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Traditional water bodies and cultural ecosystem services: Experiences from rural West Bengal, India

Koushik Chowdhury and Bhagirath Behera

World Development Perspectives, 2021, vol. 24, issue C

Abstract: One of the major challenges in the world today is to recognize, maintain and/or enhance beneficial contributions of nature to people with minimum distortions to the local ecology. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods and a context-specific perspective, the present study identifies and assesses various cultural ecosystem services people obtain from traditional water bodies in West Bengal, India. The study also explores the ways to incorporate cultural ecosystem services in management initiatives of traditional water bodies at local level. It is found that people obtain a variety of non-material benefits from the traditional water bodies which include artistic inspiration, cultural heritage, social relationship, and various services relating to religious, spiritual, aesthetic, recreational and environmental aspects. The cultural ecosystem services are often not documented in empirical studies and are declining due to socio-cultural and environmental changes in the region. It is observed that use of these cultural ecosystem services by households vary significantly with their cultural practices, socio-economic (e.g. wealth and social status of households) and demographic characteristics (e.g. age, gender and education level of household head). Thus, mainstreaming cultural ecosystem services that are generally not amenable to biophysical and/or monetary matrices can play a crucial role in sustainable use and management of traditional water bodies.

Keywords: Water bodies; Cultural ecosystem services; Trends; Drivers of changes; Sustainable resource use and management; West Bengal; India (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1016/j.wdp.2021.100372

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