are based on the number of family members, not on the size of landholdings. While members of the panchayat were free to decide how to use their water allocation, sugarcane cultivation was completely banned as being inconsistent with the principles of responsible resource use. A suitable 'Patkari', or water distributor, is appointed by the Pani Panchayat to assure fair day-to-day allocations of water to all its beneficiaries. The experiments of the Pani Panchayat have demonstrated that it is possible to treat water as a common resource, not as private property, and that the community management of a scarce common resource is necessary to ensure justice and sustainability.


10 Mining and water conflicts

Water is a fluid resource, constantly moving between the atmosphere, land and sea; flowing through minerals, plants and soil. Mountain catchments are the source of all water streams, creating rain through their orography, and capturing it in the natural reservoirs created by forests and geological structures. Mining in the catchments can lead to ecological havoc in the water systems. It can generate severe conflicts between the role of minerals in the market economy, for which they must be mined and removed, and the role of geological structures in nature's economy of maintaining the water cycle.

Be it coal for the generation of energy, iron ore for export and the growth of the national steel industry, bauxite for feeding the Japanese aluminium plants, or limestone for the cement industry- exploitation of mineral resources is the material basis of the industrial economy.

Yet in every region citizens are willing to lay down their lives to stop mining operations which, behind the facade of development, destroy the material basis of the survival of large numbers of local people. Women of the Gandhamardan Hills and of the villages of the picturesque Doon Valley, the tribals of Chhattisgarh, Singrauli, and Santhal Parganas have carried out month long blockades against mining operations in their hills. If, for various geological reasons, the mountains of India are repositories of the richest minerals, they are also the central features of our life-support systems.

While historically human settlements have tended to flourish mainly in the plains, Indian civilisation recognised the central role of mountains in ensuring survival in the densely populated river basins and valleys. The mountains in which our major rivers rise have, accordingly, been protected. Mountain watersheds have often been treated as sacred and have been conserved. The sacred Himalaya is the source of the major rivers of North India-the Ganga, the Yamuna, the Brahmaputra and their many tributaries. The Vindhya and Satpura Ranges feed the Tapti, the Narmada. the Sone, the Mahanadi, etc. The Western Ghats are the origin of the major rivers of peninsular India like the Godavari, the Krishna and the Kaveri. These rivers are the lifeline of the economy. and the mountains from which they renew their flow are the foundation for a stable economy.

The main contribution of the mountains to the country has been their role in providing perennial water resources. Through their orographic influence, mountains induce precipitation of water from the atmosphere. Through their natural forest cover. along with their geological structures, mountains convert seasonal rainfall into perennial water resources. Unfortunately, the hydrological role of the mountains has been totally ignored by the champions of industrial growth for whom the mountains are mere sources of unexploited raw materials.

The most well known people's movement against ecologically destructive mining is in the Doon Valley villages of Nahi-Kala and Thano, where activists of the Chipko movement are working with local communities to draw attention to the fact that mining of limestone has totally undermined the material basis of survival of the people.

Miles away from the Doon Valley, in Orissa, adivasi women of the 'Save Gandhamardan' movement embraced the earth singing Mati Devata, Dharam Devata (the earth is our God) to blockade the movement of vehicles of the Bharat Aluminium Company. BALCO had come in search of bauxite deposits in Gandhamardan after having destroyed the hydrological stability and sanctity of another important mountain-Amar Kantak-the source of the waters of the Narmada. the Sone and the Mahanadi rivers. The destruction of Amar Kantak was a high cost to pay for reserves which were much smaller than the original estimate. To feed its one lakh tonne aluminium plant at Korba in Madhya Pradesh.

Balco has moved to orissa to exploit the sacred gandhamardan hills, a storehouse of invaluable plant diversity and water resources. The forests of Gandhamardan have a rich stock of herbs with high medicinal value and feed twenty-two perennial streams and four waterfalls which feed the Ong and Sukhtel tributaries of the Mahanadi.

Since 1985 the tribals have obstructed the work of BALCO and have refused to be tempted by the company's offer of employment. Even police help has failed to weaken their determined protest.

The conflict is totally unnecessary because aluminium production has turned out to be a losing enterprise in India in market terms. BALCO incurred a loss of Rs. 77 crores in 1985 86 alone. Its cumulative net loss up to March 1986 stood at Rs. 317 crores. Future prospects of the company to make profits also seem dismal. The irrationality of destroying precious water resources for the mining of bauxite when we already have a surplus of aluminium is evident. The mining activity is not dictated by the needs of the people but by the demands of industrialised countries which are closing down their own aluminium plants and are encouraging imports from countries like India. Japan has reduced its aluminium smelting capacity from 12 lakh tonnes to 1.04 lakh tonnes and is importing 90 per cent of its aluminium requirements. Several Japanese companies have expressed a desire to set up joint ventures in India's export processing zones to manufacture aluminium products with buy-back arrangements. The survival of the tribals of Gandhamardan is thus threatened because the wealthy countries want to preserve their environment and their luxurious lifestyle.

The export imperative that has been guiding the mining industry in India is no less destructive to the people living in the iron ore rich Western Ghats. The export-oriented Kudremukh iron ore mines produce 7 million tonnes of concentrated iron ore from the magnetite deposits of the extremely high rainfall zone of the Tungabhadra catchment. Nearly 21 million tonnes of tailing washed annually into the reservoir of the Tungabhadra project drastically reduces its water storage capacity and total life.

Open cast mining in the iron ore belt of North Goa, between Honda and Usgao, has disrupted the hydrological balance of Goa's hills. Professor Marathe of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, has shown that the annual loss of groundwater due to mining in the belt amounts to 0.28 metres.

Whether it is iron ore in Goa or Karnataka, bauxite in the hills of Madhya Pradesh or Orissa, coal in the nation's energy capital Singrauli, limestone in the Doon Valley or magnetite in Kumaon, open cast mining on catchment slopes has drastically reduced the water resources of the country. Mining increases surface run-off and decreases infiltration. The increased run-off combined with the choking of water courses with overburdens and fines are causing floods and droughts in regions-which had stable and perennial supplies of water. In the context of the unprecedented water scarcity facing the country, the role of mining in the hydrological destabilisation of mountain watersheds can no longer be ignored. The movements of local people against ecologically destructive mining are movements for water security and survival.

The Conflict Over Limestone Quarrying in the Doon Valley

The doon valley is a distinct ecobiome in the district of dehradun, situated in the himalayan foothills of the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). Recently, it has become the focus of a serious conflict over the mode of utilisation of the rich limestone deposits located in the Mussoorie Hills which form the northern boundary of the Valley. For one interest group (including the operators of the limestone quarries and the scientific and technical agencies of the state government in charge of geology and mining), the most productive use of the limestone deposits in the Valley lies in their extraction for commercial and industrial use. For the other and much larger interest group (consisting of the local communities, both rural and urban), the most productive use of the same limestone deposits lies in their in situ function in conserving the large volumes of rain water that falls in the Mussoorie Hills during the monsoon every year. The economic activities as well as the survival of the local communities depend almost exclusively on this vital water resource. It is clear that these two functions of the limestone deposits are antagonistic and mutually exclusive; utilisation based on one actually negates the other.

During the last three decades the limestone industry in the Doon Valley, consisting of both quarrying of limestone and its processing, received a lot of encouragement, which led to its accelerated growth. For the people residing in the Valley, this growth has threatened the material basis of survival through the destructive impact of the limestone industry on the hydrological balance of the Valley' Damage to vital resources such as water, through the destruction of the essential ecological processes controlling the hydrological balance of the Valley, has been perceived by the people as a violation of their political and economic right to a decent though often minimal share of the vital resources that are needed for their biological and economic sustenance.

This issue of violation, through ecological destruction, of the people's rights, has been presented before the Supreme Court of India in an attempt to seek justice which is apt to be denied in the economic world when it is dominated by profit motives and market forces. This initiative to seek justice, which is rather exemplary, came from the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Centre in Dehradun, and was supported by interventions from citizens' pressure groups, such as the Save Mussoorie Society and the Friends of the Doon. The petition was also supported by those official agencies whose concern coincided with that of the citizens. These agencies included the Department of Environment" of the Government of India and the City Board of Mussoorie. The litigation is in the course of decision in accordance with the due process of law of the Supreme Court of India. The historical and ecological background of the conflicts over natural resources in the Doon Valley will be analysed here.

Fragile Ecosystems of the Doon Valley

The disruption of essential ecological processes, caused by the exploitation of natural resources by violating the ecological principles, is registered very quickly in the sensitive and unstable ecosystems comprising the local ecobiome. In such regions, conflicts over natural resources are apt to become acute within a short time. The Himalayas, which are said to comprise the youngest mountain system of the world, form one such fragile super ecobiome, whose fragility is due in some degree to their inherent geological instability and furthermore to the violence of the monsoon rains that they arrest and moderate.

As shown in Figure 10.1, the Doon Valley is bounded on the north-east by the lesser Himalayan Ranges, and on the eastern half of its south-west by the Shivalik Ranges. The two most important rivers of North India, the Ganga and the Yamuna, demarcate its south-eastern and north-western boundaries, respectively. The 'fragility' of the Doon Valley is further accentuated by the presence of a major boundary fault passing through the northern parts of the Valley and by the unusually heavy rainfall of about 2,000 mm per year. The average width of the Valley is about 20 km, and the length is nearly 70 km. The Doon Valley ecobiome comprises two distinct sub-catchments, one formed by the drainage basin discharging into the Ganga a little south of Rishikesh, and the other formed by the drainage- basin discharging into the Yamuna near Rampur Mahdi (just outside Dehradun district). Thus the Doon Valley forms a sub-catchment for the Ganga Yamuna rivers system which carries the vital water resources for the northern part of the Indian subcontinent.

