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HEADING TOWARDS THE FUTURE WE WANT +  

HEADING TOWARDS THE FUTURE WE WANT

SUPPORTING SUSTAINABLE LIVELIHOODS in coastal areas +  

The pressure on coastal areas is continually on the rise with demand for land coming in for establishment of industries as well as settlements that support the existence of these industries. The land available for agriculture has been steadily on the decline (in fact, a warning to arrest this decline appeared recently in the newspapers) and this has not been helped with rising cost of agricultural inputs and the lack of water for irrigation in many areas, especially in the tail end of deltas. Overall, rural livelihoods are shrinking in myriad ways. There has been a steady exodus of people from the rural villages, even along the coast, into larger towns and cities, in search of employment either in industries (often as unskilled labour) or as construction labour. This has also led to steady rise in unemployment and under-employment. While the manufacturing sector is no doubt important for a nation’s progress, it is essential to ensure that the farm base is firm by putting effort into and encouraging its various components so that the food security of our billions is ensured.

PANIC THEN…NOW, INTROSPECTION +  

Changing responses to natural hazards

The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami really changed the way India responded to natural hazards. Threats due to an impending hazard are not taken complacently and early warning systems have been built up. For example, the National Cyclone Mitigation Project has enabled the setting up of Doppler Radars, more efficient in predicting the path and possible impact of a cyclone as it comes closer to land. This helped during Cyclone Thane so that people, especially administrators, were informed on time, enabling evacuation where needed. That there was widespread destruction due to the cyclone could not be helped – but at least the number of people who lost their lives was relatively small. In the case of a cyclone, the weather anyway serves to alert people in general and hence there is greater likelihood of preparedness, not so in the case of a tsunami. For this, bottom pressure records in the Bay of Bengal are in place to alert us to the possibility of a tsunami hitting the Indian coast.

April 11, 2012

Some reasons for our forests' decline +  

A Forest History of India  by Richard P. Tucker. Sage, 2011, Rs 750.

History as we learn in school is often so boringly taught that one tends to avoid reading history altogether. It is only when confronted with complex issues in real life especially while dealing with natural resources management that one wishes having paid a little more attention to history. This volume, a collection of essays on the environmental history of India’s forests is hence most welcome for it throws light not only on why the forest wealth of India has deteriorated over time, but also why, overall there is degradation of the environment. The most obvious reason for depleting forests is the way we view them – they are meant to be ‘exploited’. This kind of thinking is not there amongst those who depend on natural resources for subsistence. The colonials brought in production oriented priorities that resulted in major restrictions of forest access for traditional users in rural areas. That is the first conflict – the subsistence needs of the local population versus the commercial needs of the state. This conflict continues but it is helpful to understand its origins and the meandering way in which it has only become stronger over time. Initially, there were plenty of resources being used by a distributed and sparse population. Forests appeared endless, what did it matter if a few acres here or there were converted into agricultural lands or settlements, especially cantonments? The supply of timber appeared endless – the demands of the ship builders and railways were easily met. However, this idyll could not last long.  Forests do not regenerate or mature all that quickly. What was being removed was growth of hundreds of years – sort of like the deep ‘fossil’ groundwater that we think is there in plenty.