How Can We Conserve Natural Resources ?
Natural resources are naturally occurring substances that are considered valuable in their relatively unmodified (natural) form. A natural resource’s value rests in the amount of the material available and the demand for it. The latter is determined by its usefulness to production. A commodity is generally considered a natural resource when the primary activities associated with it are extraction and purification, as opposed to creation. Thus, mining, petroleum extraction, fishing, hunting, and forestry are generally considered natural-resource industries, while agriculture is not. The term was introduced to a broad audience by E.F. Schumacher in his 1970s book Small is Beautiful.
Natural resources are mostly classified into renewable,and non-renewable resources. Renewable resources are generally living resources (fish, reindeer, coffee, and forests, for example), which can restock (renew) themselves if they are not over-harvested but used sustainably. Once renewable resources are consumed at a rate that exceeds their natural rate of replacement, the standing stock (see renewable energy) will diminish and eventually run out. The rate of sustainable use of a renewable resource is determined by the replacement rate and amount of standing stock of that particular resource. Non-living renewable natural resources include soil and water.
Flow renewable resources are very much like renewable resources, only they do not need regeneration, unlike renewable resources. Flow renewable resources include wind, tides and solar radiation
Resources can also be classified on the basis of their origin as biotic and abiotic. Biotic resources are derived from living organisms. Abiotic resources are derived from the non-living world (e.g., land, water, and air). Mineral and power resources are also abiotic resources some of which are derived from nature.
Both extraction of the basic resource and refining it into a purer, directly usable form, (e.g., metals, refined oils) are generally considered natural-resource activities, even though the latter may not necessarily occur near the former.
Natural resources are natural capital converted to commodity inputs to infrastructural capital processes. They include soil, timber, oil, minerals, and other goods taken more or less from the Earth.
A nation’s natural resources often determine its wealth and status in the world economic system, by determining its political influence in. Developed nations are those which are less dependent on natural resources for wealth, due to their greater reliance on infrastructural capital for production. However, some see a resource curse whereby easily obtainable natural resources could actually hurt the prospects of a national economy by fostering political corruption.
In recent years, the depletion of natural capital and attempts to move to sustainable development have been a major focus of development agencies. This is of particular concern in rainforest regions, which hold most of the Earth’s natural biodiversity – irreplaceable genetic natural capital. Conservation of natural resources is the major focus of natural capitalism, environmentalism, the ecology movement, and Green Parties. Some view this depletion as a major source of social unrest and conflicts in developing nations.
Some non-renewable resources can be renewable but take an extremely long time to renew. Fossil fuels, for example, take millions of years to form and so are not practically considered ‘renewable’.
Sustainable forest management (SFM) is the management of forests according to the principles of sustainable development. It is also the current culmination in a progression of basic forest management concepts preceded by Sustainable forestry and sustainable yield forestry before that. Sustainable forest management is the term currently used to describe approaches to forest management that set very broad social, economic and environmental goals. A range of forestry institutions now practice various forms of sustainable forest management and a broad range of methods and tools are available that have been tested over time.
The Forest Principles adopted at The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 captured the general international understanding of sustainable forest management at that time. A number of sets of criteria and indicators have since been developed to evaluate the achievement of SFM at both the country and management unit level. These were all attempts to codify and provide for independent assessment of the degree to which the broader objectives of sustainable forest management are being achieved in practice.
Natural resources that qualify as renewable resources include oxygen, fresh water, timber, and biomass. However they can become non-renewable resources if used at a rate greater than the environment’s capacity to replenish them. For example, groundwater may be removed from an aquifer at a rate greater than the sustainable recharge. Removal of water from the pore spaces may cause permanent compaction (subsidence) that cannot be reversed.
Renewable resources may also include commodities such as wood, paper, and leather. Furthermore alcohol is also a renewable source of energy, similarly,oils from plants and seeds can used as even as a substitute for non-renewable diesel, last but not least methane is also considered as a renewable source of energy. Gasoline, coal, natural gas, diesel and other commodities derived from fossil fuels are non-renewable. Unlike fossil fuels, a renewable resource can have a sustainable yield.
Management of Natural Resources
Broadly, farmers have indicated three ways to protect resources by means of traditional technology. They are mechanical, agricultural and vegetative.
The main occupation of the hill farmers is agriculture. They usually construct terraces for cultivation known as nala with risers known as pusata. These terraces are small but there are many of them. In one acre of landholding a farmer possesses 50 nalas. In these it is possible to manage to rainwater. Construction of terraces depends upon space and grades of land. The farmers, with their expertise, are able to prepare fields for crop production.