The Lesser Himalayan Ranges, which form the northern boundary of the Doon Valley, are part of the Great Himalayan Range. The Shivalik Ranges, which form the southern boundary of the Valley, are alluvial formations that are younger than the Himalayas, as they were formed by the debris which was swept down from the mountains. The Shivalik Ranges present a stiff face to the plains, while a long and gentle slope meets the foot of the Himalayas to form a shallow longitudinal valley. These valleys or longitudinal depressions formed between the Shivaliks and the Himalayas are generally called 'Duns'. They are not continuous but are cut through by streams that drain the adjacent mountains. In some places the Duns disappear with the merging of the Shivaliks and the Lesser Himalayas. The lower parts of these Duns are generally covered by a deposit of boulders, so that the floor of the Valley is considerably higher than the level of the plains beyond the Shivaliks.

Owing to this elevation of the Duns and the short distance over which the drainage from them meets the water courses in the plains, the landscape is marked by deep gorges and gullies, which cut through the unconsolidated strata that form the floors of these valleys. For the same reason, tapping of underground water through wells has not been as feasible in the Valley as in the plains.

Figure 10.1 Geografical and Land Use Map of the Door V Valley (a)

Geografical and Land Use Map of the Door V Valley (b)

The Shivaliks belong to a tertiary belt consisting of conglomerates interbedded with clays and sandstones. The bands of clay give cohesion to the soil and improve its physical qualities. This belt meets the older, pre-tertiary Himalayan belt at the main boundary fault, which separates the rocks of the pre-tertiary age from those of the tertiary age and is a major tectonic feature of the area. Tectonic movements that are continuing at the rate of about 2 cm per year, have moved the older rocks of the Mussoorie area to cover the younger belt of the Doon Valley. The rocks in this dislocation zone are thus fractured, crushed and weakened. In the Mussoorie area this boundary fault coincides with the Krol formation of limestone rock which is folded into a syncline called the Mussoorie syncline. The town of Mussoorie is located in this synclinic formation.

On the basis of its rock and soil structure the Valley can be divided into three belts or ranges, namely, the Lesser Himalayan belt, the Doon Valley proper, and the Shivalik belt. The Lesser Himalayan belt consists of high grade limestone and shales at the base, passing gradually to dolomite towards the top, which is covered by a thin layer of soil. The Doon Valley proper is covered by unstratified and mixed pebbles and boulders with very little matrix. The Doon gravels of the Pleistocene age are covered by a thin layer of soil except in the river beds. These gravels are highly pervious, forming a poor water reservoir. The boulder bed of the drainage channels provides the underground course for most streams originating in the Himalayas, many of which disappear deep into the boulder bed for long stretches, only to reappear near the edges of the plateau where they encounter the impermeable clay formations. The natural abundance of water in the Valley, particularly in its eastern part, is reported in the Settlement Report of Bakery

At present the Eastern Doon is a vast natural reservoir or feeder of the Ganges. The forests are intercepted with running streams rising from innumerable springs in every direction, and the ground is literally oozing with water. The volume of water poured into the Ganges by the Suswa and Song is immense.

A diagrammatic section of the Doon Valley showing its three distinct geological belts is presented in Figure 10.2. These belts are related to the hydrological characteristics of the Valley, which received the highest rainfall in Northern India, apart from Cherapunji. The rainfall intensity is highest in the northern parts of the Valley, the annual average in Dehradun, Rajpur (about 8 km farther north), and Mussoorie, being 185, 266 and 197 cm, respectively. This abundant precipitation on the southern slopes of the Mussoorie Hills infiltrates the fractured limestone belt which has a high degree of porosity and therefore high storage capacity. This capacity of fissured limestone gives rise to perennial springs and streams, such as those of Bhitarli, Kiarkuli, Arnigad and Baldi. The acquirers in this belt conserve large quantities of water for dry seasons, and reduce that part of the precipitation that is lost as seasonal run-off during the monsoons. The spring fed streams disappear underground when they meet the Doon gravels, and reappear as rivers such as the Suswa and Asan in the lower clay formations of the Valley.

The sources of the water resources of the Doon Valley are thus, in the final analysis, linked with the surface and sub-soil structure of the Lesser Himalayas. The vegetation supported by the thin top soil helps in the interception of the torrential rainfall by both the canopy and the leaf litter. This helps to reduce run-off and increase infiltration of water to the suh-surface, while the high porosity of the fracture d limestone heft permits the storage of water for year around discharge.

Figure 10.2 7 Sectional View of the Doon Valley (From West to East)

.Origin of the Lime Rush

Direct and major human interference in the limestone deposits began in 1900, when the railway line was brought to Dehradun and the forest department started selling quarrying rights to the limestone deposits at a royalty of Rs. 5 per 100 cubic feet (ca 2,832 dm3). An attempt by the government to assume full control of all limestone deposits was challenged in the court by the local landlords. They argued that the boulders on the surface of the earth and river beds were not mines, and their objections were upheld. As a result, surface boulders were declared as not to be quarried, until the settlement of 1904 which declared all quarries as government property.

Table 10.1

Extraction of Limestone and Marble in Delhradun

Limestone Marble Total
1977 323753 101010 103213 527976
1978 436561 100515 106996 644072
1979 520454 114760 134774 769988
1980 390572 121879 136321 648772
1980-81 430278 132202 139015 701495
1981-82 471196 166962 123278 761436

In 1911, four quarries were being worked in the Doon Valley, and by 1982 there were nearly 100 quarry leaseholders holding about 1,250 hectares of leased area. Out of these, nearly 50 per cent are in operation. The limestone of the Doon Valley, being of high purity, has a ready market in the steel, chemicals, sugar, textile, and other industries. The amount of extraction of limestone and marble in the vicinity of Dehradun for the period 1977-82 is given in Table 10.1.

The Ecological Crisis Generated by Quarrying

Quarrying in the doon valley has disturbed the ecosystem dras tically. the limestone belt in the Mussoorie Hills lies in a tectonically active zone, and a geological thrust was created by the extension of the older pre-tertiary rocks of the Mussoorie Hills over the younger tertiary rocks of the Doon Valley. The thrust is disturbed by a series of of&hoot faults, rendering the region geologically unstable.

The extraction of minerals by open cast mining first disturbs the land-soil-vegetation system by the removal of the vegetation, the top soil, and the overburden, for surface quarrying. This disturbance would be associated with surface mining anywhere. It is, however, accentuated locally by the precipitous slopes and high rainfall, which add to the land's instability caused by mining.

The actual process of extraction of limestone thereafter creates the second ecological impact on land resources, which is unique to the fragile and sensitive ecosystems that characterize the Doon Valley. The use of explosives to remove the rocks further weakens the already weak rock structure. Explosives also activate faults in the dislocation zone of the main boundary thrust, where the quarries in the Mussoorie area are located. The result is induced slope failure and landslides, which are increasing in the region since the mining operations began.

Effects of steep gradients and high rainfall

The steep gradient of the hills and the high rainfall in the Valley contribute further to this instability, as has already been indicated. Landslides raise the beds of streams and rivers, by piling up debris in these drainage channels. The combination of heavy monsoons, bare slopes, and silted river beds, leads to flood in a valley, that was endowed by nature with excellent drainage. Floods, in turn, further destroy land resources downstream, because silted river beds lead to unpredictable changes in the course of rivers, which begin to cut their banks. The upper parts of the streams are thus intricately linked with the lower parts, forming a single ecological continuum in which manipulation of land resources upstream leads to the destruction of land resources downstream. These induced instabilities in land resources have been so large in magnitude that they are conspicuously visible.

A less visible process of destruction has been associated with the water resources of the Doon Valley, which is served entirely by rain fed streams originating in the Mussoorie Hills. The limestone deposits, besides being a reservoir of water, overlap the catchment of these streams. The ecological crisis generated by limestone quarrying is reflected by the fact that, in a valley with abundant rainfall, areas affected by mining no longer have enough water available for the sustenance of crops or humans. Furthermore, all streams and rivers serving the Valley are affected by the run-off of the Mussoorie Hills, as all of them are fed by recharging of subsurface storage systems in this catchment area. The Suswa and Asan rivers, which emerge in the lowest drainage line of the Valley, also provide sub-surface and delayed drainage of the Mussoorie Hills. Tampering with the limestone belt implies direct destruction of the recharge basin of all water sources in the Valley

Further impacts of quarrying

The impact of quarrying is also reflected in the flow characteristics of the springs and streams in the Doon Valley. As in the last few years, quarrying has led to the most drastic changes in the surface characteristics of the catchments-both in terms of extent and intensity-decline in the lean period base flow in the streams can be linked with it. The lean period flow in the Rajpur and Bijapur Canal systems, which tap the water from the Rispana and Tons rivers, respectively is shown in Figure 10.3.

Moreover, the destruction of the internal hydrological system is reflected in the fact that the spring sources of all villages surveyed in the local catchments have registered an average decrease of nearly 50 per cent in their lean period discharges over the last two decades. Such disturbance of the hydrological cycle resulting from human intervention in the limestone belt in the processes of quarrying seems unavoidable and an expensive impact of quarrying.

