In recent years, India is becoming one of the important countries for involving non-governmental initiatives for resource management, environmental and developmental capacity building in order to achieve sustainable development.
Many government programmes are facilitating linkages between Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations (ENGOs) and Developmental Non-governmental Organization (DNGOs) and development decision-making.
This attracted a greater attention after 73rd and 74th amendment to the Indian Constitution, encouraging participatory decision-making and empowerment of the people.
Such organizations respond to social problem fast with more focused approach and often with better success. Several NGOs have been involved in programmes and service delivery for environmental decision-making.
It has been suggested that with the help of the mass media, traditional knowledge and community education programmes a greater awareness and sensitivity needs to be build in the public and the communities. Such awareness, it is hoped, will contribute to a greater participation by people in programmes and services (Prasad et al., 1999; Siddique, 2001; Phutego and Chanda, 2004, Kunwar and Kachhawah, 2001).
The Indian Forest Act, 1927, The Wildlife Act, 1972, The National Forest Policy, 1988, The Environment Protection Act, 1986 and Biodiversity Act, 2002 provided legal basis for conservation and management. Biodiversity Act, 2002 and Biodiversity Rules, 2004 focus on conservation and sustainable use of components of biodiversity and fair and equitable sharing of benefits.
A National Biodiversity Authority has been set up at Chennai under the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. These Acts initiated establishment of Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC) at local village level. State Biodiversity Boards at state level and a National Biodiversity Authority. Various types of protected areas are included (Government of India, 2007).
i. Biosphere reserve has been set up to protect representative ecosystems and also serve as laboratories for evolving alternative models of development.
ii. Three biosphere reserves from India are now included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. These are Sundarbans (West Bengal), Gulf of Mannar (Tamil Nadu) and Nilgiri (Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu).
Wetlands, Mangroves and Coral Reefs:
i. For 22 Wetlands Management Action Plans have been prepared.
ii. Calimer from Tamil Nadu and East Kolkata from West Bengal have been added to the wetland list of the country.
iii. Nineteen sites have already been declared as Ramsar sites of international importance in India.
iv. A Directory of Wetlands, covering 2,107 natural and 65,253 man-made wetlands, occupying an area of 4.1 million hectares and information on the status of 183 wetlands of national/international importance, was prepared.
v. Twenty-four wetlands, 35 mangrove and four coral reef areas in the country have been identified by the Government of India for conservation and management (Munyati et al., 1999).
National Afforestation and Eco-Development Board:
i. A total of 515 projects in 23 states have been operationalized for treating an area of 0.8 million hectares for the afforestation programme with people’s involvement for the sustainable management of the country’s forests.
ii. The NAEB has seven regional centres located in universities/national level institutions. During the year, these regional centres have conducted a number of training programmes on Joint Forest Management (JFM), interactive workshop on forestry programmes, micro-planning exercise, etc. (see Table 8).
In India, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is emerging as a measure tool for ensuring that environmental quality is fully taken into account in the decision-making processes of any developmental programme (Singh and Parijat, 2001; Singh, 2002). This technique will help the development planners in to identify environmental impacts and minimize degradation of environment as well.
Geographers may evolve consensus and resolve conflict coming from different interest group. Different stages of environmental assessment, i.e., objectives, scoping, policy alternatives, prediction, significance assessment, evaluation, public participation, plant implementation, mitigation and monitoring will be accurately understood by the geographical communities.
With different domains such as environmental, economic, social, developmental, structural-functional, institutional, organizational, regional and geo-political, the geography can bridge the gap between physical and social sciences. Under ecological change research, environmental and social approaches should be linked and established for better understanding of Indian environment (Singh, 2000).
The National Environment Policy, 2006 also focuses to conserve the biodiversity, inter-generational and intra-generational equity, sustainable utilization of biodiversity, integration of environmental, social and economic concerns and principles of good environmental governance.