In the coming decades, sustainable development has become one of the most controversial issues in the world. It has been wildly agreed upon that we live in a world that has a limit in the resources we can use; therefore, environmentalists and ministries has been putting strenuous effort on designing the framework that leads to a better use of these finite resources. Whenever ministries in developing countries come up with new plans to generate economic boost within their nation, they have to confront the disapprovals from the people who argues that economic growth should not be harming the environment and the government should also contemplate the back-up plans and recovery strategies for the ecosystem at the same time. In this case, developing countries are facing a dilemma, to speed up the pase of economic development on the cost of exploiting their environment or to slow down to conserve their natural environment.
Due to these rising concerns about environmental issues around the world, developing countries have adopted their own strategies to balance between economic development and preserving the natural resources in regards to sustainable development. This paper will examine the main environmental issues in the forestry-based industries of two developing countries: India and Mexico. Moreover, a comparison between these two countries on the political practices and diverse strategies to restrict deforestation activities will be made to prove which strategies were the best suitable to the case of India and Mexico.
Many developing countries have experienced a rapid economic growth by utilizing their forestry resources. Countries like India have been focusing on specialization in the hope to reduce the large economic gap with the more developed countries . There are some successful outcomes yield by the project. On the other hand, there were also downsides of exploiting the scarce natural resources in their community such as degrading the environment and significantly threatening the plants and animal species that inhabits in the forests. Building on all negative aspects brought by manipulation of natural resources, the governments in developing countries have driven the forest-based industrial developments to restrict the amount of cutting down the trees and activities influencing deforestation.
For instance, India has experienced rapid economic growth while losing a huge proportion of its forstest as a trade-off in the last few decades. In 2009, the Forest Survey in India(FSI) has reported that the current forest and tree composes a large portion of the area of land, estimated to be 78.37 million hectares accounting for 23.84% of the territory. The forest in India does not only have a role in providing habitates for the ecologically diverse species, it also acts as the primary income sources for the locals. Under the large demands of timber products, the local Indians just try to get their hands on as many trees as possible. Their ego-centric approach to the natural resources have led to the huge deforestation that has been taking place, decreasing the earth’s adaptation to rapid environmental changes and natural disasters. Acknowledging the importance of sustainable development, Indian government has adapted several strategies and has set several regulations to restrict the heedless use of forest resources. One of the solutions for the Indian government was to make a gradual amendment to the Indian Forest Act, 1927. In 1988, the Indian government has finally declared that there will be heavy restrictions on the de-reservation of forests or use of forest land for non-forest purposes. Due to the amendment made to the original Indian Forest Act, there has been a substantial limitation for the commercial forestry operators in India; according to the Indian Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 it is stated, “that any reserved forest (within the meaning of the expression “reserved forest” in any law for the time being in force in that State) or any portion thereof, shall cease to be reserved; that any forest land or any portion thereof may be used for any non-forest purpose; that any forest land or any portion thereof may be assigned by way of lease or otherwise to any private person or to any authority, corporation, agency or any other organisation not owned, managed or controlled by Government; that any forest land or any portion thereof may be cleared of trees which have grown naturally in that land or portion, for the purpose of using it for reforestation”(sec.1-5). To be provide a more specific definition of the term, “non-forest purpose” refers to the organized forest activities which are not aimed to develop timber and mineral resources and not purposed to restore the forest.
From the case of Indian Forest Act, it is obvious to say that the Indian government has struggled for decades to provide a comprehensible guidelines and clear boundaries for people who are directly dependent on the forest industry. It became manageable for the Indian government to control the logging companies. Nevertheless, some of the scholars state that the Indian government has failed to implement the Forest Act and was not taking the rights of aboriginal people into consideration. In a research paper based on aboriginal forestry, Deborah Curran examines the disparities between the people who actually receives the benefits of exploiting the forest resources and aboriginals who are deprived of their rights to reserve their lands. In the paper, Deborah affirms, “Completed in 1993, the Indian Forest Management Assessment Team (IFMAT) Assessment, found that there was a significant disparity between what tribes envisioned for their forests and the state of their forests under BIA management. IFMAT documented the difference in funding between Indian forests and comparable federal and private lands, with non-Indian undertakings receiving greater resources. IFMAT also found that there was little coordinated resource planning and management of Indian forestry, and inadequate supervision of the federal trust responsibility”(p.743). Rather than granting the rights over the lands to the traditional dwellers and shifting to the community-based forest management, the Indian Forest Act has benefited the lumber and forestry companies outside the community. As a result of the inequitable distribution of benefits from the forest resources, the government has suggested a plan to extend the community-based forest industry. Previous research based studies have proven that community-based industries can proactively respond to the environmental problems such as climate change. Kelly and Adger has conducted a research to find out the optimistic consequences of promoting community-based industry. They have mentioned in the article, “ability of the community to maintain sustainable common property management of the remaining mangrove and fishing areas is undermined by changes in the property rights and changes in inequality brought about by externally driven enclosure and conversion”(p.345).
