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This article argues for revisiting the institutional architecture of wildlife conservation in light of two recent trends: Increased popularity of landscape-level approaches and the recognition that conservation interventions must address longstanding questions of forest and land rights of local residents. The inquiry draws upon primary research conducted in Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve, which is world renowned for its rich flora and fauna, but is also the site of a longstanding struggle over land rights of Adivasis, India’s indigenous people. The institutional landscape of contemporary wildlife conservation regimes, this article shows, is a product of the interlocking of socioeconomic inequalities and the dominant models of wildlife conservation. The analysis presented here follows a political economy of institutions approach, which underlines how the social, economic, and political contexts shape institutional outcomes. Findings from this analysis will inform the proposals for transformational institutional interventions aimed to meet the triple bottom line of social justice, broad-based economic development, and ecological stewardship.
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Regional Environmental Change
ISSN 1436-3798
Reg Environ Change
DOI 10.1007/s10113-015-0925-8
Power asymmetries and institutions:
landscape conservation in central India
Prakash Kashwan
1 23
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Power asymmetries and institutions: landscape conservation
in central India
Prakash Kashwan
Received: 3 February 2015 / Accepted: 23 December 2015
Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016
Abstract This article argues for revisiting the institu-
tional architecture of wildlife conservation in light of two
recent trends: Increased popularity of landscape-level
approaches and the recognition that conservation inter-
ventions must address longstanding questions of forest and
land rights of local residents. The inquiry draws upon
primary research conducted in Kanha National Park and
Tiger Reserve, which is world renowned for its rich flora
and fauna, but is also the site of a longstanding struggle
over land rights of Adivasis, India’s indigenous people.
The institutional landscape of contemporary wildlife con-
servation regimes, this article shows, is a product of the
interlocking of socioeconomic inequalities and the domi-
nant models of wildlife conservation. The analysis pre-
sented here follows a political economy of institutions
approach, which underlines how the social, economic, and
political contexts shape institutional outcomes. Findings
from this analysis will inform the proposals for transfor-
mational institutional interventions aimed to meet the triple
bottom line of social justice, broad-based economic
development, and ecological stewardship.
Keywords Landscape conservation Institutions
Institutional change Property rights Political economy
A large majority of protected areas are rapidly losing their
surrounding buffers (DeFries et al. 2005). Conservation
programs thus focus on landscape-level interventions, such
as the development of conservation corridors, over isolated
protected areas. On the other hand, social scientists urge
that nature conservation be situated within broader histor-
ical and contemporary political and economic contexts
(Saberwal and Rangarajan 2003;Ve
´ron and Fehr 2011;
Kashwan 2013). In this article, I explore the intersection of
these two trends, which signal the broadening of the focus
of nature conservation programs to include ecological and
sociopolitical dimensions.
Kanha was the site that inspired Rudyard Kipling’s
classic Jungle Book; and the park management claims that
it is ‘‘one of the finest wildlife areas in the world.’
it is also the site of major struggles over land rights of the
park residents (Mukherjee 2009), sociopolitical and insti-
tutional politics of conservation in Kanha have attracted
relatively little attention. To fill this void, I adopt a political
economy of institutions approach outlined in the section
‘‘ Analytic framework: institutions in landscape conserva-
tion.’ I examine recent debates about two competing legal
frameworks of nature conservation in India, which con-
tribute insights about the manner in which efforts to pro-
mote conservation affect questions of social justice (‘Laws
meet practice: forest and land rights in India’s conservation
landscapes’ section). Conservation in Kanha and else-
where is often intertwined with the broader political
economy of natural resource use in which commercial
activities such as ecotourism and mining often compete
against local land use. The struggle between local residents
&Prakash Kashwan
Department of Political Science, University of Connecticut,
446 Oak Hall, 365 Fairfield Way, Storrs, CT 06269, USA
Reg Environ Change
DOI 10.1007/s10113-015-0925-8
Author's personal copy
and the park management’s territorial claims must be seen
in this context (‘Political economy of wildlife conservation
in Kanha’ section). Wildlife and forestry agencies seek to
protect the interests of local residents through programs
like buffer zone management and ecodevelopment in
Kanha and elsewhere, which deserve systematic scrutiny
(‘Territorial and social dimensions of conservation in
Kanha’ section). These analyses of conservation land-
scapes in action show that the combined effects of the
institutional legacies of the past and the failure to address
long-entrenched social and economic inequalities have led
to grafting of the landscape conservation approach on to
the older model of protected areas (‘‘Analysis: institutional
synergies for landscape conservation’’ section).
Analytic framework: institutions in landscape
A commonly cited definition of institutions is Douglas
North’s: ‘‘the rules of the game in a society, orthe
humanly devised constraints that shape human interaction
[and] structure incentives in human exchange’’ (North
1990, 3). As such, institutions structure the ‘‘opportunities
and constraints individuals face in any particular situations,
the information they obtain, the benefits they obtain or are
excluded from, and how they reason about the situation’’
(Ostrom 2005, 3, emphasis added). Institutions are pri-
marily an instrument for resolving specific social dilem-
mas, such as coordinating traffic at a four-way
intersection. Properly designed and enforced institutions
contribute to the provision of collective social good, viz.
avoided accidents, without disadvantaging anyone. How-
ever, not all institutions are as benign as traffic rules.
Institutions that influence the provision of public goods
are also a product of historical legacies and the contem-
porary social, political, and economic contexts. Political
and economic inequalities mean that not all social groups
have equal access to political and policy processes, which
contributes to inequitable distribution of the costs and
benefits of public goods. As a result, no public good can be
regarded as an absolute good and few public goods can be
produced without important distributional consequences.
Conservation programs, especially the ‘‘whole-landscape
approach for sustainable land use,’’ have the potential to
serve multiple goals: broad-based food security, meeting
livelihood needs of rural residents, and climate change
mitigation and adaptation (cf. DeFries and Rosenzweig
2010). While conservation interventions rarely produce
such win–win outcomes in practice, the tradeoffs are not
necessarily a result of inherent contradictions between
conservation and development; interface between these
two domains is often determined by the institutions like
property rights and rule of law.
Democratic societies may often revisit the validity of
institutions that may have been useful in the past but may
not serve a majority in a changed context. However, the
endurance of colonial legacy, in one form or the other, puts
a question mark over the legitimacy of rule of law (Sundar
2011, 420). On the other hand, progressive democratization
of societies may open up new questions about the ‘justness’
of laws. Institutions are thus neither static nor a product of
techno-managerial interventions. Instead, they evolve over
time through contestations among competing interest
groups (Knight 1992). A corollary of this power-centric
view of institutions is that nature conservation is as much a
political intervention as it is an intervention to protect
forests, wildlife, or biodiversity (Baviskar 2003; Saberwal
and Rangarajan 2003). Taking this as a point of departure,
this article builds on a long-term research project that
examines the policies and politics of nature conservation in
the presence of social and political inequalities, which one
encounters in most forested regions in the global south
(see, Wilshusen et al. 2002). As such, the article maps the
linkages between social, economic, and political contexts,
which influence institutional design and the provision of
environmental public goods.
The qualitative data used in this article were originally
collected in the spring and early summer of 2005, sup-
plemented by shorter field visits in the summers of 2011
and 2013. During these visits I interviewed key partici-
pants: forestry officials, NGO employees, rural develop-
ment agencies and development professionals, district
officials, representatives of local government, and local
residents, including women. Additionally, this study also
examined key policy and project documents, media reports
related to wildlife conservation, ecodevelopment, forest
land rights, and conservation-induced displacement and
rehabilitation. In the next section, I discuss the ongoing
debates in India and elsewhere about the linkages between
environmental conservation and the rights of local
Laws meet practice: forest and land rights
in India’s conservation landscapes
A brief interlude into the history of colonial forestry in
India is crucial for a contextualized understanding of
contemporary policies and programs. In 1864 the colonial
British Government of India founded the Imperial Forest
Department, primarily for ‘‘securing the best possible legal
titles’’ in favor of the colonial government (Haeuber 1993,
55). Forested regions were home to large populations of
P. Kashwan
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tribal people, who the colonial forest officials thought of as
criminals likely to mount violent attacks (Rawat 1993,
114–115). Instead of making field visiting needed for
mapping state forests, the officials relied on cartographic
techniques to classify as public forests, vast areas of land
that forest people occupied, watched over as common
property or used as open-access. The colonial-era Indian
Forest Act of 1927 was amended post-independence in
1948 to make it even easier for government to declare any
land as reserve forestland. The expansion in 1956 of the
scope of eminent domain and the deletion of right to
property from the list of fundamental rights enshrined in
the constitution further reinforced the effects of state
enclosures (Sundar 2011). While land rights conflicts are
widespread in India’s forested regions, they are especially
serious in areas set aside as protected areas devoted to the
goals of biodiversity and wildlife conservation.
