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The god of the mountain and Godavarman: Net Present Value, indigenous territorial rights and sacredness in a bauxite mining conflict in India


  • Temper, Leah
  • Martinez-Alier, Joan


This article provides an environmental and institutional history of the highly politicized and contested process of setting a Net Present Value (NPV) for forests in India, in a context of increasing conflicts over land for development, conservation and indigenous rights. Decision-making documents in the Supreme Court and in one specific case of a bauxite mining conflict involving Vedanta in the Niyamgiri hills are studied to come to conclusions about how economic valuation of forests has moved through the political process. We argue that establishing NPV for forests is neither conducive to conservation nor to environmental justice for the following three reasons. The technical and political process of setting prices deepens and reproduces structural inequalities with negative distributive effects. NPV encourages economistic decision-making procedures that exclude participation. Finally NPV does not recognize or take into account cultural difference or plural values. We thus conclude that economic valuation of forest products and services has not managed to “save” forests in India and is not an effective or viable strategy for expressing the value of forests or for environmental conservation and environmental justice activism.

Suggested Citation

  • Temper, Leah & Martinez-Alier, Joan, 2013. "The god of the mountain and Godavarman: Net Present Value, indigenous territorial rights and sacredness in a bauxite mining conflict in India," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 79-87.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:96:y:2013:i:c:p:79-87
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2013.09.011

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Singh, Simron Jit & Krausmann, Fridolin & Gingrich, Simone & Haberl, Helmut & Erb, Karl-Heinz & Lanz, Peter & Martinez-Alier, Joan & Temper, Leah, 2012. "India's biophysical economy, 1961–2008. Sustainability in a national and global context," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(C), pages 60-69.
    2. Manoj K. Panda, 2008. "Economic development in Orissa: Growth without inclusion?," Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai Working Papers 2008-025, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, India.
    3. Spash, Clive L. & Vatn, Arild, 2006. "Transferring environmental value estimates: Issues and alternatives," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 379-388, December.
    4. Clive L. Spash, 2011. "Terrible Economics, Ecosystems and Banking," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 20(2), pages 141-145, May.
    5. Kallis, Giorgos & Gómez-Baggethun, Erik & Zografos, Christos, 2013. "To value or not to value? That is not the question," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 97-105.
    6. S. Mahendra Dev, 2008. "India," Chapters,in: Handbook on the South Asian Economies, chapter 1 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    7. Arturo Escobar, 2006. "Difference and Conflict in the Struggle Over Natural Resources: A political ecology framework," Development, Palgrave Macmillan;Society for International Deveopment, vol. 49(3), pages 6-13, September.
    8. Anthony C. Fisher & John V. Krutilla, 1975. "Resource Conservation, Environmental Preservation, and the Rate of Discount," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 89(3), pages 358-370.
    9. Manoj Panda, 2008. "Economic Development in Orissa : Growth Without Inclusion?," Development Economics Working Papers 22153, East Asian Bureau of Economic Research.
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    Cited by:

    1. Anguelovski, Isabelle & Martínez Alier, Joan, 2014. "The ‘Environmentalism of the Poor’ revisited: Territory and place in disconnected glocal struggles," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 167-176.
    2. Ainsley, Matthew & Kosoy, Nicolas, 2015. "The tragedy of bird scaring," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 122-131.
    3. Schaffartzik, Anke & Mayer, Andreas & Eisenmenger, Nina & Krausmann, Fridolin, 2016. "Global patterns of metal extractivism, 1950–2010: Providing the bones for the industrial society's skeleton," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 101-110.


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