All the materials and energy essential for the survival and welfare of living beings including humans-are provided by nature. They are called natural resources.
A thing becomes resource only when it is used by humans to perform a function. Man lives in nature and depends on the resources of nature.
The sustenance and welfare of mankind depend upon the exploitation of different natural resources. The utilization of soil, water minerals, coal, electricity, oil, gas and nuclear energy is very important for the development of nation These resources have changed the level of living standard of man.
Of the world’s total population of six billion, one billion in U.S.A. and Europe alone use 84% of world’s total energy. Three billion people of India, China, Brazil and few other countries use only 15% India contains the world’s second largest resource of coal and third and four largest resource of manganese and iron. Fossil fuels (coal, petrol, and natural gas) on which modem industrial centres are based are limited.
At present rate of consumption, the fossil may be drastically depleted leading to severe energy crisis. Coal reserves of the world are higher than petroleum and natural gas and they may last longer. The leading coal producing countries are China U.S.A. U.S.S.R., Germany, U.K., Japan, India, Poland, France and Czechoslovakia. The major oil producing countries are U.S.A., U.S.S.R., Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Libya, Arab Republic and Indonesia. New discovery of oil has been made recently in the sea beds of Mumbai.
India is facing an ecological crisis and is degrading her natural resources day by day. Now the shortage of natural resources is a matter of international concern. There is increasing deficiency of energy, metals, coal, non-fuel and non-metallic materials. With regard to fuels there is great concern over the huge outflow of foreign exchange and every year enough oil is purchased from the Middle-East countries which are major sources of petroleum. The developed nations of the world have created abundant resources but the developing nations are importing many of these from foreign countries.
We are aware of the fact that earlier the human being was essential part of the nature and human society had impact on the other components of the biosphere. However, with the advancement of social and Cultural Revolution the conflict between man and nature started.
Due to its unending greed, man has destroyed the nature to the maximum for his little pm and made himself the master of nature. However, all efforts to have mastery over the nature have increased his further dependence on nature. On account of such un-thoughtful and ruthless exploitation the human society has vastly modified the ecosystems in different parts of the world and has brought undesirable changes in the natural habitats.
Consequently, some natural stocks of plants and animals have disappeared. About 1000 species are currently threatened with extinction or are dangerously rare. The human encroachment of nature has deprived the world civilization of 130 mammal species and has endangered more than 250 species. Out of the total approximately 0.3 million species of plants in the world, over 20,000 are in the category of either endangered or threatened with extinction. It is estimated that over 1000 animal species and 20,000 flowering plants are likely to be endangered globally.
Food, shelter and clothing are the primary requirements of man. Early human society has used natural resources relatively in much less quantity to cover his wants. Among the most essential requirements is a well cooked food. We know that cooking requires energy. The simplest source of energy available for cooking since the early human history is fuel wood. According to an estimate, about 60.5 per cent of Indian people’s fuel wood consumption is fire wood and other agricultural wastes. According to Government of India’s “Fuel Wood Policy Committee”, the annual demand for fuel is roughly 133 million tonnes which is expected to increase in the next 50 years.
There is a great controversy over the sufficiency of the mineral resources to retain domestic and economic development all over the world. According to “Resources and Man” (1969), “true shortages exist or threaten for many substances that are considered essential for current industrial society.” Mercury, tin, tungsten and helium, are known examples and the prospective resources of these substances will be nearly exhausted by the end of this century or early in the next, and new sources or substitutes to satisfy even the relatively short-term needs will have to be found out.
One of the most serious aspects of the problem arises from the impact of economic efforts of mankind especially for the purpose of maintaining its existence, protection, survival and betterment of the standard of living. The basic needs which induced the human beings to spoil the natural resources for their welfare have finally led to a situation which threatens to be disastrous.
Now in almost every advanced country, the overpopulation has been a vital concern along with the atmospheric pollution. Every effort is being made to save mankind from self-destruction. The situation has become so serious that it is necessary to take some precautionary steps so that the complications may not become worse further.
There are various problems which have arisen due to industrial and agricultural developmental activities. Many of these problems are due to mismanagement of natural resources and their impacts are not localized but are universal in nature. It has been estimated that the quantity of CO2 will be doubled in 23 years and the oil and natural gas resources will be no more available after 50 years and coal will be almost consumed within 150 years.
There are four basic reasons for the depletion of natural resources:
1. Rapid population increase,
3. High consumption of resources, and
4. Deterioration of land.
1. Rapid population increase:
There has been a tremendous increase in India’s population and it has now crossed 103 crores (1.03 billion). An increase in population will decrease all types of natural resources and result in environmental pollution. Ultimately, there will be short supply, as well as deterioration in quality of natural resources. This is because increase in population will increase the demand of natural resources and environment.