India’s protected areas are governed under the provi-
sions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (WPA).
Chapter IV of the WPA (Sectios 18 through 26A) requires
that state governments must announce and widely publicize
its intent to set aside specific land for conservation, invite
claims and counter-claims, and make arrangements for
legally enforceable compensation for the claims and rights
affected by the establishment of a protected area (PA).
Table 1summarizes the key findings about the differences
between de jure and de facto institutional outcomes related
to wildlife conservation in India. An examination of the
table shows that formal rules and laws are violated in
practice consistently, thereby leading to de facto outcomes
that work against the interest of local residents.
Most of India’s PAs have been established without
following the due legal process, which renders these PAs
unprotected under the law (Upadhyay et al. 2009; Vaidya
2011). With the intention of holding the Ministry of
Environment and Forests (MoEF) and state governments to
account, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) affiliated
Center for Environmental Law (CEL) filed a law suit in the
Supreme Court of India (Writ Petition No 337 of 1995).
The court asked the MoEF to fulfill the legal requirements
for establishing national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
This should have led the agencies to invest in the resolution
of land rights conflicts, which are fairly widespread
throughout the 23 % of India’s landmass that is classified
as state forests. Instead, by citing the court’s instructions in
another case, in 2002–2003 state forest departments
‘cleared’ 152,400 hectares of farm parcels within the lands
designated as state forests, which affected an estimated
150,000 families (Kaur 2002). This nationwide ‘eviction
drive’ led to numerous violations of human rights, as noted
by Amnesty International (Anon 2007a). The hasty and
Table 1 De jure versus de facto policy and program outcome
Policy/program De jure De facto Explanation
Settlement of
rights of local
WPA 1972 requires an extensive
investigation, documentation,
and settlement of rights
Ad hoc settlement practices based on
informal promises, most of which
remain unfulfilled
Lack of respect for the rights of local
residents who are often referred to as
Lack of accountability on the part of
government officials
Expansion of
WPA 1972 requires an extensive
investigation, documentation,
and settlement of rights
Expansion is a matter of the discretion
of the park management
Local residents lack avenues to register their
objections; Park authorities enjoy territorial
powers and authority within de jure state
Ecodevelopment Conservation and sustainable
development are equally
important goals
Some conservation, little development.
Main outcome is increased control of
state authority
Program objectives unclear on the ground;
Local residents lack avenues to hold the
officials to account, especially because the
park officials coopt village leaders
Ecotourism To be regulated to prevent undue
pressure on park’s ecosystem
and natural resources. Local
Unregulated growth of tourism, leading
to negative effects on the landscape
and wildlife. Benefit-sharing
extremely limited
Weak to non-existent enforcement, as evident
in the popularity of ‘‘tiger shows’’; reports
of collusion between tour operators and
forest officials
PESA (law for
government in
adivasi areas)
Village assemblies control local
resource management, including
forest and other common lands
Not enforced;
Forestry and other government agencies
disregard local government statutes
with impunity
PESA provisions weakened by other central
and state level statutes; No formal avenues
of redress available to local residents.
Political marginalization of the constituents
Forest rights act
of 2006
Statutory recognition for forest
and land rights, including within
the park boundaries
FRA rights not implemented in the
park’s core or buffer zones
Forestry agencies are opposed to the FRA.
Local residents lack avenues for redress
For detailed information and archival sources about these cases,
Power asymmetries and institutions: landscape conservation in central India
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one-sided interventions in the decisively complex terrain of
forestland regimes led to local residents being forced out of
their ancestral lands without rehabilitation or resettlement,
thereby triggering newer conflicts reinforcing the colonial-
era forestland conflicts (Upadhyay et al. 2009). Thus, a
court ruling designed to enforce the rule of law led to more
violations of forest-dependent people’s property rights, and
violations of spirit and the letter of the WPA and other
Indian laws.
A nationwide mobilization of forest people combined
with fortuitous political circumstances led to the enactment
of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006. The FRA recog-
nizes the rights of ‘‘forest dwellers’’ to homestead and
farmland, which were previously under the de facto control
of local residents but classified de jure as state forests
(Kothari et al. 2011). Unlike other forest restitution policies
that resulted in redistribution of forests to households (see,
Fay and James 2009), the FRA sanctions neither the
clearing nor the privatization of forests. Instead, the FRA
recognizes land rights only for the area of land that is
actually farmed, to a maximum of four hectares. The FRA
also contains procedural rights for elected village forest
rights committees to adjudicate the process of settling land
claims, which could have prompted opportunistic land
claims, but few such cases have been reported till date (for
compilation of relevant data, see, Kashwan 2013). The
FRA also builds on the provisions of WPA pertaining to
prior rights and claims in lands set aside as a protected
area; it requires that land rights of people living within the
PAs are recognized and recorded (Bijoy 2011). Even so,
the scope of FRA extends beyond addressing land rights
The FRA recognizes collective rights of forest-depen-
dent groups to protect, conserve, and manage community
forest resources. Additionally, it contains provisions for the
protection of Critical Wildlife Habitats (CWHs) for
specific sites in which careful investigations show that the
exercise of forest and land rights may cause ‘‘irreversible
damage’’ to biodiversity or wildlife (GOI 2006, Chapter 1
section 2). While neither of the ministries involved in these
debates have developed detailed guidelines about CWH,
the FRA makes local residents stakeholders in the process
of creation of CWHs. As such, the FRA’s CWH provisions
enhance the legitimacy and sustainability of institutions of
conservation (Colfer 2011). However, instead of embracing
CWHs the MoEF resisted it, which the media and com-
mentators see as a sign of ministerial turf battles (Sethi
2008). Recall that the Tribal Affairs ministry (MoTA) is in-
charge of the FRA, even though forestland is under the
jurisdiction of the MoEF. After it looked certain that the
MoTA would have jurisdiction over the FRA, in 2006 the
MoEF introduced an amendment to the WPA. This
amendment, which is often referred to as the ‘‘tiger
amendment,’’ legislated that all national parks and tiger
reserves, even those without tiger populations, are to be
recognized as ‘Critical Tiger Habitat’ (CTH). On instruc-
tions from the MoEF, for state forest departments desig-
nated 39 PAs as CTH between 2007 and 2010, none of
which obtained the ‘‘informed consent’’ of the affected
persons mandatory under Sections 38(V)5 (ii) and (v) of
the WPA (Bijoy 2011, 39).
A majority of actors and agencies outside of the MoEF,
but also some forest officers argued that the MoEF’s
directives were ‘‘illegal and unethical’’ and ‘‘appeared to
have been planned with a view to ‘‘preempting’’ the
objective and aims of the [FRA] (Anon 2007b).’’ The upper
house of the Parliament considered a breach of privilege
motion against the MoEF Secretary because the house
deemed the CTH notifications as a subversion of Parlia-
mentary intent embedded in the FRA (Awasthi 2008). The
MoEF cited expert deliberations and scientific data to
suggest that ‘‘a minimum inviolate area of 800–1200’’ under CTH was necessary for sustaining a viable
population of tigers (20 breeding females) (MoEF 2011).
However, territorial control is merely the first step toward
effective tiger conservation, which begs an important
question that I examine below: Do CTHs promise more
effective and enduring tiger conservation than do the
CWHs under the FRA?
A key difference between the two is that the government
has powers to reallocate an area declared as CTH under the
WPA to mining or other commercial projects. This is so
because just like other state forests, the CTH are consid-
ered to be under government ownership. Recently, the
government of Maharashtra permitted the state’s Forest
Development Corporation to undertake logging of 38,978
hectares of reserve forest area, which includes the Pench-
Nagzira tiger corridor (Pinjarkar 2014). Similarly, the
Madhya Pradesh Forest Development Corporation logged
parts of the Kopijhola-Sonekhar forest block, which houses
critically endangered biodiversity and is part of the Kanha-
Pench Corridor (WWF-India 2011). While wildlife acti-
vists demand inclusion of these landscapes within CTHs,
this would not make them immune to state-sponsored
commercial forestry operations or other commercial oper-
ations that governments often approve of. On the other
hand, the FRA limits the government’s autonomy to real-
locate CWHs for purposes other than wildlife conservation
(Bijoy 2011). Second, as discussed above, the CWHs enjoy
greater legitimacy among forest-dependent people because
the procedural rights contained in the FRA would foster
Similar gaps also exist vis-a
`-vis the state forests outside of
protected areas. A 2003 MP Forestry Department report stated that
83 % of state forests had yet to fulfill the statutory guidelines (Prabhu
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meaningful participation of local residents. The importance
of these differences is examined in the context of wildlife
conservation regime of Kanha National Park, which wild-
life activists and agencies seek to expand to the larger
Kanha-Pench Corridor.
