Striving For Sustainability: Environmental Stress And Democratic Initiatives In Kerala

Striving For Sustainability:

Environmental Stress And Democratic Initiatives In Kerala


By Srikumar Chattopadhyay and Richard W. Franke

New Delhi, India: Concept Publishing, 2006


To order the book online, click here.



(1) Can you tell ZNet, please, what your new book, Striving for Sustainability: Environmental Stress and Democratic Initiatives in Kerala, is about? What is it trying to communicate?


Geographer Srikumar Chattopadhyay, the principle author, and I want to share with progressive international intellectuals and activists the unique experience of India’s Kerala State in attempting to use local participatory democratic practices to solve a set of serious ecological problems faced by the region.


Kerala is famous for the “Kerala Model of Development” in which radical movements in the 20th century brought about major improvements in the lives of the poor despite low per capita incomes. During its several decades of working for progressive economic and social reforms, Kerala’s leftwing movement failed to recognize the importance of environmental degradation. In recent years, however, they have made a remarkable transformation of their understanding and are now mobilizing people through their mass organizations to tackle the problems of declining forests, polluted rivers, loss of biodiversity and other problems. Our book tries to document and analyze the problems and the new left perspective.



(2) Can you tell ZNet something about writing the book? Where does the content come from? What went into making the book what it is?


Srikumar and I worked for 14 years on the manuscript. He undertook several detailed studies of environmental degradation in Kerala, helped invent the Kerala people’s participatory mapping program, and played a major role in the Kerala People’s Planning Campaign of 1996–2001. I worked with him on some of the local studies and wrote up the literature review, a section on what I believe are the international implications of his work and some other parts of the book.



(3) What are your hopes for Striving for Sustainability: Environmental Stress and Democratic Initiatives in Kerala? What do you hope it will contribute or achieve, politically? Given the effort and aspirations you have for the book, what will you deem to be a success? What would leave you happy about the whole undertaking? What would leave you wondering if it was worth all the time and effort?


We hope our book will inform readers how Kerala demonstrates the potential for local democracy to generate solutions to environmental degradation while maintaining or enhancing social justice. We believe the book also shows that solutions can be part of a strategy that resists corporate-dominated globalization.



To order the book online, click here.