In a global perspective, India has made a further attempt to reduce the carbon emissions by approaching to Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). The basis of this approach is that countries should avoid the activities that raise the possibilities of deforestation. Also, it is necessary for the compensating countries to focus on conserving and managing the forest to a sustainable level. 71 countries have signed in the REDD, promising to take immediate actions sustain their forests. As mentioned above, there were several efforts made from the Indian government to restrict the loggings and manipulating the forest resources. However, most of the solutions from the government were establishing legislations to regulate the industry; in other words, people had no choice but to follow the forest regulations rather than encouraging themselves to take voluntary actions in order to preserve the forest and avoid deforestation activities. It is definitely important for the government and environmental specialists to provide solutions that can be carried in an individual level and/or community-based level; as an instance, the government providing forestry education can initiate the interests at the individual level. Moreover, while the legislators set the standards on sustainable degree of chopping down trees and extracting the natural resources from the forest, they should also consider the underlying causes that led to excessive amount of loggings: population, poverty, economic wealth of the country, institutional impacts of the countries on the policies.
Now, let’s look at the Mexican case. Mexico was among the most deforested countries in the world during the period 1976-2000 (reference). As the century develops, it has became more and more involved in developing their forest programs like PROCYMAF (community forestry program) and PSAH (payments for hydrological services program). As REDD (Reduction of Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) made itself heard in Kyoto Protocol and later became agreed upon and promoted by the Copenhagen Conference, Mexico has became a very active participant ever since.
Mexico’s forests are home to 17 million poor indigenous people and peasants who’s economic needs have an important impact on the health of the forest. Prior to the establishment of the forest programs, its forests has been under constant pressure from land conversion to pasture and agriculture, illegal logging, forest fires, and grazing. (reference). However, unlike other developing countries, Mexico did not have problems with land ownership and the property rights over land and forests are secured in the hand of the local community. This has became a great advantage when Mexico tries to lunch forest programs as it does not need to deal with the issues regarding land tenures so the locals have a complete say over their land.
When REDD came along, Mexico decided to incorporate it into their existing forest programs. The first thought the Mexican government give to was the widely recognized and long successful “Community Forestry” case. However this cooperation did not went well as it has different objective and approaches with REDD. The main goal of community forestry is to benefit the community economically while keep the environment ecologically sustainable. (reference) To accomplish this goal, community forestry encourages the locals to extract and sell forest products, especially the NTFPs (non timber forest product), as they are less destructive to the forest and economically beneficial. (reference) In the other hand, REDD’s primary goal is to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation in developing countries thus to increase Carbon stock. (reference) To accomplish this, REDD certainly does not want any sort of extraction from the forest as they want to stock as much Carbon as possible.
As the approaches between REDD and Community Forestry divergent, The Mexican government starts to look at its Payment fro Water Services Program (PSAH). The goal of the program is to maintain at least 80% of the forest crown cover to provide provision of water downstream. (reference) This goal lies very much in line with REDD as they both want to conserve as much forest as possible. The main obstacles of the PSAH is forest lost due to forest fires and not intentional land use changes. Thus, improvements in the implementation of fire prevention strategies and illegal logger control system would also have a positive effect on carbon stock, facilitating the implementation of REDD.
Although the Mexican government could align REDD’s objective with its other forest program, there are still some implementation problems associated specifically with REDD. One problem that has been widely discussed is leakage. “Leakage occurs when there is an increase in CO2 emissions in one region or country as a result of an emissions reduction by a second region or country.” (reference) Without a central monitoring system, the conservation of one area could just lead to the deforestation of another as loggers just shift their supply pool. If this happens, the implementation of REDD would be no use of all. Trying to avoid the problem, the contracts signed between REDD and the locals often specify that “removals of trees from the community’s entire forested area, even outside of the area for which payments were being made, constitute a contract violation.” (reference)
Another problem could come about when REDD is being implemented is “non-permanence.” It involves the risk that emission removals by sinks are reversed, because forests are cut down or destroyed after the contract has expired. In countries like Mexico, where people are relying their livelihood on the land may be very attempted to convert the land for agricultural production when the contract ends as it would yield more profits. On top of this, people’s fear of loosing the right over the forest also increases as time elapse. This is particularly true in developing countries where legal protection of the poor is not always guaranteed. One way to overcome this problem could be investing in systems that can guarantee livelihoods of local people without them depending on the international carbon market. Thus, when people only use forest products as buffer tools during the time of difficulties instead of depending their life on the land would inevitably increase their chances of keeping the forest even after the contract expired. (reference)
Despite all these difficulties with the implementation of REDD, it does bring some lights into the conservation of forests in developing countries. Getting the developed countries to pay for the conserving of forest in the Least developed countries, REDD helps to increase the opportunity cost of deforestation and land conversion. By increasing the standing value of the forest, REDD encourages developing countries to use the money to develop other types of market beside forestry, achieving economic development with the forests kept intact.
Campare which one is more successful?
Conclusion: how India and Mexico have adopted different strategies when dealing with the issues came up of sustainable development. How successful were they and why they weren’t successful. Further research should base on ?
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