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Natural resource conservation: a global issue.

Natural Resource Conservation: A Globle Issue

We live in a time when future prospects are uncertain. Not many years ago the economist William J. Boumol wrote that it made little sense for present generations to consciously forego current consumption to invest in projects designed to benefit generation, since history suggested that future generations would surely be richer than present generation any way. It is not known whether Prof. Boumol still holds this view, but it is clear that many other thoughtful individuals, laymen and specialists alike, are not as hopeful about the future as they once were.

The growing concern about the potential hazards of development has gathered tremendous momentum in the developed world in the last two decades. The technological revolution which has produced unprecedented levels of economic growth and prosperity for the developed world has also produced immense and growing costs in terms of degradation of environmental resource base of our planet and risks to its life support system and to human health and well being.

The global SOS message emitting from industrial world has also reached the developed countries. The famous report of the Bruntland Commission, released in 1987 has made it crystal clear that existing patterns of development are simply not sustainable and that this is particularly true for development countries. "Resource is a dynamic concept and the possibility always exists that changes in information, technology and relative scarcity may make a valuable resource out of that which previously had no value.

Resources are multi-attribute and thus have quantity, quality, time and space dimensions. Some resources, the best example being mineral deposits exist in given stocks in a given place. These are called stock resources since withdrawal from the stock lead eventually to its exhaustion. Renewable resources which also includes biological resources (e.g. forests, crops, animal population) are capable of regenerating themselves given human restraint and sound husbandry.

Developing countries are many more dependent than industrial countries on their natural resources, soil water, fisheries, forests and minerals and the poor within developing countries are the most dependent of all. With investment capital scarce, the low productivity of human capital due to poverty and the destruction of renewable resources loom large as constraints to economic progress in many developing countries.

The issue of resource availability have been associated more and more with environmental problems resulting from expanded energy use, the exploitation of more diffuse resources, deforestation and certain agricultural practices.

The survival priorities of the poor usually supersede their environmental quality interests. In terms of actual health effects, the impacts of degraded environmental quality are probably most severe on the poor, however. The political economy and the practical concerns of resource and environmental management in developing countries are quite different from those of industrial nations because resource depletion is often felt more severely than pollution effects and it is the poor who are most affected. Hence in some developing countries such as India "ecology movements" have risen from the lower classes (Bandyopadhyay, Jayanta and Vandana Shiva 1988). The state of the resource base in the Hills of Nepal has caused widespread concern amongst environmental and developmental experts for around two decades.

The more extreme commentators suggest that deforestation and land degradation in the Hills are causing massive soil erosion, which leads to floods and loss of life and property in the plains called by its critics the Theory of Himalayan Environmental Degradation. The other main concern is that the population is dependent on the resource base for its basic requirements of food, fodder and fuelwood, currently at pitifully low levels of subsistence. Of their use of the resource base is not sustainable, neither is the basis for their economic survival.

With the dawn of colonial rule in the Indian sub-continent encompassing the areas which now constitute Pakistan, the balance between natural resources/nature and human needs was destabilised. The needs of British Imperial expansion and industrialization were met by misappropriation of natural and human resources of sub-continent.

Natural Resources in Pakistan contribute to the economy in a number of ways and in virtually every section of the economy. Now it is an established fact that resources like energy, food, water, forests etc. have undergone a sequence of crises.

The population of Pakistan was 32.5 million at the time of independence. Today it has reached 100 million placing Pakistan in the category of densely populated developing countries and in the world Pakistan is the ninth most populated country. The gravity of the problem could be sensed by the forecasted figure of 150 million by the year 2000 at the current growth rate. The high growth rate is exerting tremendous pressure on land and other resources. The low per capita income has created a vicious circle of poverty, low savings, low investment, unemployment, under employment and lower living standard.

Global systems dynamics modelers began in the early 1970s to model not just the resources of capital and labour, but also the interactive supply and demand of other natural resources, including energy, valuable metals, fisheries, forests, soils and water which were perceived as becoming scarcer, and the existence of "negative" resources such as pollution. The publication of the Club of Rome's "The Limits to Growth" in 1972 was a landmark in this regard. Meanwhile, the debt crisis in developing countries were so acute that, rather than implementing even defensive or remedial Environmental Protection, the debt trap sometimes led to increased rates of extraction and destruction of natural resources, in an attempt to pay off debt and meet the immediate needs of rapidly growing population (George, 1988).

Non-governmental and international organizations, such as the International Union for the conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and the UN, prepared the World Conservation Strategy (1980) and the World Charter for Nature (1982). Many more conferences were held. Collaborative efforts such as the Tropical Forestry Action Plan were launched (WRI, 1985). It was argued that increasing efficiency of resource use, through conservation, wise management, and policies that integrated economic and ecological principles, along with ever relied upon promises of technological advances, would prevent disaster and ensure that "The Global Possible" (Repetto, 1986) would be achieved.
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Author:Khalil, Samina
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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