India: Gorakhpur

In Gorakhpur, India, common property resources (CPR) such as pastureland, water bodies, and orchards are victims of illegal encroachment by individuals, land developers or even disputed land conversion by government. Unplanned urban growth in peri-urban villages of Gorakhpur results from ignorance of laws governing CPR and weak enforcement of regulations by relevant government departments. City expansion in peri-urban villages exceeds environmental carrying capacity, and often ignores responsible stewardship of natural resources.

Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) has been mobilising communities and working with them on climate resilient agriculture in peri-urban areas of Gorakhpur to increase city resilience to flood and waterlogging. CPRs play an important role in buffering flood impacts but unplanned development and unauthorized encroachment are causing rapid degradation of these vital resources. This arises through a nexus of inter-linked problems that in turn causes more. Degradation of CPRs adversely affects agriculture in peri-urban villages making many households to turn to other occupations and adopt different means of livelihoods, which can be the source of new problems for small and often marginalised farmers.

Increasingly mechanised farming and unregulated urban growth is taking a toll on peri-urban village CPRs. Disappearance of pastures and other grazing land, forests and ponds are decreasing wealth derived from cattle and changing village livelihoods from farm to non-farm occupations. The key issues concerning the common property resources in Gorakhpur are:

  1. Improper disposal of sewer water by the Municipal Corporation in the village of Semra Devi Prasad, causing drinking water contamination and related health hazards.
  2. Feral cattle and open grazing is causing serious threats to agriculture for approximately 1850 peri-urban households.
  3. A lack of pasture land in villages allows cattle to graze openly during Kharif season.
  4. Jharwa, Khirwania and Semra Devi Prasad are affected by illegal sand and soil mining activities, hampering agriculture and standing crops in villages.
  5. The village of Panchayat has leased community ponds to private and influential clients for fishing and duck rearing activity.
  6. There remains a problem over CPR dispute resolution, restricting implementation of improved agricultural schemes.

Smallholder farmers in the area are very aware of these critical issues, which have increasingly hampered their livelihoods. Community institutions have raised their concern to protect common property resources. They have advocated for local government and institutions to join them in ensuring better protection of common resources.

Please read more through this link because there is progress and hope. A recent event in May 2015 brought together 200 community members calling for an end to illegal encroachments and protection of agricultural lands to secure the livelihoods of the small and marginal farmers. GEAG will continue to monitor progress and advocate for inclusive resilience building protecting the rights and resources of the poor.

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