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Community based Ecological Monitoring

posted by Madhav Gadgil

To address the important challenge of taking good care of India’s environment, we clearly need substantial, good quality, information. Unfortunately, pertinent information is in very short supply. Most of it is collected through the state machinery, and is of poor quality and highly incomplete. Modern science has abundantly demonstrated that good information flows from an open, transparent process that welcomes participation from all interested parties. We obviously need to put in place such a broad based, open, participatory process to develop a sound, comprehensive base of information on India’s environment.

All over the world, citizens are a great repository of detailed information on many facets of their local environment. India’s citizens, especially students and teachers, ought therefore to play an important role in this process of building up a good information resource on India’s environment. The rapidly advancing tools of ICT hold much promise in facilitating such a participatory process of knowledge generation.

Such a programme may involve the many interested citizens of a locality working with a consortium of both urban and rural high schools, junior and undergraduate colleges. It would take advantage of the fact that it is now mandatory for students in XI-XII standards as well as for the second year undergraduates in all branches to undertake a major project on environment. It could also build upon the provisions of the Biological Diversity Act 2002 that mandates all Panchayats and Nagarpalikas throughout the country to undertake documentation of local biodiversity resources and associated knowledge in the form of “People’s Biodiversity Registers”.

In the long run, this process should create a totally transparent, publicly accessible information resource of incalculable practical value on India’s environment with proper accreditation to concerned students, teachers and other interested citizens for all items of information. I have worked extensively on participatory, community-based programmes of ecological monitoring, both as a part of scientific research, in particular in the action research mode, as also through work on official advisory committees. I have written on such issues in newspapers and other media. I will attempt through this website to share much of the resultant material.