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Exploring the environment-development continuum: Examining an integrated approach through a case study of two villages in Tamil Nadu, India

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Current issues abound in relation to environmental practices and impacts, as well as to socio-economic inequality and inequity. Despite inherent linkages, these two fields of focus are often conceptualized as if they are separate, and treated with a trade-off approach, in which one is placed in a position of increased importance, to the detriment of the other. Alternatively, an integrated approach offers a perspective and practice in which environmental and socio-economic factors are managed holistically. In order to engage in a critical discussion of this relationship and positive alternatives to dominant perceptions, an ethnographic case study was undertaken primarily in the Pichavaram forest region of Tamil Nadu, India. I find that previous attempts at environmental management and socio-economic development had been dealt with as separate issues, and had largely failed to achieve desired results; however, following a shift to an integrated approach in the mid-1990s, both environmental and socio-economic indicators improved, and have proven resilient following both the 2003 project end, and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami devastation. Thus, this study’s findings support the concept that inherent linkages between environmental and socio-economic factors require an equally interlinked approach in practice, which then allows for a mutually beneficial long-term relationship.
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