Does Inclusion of People in Ecological Restoration Need a New Kind of Language?

Vijaylakshmi Suman

Contemporary projects of ecological restoration are keen to incorporate societal concern as an integral part of the process. The practice of ecological restoration is accepting perception of public and desires towards the natural environment. These public figures are mostly lay people, volunteers, academic etc. Participation of diverse population will provide the opportunity to involve the conflicting environmental goals of competing social groups. These goals and perception can vary from having natural space either for recreational use, relaxation, scientific investigation and others. Public participation in such processes improve the quality of implementation.

Public participation also includes lay people, so selection of language becomes crucial where everyone understands the purpose of the project. Only then can they connect and participate in the process of restoration. The paper by Collins and Brown covers this issue of what kind of language one must use while including public as part of ecological restoration. The jargon often used in science and management is not understood by the general public. An emphasis is laid to use appropriate language because of clarity of purpose. Successful restoration depends on both collaboration and science, and each needs to be dealt with in different ways. Technical language cannot capture land management values. In order to include and communicate with public, one has to be watchful which language would express the real purpose of the project and public also become part of it. An actual scenario exists in the context of the proposed wetland restoration in Dheerpur, Delhi.

The proposed site is situated near a residential area, a proposed state university campus and a road that merges onto a national highway. This gives opportunity to include stakeholders in close proximity of the restoration project. An effort has been put up to include some of these people as part of restoration project by explaining the plan to them and also by taking their choice of wetland they would like to have around. The choices made by local stakeholders is very different from the view held by restoration experts and scientists. So the dilemma is how to incorporate such different aspirations, and negotiate among the different choices made by people. The urban scenario also poses distinct challenges. Mostly people in urban areas are not permanent residents. The residents near proposed site are mostly temporary, and include students or people coming for in search of jobs and opportunities. In such circumstances, is it useful to take choice into account when people and their aspiration are changing in short time-span? Their imagination of a natural space may be limited or could change over time. When a survey was done most of the respondents preferred recreational use of a wetland, but their preferences might change over time or if they come across alternatives.

In such scenario, how helpful it is to experiment with new kind of language while including people in ecological restoration process?

References:

1 Gross, M., & Riem, H. (2005). Ecological restoration as a real-world experiment: designing robust implementation strategies in an urban environment. Public Understanding of Science, 14, 269-284.

2 Collins, S., & Brown, H. (2008). Ecological restoration calls for a new kind of language. Ecological Restoration, 26:3, 213-218.

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