The Political Ecology of Rural Community Ponds in Kerala, India
A Quantitative Study
Keywords:Political ecology; commons; rural ponds; countermovement; panchayats; Kerala
Inequities in access to water across economic classes and social groups have been aggravated by the commodification of ecosystems. Institutional governance of small freshwater bodies, like ponds, is under tremendous stress and often cannot cope with increasing pressures from market forces and state interventions. Recently conceptualized as a “composite resource”, ponds are vital entities in the ecological, economic, and socio-political landscape. The central objective of this study is to understand the access and utilization patterns of rural community ponds in Kerala, India, by employing a survey method. I attempt to integrate the literature on commons and political ecology, review the institutional arrangements governing rural public ponds, assess their ecological health, and situate the empirical evidence in a theoretical framework of the commons. I find universal access to these water bodies, which cuts across social and economic groups, for domestic uses such as drinking, bathing, washing, and cleaning; this utilization has a class and gender dimension. A majority of the surveyed ponds showed signs of robust ecological health in terms of total dissolved solids and pH values, functional embankments, and the absence of any polluting economic activity in their vicinity...
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