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Monday, July 13, 2009

Roles of Science and Traditional Knowledge Systems in the Conservation of Natural Resources

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Over the years, the population explosion and growing Consumer Culture have been exploiting the natural ecosystem and creating threats to the essential ecological processes, species of plants and animals (Biodiversity), and the life support systems. These threats are being observed in the forms of global environmental changes, extinctions of species of plants and animals in different parts of the world, and interruptions in the services of ecosystems. These problems in the natural environment have compounded into a widespread inequity or unequal access to resources. It has caused threats to livelihood security of the poorest and marginalized sections of society.

The above threats can be arrested through the application of proper Natural Resource Management Strategies that should comprise Scientific Knowledge Systems with a multidisciplinary approach, Traditional Knowledge Systems and the Local Knowledge Systems.

In the modern era, attempts on international level have initiated a multidisciplinary approach of science which has been based on the pillars of Natural and Social Sciences. This approach combined with the traditional knowledge systems has started averting the impacts of population growth, increasing consumer culture, diminishing biodiversity and increasing unequal sharing of resources across the world.

In other words, this multidisciplinary and multidimensional approach is constructing and strengthening the pillars on which sustainable development can rest in a sustainable environment.

Science provides new technologies and helps in the improvement of the existing ones; provides tools for networking, storing, visualizing, analyzing information and projecting long term trends to solve even the complex problems more efficiently. It is justified that if local knowledge system is linked to scientific researches, it is more or less sure to contribute to equity, opportunity, security and empowerment of local communities besides contributing to the sustainability of natural resources.

The Local Knowledge Systems can help in the analysis of actual conditions or scenarios, collection of data, planning of management, designing of adaptive strategies to learn and get feedback, and support of institutions to put policies into practice. The researches that are being done in scientific institutions should be combined with the local knowledge so as to deal with the conservation programmes more effectively. For this, some of the steps that can be taken up may be – co-operation between scientific and local knowledge systems, the transmission of knowledge from one generation to the other, formulation of strategies by application of skills, care and thought for the rights and shares of future generations; conservation and reliance on local resources, respect to environmental values and traditions, spreading or transferring useful species etc. These attributes of local knowledge systems are useful in making the environment sustainable.

The traditional knowledge of Indian Communities has been working in the field of conservation of biodiversity since thousands of years. The practices of Vegetation Management applied by communities still exist in many parts of the world including Asia, South America, and Africa etc. The Ethical Aspects linked to these practices have been helping communities in regulating interactions between them and their environment. The traditional vegetation management systems applied over thousands of years by these communities have been found to be integrated with their traditional practices of rain water harvesting that encourage growth of a different vegetation that support the faunal diversity.

In India, the Traditional Systems of Biodiversity Conservation comprise different categories like religious traditions, tribal traditions, cultural and social traditions etc. The traditions that use to pertain to the management of trees, forests and water incorporate a number of activities like –

1). Ethics, norms and practices of judicious use of resources like forests and water,

2).The maintenance of cultural landscapes and agro forestry systems,

3).The construction of water storage structures surrounded by trees,

4). Wisdom in the collection and management of wood and non-wood forest products,

5).The traditions of protection and regeneration of forests for example the tradition of protection of Khejri trees by Bisnois of India.

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