Abbreviations  and Glossary

Preface and Acknowledgements



Kerala and the World Environmental Crisis


Introduction to Part I


Chapter 1 The World Environmental Crisis and the Kerala Experience

1.0   The Great Civilisational Change

1.1   The Kerala Development Model

1.2   Our Endangered Earth

1.3   Intensification, “Overshoot,” Depletion, and Collapse: A Theoretical Framework for Environmental Stress

1.4   The First Worldwide Depletion Crisis

1.5   The Limits to Growth Debate

1.6   First World Causes — Third World Consequences

1.7   Saving the Endangered Earth: Sustainable Development and Ecological Democracy

1.8   Physical Limits

1.9   Sociocultural Limits

1.10  Depletions, Inequality, and Violence

1.11  Economic Limits

1.12  The Strategy for Sustainable Development

1.13  Local Sustainability

1.14  Kerala’s Experiment in Local Planning for Sustainable Development


Chapter 2 Kerala’s Geographical Setting and Its Environmental Resource Base

2.0   Coast, Midlands, Highlands

2.1   Land Resources

2.2   Topography and Relief

2.3   Geology and Geomorphology

2.4   Soil

2.5   Water resources

2.6   Flora

2.7   Fauna

2.8   Resource Zones


Chapter 3 Macro and Micro Ecological Zones

3.0   Why Micro Matters

3.1   Macro Level Zones

3.2   Climatic Zones

3.3   Bioclimatic Zones

3.4   Agroclimatic Zones

3.5   Landscape Ecological Zones

3.6   Diversity and Commonality in Kerala’s Land Use Patterns

3.7   Micro Level Zones

3.8   The Topo Sequence at Various Altitudes


Chapter 4 Causes of Concern: Land Use Changes

4.0   Spices, Traders, and Colonialists

4.1   Landuse in Theory and Practice

4.2   Landuse Change in Kerala — An Overview

4.3   Changes in the Forest Areas

4.4   Causes of Deforestation in Kerala

4.5   Changes in Agriculture

4.6   Shifts in the Cropping Pattern: From Rice and Tapioca to Coconuts and Rubber

4.7   Conversion of Rice Lands

4.8   Causes of Conversion

4.9   Landuse Changes at the Micro Level

4.10 Cropping Intensification

4.11  Crop Production, Fallow and Fertiliser


Chapter 5 Causes of Concern: Changes in Landscape Ecology

5.0   Climate, Wetlands, Soil, and Water

5.1   Changes in the Micro Climate

5.2   Changes in the Coastal Ecosystem

5.3   Changes in the Wetland Ecosystem

5.4   Soil Erosion

5.5   Infiltration, Surface Runoff, and Stream Flow

5.6   Landscape Factors Influencing Drainage Discharge

5.7   Changes in River Water Quality

5.8   Changes in the River Regime

5.9   Changes in the Groundwater Regime

5.10 The Decline in Water Harvesting

5.11 Groundwater Quality

5.12 Performance of Irrigation Projects

5.13 Reservoir Sedimentation

5.14 Fragmentation of Landholdings

5.15 Floods

5.16 Postscript to Chapter 5: The Great Tsunami of 26 December 2004 


Chapter 6 Why the Environment Is Changing

6.0   Global and Local Forces

6.1   Landuse and Landcover Change

6.2   Population

6.3   Settlement Pattern

6.4   Urbanization

6.5   Migration

6.6   Development of the Transportation Network

6.7   Rules and Acts



 Kerala’s Initiatives for Sustainable Development: Employing the Power of an Awakened People


Introduction to Part II


Chapter 7 Movements to Defend Kerala’s Environment

7.1   The Save Silent Valley Campaign

7.2   The Monsoon Trawling Ban: Complexities of the Movement to Save Marine Resources

7.3   Muthanga: Assertion of Tribal Rights on Forest Land

7.4   Plachimada: A People’s Struggle to Protect Their Water Supply from Multinational Corporate Misuse


Chapter 8 State Level Initiatives for Environmental Resource Based Planning

8.0   Why Planning Changes Are Needed

8.1   The Macro Policy Framework of Local Self Government

8.2   Participatory Panchayat Resource Mapping (PRM) in Kerala

8.3   Resource Mapping in Mezhuveli Panchayat: A Case Study

8.4   Impact of the PRM Programme


Chapter 9 The People’s Campaign for the Ninth Plan of 1996–2001: A New Surge of Environmental Action

9.0   A Remarkable Experiment

9.1   Capacity Building and the Emergence of Grassroots Planners

9.2   Resource Management

9.3   Project Formulation

9.4   Plan Finalisation and Formulation of a Development Strategy

9.5   Plan Integration, Evaluation and the Voluntary Technical Corps

9.6   Identifying Ecozones

9.7   Project Implementation

9.8   The People’s Campaign and Sustainable Development

9.9   Significance of the People’s Campaign


Chapter 10 Local Initiatives: The Potential of Local Democracy and Participation for Sustainable Development  

10.0  From People’s Campaign to Local Sustainability

10.1  People’s Biodiversity Registers: The Ernakulam District Campaign

10.2  Pond Management and Irrigation in Thathamangalam

10.3  The Karanila Traditional Fish Sharing System

10.4  Preparing a Watershed Master Plan: The Perambra Block Experiment

10.5  A Participatory Water Supply Project in Adat Grama Panchayat

10.6  Olavanna Panchayat’s Water Supply Initiative

10.7  The Microhydel Project at Upputhara

10.8  The Koyilandy Integrated Biological Mosquito Control Project

10.9  Water Self-Reliance: The Erimayur Jalanidhi Programme

10.10 Sustainable Vegetable Cultivation in Kanjikuzhy

10.11 Vegetables, Coconut, Fish, and Development — The Alappuzha Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project

10.12 Bringing It All Together: Micro-Enterprises for Sustainable Development


Chapter 11 Consciousness Versus Collapse: Local Democracy and Our Endangered Earth

11.0  Past, Present and Future
11.1  Conceptual Models of Collapse

11.2  Conceptual Models of Sustainability

11.3  The Kerala Experience for a Sustainable World

11.4  Population

11.5  Social Justice, Inequality, Poverty and Sustainability

11.6  Behind Kerala’s Success: Activism and Participation

11.7  The Kerala Ecological Paradox

11.8  Consciousness in Theory and in Kerala, 363

11.9  Theoretical Issues: The Market Versus Sustainability, 364

11.10 Market or Capitalism? Marxist and Socialist Perspectives on Ecology, 366

11.11 Theoretical Issues: The Common Pool Resources Dilemma, 369

11.12 Political Structures for Sustainability

11.13 Do Third World People Care About the Environment?, 380

11.14 Scaling Up Worldwide from Community Based Sustainability, 383

11.15 Environmental Stress and Local Democracy



To order the book online, click here.


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