ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Agro-Ecosystem Policy

Agro-Ecosystem Policy Towards an Agro-Ecosystem Policy for India: Lessons from Two Case Studies by A Damodaran; published for Centre for Environment Education, Ahemadabad by Tata McGraw-Hill, New Delhi, 2001; pp vii+188, price not mentioned.

In the second half of 1980s, the Planning Commission set up an Agro-Climatic Regional Planning Unit initiating planning on the basis of agro-climatic zones. Some 15 agro-climatic zones were also identified.1 The idea behind demarcation of the meso-regions was that planning for development, especially agricultural development, had to be based on a proper assessment of resource endowments of the regions and the problems and potential of using them. Unfortunately, the idea did not achieve what was expected. The basic units of planning are administrative which are also units of political and institutional organisation. Even within administrative units, it is difficult to achieve proper coordination between different departments. In these circumstances, expected coordination and cooperation between different administrative and political units and even states, even within a given agro-climatic zone, was perhaps an idealist and romantic notion. Not that such an idea has failed in all matters. Command area development authorities have done relatively better, their focus being limited to irrigation management. There was one more limitation to the concept of regional planning for development based on agro-climatic zones. Economic development of regions is no longer tied down by endowments of natural resources in the respective regions though agricultural development is relatively more linked to natural resources.

Though agro-climatic regions as per natural resource endowments may have less relevance for modern economic growth based on the expansion of the service sector and information technology, they have continued relevance for planning sustainable use of natural resources and for making ecological sustainability a part of economic development. However, agro-climatic zones appear to be too large as regions for effective planning and formulation of policies and their implementation at ground level. From the point of local planning, the agro-ecosystem approach holds better promise. The book by Damodaran under review expounds on the relevance of this approach to India based on the illustrations provided by two case studies, hoping that this could pave the way for the formulation of a comprehensive agro-ecosystem policy both at the national and local levels.

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