Climate change a problem in most parts of developing world: El Salvador Minister

Saving, preserving, sharing and nurturing common property resources is by no means a lost cause, according to president of the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC) Ruth Meinzen-Dick.

Addressing the first plenary at the 13th Biennial Conference of the IASC here on Tuesday, Dr. Meinzen-Dick said there were ways to avoid “self-fulfilling prophecy” associated with the notion of the “tragedy of the commons,” which was propounded by Garret Hardin in 1968. Recent events showed that the pessimism associated with this view was unwarranted.

“The award of the Nobel Prize in Economics to Elinor Ostrom, for her work on the commons, is a big step in recognising the study of the commons,” Dr. Meinzen-Dick said. “Our meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week to strengthen the commons and to discuss the possibility of integrating our work in the 12th Five Year Plan also gives us hope,” she added.

Adaptation

El Salvador's Minister for Environment Herman Rosa Chavez said, “Climate change is a here and now problem in most parts of the developing world. It is not enough to maintain small green islands in a degraded environment.”

The impact of climate change was so evident that adaptation was the central issue, not mitigation, Mr. Chavez said.

Referring to the work of Ms. Elinor Ostrom, he said, “Concepts and theories are important because they frame our understanding and shape our policies.”

Participants in a panel discussion on mining and common property resources pointed to the pernicious effects of the “diversion” common land for mining activity.

Panel chair Amita Shah, professor in Gujarat Institute of Development Studies, said government policies on conversion of agricultural land prior to liberalisation was “conservative.”

“However, since 1991, land grabbing for speculation and private accumulation has become widespread,” she said.

Gopal K. Kadekodi, Professor, Centre for Multidisciplinary Development research, Dharwad, said areas with mineral resources in the country were also the areas where there was water, forests and near oceans, implying that there was an overlapping of common property resources.

“The conversion of mining land results in irreversible change, which leaves the land unusable for anything else,” Professor Kadekodi said. “The fuzziness of land records facilitated encroachment and illegal mining.”

Land use policy

Sanjay Upadhyay, Supreme Court advocate, said the language used in Indian legislation — especially in definitions of what constituted ‘public purpose' — gave a wide latitude to official agencies in land acquisition. “There is an urgent need for a national land use policy.”

More than 700 delegates from 69 countries are attending the five-day event.