At present, the world population is increasing by two per cent every year. The industrialized countries have annual growth rate of 0.5 to 1 per cent and on the other hand the developing countries have the growth rate of 2 to 3 per cent. The per capita use of energy and mineral resources shows a difference between the developing and developed countries of the world. The developed countries consume less but their resources are enough. The population and per capita consumption have a considerable impact on the environment. The world cannot meet the continuously increasing demand for natural resources.
We are deteriorating our environment due to increasing population and industrial revolution. We are polluting atmosphere, lakes, streams, rivers by sewage, industrial wastes, heat, radioactive materials, detergents, fertilizers and pesticides. Besides these, we are releasing a number of toxic materials into our surroundings. The uncontrolled and indiscriminate use of pesticides has disturbed the entire food chains by which animals including man are affected.
It has been estimated that average individual has about 7 parts per million (ppm) DDT in his body which affects in long-term. Recent researches have revealed that this proportion of DDT in our body has deleterious effects on heart and liver and higher concentration may cause several other diseases including cancer. Many gases, e.g., carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are known to cause respiratory troubles. The unplanned and uncontrolled industrial growth may adversely affect or destroy the health of the society.
3. Consumption of materials:
Due to tremendous increase of population, most of the natural resources are being rapidly consumed. This high rate of consumption has disturbed our ecosystems. But, on the other hand, many of the natural resources are essential basic human needs. Many industries require raw materials which are essential for the advancement of the country. However, their rapid consumption will affect adversely the quality of our environment either by unwise use of natural resources or by increasing pollution.
4. Deterioration of land:
Due to excessive consumption of minerals of the soil by cropping or soil erosion or other natural events, fertility of soil is lost and the land deteriorates gradually. Sometimes drought also results in deterioration of land and many nutrients of the top soil are destroyed and soil fertility is lost. As a result of cropping, the cycling of soil mineral nutrients is greatly reduced.
Erosion has also depleted soil fertility because most of the minerals remain in the upper part of the soil and they are easily removed by wind or washed away by water. Sometimes water erosion takes its toll of fertile soils.
Man has also deteriorated agricultural land and ultimately caused the loss of national economy. It is commonly seen that man cannot degrade one part of his environment without simultaneously affecting other parts. For proper economic development lands for cropping, forest, recreation, transportation and wildlife are needed but their availability is reducing day by day. Therefore, integrated policy of resource management should be practiced, otherwise unexpected future shortage might upset the national economy.
Different Types of Natural Resources and Their Conservation:
Basically The Natural Resources Are of Two Types:
1. Renewable natural resources:
These resources can be replenished and do not change the ecological balance. The cut trees can be grown again, soil forms again and animals reproduce themselves.
2. Non-renewable natural resources:
Resources which once used up will be exhausted forever. Overexploitation of natural resources that are limited in stock may cause scarcity and even renewable resources, such as, water, forests, if over-exploited, require long period of time for replenishment. It clear that if the man wants to survive on this planet he must conserve the natural resources rather than merely exploit them. It does not mean mere preservation of the sources without using them. We should use the resources wisely and judiciously without wasting them.
Different types of these natural resources and their conservation are discussed under the following heads:
Now it is known that the world’s resources of minerals, oils, coal and natural gases are limited. Mineral resources are of several types metallic minerals and non-metallic minerals. Non-metallic or industrial minerals include a wide variety of substances which comprise the building materials such as rock, sand, gravels, cement and clay.
The non-metallic minerals are fertilizers which are essential to increase agricultural yield. Large amount of nitrogen in the form of nitrates is available in the natural deposits but now it is possible to fix nitrogen synthetically from air. Thus, the deficiency of nitrogen resources is compensated. Phosphorus is obtained from phosphate rocks. Although the phosphorus resources are abundant, yet not evenly distributed Potassium is also quite abundant in the world.
Among metals, iron, nonferrous metals, silver and gold are important. Among these, iron is the most important element because it is the main component of steel alloys. Chromium, cobalt, magnesium, molybdenum, nickel, tungsten and vanadium are included under ferroalloy elements.
So far as the causes of mineral loss from the soil are concerned, soil erosion and cropping are considered to be the most significant. Most of the soil nutrients remain in the upper part of soil and many minerals of upper soil are carried away by rapid winds or running water and thus the soil becomes deficient in fertile minerals. Soil is the most important resource of nature, it is essential for human existence and provides the basic requirements to man.
