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Forests to the People: Decentralization and Forest Degradation in the Indian Himalayas


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  • Jean-Marie Baland

    (University of Namur)

  • Pranab Bardhan

    (University of California, Berkeley)

  • Sanghamitra Das

    (Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi)

  • Dilip Mookherjee

    (Institute for Economic Development, Boston University)


Most analyses of the impact of community management of common property resources are based on cross-sectional comparisons in case studies or small samples, perception-based measurement of resource conditions, and absence of controls for unobserved community characteristics and non-random assignment of management types. This paper compares forests managed by local community groups called Van Panchayats (VPs), with protected and unprotected state forests in the Indian state of Uttaranchal. We utilize ground-level ecological measures of forest quality including canopy cover, biomass, lopping and regeneration in 399 forests accessed by residents of a random sample of 83 villages in the mid-Himalayan region of Uttaranchal. Raw differences between VP and non-VP forest quality indicate no significant differences. We find evidence consistent with the hypothesis that these understate the benefits of VP management owing to endogenous selection, since more degraded forests are more likely to be converted to VP forests. Controlling for forest geography, unobserved village characteristics and cross-forest spillovers, VP forests are significantly less lopped, and similar on other dimensions. The lopping differences are greater the longer the forest has been under a VP.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Boston University - Department of Economics in its series Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series with number dp-169.

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Length: 33 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bos:iedwpr:dp-169

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  1. Mansuri, Ghazala & Rao, Vijayendra, 2004. "Community-based (and driven) development : A critical review," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3209, The World Bank.
  2. Jean-Marie Baland & Pranab Bardhan & Sanghamitra Das & Dilip Mookherjee & Rinki Sarkar, 2006. "MANAGING THE ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES OF GROWTH Forest Degradation in the Indian Mid-Himalayas," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-161, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  3. Wade, Robert, 1987. "The Management of Common Property Resources: Finding a Cooperative Solution," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 2(2), pages 219-34, July.
  4. Agrawal, Arun & Chhatre, Ashwini, 2006. "Explaining success on the commons: Community forest governance in the Indian Himalaya," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 149-166, January.
  5. Pranab Bardhan & Jean-Marie Baland & Sanghamitra Das & Dilip Mookherjee & Rinki Sarkar, 2002. "The Environmental Impact of Poverty: Evidence from Firewood Collection in Rural Nepal," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-126, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  6. Edmonds, Eric V., 2002. "Government-initiated community resource management and local resource extraction from Nepal's forests," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 89-115, June.
  7. Varughese, George & Ostrom, Elinor, 2001. "The Contested Role of Heterogeneity in Collective Action: Some Evidence from Community Forestry in Nepal," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 747-765, May.
  8. Ballabh, Vishwa & Balooni, Kulbhushan & Dave, Shibani, 2002. "Why Local Resources Management Institutions Decline: A Comparative Analysis of Van (Forest) Panchayats and Forest Protection Committees in India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(12), pages 2153-2167, December.
  9. Beck, Tony & Nesmith, Cathy, 2001. "Building on Poor People's Capacities: The Case of Common Property Resources in India and West Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 119-133, January.
  10. Dasgupta, Partha, 1996. "The economics of the environment," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 1(04), pages 387-428, October.
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Cited by:
  1. Dilip Mookherjee & Sanghamitra Das & Jean-Marie Baland, 2010. "Forest Degradation in the Himalayas: Determinants and Policy Options," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2010-038, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  2. Robin Burgess & Matthew Hansen & Benjamin Olken & Peter Potapov & Stefanie Sieber, 2012. "The Political Economy of Deforestation in the Tropics," Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment Working Papers 79, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
  3. Bouma, Jetske A. & Joy, K.J. & Paranjape, Suhas & Ansink, Erik, 2014. "The Influence of Legitimacy Perceptions on Cooperation – A Framed Field Experiment," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 127-137.
  4. Narayan Raj Poudel & Nobuhiko Fuwa & Keijiro Otsuka, 2014. "The impacts of a community forestry program on forest conditions, management intensity and revenue generation in the Dang district of Nepal," GRIPS Discussion Papers 13-24, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.
  5. James Copestake, 2010. "Microfinance and development finance in India: research implications," Working Papers CEB 10-028, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  6. Keijiro Otsuka & Ridish Pokharel, 2014. "In search of appropriate institutions for forest management," GRIPS Discussion Papers 13-25, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.


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