Figure 2. A cross-section through Mala cluster study site, indicating the occurrence of various ecotope types
Choosing Study Localities
5.1.1 Two kinds of considerations governed the choice of the 52 study localities for the PBR exercise over 1996-98. These were (a) the need to represent the whole range of ecological and socio-economic contexts characteristic of the Indian subcontinent, and (b) the need to identify a partner agency working close to the study site and competent to organize a participatory assessment process. In response to these considerations we selected 6 states and 1 union territory as representative of the diversity of the country. These included (Figure 1) (1) Rajasthan representing the desert and semi-arid regions, (2) Himachal Pradesh representing Himalayan hill tracts (3) Bihar representing Gangetic plains and Central Indian hill tracts (4) Assam representing Brahmaputra river valley and northeastern hill tracts (5) Orissa representing east coast and Eastern Ghats and Central Indian hill tracts (6) Karnataka representing the West coast, hill tracts of Western Ghats and the Deccan plateau and (7) Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Bay of Bengal. Through our prior contacts with NGOs interested in issues of environment and development, and in nature conservation and with biology teachers interested in ecological research, we identified for each state / union territory a nodal NGO willing to co-ordinate the activities within the state. In turn these nodal agencies contacted other potential investigating agencies. In consultation with this group we selected a series of study localities, each representing a village or village cluster extending over 20-50 km2, covering the whole range of ecological, socio-economic variation within the state, as well as contexts such as being away from or proximate to a National Park. At this stage, we did not bring in watershed related considerations, but in organizing the more detailed Mala cluster study we have delineated the study area in terms of a set of watersheds draining into the Swarna river (figure 3).
F igure 3. The Mala Cluster Watershed
Building up Study Teams
5.2.1 The nodal responsibility for the Mala study lies with Dr. K. Prabhakar Achar, Professor of Zoology at an undergraduate educational institution, Sri Bhuvanendra College of Arts and Science at Karkala, located 20 km from the study locality. He collaborates with Professor K. Krishna who teaches Economics in the same college. Dr. Achar has been engaged in ecological fieldwork in the vicinity of Mala since 1991 and as a consequence had a familiarity with local ecology as well as people. Other expertise in ecology, remote sensing and geographical information systems is provided by members of the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and in soils and hydrology by civil engineers at Karnataka Regional Engineering College, Surathkal.
5.2.2 This group of technical experts has networked with a number of local people. These include students and teachers of Primary and Middle Schools at Mala who have undertaken an inventory of local plants and animals as a special exercise, and a number of local people particularly knowledgeable in a variety of pertinent issues such as medicinal plants, fisheries and water management for agriculture (Table 1).
Table 1. Knowledgeable people from different local communities, teachers, village council members, physician at Primary Health Centre and others who have contributed substantial amount of information to the Mala cluster study