At present, there is a great loss of minerals all over the world which should be considered seriously Further, demands for mineral resources must be thought of seriously Although it is difficult to make exact estimate, yet there should be proper relation between demand and supply Sudden shortage of mineral resources results in poor economy It has been estimated that for a number of important minerals the resources are limited.
So the new resources must be supplied immediately otherwise the minerals will be exhausted within a few years. Due to excessive consumption new minerals should be added rapidly. Now it has become essential for resource- producing undeveloped countries to make some Act to maintain control over their own natural resources.
Even oil rich countries have formed an International Organisation of Petrol Exporting Countries (OPEC) which produces more than 50% oil of the world. It has been calculated that out of 19 important minerals 9 would be exhausted in 10 years and coal, iron and aluminium will be consumed by 2100. Therefore, entire quantity of world’s mineral reserves should be replaced time to time.
There are three important conservation approaches which should be taken into consideration:
(i) To reduce wastes and to minimize demand,
(ii) To change the way of life, and
(iii) To increase reclamation and recycling of materials.
Solid wastes should be reutilized for their energy content and it is possible to recycle the materials. The total demand can be met with a decrease in the consumption of new materials and increasing the amount of reclamation.
Forest is an important natural resource. It is the most important natural habitat for wildlife. It IS also utilized by farmers for commercial and recreational purposes. Many herbivores find shelter and carnivores search their prey in the forest. Many wildlife store food supplies and breed in the forest.
Besides this, forest plays most important role from commercial point of view. It is the source for a large number of products useful to man. It provides raw materials for many products of daily use. It feeds several industries which depend on wood products. Turpentine oil, paints, resins and printing paper industries get raw material from the forest. Man not only benefits from forest, but also gets recreation.
Forest also provides sanctuary for the modem city dwellers. Large number of people visit the forest for peace, beauty and recreation. Forest based cottage industries, such as bee-keeping, bamboo mat and basket making provide means of livelihood to the tribal people. Sal is a most important source for timber industries. Forest also provides raw materials for pulp and plywood industry.
Green plants of the forest are food-producing organisms and are primary producers of the “food chain”. They trap energy from the sun and use it to transform CO2 from the air, together with water and nutrients from the soil into food substances like starch, sugars, through the process of photosynthesis. These foods are stored in the fruits, nuts, seeds, nectar and wood.
Therefore, forest serves as an energy reservoir, trapping energy from sunlight and storing it in the forth of a biochemical product. Forest plays a most important role in keeping the atmosphere balanced by consuming CO2 and releasing O2, the latter is essential for animal life. So removal of plants and frees would disturb the composition of natural air. An acre of forest absorbs 4 tonnes of carbon dioxide gas and releases 8 tonnes of oxygen into environment.
If a forest is cut down, energy stored in the wood is lost and also most of the nutrients of the system are lost. Such deforestation leaves a poor soil which can support agriculture for only a short time, because the harvesting of the first few crops removes the remaining nutrients and renders the soil useless. Deforestation shows other disastrous results also. Removal of frees exposes the surface of the land resulting into erosion.
Soil is then washed away. In many places soil erosion occurs ten times more rapidly than usual, once the trees are removed. Soil erosion is particularly more on hill slopes where heavy rain sweeps soil downhill to choke rivers. The reduction of forests later affects rainfall and thereby restricts the availability of a most important natural resource, the rain water.
In natural forests, the free roots bind the soil and about 90 per cent of the water falling on the forests is retained either in humus or in the plants tissue. The forest thus acts as a soaking device and plays a vital role in the hydrological cycle. The rain water thus soaked up is gradually released over the days and weeks which supply to streams and rivers even during dry seasons.
Hence, it is important to retain forest cover in upland catchment areas as an alternative to flooding the whole barren and uncultivable area. The washed away top soil silts river beds—, and reservoirs reduce the water holding capacity and flood in the surrounding area is a natural calamity. It has been estimated that in India 60,000 million tonnes of top soil is carried away annually by rain water from deforested area.
Now a days the tendency of deforestation is increasing. Man is cutting forest to get temporary benefits but there will be a tremendous loss in due course of time. Now, due to gradual destruction of forest, wildlife is disappearing and their number is becoming reduced for which government should consider various aspects of forest management.
Forest management programmes should be motivated by forest employees and general public to increase yield, to avoid forest cutting and to prevent forest fires. Whenever plant or timber is cut, that area must be reforested. Similarly, any forest which has been destroyed by insects, diseases, hurricanes that area should be reforested. The primary aim of the forest service is to make the greatest number of forest resources available to the maximum number of people.
