Poverty and Natural Resources:
Measuring the Links (Some Issues in
the Context of Karnataka)
K G Gayathri Devi
Natural resources (NR) such as land, water, trees, plants and air provide the basis upon which human and other living beings survive and carry on their varied activities like agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism. However, most of the societies being characterised by socio-cultural constraints through a system of stratification, there is unequal access to the NR for the poor and marginalised. This has lead to an extremely impoverished situation where large sections of population are excluded from accessing these resources. Degradation of environment in the recent years has made matters worse for them. While degradation is caused by a number of factors, the blame for the same is squarely placed upon the poor who are accused of overusing the NR for their survival and are hence denied access to use of NR (like collection of forest wood for fuel or minor forest produce for economic security). Women are the worst sufferers in this situation as household food and water security continue to rest with them especially in the case of poor and very poor households.
The issue, therefore, is the understanding of the links between poverty and NR and measuring them. Besides efforts at their rejuvenation, the NR needs to be efficiently managed to enhance their utility with equity. This process has to be monitored to achieve sustainability and should enable poverty reduction and protect those who have somehow come out of poverty from being trapped again into it, due to environment-related shocks, such as flooding, drought and climate change, to mention a few. Such protection is central to their livelihoods, health and security.
This paper is an attempt to address issues relating to the above, looking at the situation in the state of Karnataka, delineating various forms of interventions needed to be undertaken by academicians, policy makers, community-based associations and the public at large.