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Harmonious Governance, Natural Resources and Human Survival


Vasanth Kannabiran

STATE, NATURAL RESOURCE CONFLICTS AND CHALLENGES TO GOVERNANCE: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Edited by N.C. Narayanan
Academic Foundation, New Delhi, 2008, pp. 256, Rs. 795.00

GENDERSCAPES: REVISIONING NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
Edited by Sumi Krishna
Zubaan, an imprint of Kali for Women, New Delhi, 2008, pp. 476, Rs. 695.00

VOLUME XXXIV NUMBER 8 August 2010

April 2010 was the hottest ever recorded worldwide according to the World Meteorological Organization. Global temperatures have been steadily rising since the 1970s with no let-up in the trend says NASA. Another news item tells of Singapore illegally dredging sand from Cambodia to expand its coastline. In Canada environmental advocates and timber companies have successfully struck a deal to suspend logging in 72 million hectares of forest in Canada.1 In a nutshell these examples demonstrate the tensions and contradictions that mar nature that we grew up thinking was pure and inviolable. The issue that vexes most thinking people today is the plundering of natural resources by multinational corporations and the dispossession of people whose survival and livelihoods are intimately linked to jal, jangal and zameen—the slogan of the women of Himachal and other forest and hilly tracts. It was only in the 1970s that the realization grew that conservation and sustainability of natural resources were inseparable from the conflict of interests of different groups and that the impact of economic development was very different on men and women. One of the key issues that governance confronts is the need to balance economic growth with the demands and aspirations of peoples, the rights of future generations and the degradation of environment. Potential and dormant conflicts are inherent when competing interests claim rights to particular resources. The magnitude of resource transformation and innovative technologies have only exacerbated conflicts over a period. Conflicts spiral into civil war conditions with large scale displacement of people and is followed by militarization and armed resistance that crush the fragile existence of Adivasis. Adivasi struggles have focused on securing autonomy and control over resources and territories and asserting the right to a cultural space free of domination. Their struggles, their assertion of identity, community, the right to equality and dignity of culture and kinship are rooted in the forest. The invasion by global capital of forest areas for resources profoundly affects the lives and futures of the people living in these areas. The management of natural resources has invariably been viewed through developmental and technocratic lenses. The vital assumptions of promised neoliberal growth through mining in Orissa are challenged from a social justice perspective highlighting the conflicts within the concept of governance. The backdrop of Orissa’s extreme poverty and hunger while being the richest state in terms of natural resources is poignant evidence of the conflicts arising ...


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