Political economy of wildlife conservation
in Kanha
Kanha’s history goes back to the year 1935 when colonial
forestry agencies designated the 757 sq. km. in the Banjar
and Halon Valleys as absolute sanctuaries. A significant
growth of wild animal populations in these sanctuaries
caused ‘‘damage to crops, cattle and forest regeneration,’’
which led to ‘‘great resentment’’ among local residents
(Gaikwad 1995, 13). Colonial administration responded to
public sentiments by de-reserving the Halon Valley section
in 1942. Post-independence, Banjar Valley area was man-
aged as a sanctuary until it was upgraded to a national park
in 1957. Kanha National Park was declared a Project Tiger
site in 1973, which led to the displacement of 26 villages
comprising 650 families. Moreover, the Halon Valley
section, which the colonial authorities degazetted in
response to popular protests, was re-integrated into Kanha
National Park in 1976.
The WPA of 1972 did not require agencies to seek
consent of the displaced population, but it required settle-
ment of the rights of local residents. While the park
administration claims that it offered an attractive rehabili-
tation and resettlement packages to those displaced from
Kanha, research shows that rural residents displaced from
Kanha could not ‘‘transition to settled agriculture nor could
they become paid wage labourers’’ (Rangarajan and Sha-
habuddin 2006, 368; Lasgorceix and Kothari 2009, 40).
National newspapers reported that the state provided ‘‘no
rehabilitation or alternative means of livelihood’’ to those
displaced from Kanha (Trivedi 2013). Another report
published in environmental magazine Down to Earth
quoted ‘‘rehabilitated’’ villagers, who alleged that they had
not been paid the cash compensation promised at the time
of the resettlement (Shrivastava 2012a). These reports
confirm claims by grassroots activists that 419 families
displaced in the early 1970s had still not been rehabilitated
(Panchtilak 2014). The strategy of securing conservation of
wild flora and fauna via protected areas often extracts
sacrifices on the part of socially and politically marginal-
ized people, who have also been at the receiving end of
colonial and post-colonial processes of resource exploita-
tion (Jayal 2001; Rangarajan and Shahabuddin 2006;
Kashwan 2013).
Kanha was one of the 39 tiger reserves notified as CTHs
following the enactment of tiger amendment to the WPA in
2006 (MoEF 2010). Noticeably, the tiger amendment was
introduced 3 months before the enactment of the FRA,
which recognized forest and land rights of local residents
(Sethi 2008; Shankar 2009). Since then the park adminis-
tration’s efforts to free Kanha’s core and buffer zone of its
resident populations have intensified. According to a press
release by Survival International, 450 families/3000 people
were evicted as recently as June 2014. Media reports
suggest that forest department warned local residents that
‘elephants would be released to trample their homes and
crops if they did not leave’’ (Anon 2015). Very different
notions and bases of rule of law are deployed by local
residents and forestry agencies to assert or reiterate claims
to park’s natural resources.
Ecotourism and mining in Mowgli’s land
Kanha has evolved into a very attractive tourism destina-
tion as the number of visitors increased by 250 % from
\50,000 in 2000–2001 to 175,000 in 2010–2011 (Karanth
et al. 2012, 384, Fig. 2). However, it is yet to benefit rural
residents. For instance, out of a total tourism revenue of
INR 210.5 million that the park administration earned
between 2006 and 2012, it transferred INR 29.8 million to
village eco-development committees (Shrivastava 2012a).
Each of the 161 villages in the buffer zone received INR 40
per family per year. Additionally, in the year 2009 Kanha-
based commercial ecotourism facilities secured a profit of
Indian Rupees (INR) 220 million, though they paid a
meager INR 65,000 in fees to all village councils in the
area (Shrivastava 2012a). While most villages received no
returns from Kanha’s high-end ecotourism resorts, in the
seven villages the researchers surveyed, only 19 % of the
population were engaged in some tourism related activity
(Sinha et al. 2012). These findings point to a number of
missed opportunities to benefit local residents. Poverty
levels among central India’s tribal communities, which
rival the poverty among sub-Saharan Africa countries,
stand in stark contrast to the success of commercial tourism
in Kanha (Suroor 2010). The groups most affected by
displacements and evictions—Gonds and Baigas – bene-
fited the least from tourism activities (Paris 2015).
Noticeably, this gap relates to the perception among NGOs
and other urbanites that local youth lack in confidence and
social training needed to serve in the tourism sector.
ecotourism in Kanha also leads to adverse ecological
impact as discussed below.
A forest department report showed that out of 48 hotels
and ecotourism resorts located within half a kilometer of
the park boundary, nearly 40 % used wood-based boilers,
Interview, Project Coordinator, International NGO, Mandla, July
Power asymmetries and institutions: landscape conservation in central India
Author's personal copy
and consumed at least 540,000 liters of groundwater per
day (Shrivastava 2012a). A former field director of the park
suggests that mushrooming of resorts is responsible for the
degradation of portions of buffer zone that serves as a ‘‘live
corridor’’ between Kanha and Pench National Parks
(Shrivastava 2012a). Independent scholarly analyses of
Kanha’s tourism operations also confirm these findings
(Sinha et al. 2012). While individual officials and wildlife
activists complained repeatedly, none of them pursued
legal action against tourist resorts. Instead, when a social
activist filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the State
High Court to demand that forest department strictly reg-
ulate tourism operations in the state, the Chief Wildlife
Warden (CWW) reportedly lobbied with tour operators ‘‘to
make sure that the PIL does not succeed’’ (Mishra 2012).
Subsequently, the Supreme Court’s ban on tourism in core
areas of PAs throughout the country also evoked similar
responses from the forestry and wildlife fraternity.
The Supreme Court asked the MoEF to enforce its
guidelines which prohibited tourism in any ‘‘core area in
tiger reserve from which relocation has been carried out’
(Mahapatra 2012). Responding to reports about non-en-
forcement, the court reprimanded the government for
worrying more about adverse effect on commercial activ-
ities than it did about tiger conservation (Shrivastava
2012b). Hectic lobbying and negotiations followed in
which wildlife activists joined hands with ecotourism
operators. Eventually, the court revoked the tourism ban
only after the MoEF agreed to restrict tourism in core areas
(Venkatesan 2012). The contestation over the formal des-
ignation of the boundaries between the core and buffer
zones is linked in part to the legal and programmatic
consequences of such boundaries. Noted conservationist
Ashish Kothari argues that the reluctance of governments
‘stems from the fact that notifying core areas would
restrict commercial and industrial activity such as min-
inghotels and the building of dams’’ (Jain 2012).
Ambiguous boundaries create rent-seeking opportunities
for local park staff.
The landscape around Kanha also holds large stocks of
dolomite, most of which is mined illegally. Statutory
watchdog agencies report that despite complaints by
environmental and social activists; the administration did
not pursue meaningful action against the erring mining
contractors (National Green Tribunal 2014). On the con-
trary, a district administration official sought to justify the
existence of extra-legal dolomite mines on the pretext that
the mining operations existed prior to the enactment of the
Forest Conservation Act (FCA) of 1980, which regulates
non-forestry activities in forest areas (Navin 2013). A
meeting of the top state government officials also discussed
such justifications (for a discussion of the minutes of the
meeting, see Shrivastava 2012b). One notes that the offi-
cials do not accept the legitimacy of prior existence of
forest and land claims of local residents. The struggles over
the use and capitalization of the natural resources of the
Kanha landscape thus reflect the entrenched social, eco-
nomic, and political inequalities. The next section exami-
nes the interventions of buffer zone management and
ecodevelopment that the park administration employs to
manage people-park interface.
Territorial and social dimensions of conservation
in Kanha
Buffer area managers must balance the pursuit of the public
goods of nature conservation with the goals of ensuring the
sustainability of local residents’ use of natural resources.
As discussed above, effective distribution of the benefits of
public goods depends not just on the formal rules, but also
the operationalization and implementation of rules in
practice. Protected areas, such as national parks and bio-
sphere reserves, are often divided into two distinct zones: a
core area devoted exclusively to wildlife conservation,
surrounded by a buffer zones. The buffer is meant to
cushion the park’s core area, while serving the livelihood
needs of local residents (DeFries et al. 2005). The buffer
zone thus constitutes an analytically useful site to examine
the potential synergies or trade-offs between the goals of
serving local livelihoods and wildlife conservation.
