Deforestation, Property Rights and Incentives in Central Himalaya

This paper authored by E. Somanathan analyses the problem of deforestation and ecological degradation in a central Himalayan region and outlines a policy for combating it. It is shown that the fundamental reason for deforestation is the prevailing system of property rights, which denies the local people certainty about future benefits from forests. This has destroyed the incentive to use forests sustainably.

 It is therefore suggested that the present structure of rights of use and control over forest lands be changed. Specifically, joint management of all but the inaccessible forests by van (forest) panchayats and the forest department is proposed, with a division of powers between them that is designed to resolve the incentive problem.

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