Tame Ramya (Tarh)

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The utilization of natural resources as a part of government's developmental programmes that bring conflict with the indigenous people.

Posted on June 8, 2012 at 9:20 AM

The utilization of natural resources as a part of government's developmental programmes that bring conflict with the indigenous people.




The concept of ‘natural resources' can be defined as all those products provided by nature which man can make more valuable, useful and capable of supporting life and satisfying human needs. According to the United Nations, natural resources is anything found by man in his natural environment that he may in some way utilize for his own benefit. Natural resources are basically the backbone of the development. The haphazard and unplanned exploitation or uses of natural resources are now producing a threat before it.


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. Through the 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. Some of the important points to consider regarding the utilization of natural resources as a part of government's developmental programmes that bring conflict with the indigenous people are as under-


(i) 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 conflicts.


(ii) Large dams, intensive irrigation and large diversions have 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 ecological 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. 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.

(iii) 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 and large-scale clear felling of natural forests. 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. 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.


(iv) 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 result, 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.The mining project of the Bharat Aluminium Company (BALCO) in the Gandhamardan Hills in Orissa 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 their 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.


(v) 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 ecological 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, especially tribal people. The Silent Valley project in Kerala was opposed by the ecological 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 Uttar Pradesh 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. 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.




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"Environment and Conservation" (2006), Competition Refresher, Vol. XXIV, No.7 (July).

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Gadgil, Madhav and Ramachandra Guha (1994), "Ecological Conflicts and Environmental Movement in India", Development and Change, Vol. 25, No. 1 (January).

Reddy, V. Ratna (1995), "Environmental Movements in India: Some Reflections", Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XXX, No. 12 (25th March).

Vadakumchery, Johnson (2003), Tribes and Cultural Ecology in Central India, Mittal Publications, New Delhi.

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