| Co-Operatives In Natural Resources Management Workshop report 10 |
As biological systems, the CPRs are dynamic and subject to management interventions that can provide sustainable benefit flows in the form of food, fodder, fuelwood, fibre, timber, manure, etc., clean surface and groundwater, air filtration and humidification, and eco-tourism. Management of CPRs on a sustained yield basis depends upon a careful orchestration of the policies and management practices. Lack of equitable access to CPRs and, hence, inequi-table distribution of their benefits often lead to clandestine encroachment, or misappropriation of these resources forcing an opportunistic and highly exploitative mode of resource use. There is, therefore, a need for exploring viable CPR management strategies for their restoration and utilisation within a development context.
Until recently the role of natural CPRs in the village economy was not understood properly. Therefore, privatisation or public ownership of CPRs was suggested as a solution to arrest their degradation and preserve the environment. It was further argued that assigning property rights to the landless poor in such resources would improve equity. However, overwhelming evidence is now available which suggests that these policies have neither helped preserve the natural resources and the environment nor have they enabled the poor gain access to these resources. In fact, the poor have been worst sufferers in the sense that they have lost control of whatever CPRs were accessible to them. The process of privatisation of CPRs as it affected the rural poor people involved three stages (Jodha, 1986): a) they were deprived of their right to the collective use of the CPRs; b) they were given individual titles to small parts of privatised CPRs; and c) the circumstances disentitled them from the newly acquired land. Similarly, the policies which helped the rich to capture and privatise the CPRs like groundwater resources also led to inequitable distribution of these resources (Ballabh and Shah, 1989).
On the other hand, public line agencies are normally centrally funded organisations which operate according to top-down standard administrative procedures. They tend to seek to maximise budget and staff. Budget, staff advancements, salaries and benefits are not normally related to management performance. Line agencies are generally accountable only to other government institutions and do not have an economic market for their "outputs". The result is a proliferation to the extent that their evaluation tends to be based not on producing outputs, but on conformity to the higher authorities regarding the use of inputs (Rainey, 1983). The public management of our natural resources is not an exception and has been equally disappointing. The forest resources are declining, surface irrigation systems achieve less than 40% of their potential. Besides, the long-term productivity of irrigated lands is threatened by increased salinity, alkalinity, silting, water-logging and flooding. Alternative institutional arrangements, therefore, are required to restore the productivity of CPRs.
For the success of any strategy of natural resources management, the involve-ment of local people is essential. This is so because the use of natural resources by any user has many unintended side-effects, or in technical terms, externalities, on other co-users. For example, pumping of ground-water in a watershed affects the aquifer that is a CPR to which all those who live in the watershed have a legitimate claim. If one of the co-users pumps more water, to that extent, less water is left for use by the others in the watershed. Optimum use of ground-water in a watershed, therefore, requires the co-operation or participation of all the people living and using ground-water in the watershed. Similarly, soil and water conservation in a watershed requires the participation of all the land-owners having land in the watershed in the form of adoption of the recommended soil and water conservation measures. In a nutshell, all uses of the natural resources, irrespective of whether they are owned privately or publicly, are interdependent and require the co-operation of all the resource users for internalising/minimising the externalities involved. This is best achieved when the planning and management of natural resources, especially CPR, are done on watershed basis and the resources are managed by their users organised into a formal association preferably a co-operative society. Co-operative management of natural CPRs is therefore the most appropriate of all forms of management in most situations.