Needed: People s participation

  • 14/07/1998

What do the field experiences tell us? Firstly, bioenvironmental management can be a working alternative to contain malaria. The science of the methodology is sound. Secondly, the efforts of the mrc and the vcrc proved to be successful in the short term but failed in the long term due to severe inability of the state governments' institutional set up to create community-based institutions to carry forward the pioneering work. In Hardwar, efforts to keep up with environmental sanitation did not fail completely in the long run, only because the infrastructural facilities of a huge public sector company were available after the mrc phased out its project.

The situation in Goa is certainly dispiriting. The future may not be so bleak in Chennai if the recently introduced bye-laws for new constructions are seriously implemented. Kheda's case is especially sad considering that it was the place where the philosophy of bioenvironmental management was first tried out. State officials in Kheda are waiting for funds from the World Bank instead of applying their minds to how to develop a community-based initiative to continue the good work. Finally, the fate of bioenvironmental management in Kolar and Hassan hangs in the balance. Much would depend on whether the state government will continue mrc 's work.

In should be noted that there are several good cases in India where voluntary agencies have set up effective institutions at the village-level to improve and maintain the natural resource base of the village. State governments can learn from these examples. The village of Sukhomajri near Chandigarh is a good example where a village-level institution called the Hill Resources Management Society, consisting of one member of each household, was set up to mobilise the villagers to take control of their environment. The concept of Pani Panchayats in Pune, another village institution comprising landless labourers, marginal farmers and dalits , took control of the distribution of water in the drought-prone area.

The person who led the largest mass movement involving people from various parts of the country in modern India, Mahatma Gandhi, had once said: "If there is no people's participation, no amount of government effort, no amount of science and technology will produce the desired result.' Gandhiji's words are quite relevant to those involved in fighting mosquito-borne diseases, since environmental sanitation is essential to the containment of the disease, and people's participation is necessary for environmental sanitation. If we want to eradicate malaria, serious government efforts have to be made to educate people about ways to maintain the environment, and to encourage innovations when present technology is found ineffective.

Written by Priti Kumar with Raj Kishore Khaware (Kheda and Hardwar), Frederick Noronha (Goa), Keya Acharya (Kolar and Hassan) and S Vishwanathan (Pondicherry and Chennai).

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