In India buffer zone often falls in the jurisdiction of state
forest department’s territorial division, which manages the
forests outside the protected areas. Such division of roles
and responsibilities—between the territorial division and
the park management—signals the status of the buffer zone
as multiple use forests. Kanha has developed an alternative
model, which relies on ‘‘unified buffer’’ zones under the
singular command of park authorities. In this model, the
buffer zone serves as a ‘‘spillover zone for park’s wild
The ‘‘Kanha model’’ of unified buffer zone
signifies a centralization of authority within the forestry
agencies; yet, it does not obviate the need for cooperation
with other stakeholders. The district collector, for instance,
is the main authority governing land affairs in a district,
including large areas of buffer zones.
Inter-agency coordination is even more important in
light of the rapid expansion of Kanha, which at the time of
its establishment in 1973, had a core zone of 600 sq. km.,
surrounded by a buffer zone of 500 sq. km (Anon 2010a).
Recent data show that the core zone has expanded more
than 50 %, increasing to an area of 917.43 sq. km, while
Field visit, village Chakampur, June 19, 2005.
Interview with Park Director, July 5, 2005.
P. Kashwan
Author's personal copy
the buffer zone nearly doubled to 1134.36 sq. km.
sidering significant population growth and the ever
increasing pressures of development this is a remarkable
feat, but it also constitutes a major administrative chal-
lenge. Only 40 % of Kanha’s buffer zone is forested, with
most of the non-forested land being under the jurisdiction
of district collector (Jhala et al. 2011, 71). While the dis-
trict collector is placed above the forest department in the
institutional hierarchy, in practice the nature of relationship
varies greatly from one district to another (see, Fleischman
2015). Kanha is located in the district of Mandla, in which
62 % of the land is under the jurisdiction of forest
department. The district collector considered forest offi-
cials as important stakeholders in managing the district’s
On the other hand, the park director argued that the
meetings organized by district administration were ‘‘un-
productive,’’ which would not be needed if forest depart-
ment received funds for development projects meant for
forested regions.
The park administration’s preferred tool for imple-
menting programs meant for aiding wildlife conservation
are ecodevelopment programs, which are implemented via
village-level ecodevelopment committees (EDCs). Kanha
has 132 EDCs, out of which 23 are in the core zone, while
109 are in the buffer zone of the park. EDCs help channel
the park administration’s investment in socioeconomic
development of local residents and are the conduits for the
residents’ share of incomes from ecotourism (Sinha et al.
2012). EDCs are also used for implementing state-spon-
sored rural development programs, such as the Department
for International Development-funded Madhya Pradesh
Rural Livelihood Program.
In light of the central
importance of EDCs, I devoted a considerable part of field
research to examine the functioning of ecodevelopment
In nearly a dozen villages covered for this research,
instead of being elected locally, the EDC office bearers
were appointed by the forest department officials. This led
to an elite-bias in the profile of EDC leadership. A
prominent woman politician appointed to the position of
EDC chairperson in her village, attributed her failure to
recall the names of the fellow committee members to the
fact that some committee members were ‘‘old people from
different castes who [she rarely met]’’.
In the neighboring
Naranpur, the EDC office functioned out of the home of the
village council head, who also served as EDC chairman.
Forest officials rarely ventured beyond the chairman’s
home-cum-office; neither did they listen to the villagers’
complaints about the non-payment of wages that the EDC
chairman had promised for working at a forest department
nursery around the year 1999.
The entrenched norms of
caste differences and social hierarchy reinforced the
political and economic interests of the local leaders. Local
residents often referred to EDC leaders as forest depart-
ment confidantes and informants.
As a result, sociopo-
litical and economic inequalities led to poor accountability
of local leaders and poor effectiveness of ecodevelopment
Consider the case of one of the ‘‘star villages’’ that had
tirelessly protected the neighboring forests. While the park
officials informed the villagers that their EDC had bank
savings worth INR 250,000, villagers could not access the
books, which were in the hands of local park officials. The
villagers also exercised little control over their share of
ecodevelopment money and had seen no apparent evidence
to verify the park officials’ claims that funds were invested
into village development.
An elected representative
alleged that forest officials harassed him after he broached
the topic of corruption in the functioning of EDC.
findings also echo the research findings about ecodevel-
opment and joint forest management programs in Madhya
Pradesh and elsewhere (Baviskar 2003;Ve
´ron and Fehr
2011). It would be a mistake though to attribute these
failures to the conflicts between a homogenous ‘‘local
community’’ and the park administration. As discussed
above, close collaboration between the park officials and
local leaders recruited as EDC chairpersons is central to the
functioning of EDCs. This is why local residents feared
that ecodevelopment activities would divide the commu-
nity into pro-, and anti-park camps.
Despite these divi-
sions, the outcomes of ecodevelopment and wildlife
conservation are also a product of social disconnect
between local residents and the park administration.
An extended interview with the Kanha’s Field Director
revealed important insights about his understanding of the
sociology of conservation. Instead of blaming them for the
park’s degradation, the director sounded sympathetic to
villagers’ concerns. The director explained that the
Access to the data requires registering with the website http:// Data on file with the author.
Another circular that the MoEF issued in August 2010, showed the
status of the buffer zone as ‘‘notification awaited’’ (MoEF 2010).
Personal interview, district collector, Mandla. July 4, 2005.
Personal Interview, Director, Project Tiger, Mandla. July 5, 2005.
Personal Interviews, Project Staff, Madhya Pradesh Rural Liveli-
hoods Programs (MPRLP), Bhopal.
Ecodevelopment Committee Dinapur, June 18, 2005.
Focus Group Discussion: Village Naranpur, June 18, 2005.
Field visit, Ecodevelopment Committee Dinapur; Focus Group
Discussion: Village Naranpur. June 18, 2005.
Focus Group Discussion, with Janakpur, Ecodevelopment Com-
mittee, June 18, 2005.
Personal Interview, Elected Representative, Village Chakampur,
June 19, 2005.
Focus Group Discussion, with Panchayati Raj Representatives
from Rakaner. June 17, 2005.
Power asymmetries and institutions: landscape conservation in central India
Author's personal copy
contingencies borne out of marginalization and poverty
enfeebled villagers’ ability to protest against the restric-
tions that they suffered because of wildlife conservation.
However, such sympathies did not translate into the
director’s support for community participation. Instead, he
argued, ‘‘no forest can be managed with community par-
ticipation in areas such as (Kanha) where communities are
poor, historically oppressed and simple at the same time.’’
The director argued that if not for the park staff’s strict
policing, Kanha Tiger Reserve would be wiped clean of its
wildlife in a month’s time. Evidently, the director believed
in the ‘‘fines and fences’’ approach to wildlife conservation,
which an international conservation NGO active in Kanha
The NGO’s project coordinator argued that ‘‘whacking
[the] stick will not help the tiger.’
Instead, the NGO
sought to assist farmers to take up winter crops, set up
small scale non-farm activities such as piggeries and
poultry, upgrade local breeds, promote vermi-compost and
organic cultivation, put up bio-fencing, cattle proof tren-
ches, or barbed wire fences to prevent wild animals from
raiding crops. Notwithstanding the promising list of
income enhancing activities, the project coordinator said he
had instructed his staff to not work toward promoting a
significant increase in the villagers’ income. Instead of
transforming project participants into entrepreneurs, the
NGO aimed to facilitate a change in the pattern of local
livelihoods away from activities that impinge on the forests
in the core zone.
The attempts to wean local residents
from their dependence on natural resources, though quite
popular (Barry et al. 2010), fails to account for the direct
and indirect costs that wildlife conservation imposes on
local economies.
H. S. Pabla, a former Chief Wildlife Warden of the state
of Madhya Pradesh, estimates that the costs that wildlife
conservation imposes on farmers and peasants in the state,
including opportunity costs, amount to an estimate USD
150 million per annum.
Despite the costs that wildlife
conservation exacts of local communities, Kanha’s park
management and the NGO thought of local residents as
either an impediment against, or an instrument for, wildlife
conservation. Neither the sympathetic views of the Park
Director, nor the NGO coordinator’s rejection of the fines
and fences approaches, translated to a wholehearted sup-
port for community development. A belief in the exclu-
sionary approaches to conservation thus limits not only the
state’s capacity to ensure effective wildlife conservation
(Mukherjee 2009, 52), but also that of the wildlife NGOs
(Wilshusen et al. 2002). The next section analyzes these
findings to draw insights about the proposals for landscape-
level conservation in the region.
