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Local Villages (India Local) Assessment

Contact Information

  • Madhav Gadgil
    Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science
    Bangalore, India – 560012

Project Team and Institutions

Madhav Gadgil, CES, IISC, Bangalore, Karnataka; Yogesh Gokhale, CES; K. P. Achar, CES; Shrikant Gunaga, CES; M. B. Naik, CES; Shridhar Patgar, CES; Nagarik Seva Trust, Guruvayankere, Karnataka; Nilesh Heda, CES; Mohan H. H., Vrikshamitra, Chandrapur, Maharashtra; Yogini Dolke, Srujan, Pandharkavada, Maharashtra; Kaustubh Pandharipande, Karanja, Maharashtra; Shubhada Deshmukh, AAA, Kurkheda, Maharashtra; Vijay Edlabadkar, Ballarpur, Maharashtra.

Funding for this assessment was provided by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

Ecosystem Services Assessed

Provisioning services: food, water, fuel, fiber; cultural services: aesthetic and spiritual.

Assessment Approach and Summary of Findings

The recently enacted Biological Diversity Act (2002) has made the preparation of a ‘‘People’s Biodiversity Register’’ (PBR) mandatory for village councils all over India. The India Local assessment provides a methodology for preparation of PBRs. Through model PBRs consistent with the MA framework, the following conclusions were derived for the changes taking place in ecosystems and their impacts on human livelihoods at the local scale in the assessment areas.

Land use changes and driving forces: In the Western Ghats, excessive levels of conversion of paddy fields to areca nut orchards has been undesirable, as this has increased irrigation water demands to an unsustainable level. The conversion of former village common lands used as grazing grounds to habitation or Casuarina equisetifolia and Acacia sp. Plantations have led to a reduction in livestock holdings and a decline in organic manure resources. In Vidarbha, the availability of usufruct rights (Nistar rights) and awareness about it in recent years are important drivers for motivating people to think about resource management. Joint Forest Management initiated by the State Forest Department has also been an important driver and has led to several villages successfully implementing resource micro planning.

Soil and water: There is a widespread perception that a decline in the use of organic manure accompanied by an increase in the application of chemical fertilizers and insecticides has led to a serious loss in soil fertility as well as affected the quality of water and aquatic life. The traditional gravity flow irrigation method has been replaced by drips and sprinklers, which greatly reduce the water going back into streams or percolating to underground water tables—ultimately reducing the stock of underground water.

Agriculture and tree crops: The patterns and practices of agriculture, that is, the land under cultivation of seasonal/annual crops and tree crops have changed over time, thereby affecting ecosystem services.

Forests and forestry plantations: Original forests have disappeared due to deforestation in coastal villages in the Western Ghats of Karnataka. Overexploitation of forest resources has led to the opening up of the canopy, which coincided with the invasion of the exotic weed Eupatonum odoratum (Chromolaena odorata). Forest plantations such as Casuarina equisetifolia and Acacia auriculiformis have largely come upon lands that were earlier maintained as community grazing lands.

Grasslands: People attribute the following causes for the degradation of grasslands and related ecosystem services in recent decades: (1) rapid depletion of common resources and (2) apathy of forest authorities towards cattle and fire.

Domestic animals: The introduction of high milk yielding breeds of domestic cattle in Karnataka villages has resulted in the loss of traditional breeds of cattle such as Malnad Gidda.

Fish: Fishing during the breeding season in the sea has resulted in the loss of fish diversity and density and also decline in the availability of fishes. Fishery resources are neither abundant nor diverse in other water bodies. Destructive fishing methods such as the use of dynamite and fish poisons have led to fish depletion.

Selected response options:

In Koyyur village, the following responses have begun to be implemented:

  • The forest department was compelled to form Village Forest Committees as a part of the JFPM so that people can participate collectively in natural resource management. The villagers are providing vital information to the Forest Department regarding timber smuggling.
  • In Koyyur village, five farmers have come forward to dig the percolation pits in their plots.
  • Three sacred groves have been identified and the process started for planting medicinal plants and endangered species.
  • Morante ( Channa striatus ) fish breeding has been initiated.
  • About 15 individuals were selected for developing kitchen herbal gardens and seed banks at the household level.


Three state-level and two national-level scenarios were developed. The state-level scenarios include:

  • Bioresource database: Indian states gear up to implement the National Biological Diversity Act, 2002. State-level documentation of bioresources in the state is undertaken to create a database. This will help to ensure better, more-informed decision-making. Such database building efforts will be taken up by states within a few years.
  • Strengthening the IPR regime and validation: States will be establishing a system of safeguarding people’s knowledge related to bioresources and steps for adding value. There are examples which include initiatives taken by Government of India through the National Innovation Foundation. States will have such organizations at levels accessible to local people. Special efforts with the help of scientific institutions will be required to validate the knowledge. There has been an increasing demand to explore traditional knowledge for commercial use by blending it with modern technology. This will have to be done in parallel with knowledge documentation processes. Norms of benefit sharing need to be evolved. There is enough technical expertise available within the country in terms of information technology for safeguarding intellectual property.
  • Sustainability in strategies: States will have to take measures for devising strategies as per the Biological Diversity Act 2002, by declaring sites as biodiversity heritage sites, banning the extraction of particular species, etc. as suggested by documentation done at village level. These strategies will supplement the existing legal provisions like protected areas, etc. The national-level scenarios developed by the project include the following:
  • Network of databases: As a follow up to National Biological Diversity Act, there will be a national database of bioresources in India. This process is likely to be initiated soon. By 2015 there could be networked information system available all over the country. The data mining from this system along with validation of knowledge will create opportunities for jobs all over the country.
  • Strengthen state and local functioning: Central government will have to strengthen various systems operating at state and local levels which include strategies for sustainable utilization, IPR protection and benefit sharing, and evolving systems of positive incentives.
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