Figure 10.3 Changes in the Lean Period Flow in Doon Canals

This disturbance has been further accentuated by the impact of the disposal of overburdens and 'finest' on the hill slopes, and by the landslides induced by mining related activities in this sensitive region. The resulting debris covers large areas of the hill slopes Ludlow the limestone belt. As the debris deposited has little water infiltration capacity, there is a drastic decline in the effective catchment area in the Mussoorie Hills which in turn leads to surface run-off.

Thus the situation of the limestone belt is such that the real impact of quarrying on the hydrological characteristics of the hill surface will, through the deposition of debris, be several times as extensive as the total area of the quarries. The area of land under debris may even be several orders of magnitude greater than the leasehold area of quarrying. Moreover during heavy rainfall, which is common in the Doon Valley, debris is carried by the run-off to the river beds. This in turn raises the river beds, changes the course of rivers, leads to soil erosion in the adjoining agricultural land and forests, and blocks the vital canal systems of the Valley. The ecological impact of quarrying, in terms of destabilized land and water resources, is clearly indicated by the transformation of the boulder beds of the Doon Valley rivers into debris covered beds following the introduction of quarrying.

More than a century ago, Williams" reported that there was no 'kunkar' ('kunkur', kunkar', 'coucher', etc., coarse limestone sheets or nodules) or 'bajri' (limestone debris) available in the Valley. According to him, 'the geological formation of the Valley itself, a vast shingle-bed interspersed with (tracts of) sand, having a partial covering of loam, forbids the existence of kunkar, the substitute for which is stone metalling, procured by breaking up the boulders found in the mountain torrents.

Devastating silting and flooding

This description remained applicable to the Doon Valley until recently, when the impact of three decades of quarrying became painfully evident through the deposition of materials carried down by the mountain torrents during each monsoon. As a result. the boulder strewn beds of the rivers were transformed into ever rising depositories of debris Rispana river bed, boulders disappeared about ten years ago, while in the Tons river bed a major inflow of debris about 6 feet (nearly 2 metres) in height was recorded after the 1982 monsoon. The Baldi river's bed has been rising constantly, threatening roads and bridges in the area of Sahastradhara, which lies about 1 km upstream of its confluence with the Song river. Buildings near the only bridge over the Baldi river have already been washed away, and the cumulative piling up of 'bajri' will, in the near future, pose a serious threat of floods in large parts of the Valley.

Such floods have already begun to affect villages on the banks of the Asan, the Baldi, and the Song rivers. Distance does not save these remote villages from the destructive impact of quarrying, as they are part of the overall ecobiome, being linked to one another by a common drainage channel, and to that extent belonging to a natural ecological unit. The upper parts of the streams have an impact on the lower parts, and quarrying upstream affects activities further downstream, sometimes quite drastically.

Besides damaging land and property along the river beds, the debris loaded flow in rivers has started choking canal works, thus heavily increasing their maintenance costs and the vulnerability of the water distribution system. Costs for removal of the debris in the canals, which were insignificant until the last decade, have risen to Rs. 5 lakhs in the last monsoon. The Irrigation Department, which looks after the Doon Canals, has to employ a large labour force to work around the clock throughout the monsoons, so that the canal head is not blocked by silt and other debris. The maintenance team is involved in such activities as not allowing the rivers to change their course in order to ensure that the water reaches the canal head, clearing out debris from the canal head and the canals.

At times the torrent is so :powerful and the load of silt is so heavy that it is physically impossible to remove the silt quickly. In mid August 1983, Dehradun city went without water for several days because the Rajpur Canal was entirely silted up. It is expected that within a period of ten years the entire canal works will be threatened by rising torrents and the concomitant destruction of flood protection works. Unfortunately, the cost associated with the destruction of this vital water conservation and distribution system has so far not been recognised as a negative externality of quarrying, because the processes by which quarrying threatens water resources have not been recognised. Through water, the impact of quarrying is carried to the human settlements, which depend on these water resources for survival.

11 Fisheries and conflicts at sea

In april 1989, the national fisherman's forum organised the kanyakumari march with the avowed aim-'protect waters, protect life'. For people who depend on the ecology of the coastal region for their livelihood, the relation between water use on land and the sustenance of living resources of the sea is clear. Irreparable damage has been caused to the biological productivity^of the sea by the use of inappropriate technologies on land and in the oceans. Dams and barrages across rivers have taken their toll by disturbing the ecosystem and altering the natural flow of water and nutrients. Rivers which once used to carry food for marine life now carry mud and chemicals, leading to the gradual transformation of our waters into aquatic deserts.

The marine and coastal habitats of India are being subjected to severe environmental stress. On the one hand, the coastal areas and seas are treated as a depository of all pollutants from the terrestrial environment: silt and sediments from uplands, residues of fertilisers and pesticides from farm lands, sewage and industrial effluents are all ultimately dumped into this habitat. On the other hand, the 'marine revolution' which has introduced powerful technologies in the fisheries sector has transformed fish from being a renewable resource into a non-renewable resource. Pollution combined with over-exploitation is threatening marine resources as well as the livelihood of the fishing communities.

The national movement of these fishing communities, the National Fisherman's Forum, assumed the status of a major ecological movement related to water resources when the month long campaign along the belt of India converged at Kanyakumari on May Day in 1989, to stress the intimate links of water movements on land and in sea through the slogan 'protect waters, protect life'. Approximately 15,000 people, nearly three-quarters of them women, gathered 'for a celebration of life and at the same time a desperate outcry against the threat to survival of ordinary people and of nature'. The protest was, however, disrupted and the police fired indiscriminately- injuring six people and beating up many more-an indication of the conflict between the survival of fish and fishermen on the one hand, and the forces that control fisheries on the other.

Conflict Over Living Marine Resources

Three-quartexs of the good earth, as we endearingly call our planet, is covered by vast stretches of water, the movement and mysteries of which man has yet to fully fathom. The seas and the oceans have more recently. been rightly called the 'common heritage of mankind' implying man's collective rights and responsibilities for their judicious utilisation and conservation.

Living marine resources comprise a small part of the potential wealth of this heritage. Despite this, what makes their contribution to human beings so significant is the direct bearing they have on the fullness of human life-as a source of livelihood and food.

The need for care and continued sustenance of this resource is, therefore, too apparent to be stressed. By the same reasoning any impending harm to its future warrants close and urgent attention. It is with this sense of priority and urgency that the rising tide of conflicts over living marine resources the world over should be viewed.

An attempt in this direction is presented here. Beginning with a brief historical overview, the focus is on the particular manifestations, causes and consequences of the conflicts over living marine resources in India and a few suggestions that may help to ensure less harm and increased sustenance of this vital resource in the future.

Both the casual visitor to the seashore and the skilled fisherman imagine the sea to be the storehouse of a limitless expanse of living resources, particularly fish. The basis of such impressions are however drastically different: the layman's impression is conditioned by a tinge of idle romanticism and a lot of ignorance; the fisherman's impression is based on years of experience in work combined with the tacit faith that 'mother sea' always provides.

It was perhaps a blend of the two which prompted Hugo Grotius to work on his famous thesis 'Mare Liberum' (1608) where he argued that fishery resources were so abundant that no one would benefit from having exclusive rights over them and there was no possibility of their being over-exploited. The question of conflict over living marine resources would therefore not arise.

For nearly three centuries the concept of 'freedom of the seas' prevailed all over the world. So long as fishing remained primarily a 'livelihood' activity and fish caught and traded for its intrinsic use as a food, no major conflicts arose despite the fact that the oceans 'belonged' to no one. This state of affairs in the world at large continued until the middle of the last century and in India even as late as the middle of this century.

The post-war period saw rapid population growth and rising incomes which in turn spurred off a greater demand for fish. The use of steam and mechanical power increased the mobility of fishing vessels. The spillovers from naval warfare research further perfected techniques such as bottom trawling resulting in a spectacular increase in the productivity of fishing operations. The manufacture of ice decreased the perishability of fish and considerably enhanced its marketability.

All these factors, appearing together around the beginning and middle of this century enhanced the stature and complexity of the fishing,industry. There was more than just harvesting and consumption. The organisation of fish preservation/processing and marketing began to gain prominence and in turn influenced the realm of harvesting. Not only was more fish in demand, but species with different qualities having a variety of end uses unrelated to direct human consumption were required. The impulses for building long distance fishing fleets, active investment in the fisheries of other nations and a stepping up of international trade in fish and fish products were the natural concomitants. A standard 'package' of the above, generally biased towards the nature of factor allocations and effective demand in the developed countries, came to be termed as 'fisheries development proeramme'.

Along with 'fisheries development' was the awareness among both fishermen and laymen that expanding the horizons also brought one closer to the limits. Questions were raised about unrestricted access to the oceans. The inability to sort out the issue often led to openly manifest conflicts over harvesting rights. In the realm of trade priorities and end use patterns the latent conflicts were contained, in a sense masking the true character of the confrontations at sea.

The End of Mare Liberum

It was during the two decades (the fifties and sixties) following the end of world war ii that the challenges to the principle of the 'freedom of the seas' emerged rather sharply. This was particularly so when four developing countries-Peru, Chile, Honduras and El Salvador-unilaterally extended their territorial rights seawards up to the 200 mile limit and began taking punitive action against fishing vessels of other countries that failed to honour these rights.

