Ecology and Equity by Madhav Gadgil and Ramachandra Guha – Book Review

Madhav Gadgil is an Indian ecologist and the founder of the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science. He is know for heading the Western Ghats Ecology Experts Panel (WGEEP) of 2010, also known as Gadgil Commission. He was awarded with the Padma Shri in 1981 and the Padma Bhushan in 2006. Ramachandra Guha is an Indian Historian and a columnist. His notable works include India After Gandhi and Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World. He has been awarded with several accolades for his achievements in the field of history. 

Ecology and Equity is principally a book about the history of resource use in India after post-independent India. The second part of the book certain schematic solutions based on the findings of the authors. It is a book that caters to both people who are alien to environmental issues and people already informed on this subject. The writing is lucid and precise which makes the reader curious on this subject. 

In this book, too, the authors present a original analytic framework to classify the huge population of India. The theoretical framework is based on the idea of a ‘resource catchment’ – the place from which resources are collected for use by people. Using the example of the current Indian society, it divides population into three categories: omnivores, ecological refugees, and ecosystem people. The first category, omnivores(includes businessmen and entrepreneurs), uses most of the resources. They are the section that really benefits from economical development. Displaced peasants and tribal groups comprise ecological refugees. Development plans devoid of   ecological consideration have resulted in their displacement. They are victims of overexploitation of resources by omnivores. The last category, the ecosystem people, consists the most of the Indian population. This category relies on resources within their space for fulfilling their requirements. They are dependent on the natural resource base in their living area and have been dependent on these resources traditionally. They grow their own crops to meet their food requirements. Though the classification of more than a billion people into three categories seems too simple and insufficient, it serves the purpose of the authors. The book offers a new development agenda after considering the ecological factors, that could benefit the majority. The authors propose for a development mission on the basis of local communities under a decentralized political system.

The authors describe the disruptive use of natural resources in the current era and shortcomings of the ideologies followed in the current society. Theories that existed before 1970s tell very little of man’s interaction with nature. Growing ecological threats have necessitated the requirement for new framework. The authors have developed this framework for better understanding of ecological problems and history of resource use, and to make the readers conscious of environmental problems from its roots. The book stresses the need for development strategies to be ecologically prudent. It shows the relationship between social conflicts and ecological factors. They hope to build a country based on decentralization of power and increasing the participation of communities in the matters of resources. After reading this book, one begins to look at environmental problems from a different perspective. 

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