According to scientific recommendations cultivation is allowed to 33 per cent of land slope. But in the hills, farmers are able to make terraces from top to bottom of the mountain terrain without taking into account the land slope. With terraces they construct loose boulder retention walls (risers) by putting grass over them. These grasses keep both stones and the land intact.
Cement and sand are scarce materials in the hills. In making risers farmers simply arrange boulders of the proper size along the terrace wall. It retains the soil perfectly and gradually gets stabilised.
Farmers make the slopes of the terraces inwards to check soil erosion and enhance in situ moisture conservation. Soils are gravelly and have a high rate of percolation. Due to rainwater retention enough moisture becomes available to the crops.
On mild slopes farmers construct shoulder bunds to protect their lands from soil erosion and grow vegetation over the bunds, particularly grasses for binding the soil.
Farmers of the hill region used to make brushwood or longwood check dams across the drainage channels for controlling soil loss by means of local materials. They are economical. Gabion walls and stone check dams are by and large cost intensive and beyond not affordable to hill farmers.
Farmers in the Doon Valley in order to train torrents use Ipomea carnea and Arando donex plants sps. as vegetative spurs, and they are found to be very successful.
TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE FOR NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
In order to achieve the objective of development in villages, people’s participation is essential. It is required to involve them actively in project activities by respecting their traditional knowledge and experimental ethics. Traditional knowledge has a sound base as it has been tested and practised over the years. It is appropriate technology in particular climatic conditions and in the living conditions of people.
Projects to develop ecology should start with traditional knowledge as they are proven technology for natural resources management. In a real sense, every culture of a social system, traditionally, is the result of people’s action to survive and their attempts to optimise the use of available resources, i.e., soil, water and vegetation.
The science of natural resource management is based on the ecologically sound traditional wisdom of farmers and its contribution in augmenting productivity. Traditional values which are sustainable in nature need to be compared with values of modern systems. It is obvious that traditional practices of agriculture may disappear unless their values are promoted.
The wisdom of farmers with respect to watershed development, agricultural management, and conservation of soil, water for sustained production are documented in the present investigation.
WATERSHED DEVELOPMENT CONCEPT AND VILLAGE BOUNDARIES
Farmers pointed out that watershed management had been introduced for the integrated management of a particular area that includes agriculture, natural resources, forest management, village development and above all the ecosystem. Virtually, a watershed was defined as a unit of development in which there is a highest point and a lowest point with common outlet. The Government of India has given special attention to watershed development to manage natural resources and schemes like NWDPRA, a watershed project with foreign collaboration, are being implemented.
During the ancient period, village boundaries were decided upon on a watershed basis by the expert farmers in the villages. Such boundaries were socially acceptable to all the members of the system. Such age-old village boundaries are fixed at the common point of the drainage system in between two villages. It is still in vogue and people do not go beyond the limits of their hydrological boundaries.
Farmers used to carry water to their fields through small irrigation channels known as gulas. These go from the source of water along the slopes to the fields. In order to avoid seepage losses farmers use pipes. By means of gravitational force they transport irrigation water from its source. In hills it is difficult to construct gulas for all the terraces, and pipes are convenient in transporting water to every field. In order to make judicious use of water, they use a sprinkler system through gravitational force and economical utilisation of water.
In the Garhwal Himalaya farmers use tree trunks as rainwater irrigation channels by taking care of undulating topography and checking seepage losses (Sharma and Sinha 1993).
The region of Garhwal comes in the high rainfall area and in the lack of proper management system most of the rainwater goes waste as runoff. Farmers of the hill region have their traditional technology for making small dug-out ponds to harvest rainwater. They construct such ponds at several places and use the water for survival or for supplemental irrigation. Improvement over the traditional practices are that at the bottom LDPE sheets are placed to check seepage losses. Lined tanks are cost-intensive and beyond the reach of the farmers.
MANAGEMENT OF DRINKING WATER
Streams are the source of water in the Himalaya. Farmers pay regard to these water resources. They use the water for drinking and make efforts to keep streams clean and unpolluted. They maintain vegetation on the banks to have a clean flow without sediment for human consumption. They do not permit their cattle at the places from which they collect drinking water. They have their own traditional system for the management of drinking water. They do not allow anyone to throw garbage in its current to avoid pollution and infection.
In the hills flour mills are not available. Farmers have their indigenous technology to run flour mill by means of water fall. They use home-made wooden wheels as turbines to run the mills. These mills are locally known as gharat or panchaki. It is a local response to needs of the people without electric or any other complex machine systems.
WOMEN’S KNOWLEDGE IN MANAGEMENT OF RESOURCES
For centuries, nature’s various products and women’s knowledge of their properties have provided the basis for making water safe for drinking in every home and village of India. The seeds of the nirmali tree are used to clear muddy water by rubbing them on the insides of vessels. The drumstick tree also produces seeds which are used for water purification.
