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Forest landscapes of the southern western Ghats, India

 | 
B.R. Ramesh
, 
Rajan Gurukkal

Postscript

Towards Scientific Landscape Management and Self-Regulatory Forest Community Development

Rajan Gurukkal et B.R. Ramesh

Texte intégral

1The foregoing analysis in the book is an exercise of self-justification in rethinking a forest area in landscape perspective that signifies a comprehensive ecological approach to biodiversity conservation and an effective planning strategy for natural resources management, which at once transcend the obsolescence of the usual territorial perspective of arbitrarily dividing the forest into administrative units irrespective of its typology, distributive pattern or biotic/abiotic continuum. It endeavours to show how the approach helps in a better preservation of the evergreen forests and a more effective conservation of soil as well as water for the improved sustenance of the deciduous forest types. What it seeks to emphasise is that areas of ecological integrity are the basic units of the landscape, presupposing a systems-theoretical perspective about the structural and functional specificities of each eco-type. Likewise the articles embody results of the ecosystem approach carried forward to the context of human ecological processes in the landscape under study with a view to constituting intelligible zones for evolving strategies of management. They are jointly a detailed mapping of the diverse economic processes by multiple stakeholders of resources across eco-types implying varying degrees of anthropogenic impacts. Ecosystems constitute a veritable pool of resources contested by different claimants ranging between subsistence/survival needs and industrial demands.

2The human ecological processes, necessarily competitive and asymmetrical, constrain managerial planning to address itself the issues of socio-ecological praxis. In addition to these, structural and institutional constraints are also important in drawing planning options. A couple of chapters have made a critical appraisal of the hierarchical managerial structure, its inherent incompatibility with democratization measures through participatory schemes, the unwillingness to opt for the paradigm shift and the evolving institutional alternatives. The division of the landscape into three zones each distinct for biodiversity, resources and ecological properties such as soil and water, respectively has been suggested essential for scientific management of conservation through people’s participation. In short, the articles by experts in different disciplines demonstrate that the landscape zonation as a conservation management strategy has to be based on a synthesis of knowledge from various fields such as ecology, biodiversity, forestry, anthropology, and social theory. The human ecological situation of direct constraints such as encroachment and the entailing deforestation, heavy extraction of NWFP, cattle grazing and human made fire, the three zones with heavy dependence probably tending to exceed the carrying capacity and high population pressure is quite shocking. The methods to overcome the constraints are institutionalization for participatory endeavours and the departmental upgrading of scientific inputs as well as technical devises for adopting appropriate precautionary measures as well as effective encounters for checking deleterious impacts.

3Of greater importance in the conservation of biodiversity and ecological riches is the devising of an appropriate management strategy ensuring the sustainable appropriation of resources than finding direst ways of caring for their preservation. Construction of reservoirs and opening up of extensive plantations involving large-scale conversion of forest land, unbridled and destructive foraging of biomass by industries and forest dependent communities respectively are among the unsustainable ways of appropriation which have to be managed. Institutional arrangements for coordinating and prioritising the interests of these stakeholders are found to be inadequate, considering biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihood of the forest dependent communities as the primary objectives of forest management. One thing that comes to the fore from the view of the present working of the forest department is its structural inadequacy in facilitating participatory institutional development for realising the goals of biodiversity management. This underlines the need for evolving necessary structural mechanisms in the forest department for the development of people-centred and empowerment-oriented institutional mobilisation.

4Having reviewed the state of affairs and postulated what ought to be the strategies and activities it is quite relevant to recognise the theoretical truth that integration of stakeholders’ interests is a contradiction in terms since it amounts to harmonising the incompatible. Often the task is undertaken either with little or no awareness about the fact that it would result at best only in the accomplishment of a coalition of conflicting interests. Such a coalition though appears to be democratic and participatory is inevitably structured by the dominance of the elite, industry and market over the poor and marginalised who constitute the key-stakeholders or the most affected by the landscape policy of natural resources management. It is a scenario of competing claims and multiple stakes but with the predetermined consequences of privileging and prioritising of the needs of the dominant, all due to the glaring power imbalance amongst the contesters.

5The strategy emphasised the world over is the participatory institutional mechanism made sustainable through the combine of biodiversity conservation and the key-stakeholders’ livelihood improvement. However, since participation means influential participation of the weakest, it is hardly realised easily. Likewise, institutionalisation of the poor is hard too for they are highly individualised wageworkers unable to come together with common goals and collective responsibilities. Hence the challenge is that of lack of conditions for institutional development and accumulation of social capital. It is significantly needed to arouse consciousness about common property, sustainable development, grassroots democracy and so on to secure people’s commitment to biodiversity conservation. Improvement of poor people’s livelihood, the most vital incentive, is not an easy task due to both the micro as well as macro economic processes of extreme level exploitation. The forest department as well as the various line departments whose objectives and activities converge at times have to reposition themselves as facilitators of social mobilisation for making participatory institutional growth a reality.

6This necessitates a theoretical understanding of the homologous economic relationships between the system of the macro world and the micro societies. The macro world system is an ensemble of diverse economies inevitably dominated by capitalism through direct subordination or incorporation. Now largely unencumbered by the pre-capitalist social formations and constrained to depend upon the market to cater to all needs, the people are structured in the hierarchy of relations in the bureaucracy of the state, semi-state and private enterprises. The state with its multiple instruments of control representing the elites plays the central role of overall coordination on behalf of the capitalist economy. This presupposes the dominance of its claims over those of all the others, even to the extent of the state privileging the industrial requirements over the livelihood needs of the key-stakeholders. It precludes equity and ecological sustainability in the use of natural resources. On top of all it blocks the possibility of institutional development at the grassroots.

7What to talk about the institutional capabilities of the poor and marginalized people who lack freedom to access natural resources for livelihood. The most vital of capabilities required for institutional growth is social capital that is the aggregate of all non-economic forms of capital. In its absence, they are not even capable of fighting against their miserable conditions of oppression. Praxis intervention is the alternative to rescue them from the predicament. It is a twofold task of extensive social preparation for critical self-reflexivity and alternative politicisation of the people that alone can empower them for their institutional integration.

© Institut Français de Pondichéry, 2007

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540

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