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


  • Baland, Jean-Marie
  • Bardhan, Pranab
  • Das, Sanghamitra
  • Mookherjee, Dilip


Summary This paper assesses degradation of forests managed by local communities (Van Panchayats (VPs)), relative to state protected and open access forests in the Indian state of Uttaranchal. It is based on ground-level ecological measures of forest quality (including canopy cover, biomass, lopping, and regeneration) in forest areas adjoining a random sample of villages, and controls for unobserved village heterogeneity, possible endogeneity of management regimes and cross-forest spillovers. Controlling for these factors, VP forests are found to be 20-30% less lopped, and similar on other dimensions. The lopping differences are greater the longer the forest has been under a VP.

Suggested Citation

  • Baland, Jean-Marie & Bardhan, Pranab & Das, Sanghamitra & Mookherjee, Dilip, 2010. "Forests to the People: Decentralization and Forest Degradation in the Indian Himalayas," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 38(11), pages 1642-1656, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:38:y:2010:i:11:p:1642-1656

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Baland, Jean-Marie & Bardhan, Pranab & Das, Sangmitra & Mookherjee, Dilip & Sarkar, Rinki, 2007. "Managing the Environmental Consequences of Growth: Forest Degradation in the Indian mid-Himalayas," India Policy Forum, National Council of Applied Economic Research, vol. 3(1), pages 215-277.
    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. 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.
    6. Jean-Marie Baland & Pranab Bardhan & Sanghamitra Das & Dilip Mookherjee & Rinki Sarkar, 2010. "The Environmental Impact of Poverty: Evidence from Firewood Collection in Rural Nepal," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(1), pages 23-61, October.
    7. 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.
    8. Ghazala Mansuri, 2004. "Community-Based and -Driven Development: A Critical Review," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 19(1), pages 1-39.
    9. Wade, Robert, 1987. "The Management of Common Property Resources: Finding a Cooperative Solution," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 2(2), pages 219-234, July.
    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. Poudel, Narayan Raj & Fuwa, Nobuhiko & Otsuka, Keijiro, 2015. "The impacts of a community forestry program on forest conditions, management intensity and revenue generation in the Dang district of Nepal," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 20(02), pages 259-281, April.
    2. repec:eee:ecolec:v:143:y:2018:i:c:p:64-73 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Robin Burgess & Matthew Hansen & Benjamin A. Olken & Peter Potapov & Stefanie Sieber, 2012. "The Political Economy of Deforestation in the Tropics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(4), pages 1707-1754.
    4. Jean-Marie Baland & Pranab Bardhan & Sangharmitra Das & Dilip Mookherjee, 2009. "Forest Degradation in the Himalayas: Determinants and Policy Options," Working Papers 1002, University of Namur, Department of Economics.
    5. 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.
    6. Nancy McCarthy & Talip Kilic, 2015. "The nexus between gender, collective action for public goods and agriculture: evidence from Malawi," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 46(3), pages 375-402, May.
    7. Keijiro Otsuka & Ridish Pokharel, 2014. "In search of appropriate institutions for forest management," GRIPS Discussion Papers 13-25, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.
    8. Sikor, Thomas & He, Jun & Lestrelin, Guillaume, 2017. "Property Rights Regimes and Natural Resources: A Conceptual Analysis Revisited," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 337-349.
    9. Shi, Miaoying & Yin, Runsheng & Zulu, Leo & Qi, Jiaguo & Freudenberger, Mark & Sommerville, Matthew, 2016. "Empirical linkages between devolved tenure systems and forest conditions: Selected case studies and country experiences," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 286-293.
    10. Mohebalian, Phillip M. & Aguilar, Francisco X., 2016. "Additionality and design of forest conservation programs: Insights from Ecuador's Socio Bosque Program," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(C), pages 103-114.
    11. James Copestake, 2010. "Microfinance and development finance in India: research implications," Working Papers CEB 10-028, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    12. Cook, Nathan J. & Wright, Glenn D. & Andersson, Krister P., 2017. "Local Politics of Forest Governance: Why NGO Support Can Reduce Local Government Responsiveness," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 203-214.


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