Moringa seeds inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi. Tulasi is a water purifier with antibacterial an insecticidal properties. Copper or brass pots are what Indian women use to carry and store water; and unlike plastic, they do not breed bacteria. The technologies women have used for water purification are based on locally available natural products and locally and commonly available knowledge (Shiva 1988).
Practically each terraced field has a row of fodder trees along its edge. The household women manage these carefully for procuring maximum leaf fodder yields through lopping. They know when and how to lop without damaging the main tree (Sarin and Khanna 1991).
Older women train the younger ones in the art of lopping. When women lop trees they enhance the productivity of the oak forest under stable conditions. Groups of women and old people go together to lop fodder and develop expertise by learning by doing (Shiva 1988).
Farm women know the nutritional needs of their families. That is why women in Garhwal continue to cultivate mandua. They say that without their mandua and jhingora they could not labour as they do. These grains are their source of health and strength (Shiva 1988).
Women in the Garhwal hills are architects of the rural economy. They are devoted to agriculture, animal husbandry, dairying, child-rearing, cooking, fodder and fuel management, etc. They work harder from morning to evening than their male counterparts for the welfare of the family. Girl children share the work of their mothers and get training in home management.
Farmers’ traditional knowledge of agriculture includes tested technologies in the field.
They use a special type of traditional plough. Other types of ‘improved’ ploughs do not work in the hills as the soil is gravelly and not deep.
Under rainfed conditions farmers in hill regions plough their land several times before the onset of rain to conserve water and increase water retention capacity.
Farmers plough their land straight instead of in circles and open parallel furrows for rainwater harvesting and retaining moisture. However, there is a recommendation to plough the land across the slope to check erosion.
Farmers of hill regions prefer mixed cropping for minimising risks under rainfed conditions and creating ground cover for checking runoff and soil loss. They grow legumes with maize and ginger or turmeric with maize.
After sowing ginger, colocasia and turmeric, farmers use paddy straw, wheat straw or leaf litters as mulch to ensure proper germination.
Farmers do not practise weeding and interculturing in the maize crop because of soil conditions and the requirement of fodder in the rainy season.
Farmers of the Garhwal hills store seeds by selection for different plots with special identification and use them in those particular plot.
In the outer Himalaya farmers were reluctant to grow maize because of wild animals such as bears, wild boars and monkeys. In khadar (lowland) areas they grow paddy and irrigated wheat and in uplands they take rainfed rabi crops.
In the hills farmers grow mainly mandua, jhingora and guar. Because of recent developments they have been attracted towards off-season vegetables, e.g., peas, tomatoes, etc.
MANURE AND MANURING
In view of the soil’s condition and texture the farmers of the Doon Valley and the hill region use farmyard manure in the fields before sowing. In lowland areas, for paddy they do green manuring also. Use of chemical fertilisers has increased but people retain their belief in traditional methods.
Farmers do not dig compost pits for the collection of cowdung, residues and garbage. Instead of pits they accumulate the matter in heaps in the open for decomposition. The reason behind it is that decomposition is slow due to low temperature and little sunshine. In pits compost would not get ready in time. In the open rapid decomposition takes place. This practice is traditional but has a scientific basis.
VEGETATIVE MEASURES FOR NATURAL RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
Hill farmers grow trees of economic value and suited to their requirements. In order to have conserve soil and water they grow grasses for ground cover such as Eulaliopsis binnata, Chrysopogun fulvus and agave sps. Shrubs like Ipomea icarnea, Arando donex, Dendrocalamus strictus, napier grass, Vitex negundu, Morus alba and bagrera are grown, and in wild form are available bhang, lantana, sweet neem, etc. Among trees they grow Grewia pitiva, Bauhinia sps., Albezia labek, Timla, Gainthietic, to meet fuel and fodder requirements.
For the development of horticulture in the Doon Valley the trees grown are citrus, mango, jackfruit, guava, pomegranate, pear, peach and plum. In the hills of Mussoorie and Narendranagar areas peach, pear, khumani and apple are grown at higher elevations. There is tremendous potential to develop horticulture in the hill ranges because of undulating topography and climatic conditions. Farmers are well aware of the potential of their lands, but due to poor economic conditions and infrastructure it is not possible for them to go ahead with alternative and more profitable land use.
Hill farmers are hard-working that even in adverse topographic conditions they are devoted to agriculture for grain production. Hill farmers do not like to work as labourers or beg in villages for their livelihood; instead, they prefer to go to cities to earn. Many hill farmers migrate for jobs to the cities or join army service. The women and children look after the village property, while the men send them money to run their homes.