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Management of Commons in Arid Areas of India and Role of Local Government

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Joshi, Yogesh C.
Conference: Reinventing the Commons, the Fifth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bodoe, Norway
Conf. Date: May 24-28, 1995
Date: 1995
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/2031
Sector: Grazing
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
arid regions
Abstract: "The state of Rajasthan situated in North-Western India, is the second largest Indian state geographically. It accounts for more than 60 percent (317,710 sq. kms.) of hot desert in India. The Aravali hill ranges stretch diagonally across the state in the South-West to North-East direction. The desert wastes of the Har lie to the west of the Aravili ranges. Climatically, it is the driest part in India receiving an average rainfall of less than 25 to 30 cms. The peculiar physical features of the region combined with the old feudal ways of exploiting resources has put regional resource endowments under severe strain. Due to poor and uncertain crop production the inhabitants depend heavily on livestock enterprise for their survival and livelihood. The livestock enterprise contributes significantly in terms of contribution to household income, crucial nutrients to diet, productive employment generation and substantial linkages to crop enterprise in the rural economy. The dependence of rural households on livestock enterprise is almost complete during drought and poor rainfall years for their sustenance. Thus, for the rural economy of these lands in India the importance of livestock enterprise is unsurmountable and unquestionable. "Over the years commons have been a main source of feed and fodder to the livestock population in the region. Factors like increase in livestock population leading to increased grazing, larger areas brought under cultivation, increase in human population, greater commercial exploitation of commons, little or no planned efforts on parts of community and local governments to conserve and regenerate commons and non-implementation of laws to protect and conserve the commons are mainly responsible for shrinking area and depletion of productivity of commons. The harm caused to commons due to these factors got accentuated in the absence of traditional and informal checks prevalent in societies before independence. However, the traditional checks have been eroded since independence and are chiefly responsible for the continuing 'Tragedy of the Commons'. As a result of pressure from both demand and supply side the grazing area per livestock in Rajasthan has decreased from 0.20 hectares in 1972 to 0.16 hectares in 1983. The ratio is expected to decline further due to increased pressure from all factors affecting commons. "As a part of scarcity management strategy the rural households in the region even resort to migration along with their herds to greener pastures during dry periods of the year. This migration invariably involves monetary and physical hardships and casualty of livestock for the households. With shrinking area under commons and their decreasing productivity, it is likely, that livestock enterprise will lose its traditional economic edge over other vocations. In such a scenario, the role of local governments in managing commons and sustaining livestock enterprise and arid economy is of considerable importance. In spite of constraints in terms of availability of resources and lack of expertise they can play a decisive role in this system against over-exploitation through motivation, education and strict implementation of laws, involve peoples' participation, governmental and non-governmental institutions and state governments in regeneration of commons. This entails using latest techniques, agricultural research and findings for increasing productivity of commons. The state government on its part needs to provide incentives to the local governments at all levels and oversee and facilitate the operations for better management of commons."

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