Analytical Essay on the CPR Problem

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Drawing on Jodha (1986), ‘Common Property Resources’ (CPR) can be defined as the resources available to whole communities but to which no individual has exclusive rights to possession. These may include pastures, forests and grazing lands among others. In India, emerging factors such as urban expansion, land acquisition and property development have caused a rapid decline in the countries’ pool of CPRs (Narain and Vij, 2015). While some authors suggest that advances in agricultural technology and the increased availability of external inputs and supplies have compensated for the decline and degradation of India’s CPRs, it is widely accepted that CPRs still play an important role in the fulfilment of the basic needs of the rural community, particularly the rural poor, who have limited options available that are able to make up for these lost resources (Jodha, 1994). As Narain and Vij (2015) emphasise, CPRs in India serve not only as a source of livelihood and sustenance for the rural community but have also become intricately woven into a part of their cultures. For the rural Indians then, the importance of CPRs is unquestioned, and its decline, threatens their very survival.

The problem of India’s missing commons, however, poses not just a problem for the rural Indians, but for society at large as well. As Jodha (1994) highlights, the ultimate consequence of CPR degradation is the ‘elimination or permanent disruption of vital biophysical processes and nature's regenerative activities’ both within and outside the CPR area. This thus brings us to the idea of ‘The Web of Life’. As David Harvey (2002) points out, we are all ‘active agents caught in a web of life’. Humans are but a single thread in the web of interconnections that make up the living world. As our actions filter through this web, they bring about a whole host of unintended (and often undesirable) consequences, both to ourselves as well as the world around us. The ‘Web of Life’ metaphor thus serves to highlight that ultimately all things are bound together; all things connect. What affects one part of an ecosystem will eventually affect the whole in some way.

It is for this reason that CPRs are highly relevant to natural resource politics—the fact that their impacts transcend political boundaries often makes their management a source of international conflict and strife. In fact, Barkin and Shambaugh (1996) assert that most, if not all international environmental issues are CPR problems, or at the very least, have CPR aspects. As long as the environment is believed to have sufficient carrying capacity for use and consumption by all involved parties without bringing about any adverse effects to any one of them, then CPR use and consumption remains non-confrontational and non-political. It is once limits to the supply of resources are realised and indivisibility of supply ceases that the use and management of CPRs become political in nature.

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A prime example of this would be the case of the Mekong River. Rapid development of large hydropower dams and reservoirs in the upper reaches of the Mekong has altered the stream ecology. In particular, the flood-pulse system of the Tonle Sap Lake—the driving force behind the region’s productive freshwater fisheries and rice paddies—has been directly affected. With the Mekong accounting for approximately 15% of global rice production and 18% of the global freshwater fish catch, a decline in fish and rice stocks threatens the food security not just of Vietnam, but of the entire world. Unsurprisingly, the dam has incited worldwide opposition as well as local protests and violence.

It is plain to see that CPRs are inextricably enmeshed within our ecological landscape. Yet, their power and agency is often downplayed and their significance relegated to the backseat in natural resources policy and decision-making circles. As Jodha (1994) points out, this is reflected by the ‘indifference, insensitivity or outright negative approach of the state and its development interventions to CPRs’. In Budheda, a small village in North-western India, large tracts of grazing land have been acquired by the state to support urban expansion in the City of Gurgaon. The result is the loss of livelihoods for countless of rural Indians (Narain and Vij, 2015). Such conscious exploitation of the commons highlights how CPRs still remain largely invisible in the polices made by the state, while at the same time also reflects the unequal power relations that pervade all aspects of our ecological landscape—powerful actors are able reallocate control of CPRs and dominate their decision-making processes, severely eroding and altering the local rules that govern CPRs.

In conclusion, this essay has shown that the CPR problem is by no means a local one; it always straddles international borders. Consequently, it necessarily needs to be considered in the broader political context.

References

  1. Barkin, J. & Shambaugh, G. (1996). Common‐pool resources and international environmental politics. Environmental Politics, 5(3), 429-447. doi:10.1080/09644019608414281
  2. Harvey, D. (2000). Spaces of Hope. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  3. Jodha, N. (1990). Rural Common Property Resources: Contributions and Crisis. Economic and Political Weekly, 25(26), A65-A78. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4396434
  4. Jodha, N. (1994). Common Property Resources and Dynamics of Rural Poverty. Retrieved from: http://dlc.dlib.indiana.edu/dlc/bitstream/handle/10535/5688/common%20property%20resources%20and%20dynamics%20of%20rural%20poverty.pdf?sequence=1
  5. Narain, V. & Vij, S. (2015). Where have all the commons gone?. Geoforum, 68, 21-24. doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.11.009.
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Analytical Essay on the CPR Problem. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 17, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/analytical-essay-on-the-cpr-problem/
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