Does decentralization work? Forest conservation in the Himalayas
Bhupendra Singh Mehta
This paper studies the effect of decentralization of management and control on forest conservation in the central Himalayas. The density of forest cover (measured with satellite images and field surveys) in forests managed by village councils is compared with that in state-managed forests and in unmanaged village commons. Geographic proximity and historical and ecological information are used to identify the effects of the three types of management regimes. Village council management does no worse, and possibly better, at conservation than state management and costs an order of magnitude less per unit area. Relative to unmanaged commons, village council management raises crown cover in broadleaved forests (the type of forest that may provide the most benefits to villagers under the rules) but not in pine forests.
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