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Community Forest Management Institutions in Uttarakhand, India

Authors: Prakriti Mukerjee*,
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Asia, Environment
Keywords: Political Ecology, India, Uttrakhand, Himalayas, Institutions, Community-based Management
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The forests of Uttarkhand in Northwestern India, have been the site of many historical and political conflicts. Following the ‘reserving’ of forests by the British colonial government, widespread protests by people that included setting fire to reserve forests. As a measure to appease the disaffection of the hill communities, the colonial state set up village forest councils called Van Panchayats in 1931 (Guha, 1989). These councils represent some of the earliest examples of people’s participation in the making of forests and the oldest surviving formal state-partnership to govern forests globally (Agrawal, 2005). In more recent times, in order to implement the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity through the National Biological Diversity Act (2002), another village level state institution called Biodiversity Management Committee is being setup for the “conservation of biodiversity”; “sustainable use of its components (for consumption)”; and “fair and equitable sharing of (monetary) benefits”. These new committees are part of a process of commodifying and marketizing biodiversity, bringing neoliberal conservation governance to these forests through the promise of “people’s rights” over their natural resources.

In this paper, I look at these two very different community-based institutions for governing access to forests including the distinct histories and political impetus leading to their formation. I explore the discourse that surrounds these two institutions through the newer laws in conversation with existing ones and how they are instrumental in redefining ecologies, nature-society relations and communities.

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