Analysis: institutional synergies for landscape
The interventions of wildlife conservation and ecodevel-
opment examined above represent a microcosm of the
challenges that the incipient proposals for landscape-level
conservation will need to overcome (DeFries and Rosen-
zweig 2010). The evidence presented above points to the
limits of a centralized management structure in engaging
with rural residents within and beyond the buffer zone.
Even so, India’s Project Tiger Directorate showcased
Kanha’s unified buffer zone management as a success story
and asked for its replication in other protected areas (Anon
2010b). The highly centralized model of conservation
developed at Kanha thus appeals to Indian conservation
agencies and wildlife activists. This is not a good sign,
because research shows that the centralized and hierarchi-
cal institutional culture of India’s forestry agencies limit
their effectiveness (Fleischman 2015). These findings have
significant implications for the incipient models of land-
scape conservation.
The landscape of Kanha–Pench Corridor (KPC) contains
248 villages within its boundaries and 194 villages adjacent
to the planned corridor with a total population of 357,100
(Chauhan 2014). Landscape conservation thus plays out in
a territory largely unfamiliar to park managers; they have
little influence over decision-makers who ‘‘affect land use
and infrastructure development outside the park’s bound-
aries’’ (DeFries and Rosenzweig 2010, 2878). Moreover,
extensive land use and socioeconomic mapping of three
large protected areas in India, including Kanha, points to
‘the growing influence of urbanization and expanding
middle class’ (ibid.). These changes notwithstanding,
the proposal for KPC regards the ‘‘changing socio-eco-
nomic status of the local communities’’ as a threat to tiger
conservation, which the authors of the proposal seek to
address by securing the entire landscape under forest
department’s legal custodianship (Jena et al. 2014, viii, 34;
emphases added). Such a strategy is clearly infeasible,
especially because of the FRA, which recognizes the rights
of forest-dependent people. Instead of managing the buffer
zone with a pre-determined strategy, PA managers need to
think of larger landscape as ‘‘zone of interactions’’ (ZOI)
shaped by ‘‘hydrologic, ecologic, and socioeconomic
interactions between a protected area and its surroundings’
(DeFries and Rosenzweig 2010, 2878).
These findings resonate with ‘‘integrative’’ approaches
to conservation, which entail ‘‘a process of bringing
Personal Interview, Director, Kanha Tiger Reserve, July 5, 2005.
Discussion with the NGO Project Coordinator, July 2005.
Personal interview, Bhopal, July 11, 2005.
P. Kashwan
Author's personal copy
separate elements together;’’ as opposed to the more
commonly cited ‘‘integrated’’ approaches, in which ‘‘sep-
arate elements are combined to yield a synthetic whole’
(Hirsch et al. 2013, 104). As such, integrated approaches
share an affinity with technocratic approaches. On the other
hand, integrative approach are based on the premise that
analysis of complex problem is ‘‘necessarily partial and
thatit can be counterproductive to attempt to unify
multiple perspectives into an integrated whole’’ (Hirsch
et al. 2013, 104, emphasis added). Integrative approaches
thus emphasize the political act of deliberations, the
importance of which has been recognized in the critical
environmental policy literature (Dryzek 2013). Even so,
deeply entrenched inequalities, which characterize most
forested regions in the developing countries, are known to
undermine the effectiveness of deliberative decision-mak-
ing (Adams and Hutton 2007). Selective and narrow
understandings of participation, such as the one captured in
ecodevelopment programs, undermine both social and
environmental goals (Baviskar 2003, 269; Karanth 2005,
4804). To substantiate these arguments empirically, it is
useful to return to the discussions of the FRA vis-a
wildlife conservation in Kanha.
Recall that the FRA also contains provisions to declare
certain areas with endangered wildlife and biodiversity as
‘critical wildlife habitats’’ (CWH). As such, the FRA
recognizes the possibility of conservation-livelihoods
tradeoffs in specific situations, while outlining processes
for managing the tradeoffs in a transparent and deliberative
manner. The FRA constitutes a good exemplar of inte-
grative approaches: FRA addresses the effects of entren-
ched ‘‘power and inequality,’’ while the FRA provisions of
CWH ‘‘make space for a multiplicity of perspectives’’
(Hirsch et al. 2013). Despite such flexibility, as docu-
mented widely, forestry agencies have openly opposed the
implementation of FRA provisions, including CWHs
(NCFRA 2010; Kothari et al. 2011; Kumar and Kerr 2012;
Kashwan 2013). The endurance of exclusionary conserva-
tion, despite statutory recognition of forest and land rights
of local residents, has its roots in the fragmented nature of
the rule of law, and has significant implications for land-
scape-level conservation.
To be clear, the arguments in favor of recognizing the
rights of forest-dependent people do not presume an
organic and harmonious relationship between the aspira-
tions of local residents and the goals of conservation (see,
Saberwal and Rangarajan 2003; Hirsch et al. 2013).
Instead, the point is to minimize outright hostilities
between local residents and conservation agencies. This
requires deliberations about laws and policies within a
framework of integrative processes described above. The
intense debates about India’s colonial-era land acquisition
law that has been replaced with an entirely new law
recently, or the forest and land restitution laws in post-
communist societies illustrate integrative approaches to
institutional reforms (see, Fay and James 2009). The his-
tory of successful agrarian and community forestry reforms
shows that statutory reforms lead to transformative changes
only if they are accompanied by economic reforms (Bray
et al. 2008; Barry et al. 2010). Ecotourism and ecodevel-
opment programs offer significant economic opportunities,
which could catalyze effective conservation. However, the
economic potential of conservation remains unrealized,
because in practice these activities benefit a very small
section of local residents (Karanth and DeFries 2011).
The failures to share the gains of conservation more
broadly are a product of colonial-era forestry institutions
and contemporary political economy, which create oppor-
tunities for government forestry agencies to control large
territories of hinterlands. Moreover, as shown above,
national and international conservation groups often fail to
hold to account government agencies and officials whose
actions undermine sustainable development opportunities
for local residents. These failures are not unique to either
Kanha or India. A recent global review showed that three
‘flawed assumptions’’ about rural livelihoods, viz. the
notions of substitution, the homogenous community, and
impact scalability, undermine the success of conservation-
linked sustainable development interventions (Wright et al.
2015, 1). The authors recommend that policymakers and
practitioners focus on ‘‘enhancing the existing livelihood
strategies of the groups that are most vulnerable to con-
servation-imposed resource access restrictions or on use of
livelihood-focused interventions that establish a clear link
to conservation’’ (ibid.). While broadening the scope of
resource use strategies is important, addressing the flawed
assumptions about scalability require comprehensive
institutional restructuring, including through a revisit of the
concept of the rule of law with respect to conservation.
Many forestry and wildlife laws privilege the state’s
control over natural resources, while delegitimizing and
criminalizing local resource use practices (Read 2015).
Until recently, an estimated 174,000 ‘‘criminal cases’’ were
pending against rural residents in the state of Madhya
Pradesh for ‘‘offences’’ related to the collection and use of
minor forest produce (Press Trust of India 2008). Similarly,
over 100,000 forest-related offences were registered in the
state of Jharkhand (Press Trust of India 2009). As these
news reports show, both the state governments decided to
rescind these criminal cases, which will help ease the
heavy burden of forestry enforcements that rural residents
have borne for decades.
Lastly, power-centric theories of institutions suggest that
institutional reforms necessary for the joint provisions of
inclusive sustainable development and wildlife conserva-
tion are unlikely to emerge in the absence of social and
Power asymmetries and institutions: landscape conservation in central India
Author's personal copy
political mobilization. For instance, Latin America’s rela-
tively successful forest tenure reforms originated outside of
the forest policymaking process and often came about in
response to radical peasant mobilization, which have a long
history in the region beginning with the Mexican revolu-
tion of 1910-1917 (Barry et al. 2010). Mexico’s agrarian
revolution led to more than 60 % of the country’s forests
and more than 95 % of the country’s nature protected areas
vested under the proprietary rights of agrarian communities
(ejidos and comunidades). A combination of the long his-
tory of peasant mobilization and the unique forestland
regimes give Mexican peasants a much stronger negotia-
tion power within policymaking processes (Kashwan
2015). As a result, the Mexico chapter of a prominent
international NGO took a very different approach to
engaging with community interests than did the same NGO
active in Kanha. In Mexico, this NGO developed programs
to offer monetary compensation to peasants who are forced
to give up their logging rights because of the creation of
Monarch Butterfly Reserve (Tucker 2004).