The progress of unilateral extension of territorial/economic rights by developing nations did not spread rapidly after this initial spurt. Following the debate in the UN General Assembly in 1967, prompted by Dr. Arvid Pardo, and the framing of the UN Law of the Sea Conference saw a renewed interest in the matter. Even before the adoption of the Convention, due to the clear consensus seen in the early sessions, many nations extended their jurisdiction over fisheries beyond the hitherto accepted 12 nautical miles. By the end of 1980 this number increased to ninety-eight, seventy four had taken action after 1975. Of the latter, fifty-seven were developing countries.

This spurt of declarations was also an indicator of the desire on the part of the developing countries to protect their fisheries (and other marine resources) from being exploited by other nations. Since many of the developing coastal states which expanded their economic zones did not possess the technology to harvest all the fish in it, the move may also be construed as one aimed at preserving the resource for their future generations.

The Emergence of 'Fisheries Development'

Quantitative estimates of sustainable resource potential of the oceans are disparate, the basis of calculation and/or extrapolation widely affecting the results.

For the tropical South Asian waters the oft quoted potential yield figure is around 4 million tonnes -66 6 per cent of it (2.64 million tonnes) bordering the coast of Pakistan, Western India and Western Sri Lanka and the remaining 1.32 million tonnes lying off the east coast of Sri Lanka, India and the waters of Bangladesh.

Of this total potential yield, around 70 per cent is accounted for by pelagic species (fish generally inhabiting the surface waters of the ocean) and the rest by demersal species (fish generally inhabiting the bottom layers of the ocean). In terms of the spatial concentration of resources, about 65 per cent lies within the depth range of 50-70 metres along the continental shelf in the inshore waters. The present harvest is almost exclusively from this zone.

Between 1953 and 1983 the actual marine harvest of these four countries has increased threefold from 0.71 million to 2.11 million tonnes thereby increasing the share of harvest of sustainable resource potential from 18 per cent in 1953-54 to 47 per cent in 197-77 and further to 54 per cent in 1982-83.

Given that half the potential resources are yet to be harvested and that venturing into the deeper waters of the ocean is still at its infancy, why is the South Asian region marked by conflicts over living marine resources? What are The historical origins of these conflicts? What are the common manifestations, the deep-rooted causes and the most damaging consequences of these conflicts? Are there any remedial measures that can be taken? We shall attempt to answer these questions, making generalisations where they are applicable to the region as a whole and highlighting specific cases where that is more appropriate.

It needs to be mentioned at this stage that while the ingredients of conflict and its concrete manifestations are visible everywhere in the South Asian region, the consequences are indeed more acute in some areas and less apparent in others. In the southwestern region of India (the States of Goa, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala) and the south-eastern coast of India (Tamil Nadu) bordering Northern Sri Lanka, both the level as well as the socio economic and political ramifications of the conflicts over living marine resources are very intense. On the other hand reports of conflicts are much fewer from the rest of the region.

Inheriting Conflict

The fish economies of the south asian countries prior to independence were essentially subsistence sectors. In the realm of harvesting, the transformation of the living marine resources into products with use and exchange value were mediated by the skills of fishermen and the judicious use of technology. The two hallmarks of these technologies were their appropriateness to the acquatic ecosystem and their inherent limits on the harvesting capability. It was a technology appropriate for fishing as a source of meagre livelihood.

The bulk of the catch was exchanged or bartered for basic necessities. The perishability of fish greatly restricted its internal trade flows and the bulk of it was consumed in the immediate coastal hinterland by the rural masses for whom it formed the cheapest source of animal protein. Long distance trade did exist, but with a few exceptions, it was essentially between countries within the region and the fish products were of the low value added type (primarily dried and/or cured) marked essentially to the low income consumers of the region.

The first decade of planned fisheries development (the fifties) and half of the second (until 1965) passed smoothly without facing any storms. In fact, the single most important technological change in fishing introduced in the Indian region-the shift from cotton to nylon fishing nets-contributed to a fairly steady increase in the harvest and is likely to have had considerable income generating effect. However, because the control of the marketing of the fish had never been in the hands of the fishermen in any part of the region, it is likely that the largest share of the enhanced income due to rising productivity was usurped by the 'sharks on the land'.

The rapid changes in craft design and the introduction of techniques such as bottom trawling and purse-seining were phenomena which generated momentum in the late sixties and became intense in the early seventies.

These changes were fostered by factors which were autonomous of the socio-economicand technological developments in the South Asian region. The three most important factors were: rising incomes in the developed countries, particularly the USA and Japan; the oil crisis and the extension of territorial zones by many countries which had an adverse impact on the economics of the distant water fishing fleets of countries like Japan; and the rapid depletion of marine resources in the waters of the developed countries.

These factors combined to lay the foundation of a new era of international development assistance in fisheries combining technical and financial aid. Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan were major recipients of such 'packages' of development assistance. India availed of such aid on a smaller scale, largely in the form of the Indo-Norwegian project for fisheries development in Kerala.

Consequently, the fish economies of the region accepted more imported technologies in harvesting, processing and marketing; gave priority to the setting up of large infrastructure facilities like harbours and freezing plants; and emphasised export orientation as a key objective of the fisheries sector relegating earlier priorities to a second place.

Thus the 'initial conditions' prevailing in the fish economies of the South Asian countries-be they with respect to the fishertnen's ecosense; prevailing fishing techniques; processing and preservation methods; established trade links; forms of traditional organisation and resource management or patterns of local fish consumption-were written off as being 'primitive' and/or 'unscientific' in the face of the glistening prospects of the new development current.

By taking steps to 'develop' their fisheries along the western lines (largely with respect to technology, the orientation of trade and the organisation of administration and industry) they were also unknowingly inheriting the conflict potentials inherent in that approach. This fact was hardly recognised in the early phases of development due to the unquestionable respectability of the magical identity:

Development = Modernisation = Westernisation

The charm of this magical 'development' process began to gradually wear out. However, the initial signs of this were not immediately perceived by those who planned and propagated the modernisation programmes. Fishermen who experienced the ill effects merely suffered silently for want of an effective organisation to give vent to their grievances and the lack of cohesion to protest collectively.

As the pressure began to build up, the diverse manifestations of the conflict slowly began to appear in the open, some overtly, others not so overtly.

Manifestations of Conflict

Conflicts over living marine resources tend to be most visibly manifest in the following two realms: (a) conflicts that arise primarily from fishermen's violations of national jurisdictions while in the pursuit of fish, and (b) conflicts that arise between fishermen using two different levels of technology.

National jurisdictions and inter-regional conflict

It is often said that fish tend not to respect the maritime boundaries fixed by nation states, and fishermen in pursuit of fish seem to follow suit.

A long known conflict in the realm of marine fisheries is that between contiguous maritime states. The difficulty in demarcating national boundaries in the territorial seas in the primary cause for this conflict. An equally important factor in the Couth Asian region is the lack of sophisticated navigational devices on fishing vessels which can forewarn fishermen of such trespass. While cases of trespass into another nation's waters may be quite unintentional, they often lead to rather adverse situations sometimes necessitating the use of naval forces.

In the South Asian context, the political conflict between India and Pakistan, the Tamil problem causing tensions between India and Sri Lanka, and the conflicting claims over newly formed islands in the Bay of Bengal between India and Bangladesh have all had adverse effects on fishermen fishing near the maritime boundaries of their nations.

The fishermen of Okha in Gujarat bring reports about the increasing number of occasions when they have unwittingly transgressed into Pakistani waters only to be apprehended by the Pak Navy Patrols resulting in harassment and confiscation of their fish.

Fishermen of Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, where the maritime border with Sri Lanka is only 15 to 20 km away from the coastline, are increasingly faced with stern action by the Sri Lankan Navy for trespass. Some fishermen have been killed in these clashes and many have been arrested and taken to Sri Lanka. With the Tamil issue flaring up, there is a widespread feeling that the arrests are more political and less as a measure to safeguard marine resources.

The incidents of 'conflict over marine resources between India and Bangladesh are rather rare. This is partly due to the fact that the maritime traditions of this part of the region-Orissa and the West Bengal (Indian states) and Bangladesh-are far less developed in general, the overwhelming importance of inland and riverine fisheries of these parts has been a deterrent to large-scale development of marine fishing.

Prior to the extension of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to the 200 mile limit by countries of the South Asia region, the waters off their coastline were fished by distant water fleets from Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan.

The Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the region of the Indian Ocean around Sri Lanka were major fishing grounds for the distant water fleets of Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Taiwan. The post-oil crisis era saw a significant reduction in their activity. The declaration of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) by Bangladesh (1974), Pakistan (1976), India (1977) and Sri Lanka (1977) further reduced the scope for legal harvesting of fish without licences. In spite qf these factors, the region continues to be a lucrative fishing ground. While many operators have entered into licence agreements, a large number take undue advantage of the lack of legal measures and policing facilities at the disposal of the countries of the region and take the risk of fishing illegally. The major culprits have been Taiwanese trawlers all over the region and have been apprehended by the coastal guards of all the counties. In Pakistan, for example, in response to the growing menace of 'poaching' the government has recently enacted a law which provides for confiscation of the poaching vessel. a fine of US $720,000 and a five-year jail sentence for the captain.

