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Sunday, June 5, 2011

What can humans do for environment?

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Human beings, like other animals, are important biotic components of the environment. They form a unique trophic level. Besides food, they need a number of other resources for their welfare and development for which they exploit most of the natural resources through the application of modern technologies that have been developed by them over centuries. They have reasons as well as emotions. Reasons put them on right path whereas emotions often mislead them to think only for themselves.

As rational partners
All the consumers of the environment including man exploit natural resources and utilize them for their growth, development and other welfare activities. Man too, belongs to the group of consumers in nature. Hence, he is a partner in terms of consumption of natural resources. But, he thinks himself to be the supreme master or the owner of everything of nature that is found around him. Due to this thought, he exploits and misuses most of the resources for the interest of his own. These human activities create a lot of problems in the natural environment and alter most of its natural processes.

As social partners    
As important component of the natural ecosystems human beings serve as important links in the process of flow of energy and transfer of materials. Besides this, they take away major shares of natural resources and go on disturbing the normal natural processes. Their activities disturb the delicate natural fabric of co- existence among organisms of nature. Hence, human being should act as a social partner in the natural system.    
According to modern concept, people or society is the centre of development and that the development is for the whole society including all sections of people. It is considered that poor men and women are vulnerable to all types of adverse environmental conditions. Still, these groups contribute to the economic growth up to greater extents. If these people are empowered, a state of social harmony can be established which is most essential for the economic growth. Such policies are to be made that help all people to develop their potential, to improve their productivity, to increase their contribution to economy and to share the rewards of development as equal partners.

An Example of Social Partnership                                                     
Due to growing need of timber for railways, the British started large scale deforestation in the Shivalik hill region, located in the North-west of India stretching from Nepal to the Pakistan border.. Even after passing the Punjab Land Preservation Act in1902, villages did not stop their practice of cultivating the forest land and sending their cattle to graze in, as they had no alternate source of their livelihood. Continued deforestation and cutting of Bhabhar grass (Eulaliopsis binata) for paper mills caused serious soil erosion through gully formation and soon the hill became naked. The Central Soil and Water Conservation Research and Training Institute reported in 1970 that sediments were running off from the hills of Shivalik at the annual rate of 600 tonnes per hectare near Sukhomanjari village.

Some social workers started educating the villages of Sukhomanjari about methods of soil conservation and importance of vegetation. A hill resource Management Committee was formed in the village in 1980s and villagers started fencing of Shivalik hills by building earthen dams across natural gullies. In 1986, pleased by the activities of villagers, the Haryana Forest Department gave the contracts for cutting fodder grass as well as the bhabhar grass to villagers of Sukhomanjari. The money thus earned has been a major incentive for the Participatory Forest Management System. The social fund raised by above activities is utilized to run various educational and Health Development Activities in the area.

Conservation of environment through traditions, customs and cultures
The protection and preservation of environment are deeply rooted in social traditions, customs and culture in India. Indian people in ancient times feared from natural forces like fire, wind, water etc. and started worshipping them. They offered divine status to natural forces and called them Gods. Trees, animals, rivers, and even stones and rocks acquired Godly status during those days.

The age-long tradition of nature worship is still continued in Indian societies. Today, the feelings and faiths in traditions, customs and cultures are still preserving our resources in different parts in India. We need to observe our traditions, customs and cultures and to encourage their practices for the sake of environment.
Here are examples of some important Indian traditions, customs and cultures that were and still are in practice in different parts in India.

-          The concept of keeping forest reserves was first developed by Kautilya, an Indian scholar in the past.
-          Trees of different species are protected and preserved as sacred groves in most parts of the country. The concept of Panchvati (a group of five ficus trees; vati is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘vat’ meaning vat-vriksha or banyan tree) has been elaborated in many of Indian Epics.
-          Bisnois of Rajasthan have a tradition of protecting wildlife including Black Buck and Khejri trees since 1451 or so.
-          The Nature Worship is the age- long tradition in many religions in India.
-          Different water conservation strategies and traditions have been in practice in many parts of India.
-          Protection of wildlife and natural resources has been enshrined in Hindu religion and culture and it has also been stressed in the Constitution of India.

Key Words: environment, participatory forest management, traditions, cultures, Bisnois, Sukhomanjari

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