The Solution

The solution to address the tragedy of commons problem is not top down regulation or policing by the state. There are positive examples where community has come together and decided to make social regulations to govern such common resources. The best examples are the groundwater governance practiced in Ralegaon Siddhi , Hiwre Bazar , Pani Panchayat experiments in Maharashtra. 

For all this the following are the requirements:

  • Awareness and a good understanding of solid and liquid wastes generated. 
  • Consensus building that this is a social issue and not the issue of the municipality. The citizens have the responsibility to make municipality accountable and we have to think of ways in which the consensus for social regulation can emerge.  
  • Awareness should transform into deeper behavioral changes, with people actively cooperating together to keep their canals clean.
  • Motivate through incentives: What could be the incentives to keep the canal clean.  
  • Making shopkeepers, company employees on both sides of the canal, partners in the cleaning drive. 
  • Students act as sanitation warriors, who keep turns to educate the older generation on the need for a pollution free canal that they are going to inherit from the older generation. 


In the 1960’s, ecologist Garrett Hardin came up with the idea that as the human population increases, the pressure on finite resources will increase and will result in overexploitation. He termed this phenomena ‘the tragedy of commons’ which means that as our population rises there will be increased strain on limited resources, which jeopardizes sustainability.

In Alappuzha, canals are the best example of commons- a resource shared by all. But over the last few decades, we see that the canals are being polluted due to dumping solid waste and indiscriminate liquid waste discharge. 

This is the typical tragedy of commons problem, which Hardin had come up with, where there is no incentive for the individual to keep the canals and ground water clean, since nobody else is involved in that. However if any personal sacrifices like investing in better sanitation/solid waste management options can lead to a better environment which can bring rewards to all.