Natural resources, their sustainable management and conservation
A natural resource is something that is found in nature and can be used by people. Earth’s natural resources include light, air, water, plants, animals, soil, stone, minerals, and fossil fuels. People need some natural resources to stay alive. They use others to make their lives better.
Many of the natural resources people need to survive are renewable. Renewable resources—such as sunlight, water, and air—cannot be used up. However, pollution can make them harder to use.
Plants and animals are also renewable resources. Normally living things replace themselves through reproduction. But such human activities as hunting, logging, building, and polluting can cause whole groups of living things to disappear forever.
Nonliving things make up another kind of natural resource. These resources, such as soil, stone, oil, and gases, can take thousands or millions of years to form. They are considered nonrenewable because people use them faster than they can form.
Management of natural resources
Natural resource management refers to the management of natural resources such as land, water, soil, plants and animals, with a particular focus on how management affects the quality of life for both present and future generations.
Natural resource management deals with managing the way in which people and natural landscapes interact. It brings together land use planning, water management, biodiversity conservation, and the future sustainability of industries like agriculture, mining, tourism, fisheries and forestry. It recognises that people and their livelihoods rely on the health and productivity of our landscapes, and their actions as stewards of the land play a critical role in maintaining this health and productivity.
Natural resource management issues are inherently complex. They involve the ecological cycles, hydrological cycles, climate, animals, plants and geography, etc. All these are dynamic and inter-related. A change in one of them may have far reaching and/or long term impacts which may even be irreversible. In addition to the natural systems, natural resource management also has to manage various stakeholders and their interests, policies, politics, geographical boundaries, economic implications and the list goes on. It is a very difficult to satisfy all aspects at the same time. This results in conflicting situations.
Community-based natural resource management
The community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) approach combines conservation objectives with the generation of economic benefits for rural communities. The three key assumptions being that: locals are better placed to conserve natural resources, people will conserve a resource only if benefits exceed the costs of conservation, and people will conserve a resource that is linked directly to their quality of life. When a local people’s quality of life is enhanced, their efforts and commitment to ensure the future well-being of the resource are also enhanced. Regional and community based natural resource management is also based on the principle of subsidiarity.
Integrated natural resource management
Integrated natural resource management (INRM) is a process of managing natural resources in a systematic way, which includes multiple aspects of natural resource use (biophysical, socio-political, and economic) meet production goals of producers and other direct users (e.g., food security, profitability, risk aversion) as well as goals of the wider community (e.g., poverty alleviation, welfare of future generations, environmental conservation). It focuses on sustainability and at the same time tries to incorporate all possible stakeholders from the planning level itself, reducing possible future conflicts. The conceptual basis of INRM has evolved in recent years through the convergence of research in diverse areas such as sustainable land use, participatory planning, integrated watershed management, and adaptive management. INRM is being used extensively and been successful in regional and community based natural management.
Conservation of natural resources
Conservation is the practice of caring for these resources so all living things can benefit from them now and in the future.
People often waste natural resources. Animals are overhunted. Forests are cleared, exposing land to wind and water damage. Fertile soil is exhausted and lost to erosion because of poor farming practices. Fuel supplies are depleted. Water and air are polluted.
If resources are carelessly managed, many will be used up. If used wisely and efficiently, however, renewable resources will last much longer. Through conservation, people can reduce waste and manage natural resources wise.
The population of human beings has grown enormously in the past two centuries. Billions of people use up resources quickly as they eat food, build houses, produce goods, and burn fuel for transportation and electricity. The continuation of life as we know it depends on the careful use of natural resources.
The need to conserve resources often conflicts with other needs. For some people, a wooded area may be a good place to put a farm. A timber company may want to harvest the area’s trees for construction materials. A business may want to build a factory or shopping mall on the land.
All these needs are valid, but sometimes the plants and animals that live in the area are forgotten. The benefits of development need to be weighed against the harm to animals that may be forced to find new habitats, the depletion of resources we may want in the future (such as water or timber), or damage to resources we use today.
Development and conservation can coexist in harmony. When we use the environment in ways that ensure we have resources for the future, it is called sustainable development. There are many different resources we need to conserve in order to live sustainably.