On the other hand, years after the enactment of the FRA
of 2006, neither the KPC proposal discussed above, nor the
proposal for Satpura Maikal landscape make any reference
to the land rights of local residents. Instead, these proposals
continue to refer to land rights conflicts as ‘‘encroachment
by villagers,’’ which pose ‘‘serious threats’’ of forest
fragmentation, as if the long history of land rights conflicts
is of no relevance (WWF-India n. d.). NGOs do not nec-
essarily own the full responsibility for these outcomes,
because the institutional transformation of India’s forestry
sector is the responsibility of elected representative and
policymakers. Based on extensive research on the evolu-
tion of forestry decentralization programs in India, Pari
Baumann concluded that the devolution of secured prop-
erty rights has ‘never been considered’’ (Baumann 1998,
111; emphasis in the original). A major exception to this
history is the enactment of the FRA, which as mentioned
above, was a result of nation-wide social and political
mobilization coupled with the opening of a conducive
political opportunity structure. More generally, conserva-
tion NGOs could leverage their linkages with international
and multilateral agencies to hold government forestry and
wildlife agencies to account. Such pressure does not
materialize because conservation NGOs often choose to
take the path of the least resistance.
The analysis above of the wildlife conservation in Kanha
and the surrounding landscape offers insights into institu-
tional design issues relevant to wildlife conservation in
human inhabited landscapes. The simplistic arguments of
the yesteryear that pitted people against parks, or devel-
opment against conservation, do not hold true. The social,
economic, and political contexts, and inequalities endemic
to a specific context greatly shape the design, enactment
and the implementation of conservation laws and institu-
tions. Under the conditions of significant power asymme-
tries, ecodevelopment program engender relationships of
mutual benefit between forestry agencies and selected
community agents and leaders, while putting a majority of
local residents at a disadvantage (Baviskar 2003;
Mukherjee 2009; cf. Read 2015). As the interviews with
the park director and NGO professional showed, the full
potential of buffer zone interventions remains unrealized,
because of deep-seated beliefs about the illegitimacy of the
livelihood needs of residents living within a conservation
landscape. Despite these failures, the tools and techniques
of strict protection developed for the core areas are also
being deployed to serve the vastly more complex contexts
of the larger conservation landscapes, which exacerbate
conflicts, evictions, and dispossessions. More importantly,
these conflicts detract attention from opportunities for
broadening the scope and benefits of conservation.
The large scope of landscape-level conservation coupled
with the developmental aspiration of population at large,
including the urban populations that dot the larger con-
servation landscapes, require a re-imagination of conser-
vation and its institutional architecture. As useful as they
may have been in the past, interventions such as biogas
plants, which conservation practitioners promote (see, Jena
et al. 2014), carry the baggage of stereotyped rural devel-
opment that does not address the full array of development
needs of the rapidly changing profile of people living
within larger conservation landscapes (DeFries and
Rosenzweig 2010). For landscape-level interventions,
practitioners must employ newer approaches, such as
agroecosystems approaches to farming, which foster
farming methods that are both biodiversity-friendly and
equitable (Thrupp 2000). Similar approaches can also be
used to promote urban gardening and landscaping.
The rights to deliberate and choose the forms of local
development that local residents care about are already
enshrined in various laws. Implementation of procedural
rights contained in the WPA and the FRA discussed above
will make it easier for resident populations to challenge the
patronizing decision-making that is common to the func-
tioning of the state in India (Bijoy 2011). The Dongria
Kondh adivasi groups in Orissa, with support from national
and international agencies, made use of the FRA provisions
to defend natural landscapes against the ravages of poorly
planned industrialization (Kumar and Kerr 2012). On the
other hand, the Ken-Betwa River interlinking project being
P. Kashwan
Author's personal copy
implemented in Panna Tiger Reserve, will submerge or
destroy nearly 4500 hectares of the protected area forests
and a much larger area in the surroundings (Jha and Sethi
2014; Ghanekar 2015). Conservationists have an opportu-
nity to join hands with locally active civil society groups
that are demanding a transparent evaluation of social and
environmental costs of large development projects.
Investments in building organizational and institutional
capacities of multiple social stakeholders, and a broader
distribution of the benefits of conservation, promise to
improve accountability of government agencies.
While scholars have rightly argued that conservationists
must build coalitions with civil society and with local
residents, such coalition building must be linked to insti-
tutional infrastructure that facilitates broad-based partici-
pation of local residents in determining the nature and
priorities of development. Recent research shows that
conservation initiatives based on broad-based distribution
of benefits are at least as effective as, and more sustainable,
than are the exclusionary PA approaches (Bray et al. 2008).
However, as the Mexican case mentioned above illustrates,
a more favorable distribution of political power seems to be
an important pre-requisite for a more balanced distribution
of the costs and benefits of environmental conservation
(Kashwan 2015). An institutional architecture that vests
rural residents and citizen groups with counter-powers that
limit the powers of government bureaucracies is necessary
for improving accountability and effective public
Wildlife practitioners and policymakers will need to
work to displace the long-entrenched and institutionalized
inequalities that are closely tied to the prevalent forms of
conservation and development. Such proactive interven-
tions will help replace the monolithic and exclusionary
vision of the PA-based conservation with a more eclectic
portfolio, including agrobiodiversity and other types of
biodiversity one finds within human dominated landscapes.
More importantly, landscape conservation requires insti-
tutionalizing multiple checks and balances that help dis-
mantle the centralized regimes of the past. Such broad-
based institutions of conservation must be structured to
foster deliberations about conservation friendly sustainable
development interventions. Addressing inequalities insti-
tutionalized within contemporary conservation will be
crucial for popular acceptance and sustainability of land-
scape conservation.
Acknowledgments The fieldwork in the summer of 2005 was
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... It can also be difficult for higher level officials to hold local people accountable for their actions, as local enforcement of forest laws requires a complicated negotiation between different sources of political authority [50, 76,77]. Other important decisions are made in ways that directly undermine carbon finance goals: a push for development at all costs has led high level decision-makers to increase the conversion of forest lands to other uses [78,79]. Monitoring of the impacts of spending on forest conditions in India is limited, and published forest cover statistics have been widely criticized [54], making it difficult to account for any element of forest carbon finance. ...
... However more recent legal reforms have given tribes greater power in negotiating with state and federal governments -and while tribes are still at significant legal disadvantage [101], there is optimism that the Yurok tribe can negotiate forest carbon contracts with the state of California without fearing coercion or dispossession. By contrast, India's forest carbon finance is controlled by state governments who do not share benefits of carbon finance with the rural forest-dependent people whose actions play a major role in determining the outcomes of these programs [102], and forest users lack countervailing power [53,79]. Many of these policies aim to secure carbon sinks by locking local forest users out of the forest -while simultaneously selling other forests to pursue development priorities that favor elites [36]. ...
Interest in forest-based carbon storage has led to growth in financing for carbon forestry. Most financial strategies rest on strong assumptions which are not valid in many parts of the world. We use cases drawn from tribal forestry in the US and government forestry in India to illustrate how carbon finance relies on the presence of enforceable rights, representative and accountable institutions, clear incentives, and symmetrical power relations. In the absence of these conditions, carbon finance provides perverse incentives that undermine biodiversity and human rights without storing carbon. We suggest that for forest-based carbon storage to be successful, more attention needs to be paid to underlying political reforms, as well as to policies that are not reliant on finance.
... Mehta and Shah (2003) have stated that poverty is seen to be disproportionately high among historically disadvantaged communities, these multiple deprivation measures make it harder for them to escape from poverty. Kashwan (2016) mentions that though non-state-actors are more equipped with resources for carrying out developmental activities, but sustainable inclusion can be achieved by up-scaling interventions by the state. However, we argue that detailed scenario mapping exercises are prerequisite to advance place-based understandings about the functioning of schemes, policies and acts not only to identify implementation challenges but also capture array of bottom-up, needs-driven initiatives pursued and practised by local communities that be recognized by and accommodated in policy frameworks. ...
... While in Chhattisgarh, the forest officials reject claims within the rationale of preserving ecologically fragile zones, in Gujarat, the Forest Rights Committees (FRCs) 4 are formed at the village panchayat level comprising members of the Joint Forest Management (JFM) committees (ibid). In order to retain bureaucratic control and enforcements, officials also attempt to incorporate community forest resource titles within the forest areas demarcated under the jurisdiction of JFM (Kashwan 2016;Sahu et al. 2017). Furthermore, communities suffer from deprivations of rights and large-scale non-entitlements to basic livelihoods provisions on the one hand and arbitrary inclusion of STs in some places on the other, resulting into the exclusion of majority of OTFDs. ...
