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Why Diverse Common Property Access Regimes Co-exist and Transform? Evidence from an Ecologically Fragile Region of the Himalayas

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Sarkar, Rinki
Conference: Governing Shared Resources: Connecting Local Experience to Global Challenges, the Twelfth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Commons
Location: Cheltenham, England
Conf. Date: July 14-18, 2008
Date: 2008
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/742
Sector: Social Organization
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): transitional economics
common pool resources
Himalayas
IASC
Abstract: "This paper assesses the outcomes of diverse common property resource regimes which co-exist but transform with changing contextual parameters in the socio-economic and ecological domain. The study is based on 'ground-truthing' evidence gathered through periodic field studies, over the last decade, in villages located above 1900 meters in the Western Himalayas. The locals inhabiting this ecologically fragile belt have always been heavily dependent on natural resources in the surrounding vicinity. They devised immaculate ways of adapting to resource constraints for sustaining livelihood related activities. These production systems have had reverberating implications in the social and cultural arena where a high degree of cooperation and collective action has been observed through effective village level authority structures under the surveillance of 'personified' local deities. However, over the years, the region has become economically buoyant due to improvements in accessibility as well as government policies and programs that have led to a marked improvement in the economic wellbeing of the local population. New forms of local governance mechanisms have evolved for accessing and using the more commercially viable village common resources in response to changed needs and volatile circumstances. The environmental outcomes of these demand-driven resource regimes have not always been desirable. Meanwhile, these trends have also enhanced preference for sedentary living which seems to be exerting anthropogenic pressure on open-access common property resources. "The study reveals that in all cases, in the past and in the present, and wherever evident, the locals have been formulating resource-use norms essentially for allocating benefits from resource use across the community by focusing on immediate needs and shortterm gains. They seem to be oblivious of the long-term ecological implications of their actions. This empirical exercise therefore concludes that common property resource regimes have invariably been framed to resolve 'allocation' problems or have evolved in response to resource-scarcity and have paid less heed to issues related to 'long run resource conservation.' Template policies for decentralized management of natural resources need to be re-evaluated under these circumstances."

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