Technological polarisation and conflicts

In the popular mind, largely conditioned by the news media, the conflict over living marine resources is largely manifest in the form of a clash between fishermen within a country using two different levels of technology. This is indeed the most visible aspect of the conflict which at the moment seems to be the one which engages the concerns of the policy-makers and the energies of the fishermen.

The logic of 'technological polarization' in general, its historical roots and socio-political consequences have been elaborated in Chapter 1. The drive towards modernization was based on the assumption that new technologies as such will help fishermen improve their economic conditions, however, the fact that small fishermen do not have the backing of favourable resource or market conditions was overlooked. This made the technologies introduced largely inaccessible and inappropriate to their long term capabilities and needs. Hence by default the technologies came under the control of a powerful minority group of non fishermen in turn enhancing their economic and political clout arid ossifying the technological duality in the sector. The duality did not create two isolated independent groups in the sector. On the contrary, the resulting groups were 'intimately related to each other by an exploitation linkage rooted in technology'.

The introduction of fishing techniques such as bottom trawling in the countries of South Asia and purse-seining in a few countries of the region were the most obvious departure from the technological continuum which hitherto had evolved over the centuries. While the new techniques were undoubtedly a quantum leap forward when viewed from the perspective of fishing efficiency and productivity, they were retrogressive with respect to their appropriateness to the ecosystem of tropical waters. The hallmarks of temperate waters are the limited number of species, each available in millions; tropical waters on the other hand are marked by thousands of species, highly dispersed and each available in small quantities. The basis of this difference between the temperate and tropical waters is rooted in the temperature differences which have a bearing on the dissolved oxygen content and hence on the primary production rate of the microscopic plants (plankton) on which the fish feed. The density of fish stocks in temperate waters is far greater than in tropical waters. The rejuvenating capacity (ability to recover from man's excessive intervention) of temperate water resources is also far greater. In the tropical waters, on the other hand, harvesting operations even at low productivity levels (output/unit) if undertaken by far too many operators can affect the resource balance substantially.

These techniques, evolved for the single species fishery of the temperate waters by countries with totally different capital-labour ratios, tend to come into conflict with the innate ecological and socio-economic fabric of this region rather quickly. This conflict becomes further heightened when the technology is controlled by those who have invested in fishing merely as a source of quick profits.

Conflicts between fishermen using different levels of technology can be analysed with respect to conflict over space, conflict over product or both. Artisanal fishermen generally concentrate on harvesting pelagic ' species while the mechanised boats hauling bottom trawls fish for the demersal prawns in the same area. The result is that small fishermen lose their nets when they are cut by the propellers of mechanised boats or Bet entangled in the ropes of the bottom trawl nets leading to a conflict over rights to fishing space. Reports of such conflicts are widespread all over the region.

When large mechanised purse-seiners haul in huge shoals of pelagic fish before the schools get a chance to move inshore, they deprive the shoreseine fishermen of their livelihood. Along the south-west coast of India, the uprisings among the fishermen of Goa and the more passive pauperisation of the fishermen of Karnataka can be traced to this conflict over the same product.

Both types of conflicts mentioned here-the first resulting in damage and destruction of fishing gear and the latter to a deprivation of fish-cause immense hardships to the majority of fishermen in the region who depend on fishing as the sole source of livelihood.

Conflict between profits and survival

It is the market mechanism and the 'invisible hand' which drives it that underlies the choice of new fishing technologies and the harvesting patterns which they involve. Conflicts at sea today are essentially conflicts between the few, spurred by the motive of profits, and the many whose objective is survival. The former are largely catering to the ever increasing demand for seafood of the overfed metropolitan consumer in the developed countries and the latter to the basic protein needs of the rural masses of the region.

More specifically, in South Asia bottom trawling which was introduced in a big way in the sixties helps primarily to increase the production of prawns which in turn are exported to Japan and the USA. Prawns are generally found in shallower inshore waters. Using capital-intensive technology to fish prawns for Japanese or Americans comes into direct conflict with harvesting fish inhabiting the same ecosystem which goes to flavour the rice of the rural masses of the region.

It is interesting to note that in the South Asian region, until the end of the fifties, marine fish harvest increased at a rate of 5 per cent per annum in spite of the lack of new harvesting technologies. During this period, between 5,000-6,000 tons of prawns from India were exported to Burma, Thailand and Malaya every year in dry form and accounted for 25 to 30 per cent of the annual export value of around US $11 million (1958-59 average).

Following three decades of planned fisheries development in the region, by 1976-83, the rate of growth of marine fish harvest had dropped to 2 per cent per annum. It was also during this period that the conflicts at sea were most rampant. Interestingly during this period of overall stagnation, the exports of prawns-all destined for the Japanese and American markets in frozen form-increased dramatically. The experience of Kerala is valuable in illustrating the trend of fisheries development and destruction in the region.

This export-oriented approach to fisheries development was first seen in the early sixties. Attention was focused on prawns. From an export turnover of a little under 500 tonnes of frozen prawns by the end of the fifties, by 1961 the figure had reached 1,462 tonnes with an export value of over Rs. 4,000 per tonne compared to the internal fresh fish shore price of Rs. 150 per tonne. In 1962, the Japanese were scouting for prawn supplies as they had lost access lights to Mexican waters.

Table 11.1 Export of Frozen Shrimp/Prawn from India

(Rs. million)
(Rs. million)
(Rs. thousand
(Rs. thousand
per tonne)
(Rs. million)
(Rs. million)
(Rs. thousand
(Rs. thousand
per tonne)
(Rs. million)
(Rs. million)
(Rs. thousand
(Rs. thousand
per tonne)
1953 No exports 1   13 NA     13 NA
1957 No exports             496 NA
1962 9 0.1 8.9 2055 9.8 4.8 2238 10.8 4.8
1966 1005 11.9 11.9 7100 69.4 9.8 8784 88.8 10.1
1967 2590 41.6 16.1 7957 79.8 10.0 11173 129.8 11.6
1971 11575 205.3 17.7 9504 86.7 9.1 23181 313.3 13.5
1974 19174 390.3 20.1 12681 200.3 15.7 34361 637.3 18.5
1979 36583 1727.0 47.2 13117 357.8 27.3 53511 2231.2 41.7
1982 37713 2352.3 62.4 11256 399.7 35 5 54625 3009.7 55.1

The effect of this overpowering demand-pull for prawns had its repercussions in Kerala's fish economy as a whole. A sector which was relatively outside the mainstream of the economic and social processes in Kerala society was suddenly transformed into a respectable avenue for investment and involvement. The possibilities of a modernised fishery sector emerged quickly, breaking down traditional barriers to entry into the sector. The export-oriented thrust that began to get ingrained in the sector was blessed by the country's own attempt to boost foreign exchange earnings. The devaluation of the rupee in mid-1966 gave a further boost to the exports of prawns from Kerala. The implications of the changing emphasis of fisheries development policy on the fish economy and in particular the fishermen is known to us in detail from primary survey data.

It can be said that two clearly demarcated sub-sectors had been created in the economy-one which now received all the attention of the state and the new enterprising merchant class and another which was left largely to its own survival. The first which we may now refer to as the 'modern sector' is made up of the mechanised boats in the realm of production and the more capital-intensive and export-oriented processing and distribution activities. The latter is what we referred to earlier as the 'traditional sector' composed of the non-mechanised crafts and the labour-intensive, internal market-oriented distribution and processing activity.

During the decade, fish production averaged 304,700 tonnes. As of 1969-70 the modern sector in fish production activity accounted for landings of 40,000 tonnes of fish/prawns (12 per cent), valued at Rs. 41.5 million. It gave direct employment to about 7,800 fishermen. The output per worker in the sector (accounting for 8 per cent of the active fishermen in the state) was 5,150 kg and his per capita income (current prices) was Rs. 1,600. At the same time the 90,600 fishermen operating non-mechanised crafts accounted for 88 per cent of the total fish landing in 1969-70 (303,000 tonnes) valued at Rs. 165.5 million. The output per fisherman in this sector was 3,340 kg or 35 per cent below his counterpart on the mechanised boats and his per capita income (current prices) was Rs. 1,095 (see Table 11.2).


12 Conclusion: towards sustainability with justice

The diverse case studies related to conflicts over two vital natural resources, forests and water, indicate an underlying pattem. These conflicts emerge from 'development' interventions, which are primarily aimed at commercial exploitation of natural resources. At a superficial level, the diversion of resources from sustenance needs to the demands of the market generates conflicts between commercial interests and people's survival. At a deeper level, the diversion of resources from nature's economy of essential ecological processes to the market economy of commodity transactions generates ecological conflicts.

A schematic picture of how ecological crises emerge, and how conflicts arise is presented in Figure 12.1. With the growth of market economy in individual sectors, resource consumption rapidly increases. In polarised societies like India, this instantaneously leads to resource conflicts. Based on the politics of distribution of benefits (RC,), struggles for justice have hitherto been based on how the cake is shared. Ecology movements link sustainability with justice. They are based on the politics of distribution of costs of resource degradation (RC). They raise issues of how a cake is made, and indicate that increased sectoral production and economic growth does not make the cake any bigger. In fact the cake often shrinks because of the patterns of natural resource utilisation which accompany economic growth.