... Forested habitats experience high biotic pressures from livestock grazing and resource extraction (Davidar et al., 2008;Kolipaka et al., 2017). While there has been limited application of quantitative approaches in the creation of PAs, local communities have also been excluded from decision-making or consultative processes (Kashwan, 2016). Furthermore, India's economic aspirations as a developing country have put tremendous pressure on its natural ecosystems. ...
Global land use change has resulted in the loss and fragmentation of habitats and amplified the pace of species extinction. With carnivores being disproportionately at risk of range contraction, restoration is an important strategy to counter the impacts of habitat loss and fragmentation. While protection of public lands has been the cornerstone of conservation, private lands can play an important supplementary role. India harbors 23 % of the global carnivore species, threatened by a rapidly growing economy and high human densities. Using a social-ecological systems approach, we prioritized private agricultural lands for agroforestry in the buffer area of Pench Tiger Reserve. We applied systematic conservation planning tools and combined data on (1) habitat use of four carnivores (tiger, leopard, dhole, and sloth bear), (2) landowner willingness to modify land use through enrolment in an incentive-based program, and (3) monetary cost of program implementation, to identify priority areas for agroforestry based on their relative cost-effectiveness. Our integrated approach generated a configuration of priority areas that was markedly different than if we selected areas using ecological data only. Over an 8-year period, restoration of ~4900, ~8300 and ~12,000 acres through agroforestry was estimated to have a cumulative cost of USD 56 million, USD 95 million, and USD 140 million, respectively. Partnering with and incentivizing private landowners can expand the effective size of small and fragmented protected areas. Our approach can be applied to other shared landscapes, dominated by private ownership, to identify areas that deliver a compromise between ecological suitability, social acceptability, and economic viability.
... Unsustainable resource use contributes to forest degradation and negatively impacts wildlife populations (Margulies andKaranth 2018, Li et al. 2020). Local communities resent the State and conservation agencies because they are often excluded from decision making, their rights over forests are suspended, and their access to resources is limited (Kashwan 2016). As a result, alternative conservation strategies that complement the conservation value of PAs and focus on local involvement in decision making, including adoption of biodiversity-friendly agriculture and ecotourism, are gaining traction in India (Sinha et al. 2012, Ramalingam andDharma Rajan 2015). ...
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Although protected areas (PAs) have long been considered a successful conservation strategy, more recent research has highlighted their ecological and sociological limitations. The extant PA network is constrained by land availability and exacerbates cultural, political, and social conflicts over access to resources. Consequently, the importance of private lands in playing a complementary role in conservation is being widely recognized. Voluntary conservation programs that encourage private landowners to adopt biodiversity-friendly agricultural practices have emerged worldwide. Landowners' willingness to participate in these programs is critical to attaining landscape-level biodiversity conservation. We adopted a multidisciplinary approach, combining economic theory of rational choice and social choice theory to explain decision making. Using a stated preference choice experiment method, we examined the role of program design and influence of demographic, economic, and socio-psychological variables on landowners' willingness to enroll in voluntary, incentive-based agroforestry programs. In 2018-2019, we surveyed 602 landowners in the buffer area of Pench Tiger Reserve, India. Landowners' willingness to engage in agroforestry depended on the amount of land to be enrolled, program duration, and incentive amount. Landowners' socioeconomic characteristics, attitudes, self-efficacy, and social norms also influenced their willingness to participate. On average, landowners required Rs. 66,000 (ca. $940 USD) per acre per year to modify their land use and adopt agroforestry. Our study demonstrates that integrating voluntary agroforestry programs into India's rural development policy may allow biodiversity conservation to be balanced with agricultural productivity in buffer areas surrounding PAs. We call for a new approach that recognizes farmers as stakeholders in conservation and in creating resilient landscapes that support biodiversity and preserve livelihoods.
... Dispersal is an essential process which allows for gene flow between populations leading to a higher genetic diversity and hence, greater resilience toward demographic stochasticity and environmental fluctuations [1][2][3]. Many studies have emphasized the need for landscape-scale conservation planning focused on facilitating dispersal among subpopulations to ensure their long-term survival as a metapopulation [4][5][6][7]. A set of small, isolated habitats would be less favorable for species persistence than if these habitats were connected by dispersal corridors to create a resilient metapopulation. ...
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Conserving landscape connections among favorable habitats is a widely used strategy to maintain populations in an increasingly fragmented world. A species can then exist as a metapopulation consisting of several subpopulations connected by dispersal. Our study focuses on the importance of human–wildlife coexistence areas in maintaining connectivity among primary habitats of small ungulates within and outside protected areas in a large landscape in central India. We used geospatial information and species presence data to model the suitable habitats, core habitats, and connectivity corridors for four antelope species in an ~89,000 km2 landscape. We found that about 63% of the core habitats, integrated across the four species, lie outside the protected areas. We then measured connectivity in two scenarios: the present setting, and a hypothetical future setting - where habitats outside protected areas are lost. We also modelled the areas with a high risk of human-influenced antelope mortality using eco-geographical variables and wildlife mortality records. Overall, we found that the habitats in multiple-use forests play a central role in maintaining the connectivity network for antelopes. Sizable expanses of privately held farmlands and plantations also contribute to the essential movement corridors. Some perilous patches with greater mortality risk for species require mitigation measures such as underpasses, overpasses, and fences. Greater conservation efforts are needed in the spaces of human–wildlife coexistence to conserve the habitat network of small ungulates.
... As a result, it is difficult to recall a major pro-environmental decision that resulted from the federal division of jurisdiction over forests.The FRA allocates important statutory powers to MoTA, making it an important actor with counter-powers that could help hold the MoEFCC accountable. The following provisions within the FRA, if implemented properly, have the potential to alter the status quo of environmental governance: (i) MoTA is designated as the main nodal agency for FRA, which gives it an important standing power in defining the rules and strategies for the implementation and monitoring of the FRA; (ii) the implementation of FRA at the district and sub-district levels led by the district collector and elected representatives, while giving advisory roles to forest officials; (iii) locally elected FRA committees and gram sabhas have the authority to implement the FRA, including the operationalisation of the provisions of community forest rights; (iv) the FRA rules stipulate that all government agencies, including forestry agencies, must seek the free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) of the locally elected gram sabhas before allowing non-forestry activities in areas including community forests; (v) the FRA provisions for setting up of critical wildlife habitats under Section 2(b) of the FRA, requires a truly scientific approach with transparent engagement of social activists, community representatives, and wildlife experts (seeKashwan 2016).The FRA offers both procedural and substantive safeguards against the enforcement of exclusionary conservation in the IFA and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. However, as evident from the files in the Prime Minister's Office accessed by a journalist, the MoEFCC sought "to consciously sabotage" the FRA (Rajshekhar 2009: 31). ...
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Effective public accountability is a prerequisite for protecting India's environment and the environmental human rights of all Indians. However, the question of what factors promote the accountability of public institutions remains under-researched in India. The recent and ongoing attempts by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to undermine environmental regulations beg a fundamental question that has yet to be debated adequately: Who will guard the guardians? In this essay, we discuss the importance of divided administrative jurisdictions for fostering relations of accountability in public institutions. Specifically, we highlight the divided jurisdiction that the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 creates in the regulation of mining and other non-forestry activities in forest areas and its implications for bolstering relations of accountability in environmental governance. Amidst serious attempts to undermine these arrangements, we ask the readers and policymakers to consider the importance of public accountability for transforming India’s national environmental regulatory framework.
This chapter is an ethnographic-empirical explorations of the functioning of social welfare schemes and policies in the selected forest fringe villages of Dooars, North Bengal. North Bengal is inhabited by heterogeneous ethnic communities including Rabbha, Mechh, Koch, Rajbanshi, Nepali, Santhals, Oraons, Mundas who had suffered historic injustices against the atrocities of the statecraft. The formulation and implementation of social welfare schemes, policies and acts in contemporary India are targeted towards the economic amelioration and social empowerment of marginalized and vulnerable communities. The Forest Rights Act 2006 is a classic example of this. Moreover, there are array of schemes floated by both the central and state governments to ensure social protection and security. This chapter provides qualitative insights to the implementation barriers of social welfare policies and FRA in selected villages surrounding the Gorumara, Jaldapara and Buxa national parks spanning across Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar districts of northern part of West Bengal. We argue that this mapping exercise is significant in terms of informing policy frameworks that need to be historically and locally contingent.
