Biodiversity and India's degraded lands

Gadgil, Madhav (1993) Biodiversity and India's degraded lands Ambio, 22 (2/3). pp. 167-172. ISSN 0044-7447

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"Ecosystem people" of the world subsist by producing or gathering a diversity of biological resources from their immediate vicinity. Their quality of life is intimately linked to the maintenance of modest levels of biodiversity in their own circumscribed resource catchments. Their resource base has been extensively degraded by pressures created by "biosphere people"; i.e. the Third World elite and citizens of industrial countries, who can draw resources from all over the world and are thus, indifferent to environmental degradation in the Third World. Because "ecosystem people" have a genuine stake in biodiversity mantenance in their immediate surrounding, it is important that conservation efforts include maintenance and restoration of at least modest levels of biodiversity throughout the Third World. In the case of India this may be achieved by (a) dedicating the bulk of reserve forests to production of nontimber forest produce (NTFP), to support rural economy; (b) organizing effective community-based management systems to fulfill subsistence biomass requirements of peasants and tribals; (c) encouraging a switchover from shifting cultivation to horticulture; (d) supporting traditional practices of growing a variety of plant species, including keystone resources like Ficus spp, in rural habitats and on roadsides, farm and canal bunds; and (e) promoting tree farming on private lands to fulfill commercial needs.

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