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Integrated Natural Resource Management: Approaches and Lessons from the Himalaya

K. G. Saxena, Jawaharlal Nehru University
K.S. Rao, CISHME, University of Delhi, South Campus, New Delhi-17, India
K. K. C Sen, G. B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development
R. K. Maikhuri, G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development
R. L. Semwal

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Losses of forest cover, biodiversity, agricultural productivity, and ecosystem services in the Himalayan mountain region are interlinked problems and threats to the sustainable livelihoods of 115 x 106 mountain people as well as the inhabitants of the adjoining Indo-gangetic plains. Until the 1970s, environmental conservation, food security, and rural economic development were treated as independent sectors. The poor outcomes of sector-oriented approaches catalyzed efforts to address environmental and socioeconomic problems concurrently. The identification of "key" natural resource management interventions is an important dimension of integrated management. Projects to rehabilitate the degraded lands that cover 40% of the Indian Himalaya could be key interventions provided that they address both socioeconomic and environmental concerns across spatial and temporal scales. However, projects of this type, e.g., investments in conifer plantations on degraded forest lands, have failed because their designs did not take into account the needs of local residents. This study illustrates a case of land rehabilitation in a small isolated village close to the alpine zone. Vital elements of this project strategy included identifying local perceptions and knowledge and involving the local people in the selection and implementation of the interventions needed to restore the land. Communities were found to be more concerned with the immediate economic benefits from bamboo and medicinal species than the long-term benefits of tree planting. The villagers eventually reached a consensus to plant broadleaved multipurpose trees in association with bamboo and medicinal species. Despite assurances that all the economic benefits from rehabilitation would go to the community, the people would not agree to voluntary labor, although they did absorb significant costs by providing social fencing, farmyard manure, and propagules from community forests. Households shared costs and benefits according to traditional norms. The economic benefits to the local people exceeded the rehabilitation cost over the 7-yr life of the project. There were significant on-site environmental benefits in terms of improvements in soil fertility, biodiversity, protective cover, and carbon sequestration, and off-site benefits from more productive use of labor, reduced pressure on protected areas, and the introduction of rare and threatened medicinal species onto private farmland.

Key words

bamboo, community decision making, Himalaya, India, integrated natural resource management, land rehabilitation, medicinal plants, reforestation, village.
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087