The Amazon is rapidly approaching its tipping point, which could turn a once enchanted tropical rainforest into a dry, carbon-emitting savannah. This will have catastrophic impacts well beyond the South-American continent and its inhabitants. The region is facing a nowadays familiar challenge of combating climate change and promoting social justice. International climate governance is proving ineffective , as it fails to incorporate the long term wellbeing of local communities. Demands for justice have led to calls for more polycentric climate governance. This approach aims to provide a culture-specific and place-based approach to dealing with the possible consequences of climate change for social justice and sustainable livelihoods. This article examines the scope for introducing Intercultural Polycentric Climate Governance (IPCG) to the Amazon. We select two examples of subnational climate governance and indigenous peoples' participation in the Amazon as our case studies: the State of Acre in Brazil and the regional department of Ucayali in Peru. Both are seen as pioneers of intercultural climate governance in their national contexts, and both have established indigenous working groups geared to promote the provision of intercultural fairness within their regional governance mechanisms. We conducted a qualitative content analysis, both of our interviews and relevant policy documents. Our study highlights three challenges for successful IPCG: 1) overcoming intercultural injustices; 2) increasing meaningful participation; and 3) filling governance gaps. Our findings reveal that there is still some way to go to meet these outcomes. Bridging polycentricity and interculturality, diverse systems of knowledge and their adherents need to be better appreciated and incorporated as part of the process of reassessing the purpose of IPCG. Only then, will we see the handling of the future of the enchanting Amazon in a holistic way: so much more than mere carbon storage.
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Rural landscape resources are important ingredients of rural revitalization and modernization in developing countries and regions. Evaluation methods play a crucial role in the development planning, design, transformation, and protection of these resources. However, there has been a lack of research on the evaluation of rural landscape resources, especially from the perspective of rural revitalization. Based on previous evaluation methods and expert consultations on landscape planning and design, we proposed a new approach for evaluating rural landscape resources by establishing a new index system and using the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) and probabilistic linguistic Cloud Model. To demonstrate its applicability and effectiveness, we applied our model to the case of a village (Xiapu) in Guangdong, China, determined the parameter set of its rural landscape resources, and obtained related results showing that the method is practical and can reflect the value of resources objectively and efficiently. Based on this model, further suggestions are provided to improve the design and other utilizations of rural landscape resources.
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Community forests and protected areas have each been proposed as strategies to stop deforestation. These management strategies should be regarded as hypotheses to be evaluated for their effectiveness in particular places. We evaluated the community-forestry hypothesis and the protected-area hypothesis in community forests with commercial timber production and strict protected areas in the Maya Forest of Guatemala and Mexico. From land-use and land cover change (LUCC) maps derived from satellite images, we compared deforestation in 19 community forests and 11 protected areas in both countries in varying periods from 1988 to 2005. Deforestation rates were higher in protected areas than in community forests, but the differences were not significant. An analysis of human presence showed similar deforestation rates in inhabited protected areas and recently inhabited community forests, but the differences were not significant. There was also no significant difference in deforestation between uninhabited protected areas, uninhabited community forests, and long-inhabited community forests. A logistic regression analysis indicated that the factors correlated with deforestation varied by country. Distance to human settlements, seasonal wetlands, and degree and length of human residence were significant in Guatemala, and distance to previous deforestation and tropical semideciduous forest were significant in Mexico. Varying contexts and especially colonization histories are highlighted as likely factors that influence different outcomes. Poorly governed protected areas perform no better as a conservation strategy than poorly governed community forests with recent colonists in active colonization fronts. Long-inhabited extractive communities perform as well as uninhabited strict protected areas under low colonization pressure. A review of costs and benefits suggests that community forests may generate more local income with lower costs. Small sample sizes may have limited the statistical power of our comparisons, but descriptive statistics on deforestation rates, logistic regression analyses, LUCC maps, data available on local economic impacts, and long-term ethnographic and action-research constitute a web of evidence supporting our conclusions. Long-inhabited community forest management for timber can be as effective as uninhabited parks at delivering long-term forest protection under certain circumstances and more effective at delivering local benefits.
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Who has rights to forests and forest resources? In recent years governments in the South have transferred at least 200 million hectares of forests to communities living in and around them. This book assesses the experience of what appears to be a new international trend that has substantially increased the share of the world's forests under community administration. Based on research in over 30 communities in selected countries in Asia (India, Nepal, Philippines, Laos, Indonesia), Africa (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana) and Latin America (Bolivia, Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua), it examines the process and outcomes of granting new rights, assessing a variety of governance issues in implementation, access to forest products and markets and outcomes for people and forests. Forest tenure reforms have been highly varied, ranging from the titling of indigenous territories to the granting of small land areas for forest regeneration or the right to a share in timber revenues. While in many cases these rights have been significant, new statutory rights do not automatically result in rights in practice, and a variety of institutional weaknesses and policy distortions have limited the impacts of change. Through the comparison of selected cases, the chapters explore the nature of forest reform, the extent and meaning of rights transferred or recognized, and the role of authority and citizens' networks in forest governance. They also assess opportunities and obstacles associated with government regulations and markets for forest products and the effects across the cases on livelihoods, forest condition and equity. Published with CIFOR
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Forest administrators play a crucial role in translating conservation and development policies into action, yet policy reformers and scholars rarely examine how these administrators make decisions about the implementation of conservation and development policy in India. In this paper, I address this gap. I begin by developing a framework that draws on Western policy implementation studies and Ostrom’s Institutional Analysis and Development framework and then apply this framework to a review of published studies that examine the role of forest officials in implementing public policies in India. The framework differentiates between formal and informal institutions and between institutions which are developed within an agency and those that are directed from outside the agency. I find that forester behavior varies significantly across space and time and has an important influence on the outcome of forestry programs. Innovations and excellent program implementation appear related to foresters’ desire to demonstrate professional efficacy. On the other hand, many failings can be traced either to external direction or to foresters developing internal institutions that are poorly suited to the problems they are tasked with solving. Existing research is limited in its geographic and temporal scope and leaves many questions unanswered, and thus, the review concludes with a brief outline of future research needs.
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This article investigates forest policies and institutions surrounding REDD+ in three heavily forested countries: India, Tanzania, and Mexico. The comparative analysis leads to three key insights. First, each of the case study countries has multiple land tenure statutes that result in different distributions of the costs and benefits of forest protection for key stakeholders. Second, land tenure regimes that offer local communities the most secure forest rights are not necessarily those associated with benefit-sharing mechanisms outlined in national REDD+ policy proposals. Third, a credible commitment by government to share REDD+ benefits with forest-dependent people is contingent on the interests of key actors involved in the policy process. Political and administrative structures that limit the power and authority of forest government bodies lead to more responsive and accountable policy outcomes.
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Alternative livelihood project is a widely used term for interventions that aim to reduce the prevalence of activities deemed to be environmentally damaging by substituting them with lower impact livelihood activities that provide at least equivalent benefits. Alternative livelihood projects are widely implemented in conservation, but in 2012, an IUCN resolution called for a critical review of such projects based on concern that their effectiveness was unproven. Here, we focus on the conceptual design of alternative livelihood projects by considering their underlying assumptions. We place alternative livelihood projects within a broad category of livelihood-focused interventions to better understand their role in conservation and their intended impacts. We present and dissect three flawed assumptions based on the notions of substitution, the homogenous community and impact scalability. Interventions based on flawed assumptions about people's needs, aspirations and the factors that influence livelihood choice are unlikely to achieve conservation objectives. We therefore recommend use of a sustainable livelihoods approach to: understand the role and function of environmentally damaging behaviors within livelihood strategies; differentiate between households in a community which have the greatest environmental impact and those most vulnerable to resource access restrictions to improve intervention targeting; and learn more about the social-ecological system within which household livelihood strategies are embedded. Rather than using livelihood-focused interventions as a direct behavior-change tool, it may be more appropriate to focus either on enhancing the existing livelihood strategies of those most vulnerable to conservation-imposed resource access restrictions, or use livelihood-focused interventions that establish a clear link to conservation as a means of building good community relations. However, we recommend that the term "alternative livelihood project" is replaced by the broader term "livelihood-focused intervention". This avoids the implicit assumption that "alternatives" can fully substitute for natural resource-based livelihood activities. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Forests and national park areas have become increasingly significant because they contain various biological resources. Recent conservation interventions by the State with the creation of national parks governed by rules and regulations entailed a loss of use and access rights to forest areas and produce for the local people. This also led to a change in the perceptions of the local people in the context of conservation of forests and wildlife as it created socio-economic and cultural vulnerabilities. This paper examines the causal factors which influence the changing perceptions of the local people towards state-created national park areas. The main aim of the study is to identify the significance of non-wood forest products for forest dependent people living in rural ecosystem spaces. The case study here is of Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh. This is a revised version of a paper first presented at the Sixth BioEcon Conference at King’s College, Cambridge University, United Kingdom, September 2004.