Privatization of Commons: Impacts on Traditional Users of Provisioning and Cultural Ecosystem Services

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"The city of Bangalore, India, is well known for its extensive network of lakes, traditionally managed as commons. Although owned by plural state authorities, often with overlapping jurisdictions and responsibilities, they still are accessed by a variety of communities who influence their access and management, thus forming operational commons. Today, many of these lakes have been lost or degraded due to the pressures of urbanization. In recent years, an experiment with decentralizing management of lakes to private stakeholders was carried out through Public Private Partnership (PPP) models. This change in management meant state led reclamation of commons through restricted access to ecosystem services. Though widely critiqued by civil society and legal machinery, it continues to be operational in three lakes. Using these lakes to understand the impact of privatization on ecosystem use in urban commons, this paper evaluates differences in land and resource use, by comparing the three privatized (converted commons) with adjacent, non-privatized lakes (managed as community commons). We contrast land use patterns seen within a hundred meter radius around each lake. We then map the provisioning and cultural uses of these lake ecosystems that are managed using different institutional approaches. The perceptions of users regarding the services provided by each category of lake ecosystems have also been evaluated. Our results indicate that lakes constituting operational commons support greater diversity of traditional livelihoods and non-commercial uses compared to privatized lakes. Greater pressures of urbanization with pronounced inequities in housing distribution were observed along the privatized lakes. This study indicates the possible negative implications of privatization in impacting the diversity of traditional ecosystem services provided by commons in this inland city. It also suggests that privatization appears an incomplete solution, one with potential to exacerbate existing inequities in social access to urban ecological services in the global South."
IASC, privatization, urban commons, environmental services, lakes, ecosystems