Figure 12.1 Resource Conflicts Ecological Crisis and Ecological Intervention

With the continuous growth of sectoral economic activity, which is guided solely by the economic forces of the market, there arises a situation where the total withdrawal of natural resources both for basic needs satisfaction and for sectoral growth, becomes more than the renewability of natural resources. At this point, the Gross National Product (GNP,) keeps increasing while the Gross Natural Product (GNP:) starts declining. With this decline in the renewability of natural resources or the Gross Natural Product, the conflict over distribution of benefits becomes more acute and new conflicts over distribution of costs arise. Else poor and marginalised groups suffer because the natural resource base of their survival economy is eroded, and the lack of income and purchasing power prevents them from entering the market economy. If the process of decline in the renewability of natural resources is allowed beyond a critical limit, the process of degradation becomes irreversible. Once this critical limit of degradation is crossed, the politics of distribution of benefits becomes irrelevant for the survival of the people. With the collapse of the productivity of nature's economy, not only does the survival economy collapse, but the market economy also collapses. The history of Roman and Mesopotamiam civilisationsis an example of total societal collapse due to the erosion of nature's economy. Ecology movements are interventions in these processes of decay and disintegration, that have in isolated and localised forms existed throughout human history, but have become pervasive and global with the ideology of development.

From Commons to Commodities

Development projects inevitably involve a major shift in the way rights to resources are perceived. At the political level, development involves the privatization of resources. This transformation of commons into commodities has two implications. First, it deprives the politically weaker groups of their right to survival, which they had through access to commons. Second, it robs from nature its right to self-renewal and sustainability, by eliminating the social constraints on resource use that are the basis of common property management. In Third World countries the transformation of natural resources, i.e., from commons to commodities, has been largely mediated by the state. However, state initiated development activity does not necessarily focus on the collective public interest. It can often be a powerful instrument of privatisation of resources. Thus, while the forests were transformed from village commons to state reserved forests, they were managed to serve the interests of the private pulp and paper industry by ensuring cheap and regular supply of raw material. Similarly, while dams are built by public funds and state bureaucracies, they aim to satisfy the energy and water needs of private industry or the irrigation needs of cash crop cultivation. Credit from public sector banks is essentially used to finance the private tubewells or private trawlers of economically powerful groups. Conflicts over natural resources are therefore conflicts over rights. Most critical ecology movements are based simultaneously on the need to protect nature, and the need to strengthen people's collective rights to common resources.

The destruction of commons was essential for the creation of natural resources for a supply of raw material to industry. A life support system can be shared, it cannot be owned as private property or exploited for private profit. Commons therefore had to be privatised, and people's sustenance base in these commons had to be appropriated for feeding the engine of industrial progress and capital accumulation.

Commons, which the Crown in England had termed wastelands, were not really waste. They were productive lands, providing extensive common pastures for the animals of the established peasant communities, timber and stone for building, reeds for thatching and baskets, wood for fuel, wild animals and birds, fish and fowl, berries and nuts for food. These areas supported large numbers of small peasants through these common rights. They also gave shelter to the poorer and landless peasants who migrated from the overcrowded open field villages of the corn-growing districts. But at the same time these wastes and unimproved commons were 'the richest seams of untouched wealth that a landlord could hope to find on his estate in the seventeenth century...' apart from minerals. By clearing trees, draining marshes, fertilising barren soils and enclosing the improved grounds and parcelling them out into large farms for lease at competitive rents, the lords of the manors could tap the new wealth. It would benefit not only the landlords, but also those who could afford these leases. But it would be at the expense of the landless, the medium and smaller peasants who would be impoverished by the loss of their pasture and common rights, on which the viability of their farms so often depended, labourers and industrial workers who would be deprived of the resources that kept them from being entirely dependent on wages or poor relief. Thus there developed a head-on clash between the lords of manors and the main body of the peasantry in many parts of the country over their respective rights and shares in the unimproved commons and wastes. This conflict was to decide whether the landlords and big farmers or the mass of the peasantry were to control and develop the wastes and commons. This was the central agrarian issue of the 1630s and 1640s and of the English Revolution.

The fate of the forests was similar to the pastures. The Crown possessed the forests, while the peasants had common rights to forest produce. With the increasing resource demand for capitalist growth, the Crown adopted a policy of deforestation. As a result, the peasants lost their common rights, and the Crown and the lords of manors, enclosed their deforested land and parcelled.them into large farms for lease at competitive rents. The policy of deforestation and the enclosure of the forest commons led to 'perhaps the largest single out-break of popular discontent in the thirty-five years which preceded the start of the civil war In the period 1628 to 131 large crowds attacked and broke down the enclosures and large areas of England were in a state of rebellion.

The policy of deforestation and the enclosure of commons was later replicated in the colonies. In India, the first Indian Forest Act was passed in 1865 by the Supreme Legislative Council, which authorised the government to declare forests and wastelands ('benap' or unmeasured lands) as reserved forests. The introduction of this legislation marks the beginning of what is called the 'scientific management' of forests; it amounted basically to the formalisation of the erosion both of forests and of the rights of local people to forest produce.

The transformation of common property rights into private property rights' implies the exclusion of the right to survival for large sections of society. The realisation that under conditions of limited availability? uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources involves taking away resources from those who need them for survival has been an underlying element of Indian philosophy. Prudent and restrained use of resources has been viewed as an essential element of social justice. According to an ancient Indian text, the Isopanishad, a selfish man overutilising the resources of nature to satisfy his own ever increasing needs is nothing but a thief, because using resources beyond one's needs would result in the utilisation of resources over which others have a right. This relationship between restraint in resource use and social justice was also the core element of Gandhi's political philosophy. In his view, 'the earth provides enough for everyone's need, but not for some people's greed.'

The Chipko and the Appiko, the anti-dam and anti-drought movements, and the struggle of traditional fishermen are different forms of contemporary expressions of ecology as justice. They differ from earlier responses in the fact that they do not merely warn against the potential threat to human survival, but they emerge from the existential reality and the concrete threat to survival arising from unjust and destructive use of natural resources.

They differ from earlier responses in that they do not merely face the explicit and formal dispossession of basic rights by colonial powers, but also the tacit and hidden dispossession resulting from the privileged use of capital and technology by some sections of society. Financial investments and technology inputs are the two prime instruments through which informal rights to privatisation of common resources are established. International aid and technology transfer for 'development' are central to the diversion of natural resources from nature's economy and survival economy to the market economy. On the one hand this ensures privatization of common resources, on the other it contributes to the globalisation of control over local resources.

From Local to Global Control

Development as an ideology allows the indirect entry of global market domination. it creates the need for international aid and foreign debt which provide the capital for such development projects that commercialize or privatise resources. Local resources thus increasingly move out of control of local communities and even national governments into the hands of international financial institutions. The conditions for the loan determine the mode of utilization of natural resources. Thus World Bank loans that finance forestry projects are tied to cultivation of Eucalyptus to generate high financial rates of return, even though Eucalyptus mono cultures return little to the soil, and yield no benefits for the poorer sections of rural society in search of fodder and food. Similarly, rates of return on investments in irrigation projects create an imperative for cash crop cultivation and wastage of water, even though it leaves the land waterlogged or an arid desert. The logic of international financing is not linked to nature's law of return but to the banking compulsion of returns on investment. The pressure of repayment and servicing of debts further consolidates the globalization. Total integration with the global market economy thus marginalises the concern for nature's economy and the survival economy. In the resulting anarchy of resource use, the visible enclaves of economic development with their elite minority residents enjoy a disproportionately high access to resources and the invisible hinterlands of economic underdevelopment, the homes of the silent majority, are left with shrinking access to a shrinking resource base.

Ecology movements in India are an expression of protest against the destruction of the two vital economies of natural processes and survival from the anarchy of development based on market economy. It is not surprising that these movements are strongly critical of the international lending institutions, whose finance fuels the process of the monetary growth-oriented economic development at the cost of ecology and survival. Thus, it is also not surprising that these international lending institutions and the elite of the recepient countries perceive these ecology movements as obstructionists and anti-progress, since they are committed to obstruct ecological destruction and halt the process that results in progress for a few and hardships for many. In the perspective of the three economies, the proverbial cake is shrinking, while in the limited perspective of the market economy there is a short-term and unsustainable growth. On the one hand there is increasing scarcity of water, of forms of biomass like fodder and fuel, and an ever increasing threat of temporary meteorological drought turning into large-scale, permanent desertification. On the other hand there are more bottled drinks, more milk and milk products in urban markets, more flowers and vegetables for urban and export markets.

Left to itself the development programmes of the Third World would have, by now, internalized the vital economies of natural processes and survival. The emergence of large international aid projects and loans, however, lends tremendous support to the classical model of growth based development. It is from this perspective that ecology movements are critically evaluating the international financial institutions and their aid giving programmes In this context the most vocal criticisms have been raised against agencies like the World Bank and its regional counterparts. There are three important reasons why ecology movements are highly critical of multilateral development banks (MDB).

First, a high percentage of the loans and credits from these banks is allocated to environmentally sensitive areas such as agriculture, forestry, dams and irrigation. In 1983, half the project loans totalling US $22 billion were directed to these sectors globally. Thus, although as a percentage of total economic investment these loans account for only a small fraction, in terms of the impact on natural resource systems they are very significant.' As the case studies in this volume indicate, World Bank financing has in general played a catalytic role in generating conflicts over natural resources. Whether it is forestry, dams, or irrigation projects, World Bank funding has created the context for diversion of natural resources from the maintenance of ecological balance and sustenance of human survival to the generation of short-term profits.

