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Enclosure of commons

All that we share

Common property resources are owned, held in trust and managed by an identified set of people – as against private or government ownership. Today, writes Kanchan Chopra, the commons are threatened by market forces, infrastructural and industrial development, and archaic rules of land acquisition. The concept of ‘community trusteeship’ of resources such as land or water which commons are built around must become relevant to sustainable development if we are to ensure that future generations are as well-off as we are


Dependence of the poor on commons

A 1999 NSSO study on the role of land, water and forest commons in the life and economy of rural Indians revealed that CPRs provide as much as 58% of fuelwood requirements and up to 25% of fodder requirements. It also provides evidence of large-scale depletion of CPRs, with CPR lands in rural India declining by almost 2% every five years. Bhaskar Goswami reports


Common wealth, priceless wealth

The commons represents a very different logic for managing resources than the market, explains David Bollier. It offers forms of ownership and management that can be more equitable than private property. It seeks sustainability of the resource over the long term, unlike the market’s propensity for maximising short-term (financial) benefits. The idea of citizen-management of the commons is to establish fair and effective rules for allocating access to a shared resource


Consequences of the loss of commons

Seeds, pods, buds, fruits, herbs and other produce collected from common property resources are consumed by communities to compensate for nutritional deficiencies during periods of acute food shortage. In fact, uncultivated food provides as much as 65% of food, and all of the fodder and fuel needs of very poor landless households. It is not difficult to comprehend the consequences when CPRs are closed, encroached upon, or access to them denied to local communities, says Bhaskar Goswami


How grazing lands became 'waste' lands

Under British rule, pastoral lands and uncultivated commons were uneconomic wastelands that needed to be acquired, owned, taxed and brought under the plough, writes Nitya Ghotge. After Independence, the focus on agricultural productivity and land reform caused a further enclosure of the commons, robbing pastoral communities of fodder and sustenance. After liberalisation, industry is encroaching on the commons


The power to take - and displace

The power of eminent domain has been interpreted as being close to absolute power of the state over all land and interests in land within its territory. The effect of this, says Usha Ramanathan, has been that those without access to land and rights over land, those who may have use rights but no titles, communities holding common rights and others with inchoate interests, have had to bear the burden of eminent domain


The invisible fish hunters of the Godavari

The Polavaram dam on the Godavari will send Malladi Posi and hundreds of other inland fisherfolk along the Godavari into the swelling ranks of migrant daily wage labourers. The others displaced will at least get land for land, or compensation. These fish hunters feature nowhere in the R&R plans, because they cannot conceive of -- let alone claim -- ownership of the river and its waters. R Uma Maheshwari reports


From owners to 'occupiers'

While 12% of Manipur’s population depend on Loktak Lake for their sustenance, some 10,000 people actually live and fish on tiny islands of vegetation called ‘phumdis’ that float on Loktak, the largest freshwater lake in the northeast. Now, claiming that the phumdi-dwellers are polluting the lake where they have lived for generations, the Manipur government is evicting them. Where will they go, asks Thingnam Anjulika Samom  


Challenging the tourism juggernaut

Hotels and emporia have crowded out the fishworkers in Puri, in coastal Orissa. But the state has been deaf to the demand for land rights of fishing communities who have traditionally used the beaches to land their craft, dry their fish, etc. Who ‘owns’ the coast, and who has rights to it? Aarthi Sridhar reports


The farmer, the lotus pickers and the washermen

For generations, the farmers on whose land Kerala’s traditional ponds stood would share the waters and fish with the community. Now, with increasingly commercial fishing and sand mining, the lotus pickers, washerfolk, cattle owners, and bathers are being ousted. Can there be a hierarchy of ownership of something as fluid and life-sustaining as water, asks Jyothi Krishnan  


Destroyed by 'development'

As resource-rich Orissa hurtles towards ‘development’, huge swathes of forest are being cut to make way for industry, mining and infrastructure. Some 200,000 hectares of forests are believed to have been diverted to non-forestry use since the 1940s, and hundreds of thousands of forest-dwellers have been evicted from these common property resources. Subrat Kumar Sahu reports


Only enlightened local communities can protect the global commons

The global whole has no existence without its local spaces, says A Damodaran, author of a new book on India, climate change and the global commons, in this interview with Agenda. Unless there is action from local communities, it is neither possible to prevent nor adapt to climate change. Local spaces also manage to conserve biodiversity better


Privatising Bangalore's lakes

In 2002, 60 tanks in Bangalore were sought to be leased out in public-private partnerships that would turn these traditional commons into amusement parks and commercial spaces with closed access. A people’s movement that culminated in a 2008 high court order managed to prevent the enclosure of these commons. Rohan D’Souza reports


The fuzzy logic of urban commons

Interview with Dr Bhuvaneswari Raman, a researcher who has studied common spaces such as markets in places like Bangalore. She has recently completed her doctorate from the London School of Economics


The Kaikondrahalli lake initiative

Dr Harini Nagendra, Adjunct Fellow, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bangalore, and Asia Research Coordinator, Centre for the Study of Institutions and Environmental Change, Indiana University, Bloomington, talks to Rohan D’Souza about Bangalore’s tank system and a unique community-based initiative to maintain Kaikondrahalli tank located south of the city


Guardians of the forest

The Bhimashankar forests in the Western Ghats are an excellent example of common pool resources used, safeguarded and governed by the Mahadeo Koli tribals who have lived here for centuries, writes Kusum Karnik. Outside each tribal village is a deorai or sacred grove that has a particular species composition and so functions according to a different set of rules and laws that are strictly observed


Commons manifesto

Strengthen the commons -- Now!