Dr. Tahseen Mahmood Aslam describes an important
The matters related to natural resources play a crucial role in global interaction amongst states as well as the corporate world. It is widely defined that a natural resource is a resource that has some sort of economic, cultural, aesthetic and ecological value. The very nature of natural resources have made them an essential part of political maneuvering within the global context and is also known to be the cause of conflicts when it comes to their management and distribution. It is widely acknowledged therefore that though natural resources and politics have been intimately connected throughout the history of human civilization yet they become contentious as the states got conscious about the value attached to them. The realisation started to emerge that many natural resources were being exploited in ways that rapidly undermined their future existence. It was cogently pointed out that finite natural resources that were jointly used would eventually be exhausted and that since no single resource user has an incentive to limit his outtake from the resource, the resource would soon suffer from overexploitation.
The most cogent reason for the contention in this respect was the realisation that most natural resources are collectively owned and it was predicted that global natural resources were on the brink of depletion unless they could be brought under either private or governmental ownership. Though the depletion of resources was not an unavoidable outcome yet debates started about the viability of efforts emphasising that natural resource users may solve this dilemma through self-organizing institutions that regulate access and resource extraction activities. But it was also mentioned that by setting up institutions for taking up this issue and handling it would not solve the problem. The reason for suspected failure was that any institutional method would require consensual efforts and it was difficult to manage it either in the short or medium term. Moreover, even with institutions brought about in place there is still a large amount of variation in how well different types of institutional configurations are able to achieve sustainable resource use. On this respect it was maintained that power asymmetries and levels of trust among users, the ability to control access to the resource, whether or not resource units are easily distinguishable and the degree of volatility in the resource system itself are all highly influential factors that any institutional setup would confront with no clear assurances of acceptable solution.
It is widely recognised that the inherent complexity of natural resource systems precludes any strong notions of actually governing natural resources. It is also acknowledged that complete and exhaustive knowledge about the dynamics of a given ecosystem is simply beyond the reach of scientific inquiry and it is therefore not possible to govern resource systems based on rationalistic and exact templates such as sustainable yield or carrying capacity as these concepts can never be estimated in any precise sense. In this scenario it is also mentioned that adaptive management with necessary readjustments configuring the modalities of the controlling natural resources and their distribution and use may be the best way forward though this path is still not widely explored. This methodology typically stresses the role of learning, innovation, local knowledge, stakeholder participation and flexibility as core virtues of resource management. There is also a tendency to view policy making as trial and error or as a constantly ongoing experiment rather than as the pursuit of specific predetermined goals. Adaptive management has however been criticised on the grounds that it is based upon extra-optimistic assumptions about the effect of stakeholder involvement, self-organization and participation in policy making while downplaying problems such as power and resource asymmetries and the need for accountability and predictability of public policies.
There is hardly any doubt that ecological systems containing natural resources are interlinked with the social and political systems thereby implying that the effects of social organization on natural resources are complementary and they cannot be analysed in isolation. This fact should be borne in mind that the ongoing processes of global environmental change such as biodiversity loss and climate change bring to fore the vulnerability of people situated in different social–ecological systems. The only way to reduce the impact of such difficulty is through processes of adaptation to changing circumstances that are coming on to the anvil with a speed that was not anticipated even few decades before. Due to the strong emphasis on understanding linkages between institutional factors and natural systems it is emphasised the importance of natural resource management so that any untoward development is tackled timely and adequately. This again has given rise to many controversies and it is becoming increasingly difficult to arrive at a widely acceptable methodology in this context. It is pointed out that natural resource is a wasting commodity and is to be handled with care and circumspection in order to appropriately manage this issue.
With reference to the situation of natural resources in the developing world the main problem is related to the impact of corruption on natural resource management. It is mentioned that corrupt practices followed in this respect is proving highly negative in essence as corruption obstructs more effective resource exploitation. In this context, the situation in genuine democratic governance systems is greatly favourable to better exploitation and usage as democratic regimes are intimately linked with market economies that pay due care to the better management of natural resources. In democratic environment, the effect of decentralization also plays an important role as it is conducive to the judicious and profitable use of natural resources. Factors determining natural resource management has plenty to do with the relationship between the market economy and nature and mostly market forces are normally more restrained in using natural resources. In the developing countries heavy reliance is place upon the extraction of natural resources for growth generation having strong and impact on ecological systems. This phase of economic development is also marked by the use of inefficient and crude technologies that contribute to further environmental damage.
The most credible way out for managing natural resources adequately and judiciously is the development of new technologies aimed at lessening the need for extraction of crude natural resources. Moreover, as many natural resources are located on regional or even global scales, the politics of natural resources is also to be found in the international arena. It is therefore imperative to focus on understanding mechanisms underlying effective governance systems so that natural resources are duly used. Pakistan does possess quite a few natural resources but their exploitation lags far behind the expected levels. It is imperative that Pakistani policy makers should focus more on wide-ranging methodology aimed at arriving at a consensual decision facilitating development of the natural resource sector. Though Pakistan does not possess highly productive natural resources such as oil and gas but the efforts for their exploration must not be slackened. The policy makers should, in the meanwhile, focus on extracting the natural resources found in many areas of the country particularly in the delta areas of the country as well in the hilly tracts. It should also be kept in view that all stakeholders are brought on board so that the exploitation and usage of natural resources is judiciously and adequately undertaken. The Weekender