Second, that these MDBs are crucial to determining the development patterns and resource use in Third World countries is reflected by the fact that they require borrowing governments to demonstrate commitment to projects by pledging so-called 'counterpart' funds and making complementary investments of their own. The World Bank in particular has overwhelming influence on the overall development policy through its country programming and sector policy papers and country economic memoranda. But the MDBs' greatest leverage is in 'structural adjustment' and sector lending by which the banks influence long term economic policy and not only single projects. The Structural

Adjustment Loans of the World Bank are creating long-term institutional changes towards privatization and the adoption of a strategy of export led growth, both of which strongly influence the pattern of control over and utilization of natural resources.

The third mechanism by which the MDBs affect the utilization of natural resources is through the links between foreign aid and export financing. In 1978, Johnston J., Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, testified to the US Congress that 'every dollar we pay into the MDB's generates about $3 business for U.S. firms'.' Bushnell, Deputy Director for Developing Nations of the US Department of Treasury, told the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations of the House Appropriations Committee on 16 March 1976:

From U.S. national point of view these banks encourage development along lines compatible with our own economy. They stress the role of market forces in the effective allocation of resources and the development of outward-looking trading economies... our participation.... in international development banks will also provide more assured access to essential raw materials, and a better climate for U.S. investment in the Developing world.... '

The massive involvement of international finance in the economic development of Third World countries changes the natural resource management strategies in drastic ways. Rapid growth of export-oriented resource utilisation has led countries into the debt trap, with its concomitant ecological degradation. The link between borrowing and ecological degradation can be exemplified in the case of Brazil. In 1984-82 Brazil had borrowed nearly US $300 million which rose to about US $950 million in 1983 and 1984. When the disbursements were used up Brazil was not able to generate the counterpart funds to complete the projects and loan repayment started on incomplete projects. The burden is on farming for export, leading to increasing deforestation and human displacement in the Amazon. The story of Africa, the continent with the most serious ecological crises, is no different. In 1983 there were no African countries among the large debtors. Today, the external debt of forty-two sub-Saharan economies is in the order of US $130 135 billion. The case of Sudan is illustrative of what is happening in Africa. A few years ago, agencies like the FAO viewed Sudan as having the greatest agriculture potential, especially for export crops. Sudan did 'develop' its agriculture with heavy borrowing. Today, Sudan has a US $78 million proposal for emergency aid and US $213 million In interest due after rescheduling on US $10 billion external debt. Thousands of Africans are dying because development first destroyed their sustenance base and paying the debts for that development is further depriving them of their entitlement to survival. When the whole economy has virtually collapsed, Africa's ecological regeneration is surely a far cry. The state of anarchy of development and its after-effects are summarised in the following words of the Peruvian President Garcia Perez:

At this moment when hundreds of millions of people in Africa, Asia and Latin America are waiting in vain for food, when poverty and violence loom over our societies, the banks can wait: the poor have waited long enough for reason and justice.... we say that first comes the need to defend our natural wealth. We are not going to pay, as in Shakespeare's 'Merchant of Venice', with the flesh and blood of our people: we are going to defend and retain within our country the surpluses and resources that the vicious structure of the world economy directs abroad.

The need for development that will lead to improved standards of living, not undermine them, that will create ecological stability, not instabilities, is clear. The crisis of market orientation of economic development has generated responses from the local communities as well as from ecological movements. The contribution of international development aid and loan to the processes of ecological destruction of the resource base for survival in the Third World has provided the platform for a joint global response of ecology movements in the North as well as in the South.

The World Rainforest movement is a worldwide alliance of organisations and individuals concerned about the destruction of forests, and is an attempt to reverse this process. It has been severely critical of the US $8 billion Tropical Forest Action Plan (TFAP), part of a global plan initiated by the World Bank, to expand commercial forestry activities in tropical forest regions as an attempt to ~conserve' tropical forests.

The TFAP has several major flaws. First, it fails to take into account the role of international development financing in the destruction of tropical forests through dams, mining and resettlement projects and blames; the poor for this destruction. It is biased against the poor, in both form and content. Second, the Plan is an extension and expansion of ongoing World Bank forestry projects which have had serious negative social and ecological impacts. These projects are based exclusively on the 'retums on investment logic' and prescribe the large-scale transformation of natural forests as well as prime agricultural lands into commercial plantations of industrial wood. The Plan has a commercial and industrial bias and is indifferent to human and ecological concerns. Third, the different projects under various categories of 'agroforestry', 'watershed' and 'industrial plantations' all sham this commercial and industrial bias. The Plan is misleading both in terms of nomenclature of projects and investment profiles. It takes forestry away from the control of communities and makes it a capital-intensive, externally controlled activity. Fourth, the Plan does not take into account the rights of indigenous peoples who have lived in tropical forests since time immemorial. It overlooks the economies of tribal and peasant life based on natural forests and food production and focuses exclusively on the economies of production of commercial wood.

Under the theology of the market that the World Bank propagates, commercialization of forestry and land use is the objective. The commercial interest has the primary objective of maximising profitability in the market through the extraction of commercially valuable species. Forest ecosystems are therefore reduced to timber mines of commercially valuable species.

The Tropical Forest Action Plan based on the market is a plan for the increased destruction of tropical ecosystems and destitution of local communities. It is inherent in the logic of globalisation to destroy diversity and, hence, ecological stability which is an outcome of diversity. The contemporary food crisis and famine conditions stem from the globalisation of agriculture through the Green Revolution. Further aggravation of the ecological destruction of the tropical countries in future will arise from the Second Green Revolution-the globalisation and total commercialization of forestry including its genetic base. Conservation presupposes maintenance of diversity, and diversity can only be maintained locally. People's action plan for saving tropical forests and tropical peoples has to be based not on the rule of the market, but on respect both for nature and for people's survival needs. It has to be based not on the ideology of trees as 'green gold' to be exploited and felled, but as life-support systems which must be protected. In particular, it has to build on the little traditions of people which ensure the protection of nature and local communities and do not allow them to become victims of global markets and plans.

Ecological recovery cannot be based on centralized and globalised control over resources. It has to be based on the decentralised logic of Gandhi's 'ever-widening, never ascending' circles.

Life will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom. But it will be an oceanic circle whose centre will be the individual always ready to perish for the village, the latter ready to perish for the circle of villages till at last the whole becomes one life composed of individuals, never aggressive in their arrogance, but ever humble, sharing the majesty of the oceanic circle of which they are integral units. Therefore, the outermost circumference will not wield power to crush the inner circle, but will give strength to all within and will derive its own strength from at

Can the Market Solve the Ecological Crisis?

The ideology of this development is, however, confined within the limits of the market economy. It views conflicts over natural resources and ecological destruction as distinct from the economic crisis, and proposes solutions to the ecological crisis in the expansion of the market system. As a result, instead of programmes of gradual ecological regeneration of nature's economy and the survival economy, immediate and enhanced exploitation of natural resources with higher capital investment is prescribed as a solution to the crisis of survival. Clausen, the President of the World Bank, recommended that 'a better environment, more often than not, depends on continued growth. In a more recent publication Chandlers further renews the argument in favour of a market-oriented solution to ecological problems and believes that concern for conservation can only come through the market. Solow, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his contribution to economics in 1987, states that production and growth can completely do away with exhaustible natural resources and exhaustion of resources is not a problem. It is alleged that 'the ancient concern about the depletion of natural resources no longer rests on any firm theoretical basis'. This belief of modem economics is based on its unquestionable faith in modern Western science. As Solow states: If it is very easy to substitute other factors for natural resources, then there is, in principle, no problem. The world can, in effect, get along without natural resources, so exhaustion is just an event, not a catastrophe.

As illustrated by the case studies in the preceding chapters, and schematised in Figure 12.1 economic growth takes place through over-exploitation of natural resources which creates a scarcity of natural resources in nature's economy and the survival economy. Further economic growth cannot help in the regeneration of the very spheres which must be destroyed if economic growth has to take place. Nature shrinks as capital. The growth of the market cannot solve the very crisis it creates. Further, while natural resources can be converted into cash, cash cannot be converted into nature's ecological processes. Those who offer market solutions to the ecological crisis limit themselves to the market, and look for substitutes to the commercial function of natural resources as commodities and raw material. However, in nature's economy, the currency is not money, it is life.

The increased availability of financial resources cannot regenerate the life lost in nature through ecological destruction. An African peasant captured this essence: You cannot turn a calf into a cow by plastering it with mud.

The neglect of the role of natural resources in ecological processes and in people's sustenance economy, and the diversion and destruction of these resources for commodity production and capital accumulation, are the main reasons for the ecological crisis and the crisis of survival in the Third World. The solution seems to lie in giving local communities control over local resources so that they have the right and responsibility to rebuild nature's economy, and through it their sustenance.

Speth believes that economic growth is imperative, and only technology continued economic growth is essential as ecological recovery arises from an artificial separation of development from conservation, with connections established only through financial investment. Further conservation is reduced to 'wilderness' management, and development is viewed as the exclusive domain of production. Nature and people's self-provisioning economies have no role in production according to this view. Nature is defined as free of humans. The commercial approach to conservation is best illustrated in the WRI/UNDP Working Paper on The International Conservation Financing Project (Figure 12.2).

Since conservation is conceptualised as dependent on finances, and increased financial resources can only be generated through economic growth, it is assumed that economic growth is an imperative for conservation.