Shifting cultivation is another practice which destroys the forest. Many farmers destroy the forest for agricultural purpose and soil is exhausted. Therefore, farmers should use the same land for cultivation and they should apply better farming methods so that soil fertility remains restored and the soil can be used again.
Most severe damage of the forest is due to attack of insects, pests and fungi. Many destructive forest diseases are due to parasitic fungi, rusts, viruses and nematodes. Young seedlings are destroyed due to attack of nematodes. Many diseases such as heart rot, blister rust, oak wilt, phloem necrosis and Dutch elm diseases are common in the forest.
The forest diseases can be controlled up to some extent by the following methods:
1. By eradication of alternative hosts.
2. By using suitable antibiotics,
3. By DDT spray,
4. Sterilization, and
5. By using resistant varieties.
Besides above, the following measures of forest management have been recommended:
2. By improving the quality of timber.
3. By converting wasteful cutting into quality yield harvesting.
4. By increasing forest protection.
5. By increasing forest area.
6. By developing fast growing trees.
7. By controlling harmful forest agents.
8. By developing the better tree varieties.
9. By using disease resistant varieties.
In India about 75 million hectares area is occupied by forest alone which is about 23 per cent of the total land. In India forests have not so far played a significant role in improvement of economic condition of the country. Proper scientific management, conservation and utilization of forest wealth are likely to increase their resource value and utility in the future.
At present there is an urgent need to conserve the existing forest resources and to expand the forest area. The most important task is to restore the vegetation cover which is destroyed through our false policies. New forests and wood lots should be created to meet the daily demand of fuel and fodder and to provide more habitat for the wildlife.
The National Commission on Agriculture is giving serious thought to the problem of deforestation and has recommended introduction of “Social Forestry”, i.e., to create multipurpose village wood lots in rural India. Social forestry may be defined as an additional aid to wildlife conservation. “Social forestry is a concept, a programme and a mission which aims at ensuring ecological, economic and social security to the people, particularly to the rural masses especially by involving the beneficiaries right from the planning stage to the harvesting stage. It aims at mixed production system of wood, fibre, fodder, grasses, fruits and other raw materials for self- consumption and cottage industry”.
Different components of social forestry programme are:
1. Protection and afforestation of degraded forests in the vicinity of human habitations.
2. Creation of village wood lots on community lands and government waste lands.
3. Block plantation.
4. Agricultural crops) on marginal and sub-marginal farm
5. Tree planting around habitation area, field boundaries and pasture development
6. Tree planting in Urban and Industrial areas for aesthetic purposes, purification of polluted air, absorption of CO2, release of O2, and control of noise pollution.
7. Control of soil erosion by planting trees or shrubs.
8. Strip plantation along road sides, canals and rail lines.
Joint Forest Management:
Participation of local public is needed in forest management programmes. Local people, farmers, students and women help in greening an area, if they get some economic benefit from forest conservation. There must be coordination and mutual cooperation between local communities and the Forest Department.
This joint venture of economic forest management may be said as:
Joint Forest Management (JFM):
This step started first, in 1972, in West Bengal. The concept of social forestry is also the same. In this programme, local population and Forest Department are involved in plantation. Joint Forest Management (JFM) programmes involve an agreement between the local people and the Forest Department.
The JFM programme cares more for the local population and their rights and benefits from the forest resources are safe. Under this programme, a committee is formed from the local public, called Forest Protection Committee. This committee helps in restoring the green cover and protects the area from being over-exploited.
Mining operations, dam construction and timber cutting, etc. are some of the requirements of a developed country. But in mining and over-exploitation of timber, the ecological damage to forests is unimaginable. It has been seen that the forests are often found in the regions where there is rich mineral resources. Forests also cover the steep embankments of river valleys, which are more suitable to develop Hydel and Irrigation Projects.
Thus, there is a conflict between ecologists and the Mining and Irrigation Department. But it is to understand that long-term ecological benefits cannot be overlooked for short-term economic profits that lead to deforestation. In the forest areas, where development projects are approved, these dislocate and displace thousands of tribal population along with their houses and properties. The Joint Forest Management looks to resolve such sensitive issues.
If above programmes are carried out effectively the basic needs of rural people such as fuel, fodder, fibre and timber could be met easily and it will ensure ecological security like protection against wind, erosion, polluted water and air and availability of desired habitat for the wildlife. Social forestry can play a significant role to check flood and drought which affect 34 and 68 million hectares of land respectively in India.
Nature has gifted us a priceless biotic wealth, the wildlife which is a thing of beauty. It needs to be preserved rather than destroyed. In broad sense, the wildlife involves animals living in a natural, undomesticated state and uncultivated plants and microbial communities living within their natural environment.
