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Landscapes and Lives

"Fruit trees – guava, jackfruit, roseapple, mango, jujube, etc. – overhanging with lush fruit welcome visitors to the village.

The ripe fruit look ready to fall, but there is hardly any conflict over their ownership. The villagers are protecting trees raised on community land. Two households have been given this responsibility, and compensated for their contribution with grain, fruits and some cash by the villagers."

Environmental stories from different parts of the country – successful initiatives, failures, misguided ventures and broken dreams are interestingly woven in Landscapes and Lives. The book is a collection of environmental journalist Mukul Sharma's field reports that have been originally published in various other publications. The reports voice different environmental concerns from rural India and reflect on the confrontations and struggles of the very people that are most directly affected by the misuse of natural resources.

The author travels across the country and talks about tribals, small-scale farmers, fishing communities and labourers – people who are fighting for their very survival. The book touches upon different environmental aspects and their impact on people – water disputes, women differing with men in their choice of tree plantation, Dalits opposing exploitation at the hands of upper-caste landowners, coastal battles, dams and displacement, struggle over forest and agricultural land, siltation of wetlands, rights over forest produce, afforestation campaigns, industries and labour conflicts.

In one poignant report, a tribal village decides to cut the very forests it has created by its own efforts, unable to fight others who want a share of the resources. Through all this, the author recognises the common strain of conflict in the 1990s – of resource use, ownership and control. This collection brings home the Indian rural diaspora’s experiments in development and self-governance and how their lives are interlinked with environmental issues.

By Mukul Sharma, Published by: Oxford University Press
Hardcover; Price: Rs. 475

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