The Third World reality, however, indicates something else which is schematised in Figure 12.3, adapted from Fahser who has discussed the different constellations of production factors- nature (soil), man (work), capital. Fahser has also indicated that because of their different degrees of importance or vulnerability, these production factors cannot be exchanged at will or stood on their heads without threatening to upset the equilibrium.

In a stable constellation of economic organization, nature's economy is recognised as the most basic, both in the sense that it is the base of the survival and market economies, and in the sense that it has the highest priority to and claim to natural resources. However, development and economic growth treat the market economy as primary, and nature's economy and the survival economy as marginal and secondary. Capital accumulation does lead to financial growth, but it erodes the natural resource base of all three economies. The result is a high level of ecological instability, as illustrated in the ecological crisis created by commercial forestry, commercial irrigation and commercial fishing. In order to resolve ecological conflicts and regenerate nature these economies must be given their due place in the stable foundation of a healthy nature. The anarchy of growth and the ideology of development based on it are the prime reasons underlying the ecological crises and destruction of natural resources. The introduction of unsustainable cash crops in large parts of Africa is among the main reasons for the ecological disaster in that continent. The destruction of the ecological balance of the rainforests of South America is the result of the growth of agribusiness and cattle

Figure 12.2 The Commercial Approach to Conservation

According to the International Conservation Financing Project (WRWNDP), the figure above illustrates the extent to which an increased environmental orientation in development planning broadens the activities of development institution to in clude more conservation components (represented by the dotted contours of the larger triangle) as part of their overall programmes. The narrow top of the triangle suggests that increased commtment from such institutions will not meet all conservation financing needs Therefore, increasing the financial commitment of environmental institutions and the creation of new institutions (shown by the contours of the smaller triangle) may help fill this gap of unmet needs.

Figure.12.3 The Ecological Approach to Conservation

Development and economic growth are perceived exclusively in terms of processes of capital accumulation. However, the growth of financial resources at the level of the market economy often takes place by diverting natural resources from people's survival economy and nature's economy. On the one hand this generates conflicts over natural resources,' on the other hand it creates an ecologically unstable constellation of nature, people and capital. ranching in the clear felled areas. The business groups encouraging cash cropping can opt out when the productivity of newly opened lands declines. They have no compulsion towards the ecological rehabilitation of the ravaged land. They command the resource base by making decisions that transcend their basis in legal ownership, but do not have to bear the ecological costs of the destruction of soil and water systems. The costs of destruction of Africa's grazing lands and farm lands, and of Latin America's forests have not been borne by multinational food corporations but by the local peasants and tribals. Agribusiness just moves on to other resources and other sectors to maintain and increase profits. The global market economy has no internal mechanism for ensuring ecological rehabilitation of natural resources destroyed by the market itself. The costs of ecological destruction are to be borne by the inhabitants of the respective areas alone, who participate in the survival economy of the same land. Under these conditions, the market is incapable of responding to the requirements of nature's economy and the survival economy. Even while the market economy erodes nature's economy and creates new forms of poverty and dispossession, the market is proposed as a solution to the problem of ecologically-induced poverty. Such a situation arises because the expansion of the market is mechanically assumed to lead to development and poverty alleviation. In the ideology of the market, people are defined as poor because they do not participate overwhelmingly in the market economy and do not consume commodities produced for and distributed through the market even though they might satisfy those needs through self-provisioning mechanisms. They are perceived as poor and backward if they eat self-grown nutritious millets and not commercially produced and distributed processed foods; and if they live in ecologically suited, self-built houses made from local natural resources like bamboo, stone or mud instead of cement or concrete bought from the market; and if they wear indigenously designed hand-made garments of natural fibre instead of mechanically manufactured clothes made of man-made fibres. Bahro has quoted an African writer who differentiated between poverty and misery. Culturally conceived poverty based on non Western modes of consumption is often mistaken to be misery. Culturally conceived poverty is not materially rooted poverty or misery. Millets or maize, the common non-Western staple foods, are nutritionally far superior to processed foods and are once again becoming popular in the West as health foods. Huts constructed with local materials represent an ecologically more evolved method of providing shelter to human communities than the concrete houses in many rural socio-ecological conditions. Natural fibres and local costume's are far superior in satisfying the region specific need for clothing than the machine-made nylon and teylene clothing, especially in the tropical climate. These culturally induced perceptions of poverty and backwardness have provided undeserving legitimisation for the accepted form of development? which has in turn created further conditions for invisible material poverty, or misery. by the denial of survival needs themselves through resource-intensive production processes. Cash crop production and food processing divert land and water resources away from sustenance needs, and exclude increasing numbers of people from their entitlement to food as described by Barnett:

The inexorable processes of agriculture-industrialisation and internationalisation-are probably responsible for more hungry people than either cruel wars and unusual whims of nature. There are several reasons why the high-technology-export-crop model increases hunger. Scarce land, credit, water and technology are pre-empted for the export market. Most hungry people are not affected by the market at all.... The profits flow to corporations that have no interest in feeding hungry people without money.

At no point has the global marketing of agricultural commodities been assessed in the light of the new conditions of scarcity and poverty that it has induced. This new poverty is no longer cultural and relative, it is absolute and threatening the very survival of millions on this planet. At the root of this new material poverty lies an economic paradigm which is governed by the market forces. Neither can it assess the extent of its own requirements for natural resources, nor can it assess the impact of this demand on ecological stability and survival. As a result, economic activities that are most efficient and productive within the limited context of the market economy, often become inefficient and destructive in the context of the other two economies of nature and survival. The logic of the market by itself is not adequate to induce these changes in resource use that threaten ecology and survival especially in the context of the Third World.

Ecology movements linked to survival are more promising. As the analyses of people's responses to development induced scarcity indicate, ecology movements in India are struggles of the disadvantaged aimed at conserving nature's balance to conserve their option for survival. They are movements of the marginal communities who have been deprived of the benefits of the dominant development pattern but who bear all the costs of this development. The goals and priorities of ecology movements are to ensure local survival, yet because local survival is threatened by non-local pressures (either in terms of direct exploitation or in ferms of development paradigms and development financing), local movements have non-local, sometimes even global implications. Furthermore, since local survival is threatened by particular scientific perceptions and technological modes which have become global, in spite of being rooted in a particular culture, ecological movements as a struggle for survival at the local level impinge on the global scientific and technological culture, as critiques of its special bias, and as sources for alternative science and technology systems.

The ecological threats to survival demand a paradigm shift in the perception of economic development. Societies have not always progressed along the Rostownian linear path, those that have neglected their resource base for sustenance have collapsed after an initial period of growth. The collapse of the Mayan and Mesopotamian civilisations was associated with a collapse of their life systems. The threat to the survival of the sub-Saharan countries is again rooted in the destruction of life-support systems. Societies have never followed paths of unending growth based Oh over-exploitation of resources. The history of civilisation can be depicted in terms of two models. According to the first model, societies traverse the path of the classical trajectory, they rise and they fall. This happens when they do not limit their resource utilisation within the constraints impose-d by the cycles and processes of nature. According to the second model, they move in a stationary state or in an orbit, like an electron around the atom or the satellite around the earth, with and not against the cycles of life. To be in a stationary state does not mean to be stationary, it involves movement and progression within an orbit. The ecological consciousness of ancient civilisations had allowed them to progress along the 'stationary' or ecologically stable state. But just as classical physics is incapable of explaining or understanding the motion of the electron, conventional economics interpreted stability as stagnation, and stationary state movement as no movement at all. Capturing this civilisational conflict between stable and unstable societies, Gandhi stated that modern civilisation seeks to increase bodily comforts, and it fails miserably even in doing so.... This civilisation is such that one has only to be patient and it will be self-destroyed.... there is no end to the victims destroyed in the fire of (this) civilization. Its deadly effect is that people come under its scorching flames believing it to be all good.

It is a charge against India that her people are so uncivilised, ignorant and stolid, that it is not possible to induce them to adopt any changes. It is a charge really against our strength. What we have tested and found true on the anvil of experience, we dare not change. Many thrust their advice upon India, but she remains steady. This is her beauty, it is the sheet anchor of our hope.

Contemporary ecology movements are a renewed attempt to establish that steadiness and stability is not stagnation, and balance with nature's essential ecological processes is not scientific and technological backwardness, but scientific and technological sophistication towards which the world must strive if planet earth and her children are to survive. At a time when a quarter of the world's population is threatened by starvation due to the erosion of soil, water and genetic diversity of living resources, chasing the mirage of unending growth, by spreading resource destruction technologies, becomes a major source of genocide. Killing people by destroying nature is an invisible form of violence which is at present the biggest threat to justice, peace and survival. Claude Alvares has called it the Third World War: 'A War waged in peacetime, without comparison but involving the largest number of deaths and the largest number of soldiers without uniform'.

Ecology movements are a non-violent response to this Third World War which threatens the survival of humanity and which must destroy all, even the victors. They are political movements for a non-violent world order in which nature is conserved for conserving the options for survival. These movements are small, but they are growing. They are local, but their success lies in their non-local impact. They demand only the right to survival yet with that minimal demand is associated the right to live in a peaceful and just world. With the success of these grassroots movements is linked the global issue of survival. Unless the world is restructured ecologically at the level of world views and life-styles, peace and justice will continue to be violated and ultimately the very survival of humanity will be threatened. The counter trend captured in emerging ecology movements is indicative of incipient attempts at such a fundamental restructuring towards justice and sustainability.


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