In the modem sense, according to Dr. Mahajan (1961), wildlife means, life in any form (plant/animal) existing in natural surroundings. Wildlife as a natural resource is an essential component of ecosystem. It is of high importance to human society. It contributes to the cycling of matter, flow of energy and the soil forming processes. It has a significant role in the stabilization of ecosystems by natural control and regulation of populations (Bio indicator). It acts as gene reserve.
Wild fauna has a positive role in formation of ecosystem by pollination, seed and fruit dispersal and selective breeding etc. Wildlife provides recreational and economic benefits to man. Recreational and economic benefits are closely related to each other. For instance, fishing and hunting provide entertainment and economic benefit to man.
There is a mutual correlation between plants and animal communities. The composition of animal community is more or less constant and it is characterised and maintained by vegetation type which provides habitat and food for animals. Therefore, the maintenance and conservation of wild fauna depends largely on the conservation of habitat.
The developmental projects such as mining, agriculture, shifting cultivation, major water resources, major engineering activities, timber extraction have created special problems of habitat and wildlife management in the tropical forests and as a result, tropical forests are diminishing rapidly. Major canals and irrigation projects have created problems of wildlife management. Selective polycyclic logging in the forest is disturbing the wildlife in the same way as cyclones and destruction of natural forests disturb wildlife.
Red Data Book:
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has published Red Data Book which maintains a collection of all the available data on the species threatened with extinction. Several criteria have been listed in the book to indicate the endangered state of the species, such as restricted distribution, narrow habitat tolerance, migration across international boundaries, behavioural non- adaptiveness to technical advances, over exploitation, habitat destruction, competition for food, accidental killings and so on.
Wildlife includes 850 species of mammals, 1200 species and 2,100 sub-species of birds and more than 20,000 species of insects. According to the Red Data Book, about 277 species of mammals and 321 spp. of birds are considered to be endangered or likely to become extinct. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) under International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is concerned with the conservation of wildlife and several projects have been launched for conservation of natural forests and wildlife. In its diversity of life forms India is the second largest country in the world.
It is absolutely necessary to protect and conserve all forms of life on this earth as they are all interdependent and form a chain. Nature has created them in such a balanced manner that if one form of life is disturbed it affects all the other lives also. The very existence of man depends upon the survival of other forms of life both plants and animals. So the destiny of humanity depends upon the survival of other forms of life.
The causes of decline of wildlife in India are many. Wild elephants were captured and trained for use in war. Rhinos were killed for making shield. Rulers of princely states indulged in killing of wild animals as their hobby. Forests were cleared for development of agriculture, industry and other developmental projects. Wild animals were mercilessly killed which resulted in decline in their number and they are facing extinction now.
The extinction of species is a general biological principle of evolution and the change of living conditions happened to be the main reason for extinction. The extinction of species is followed by replacement by the new species which are better adapted to changed conditions. This is how the species diversity and biological equilibrium is maintained in nature and the evolution continues.
The main factors for extinction of wildlife fauna are as follows:
1. Habitat distraction or contamination of the habitat which accounts for about 67% extinction.
2. Over exploitation which accounts for about 37% extinction.
3. Introduction of exotic species which accounts for about 19% of the total extinction.
4. Competition for food may account for about 7% of extinction.
5. Accidental killing which accounts for about 2% of extinction.
These figures combined are well above 100 per cent because some time more than one factor affect a threatened species. Today wildlife species are gradually disappearing and their number is becoming reduced. Many species of wildlife have become extinct or are on the way to extinction (Table 15.1). Up till now 106 species of mammals and 139 species of birds have become extinct due to climatic and geographical changes or hunting by man. Today the lions are limited in number. The number is around 200 in the Gir forest of Gujarat. The rhino existed in Indus valley in the vicinity of Mohenjo-Daro some 5000 years ago. The rhinos are now found in certain parts of Nepal, West Bengal and Assam.
The number of tigers is also very limited. According to 1972 census, the tigers were 1827 in India. Conservation is an intelligent and judicious management of resources towards their optimum utilization without depleting the basic stock. The protection of wildlife from unwanted destruction is called wildlife conservation.
Through the Convention on International Trade in threatened and endangered species of wild Fauna and Flora, a number of species such as hispid hare, pigmy hog, lion, tiger, rhino, thamin and great Indian bustards have been saved. In 1973, a project for saving tiger was started which yielded very satisfactory results. The number of tigers increased considerably and it has become difficult to maintain them in their reserves. They have started killing rural population and their cattle outside the limits of Corbett and Dudhwa National Parks of U.P. All life forms created by nature are directly or indirectly dependent for their survival on other life forms.